It’s been a while since I’ve written on here (which is awful, I apologise), I guess that’s because in that time I’ve been to Berlin, had my Birthday, been to far too many events including Eurogamer and a Danny Elfman concert and eaten far too much cake. I’ll do a round-up soon enough but to start with, I wanted to fill you in on my holiday in the wonderfully diverse city of Berlin.
Day One – Thursday
On arrival in Berlin, after a really short flight, we got to Tegel Airport and immediately followed my Lonely Planet guide to the TXL shuttle bus, at just 2 euros-ish, this was a bargain. After getting a bit confused with the ticket gentleman whilst trying to speak some of my GCSE German, we boarded and took the 40 minute journey into the heart of Berlin.
As it drove past all the iconic sights in the dark, we arrived at Alexanderplatz a fair bit later. There we stumbled upon a traditional Oktoberfest market, walking through it at night was a treat as it was all lit up and the smell of roasted nuts was filling the night time air. Alas, we went to a local cafe and indulged in some pasta and a refreshing Bitburger beer – just what we needed. We took a final wander through the market on the way to the hotel and bought some sugar roasted Almond and Pistachios, all for less than 5 euros.
Day Two – Friday
This day was always going to be a toughie, as i’d already planned out a meticulous route, with the help of my guide, that went past all of the historic sights that Berlin has to offer. The idea was not to dwell on the history of this magnificent city for the whole break but to see a bit of all of it.
Anyway, the day started with the U-bahn to Potsdamer Platz, a towering 90s district rebuilt after the war. Immediately, you are hit with parts of the wall outside the station but because there are so few, it is hard to imagine what a whole wall would have been like. Also, the original graffiti has been painted over by commissioned artists, something that made the pieces of wall a whole lot less authentic.
Walking onwards to our Bundestag dome viewing experience, we happened upon the Holocaust Memorial. At first, in all honesty, it didn’t appear much, a few concrete slabs in rows but walk through it and you are immediately transported into a dark, isolating world. It didn’t feel right to dwell here for very long – the raindrops from the evening before looked like tears rolling down the cold slabs. Moving slowly on to the iconic Brandenburg Gate, we took a few touristy snaps and headed onwards.
Ascending the elevator in the Bundestag, we walked around its roof, getting a chance to view the whole landscape. It was beautiful, especially with parts of the Autumnal-coloured Tiergarten. Walking slowly around the glass dome on top of the roof, we really got a chance to see the best of Berlin, all in a matter of hours – I’d highly recommend booking a trip.
After this we decided to head to the Friedrichstrasse train station where we entered a museum which detailed perfectly what it was like before the wall went up, whilst it was up and when it came down – it focused on the divide of families and friends for years on end from both East and West. It was one of the most heartbreaking museums I’d ever been to and it was all free, astonishingly.
The next point was Checkpoint Charlie – a massive tourist trap and a total waste of time – we walked away in minutes. To me, it wasn’t even worth going to, just people trying to capitalise on a part of history to a horrendous degree, nothing like what came next.
We then chose to go on a little walk to the Topographie des Terrors museum, on the spot of the old SS and Gestapo headquarters. This is not a place for the faint hearted. I like to consider myself able to cope with most things but the displays within this museum were unbelievable – the imagery and accounts brought the horror of what was done to multiple subcultures in society to life. In all honesty, I couldn’t reach the end – it was too upsetting.
A fitting end to the day, we found Hitler’s bunker, a residential car park. Nothing more and nothing less – uncelebrated.
Day Three – Saturday
After yesterday’s emotional twists and turns, we headed East to find some street art, another one of my goals for the holiday. This led us to the Kreuzberg district where we nibbled on some more cake, sampled some decent coffee in a local cafe and started on an hour-long walk of the local neighbourhood.
It definitely showed us both sides of Berlin, West where we had previously been was tourist-led and had old Roman architecture contrasted with the East where we were now, with towering high rises and graffiti-riddled streets. We took a few snaps of a few famous murals including ‘Brothers Upside Down and Chains’ then headed back West to Berlin Zoo.
This Zoo wasn’t the best I’d ever been to but was one of the prettiest. With a large array of animals, it was definitely diverse and a hell of a walk as it was so big! It just felt like a zoo in a city, surrounded by concrete; I felt a bit sorry for the animals really. A lot of the enclosures looked a bit dank and depressing with moats to stop the animals escaping. I did get to see polar bears for the first time though.
That evening, we were determined to try the famed Currywurst and so we headed to Potsdamer Platz again to see part of the Festival of Lights. Potsdamer Platz and the Sony Center was lit up with images of pop art on all of the surrounding buildings and floors – it was a brilliant sight, especially seeing as I love this type of art in particular. We then finally got to try the sausage, smothered in curry powder and ketchup, it was absolutely nommy but far too filling. To top the day off, we had designer Gelato in the local mall – we rolled back to the hotel that night!
Day Four – Sunday
On our last day, we decided to take an autumnal visit to the very local bear enclosure, where Berlin houses its mascot. Alas, she was fast asleep in her brick house.
As most of Berlin is shut on Sunday, I used my guide to find something to do – it recommended the popular flea market in the Mauerpark. We took the longest journey of the trip (20 minutes) to the Prenzlauer Berg district in the North and went to find brunch. We happened upon the famous Anna Blume cafe and florist which was an absolute treat. I had a fruity, continental croissant breakfast and the largest coffee I could find (all that walking had taken it out of me!). It was pricey, as this district is, but delicious all the same.
On our way to the park, we walked through the local family neighbourhoods, down streets lined with golden trees and leaves of many different colours. It was absolutely stunning. Fairly quickly we started to find the bearable crowds and joined them. The flea market was definitely worth our time, with all manner of objects and trinkets from old war memorabilia to intricate jewellery designers. We wandered for a little while then found a cute little cafe to have a selection of cheese and meat and a warm drink. Sorely needed after enduring such a cold day!
After all that it was time to leave and it felt like we had accomplished and seen all that we had set out to. It was sad to leave but hopefully we’ll return again one day…
Have you ever been to Berlin? What did you think?