I took a trip recently to the German capital to visit a friend. I’ve visited 2 other German cities before- Dresden for the Christmas markets, and a solo trip to Munich. But Berlin felt unique, which isn’t surprising considering its history. I have never read so much information before as I did on this trip- but it was all fascinating and deeply interesting!
We stayed at ComeBackPackers, a hostel right by Kottbusser Tor metro. Whilst staying here we managed to lock ourselves both in and out of the room… our roommates were patient with us!
On our first evening we all went for dinner at L’Ostria, where they served huge portions of Italian food. The type of place where plates are so large that the floor has to accommodate for the condiments and drinks. We had wanted to make the most of our first night and we eventually made it to a bar, with red walls, yellow candles, and a detailed but crumbling ceiling. We were so tired, though, that we called it a night and headed back to the hostel for some much needed sleep!
We actually walked 27,000 steps on this day- the daily average is 10,000! First of all, we visited the Jewish Museum. The museum was divided by various areas and topics- it wasn’t just one big museum in memorial to one devastating tragedy. It was really informative and there’s also an area where you learn about the timeline of Jewish history too. A number of artists and architects had contributed pieces to the museum, so it wasn’t just artefacts to look at, but experiences to feel as well.
From there we made our way to Checkpoint Charlie, which was the checkpoint where foreigners and Allied forces members could cross during the Cold War. Obviously it’s a tourist trap today, with ‘border guards’ ready for a photograph (and yes that’s right I was one of the many who queued up for a photo) but they had old photographs posted everywhere so you could kind of imagine what it had looked like. After lunch walked through Tiergarten in pursuit of ice cream! It felt like a mirage from the desert when we finally spotted a cafe. The weather was so hot for us Brits- it was 26 degrees! After passing Brandenburg Gate and booking tickets for the Reichstag for the next day, we headed back for some Turkish food and chocolate waffles. A standard Sunday evening, no?
Monday was our hectic day, as we had sort of forgotten how much we had planned to do! We started with a sunny walk along the East Side Gallery, gazing at all the street art on both sides of the wall. It was a shame, though- and slightly ironic- that there was a metal fence in front of the wall, so that you couldn’t clearly see the art. I suppose it’s to protect the art but perhaps a clear perspex glass wall would’ve looked better? Have any of you seen this?
We walked through the shade, with the river to our left and bullet-ridden houses to our right. We came out to face Berlin Cathedral, which we had a look around and climbed to the top to get a good view of the city.
As we had a bike tour coming up, we enjoyed a spot of lunch by the river next to the Cathedral. It was glorious weather, but then we noticed the grey clouds, and the wind picking up. As we made our way over to St Nicholas church for the bike tour, the heavens opened and an orchestra of thunder and lightening commenced! We ducked under a nearby shelter and eventually made our way for the bike tour, where the sun and blue skies had resumed their rightful position. The bike tour was led by a native Berliner, Martin, who really knew his stuff. Over 3 hours long, we covered 12km of the ‘best bits’ of Berlin (the TV tower, Brandenburg Gate, Checkpoint Charlie) mixed in with a historical side too. We saw old, architectural styles, were shown locations where successful escape attempts were made, and visited Hitler’s Bunker, which is situated underneath a car park by a block of flats.
We left the tour feeling we had gained a degree in German history and then, realising the time, dashed across to Rosa-Luxumburg-Platz to meet our friend for dinner! We sat outside, eating amazing Korean food (I’d never tried it before and it was so tasty), when it started to rain again, so we hopped inside. We then realised we had less than half an hour to get to the Reichstag for our tour- so with a large umbrella in tow we made another run for it, and made it there in time! We had booked an allotted time of 8.30-9.30pm, but as long as you’re there for your start time then it doesn’t matter how long you stay for.
A visit to the Reichstag is free, and, as with everything else with saw, extremely informative. We were ushered up to the dome, a transparent dome with a spiralling ramp so you can overlook the city. If you look down the centre of the dome, you can see the chambers where discussions take place. I think the idea is that the dome is transparent so all of the people can see what is going on within the world of politics. You’re also given an audio guide set. What was weird was that you had to wait in a line for the bathroom and then be called forward one by one to go in. So if you’re bursting you have to be quite patient!
Once we left, the plan was to go to a bar, Luzia, which had been recommended to us time and time again. Despite it’s good location and good reviews, we were so tired that we ended up having an early night instead! That’s karma for making too many plans!
Tuesday was our last full day in Berlin. There was always so much graffiti and street art to look at. We went first to a section of the Wall, not far from Checkpoint Charlie, where there was a timeline of events in the build up to WW2. After reading this we visited the Berlin Wall Memorial, where you climb to the top of a tower and overlook a preserved section of the Wall. First you’d have to climb a lower wall and then a series of obstacles, including a guarded watchtower, before reaching the actual Wall. It was crazy that we were looking right at something that once been someone’s freedom/imprisonment before. There was a small exhibition downstairs so we learnt a little more about the history during and after the fall of the Wall.
That evening, we went to 25hours Hotel Bikini Berlin, where on the top floor is Monkey Bar. Berlin is a very flat city so you can see wide across the city, through the bar’s ceiling to floor windows. It also overlooks the monkey enclosure at the zoo- and so I ordered an aptly named Planet of the Apes cocktail! It’s pricey but worth it. You sit on benches, seats, cushions- any room you can find really!- but it wasn’t too crowded and the bar staff come round to take and deliver your orders.
To round off our trip, that night the 4 of us made up a picnic and sat outside overlooking the zoo. Once we’d said our goodbyes and went back to the hostel, we managed to wake ourselves up at 3.30am to make our way to the airport, and landed back in freezing cold England that morning!
All in all I loved Berlin. I wish I had read more about the history before coming, although you are pretty inundated with information once you get here- which can be frustrating in some cities, but certainly not in Berlin. It’s a city I could return to again. We were there for 3 full days which can be enough time in some cities, such as Amsterdam in my opinion, but I could’ve done with some more time to go a market, walk around a park, and maybe actually make it to a bar!