Berlin, Maryland, is a town where the video store sells painted gourds, the hardware center sells shiny, red Radio Flyer wagons and the bakery offers the “world’s biggest eclairs,” this proclaimed on an eight by eleven paper and taped in the front window. Quaint, charming and slow-paced, this picturesque town epitomizes Small Town America. Even the police department is cute, with a wrought iron bench and classic lampost outside.
The Main St. of today’s Berlin started centuries ago as a path connecting the Assateague and Pocomoke Native American tribes, later becoming the Philadelphia Post Road. This route provided a means for commerce travel to northern and western areas. Along this route, the brick buildings that now stand along Main St. were built. According to Berlin’s Chamber or Commerce website, forty-seven of the town’s impressive structures are listed on the National Register of Historic Places.
You might know this town better as Hale, Maryland, Julia Roberts’ fictional hometown in Paramount’s 1999 hit, Runaway Bride. Signs of the 1998 location filming can be found without any trouble. A poster of the movie is displayed in the front window of Town Center Antiques. A director’s chair rests near the counter in the Raynes Reef Luncheonette. If you don’t recognize Berlin as Hale, perhaps you know it as Treegap, from Disney’s Tuck Everlasting.
Being fond of historic lodging, I couldn’t resist staying at The Atlantic Hotel. Beautifully restored and maintained, they offer two types of rooms: larger and smaller. I took a small room on the second floor, which was very cozy but immaculate, furnished with antiques, and not far from an outdoor balcony and chairs. The rates for the smaller rooms are excellent, as reasonably priced as 65.-75. during the off-season. Complimentary breakfast is included and the rooms all have phones and televisions. (I didn’t find Richard Gere there, but I guess a girl can’t have everything.
I happened to come through on a night when their well-respected restaurant was booked for a private party, but the hotel’s Drummer Cafe, just across the hall from the main dining room, was serving food. I ordered a crab and black bean enchilada appetizer to hold me over until the morning, when a complimentary breakfast was served, also in the same cafe. (One down side, smoking is allowed in the bar section, as opposed to no smoking in the main restaurant and other hotel areas.)
The location of this Victorian lodging couldn’t be better, right smack in the middle of town. Just a few steps away I found The Old Globe Theater, which has been turned into a fabulous combination of coffee house, concert hall, art gallery, wine bar and bookstore by owner Kate Haslett. I had the pleasure of meeting Kate, who was hard at work in the upstairs gallery, preparing for an upcoming weekend focused on art. This beautiful theater is worth a trip to Berlin in itself, aside from everything else the town has to offer.
Just across the street from The Globe Theatre, I stepped into Rayne’s Reef Luncheonette, an immaculate eatery that’s been a part of Berlin since 1901. I slid into a counter seat and soon became entralled with both the nostalgic decor and the lively political conversation dished out by Wolfgang, the owner. He admits he is considered a trouble maker by many, serving up liberal philosophy along with burgers and fries. But he sees Rayne’s Reef as an opportunity to inform and educate. It makes the visit all the more interesting.
Headed for Assateague Island, I didn’t have time to browse shops and antique stores, but this town is perfect for that. It’s also perfect for a quiet option to the hustle and bustle of nearby Ocean City, but still close enough to drive over and explore the Boardwalk and coastal restaurants. A small town option, with city attractions close at hand.
I packed my bags and said goodbye to Berlin. It was time to go in search of the wild ponies.
Photo Gallery: View Here
If You Go:
The Atlantic Hotel
2 No. Main St.
The Globe Theater
12 Broad St.
Rayne’s Reef Luncheonette
10 No. Main St.