Molly Bernard’s Guide to Berlin

The Younger star talks Transparent and geeking out in this complex European capital

by Samuel Anderson | August 16, 2017 5:35 pm

The two characters that actress Molly Bernard plays on TV – one the pansexual publicist Lauren on TV Land’s Younger (now in the middle of its fourth season) and the other the throwback version of nervous matriarch Shelly Pfefferman on Amazon’s Transparent – are nearly polar opposites. Lauren is a self-confident millennial who, almost immediately after breaking up with her doctor boyfriend, heads to the gay bar. “She is still wild as ever and kind of coming of age in a different way this season,” says Bernard. 

Pfefferman, on the other hand, is a co-dependent baby boomer who struggles to find her footing after her husband Mort i.e. Maura comes out as a transgender woman, and, as revealed via flashback in Bernard’s episode[1] last season, suffered childhood trauma in silence. Season four of Transparent, Bernard reveals, will explore Shelly’s past in greater depth when it debuts September 22. “Audiences will have more context about who Shelly is,” she says. “She has a really complicated, beautiful backstory this season that we get into pretty heavily.”

Even before joining the show, Bernard was delving into the Pfefferman family history, at least indirectly; in the past three years, she’s traveled twice to Berlin, where some of season two’s flashbacks took place. The show’s portrayal[2] of Berlin during the Weimar Republic is an ambivalent one; then a culturally and sexually progressive hotbed for people like Tante Gittel (Maura’s trans aunt played by Hari Nef), the city’s emerging subcultures were just beginning to be persecuted by the Nazis. That contrast between light and dark, Bernard says, still exists there, but only adds to the city’s complexity.  “Berlin has this really perilous past; it was traumatized. It was cut in half,” she says. “And the first time I went there, I thought, if Berlin were a person, I’d want to be friends with them. They’re very cool and very together but also eccentric and quirky, and still figuring out who they are.” 

And while her character Lauren might have sought out some of the city’s famous modern-day indulgences, 28-year-old Bernard channels her inner baby boomer when she’s there. “A lot of people go to Berlin to do drugs and party but I didn’t to either of those things,” she says. “But I go straight to the [museums]. That’s what I look forward to the most.” Here, we catch up with the old soul about the city’s best cultural and culinary desintations. 

Cup of Joe: Oh man, honestly I just stopped at every cute coffee shop I saw. I loved them all. Though The Barn[3] is wild. Exceptional coffee.

Power Lunch: Cafe Pasternak[4] in Kollwitzkiez is a lovely lunch. It has amazing Russian dumplings and a sweet environment. I went a handful of times on my last trip! 

Cocktail Hour: Bassy Club[5]! And go to their Soul Night! Dance ‘til you drop.

Retail Therapy: The flea market at Mauerpark[6]! It’s gigantic and endless and amazing. You can get anything and everything there and in the summer you can join a crowd of hundreds watching random people sing karaoke. It’s unforgettable. 

Field Trip: Wow, I have a ton. First, the Bauhaus Archive[7] is an incredible design museum. I go every time I’m in Berlin and I cry. Second, the Berlinische Galerie[8] is one of my favorite art museums. It also helped me understand the history of Berlin through art in a way I didn’t anticipate. And third, the Jewish Museum[9] — I loved it. It was a very moving trip. It’s right across the way from the Berlinsche Galerie and the two museums do a joint ticket, so you can do both in the same day without paying extra. And last but not least, you must bike through Tiergarten[10] and have lunch and a beer or wine. 

Date Night: Nola’s[11] in the park in Prenzlauerberg/Kollwitzkiez area. Very romantic. Then get the best gelato in the world at Giorgio Lombardi’s[12]. Honestly. The. Best. I loved yogurt with dark chocolate. (Help! I need to get a plane to Berlin right now and get that gelato!!!)

Don’t Miss: The Berlin Wall. Yes, it is touristy, but it’s really an incredible thing to take in. I would say read up on the wall before you go so that you really understand what you’re looking at. It is gorgeous and complicated — much like Berlin itself.

Hidden Gem: I definitely suggest exploring different neighborhoods and parks on a bike. You really see the city, and it’s incredibly bike friendly. I suggest biking from Kreutzberg to Charlottenburg to really visually see the difference between East and West Berlin. Kreutzberg is particularly interesting because the Berlin Wall once divided it. So half of it is very Western, while the other half is distinctly Soviet. On the way to Charlottenburg, you’ll bike pass the Charlottenberg Palace[13], which dates back to Prussia, the kingdom in Germany before modern Germany. Architecture tells you everything you need to know!

Main image: Courtesy of TV Land

Written by Samuel Anderson[14]

Endnotes:
  1. episode: http://www.avclub.com/tvclub/theres-no-secret-about-triumphant-transparent-flas-246260
  2. portrayal: http://www.vulture.com/2015/12/transparent-berlin-flashbacks-explained.html
  3. The Barn: https://thebarn.de/
  4. Cafe Pasternak: http://restaurant-pasternak.de/en/
  5. Bassy Club: http://bassyclub.com/
  6. flea market at Mauerpark: https://www.berlin.de/en/shopping/markets-and-flea-markets/1998222-2983302-flea-market-at-mauerpark.en.html
  7. Bauhaus Archive: https://www.bauhaus.de/en/
  8. Berlinische Galerie: https://www.berlinischegalerie.de/en/home/
  9. Jewish Museum: https://www.jmberlin.de/en
  10. Tiergarten: https://www.berlin.de/en/attractions-and-sights/3560778-3104052-tiergarten.en.html
  11. Nola’s: http://www.nola.de/
  12. Giorgio Lombardi’s: https://www.lonelyplanet.com/germany/berlin/restaurants/gelateria-giorgio-lombardi/a/poi-eat/1517855/359364
  13. Charlottenberg Palace: https://www.visitberlin.de/en/charlottenburg-palace-old-palace
  14. Samuel Anderson: http://wm.dujour.com/contributors/samuel-anderson/

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