If someone had told me a German city would be one of my favorite travel destinations, I would have never believed them. I used to hate where I was coming from, the language, the weather, and most of all the mentality of the people. Traveling broadens your horizon but after living the dream in Australia for a year appreciating home wasn’t easy. Especially as a 15- year- old. Now, a couple of years later, I can. Not only that, I can say that Berlin would easily be in my top 5 cities list if I could ever decide on one.
The most important thing you need to know is that Berlin doesn’t represent the rest of Germany. At. All. If you’ve been to Berlin, you passport might say that you’ve been to Germany, but without seeing any other place you’d have a very very…very one- sided impression, that it just as well wouldn’t count as having been to Germany.
Berlin is artsy. It’s alternative. It’s trashy. It’s open- minded. It’s creative. You’ll see people randomly gathering on the streets playing music. You’ll see posters on every wall, bus stop and street light. They’ll be slowly falling off as there are just too many of them sticking on top of each other. You’ll see the graffiti underneath, and if there isn’t one yet, there’ll be one tomorrow.
This is my second time in Berlin this year, third time overall. Apart from the Brandenburg Gate, Checkpoint Charlie and the East Side Gallery I haven’t been to any of those “please take a picture of me on front of that”- attractions yet. Having a friend who’s basically a local, we just strolled through the streets of Kreuzberg. We went to a club called Tresor to dance to some techno. We sat on the sidewalk at 3am to enjoy our kebab. To our right the ambulance took care of a guy who had a bottle thrown agains his head; to our left the police had to stop another fight. We just sat in the middle and ate peacefully. As the sun was rising we headed back; so did the rats on the streets; if we wanted to, we could have stayed; if we felt like dancing again after brunch, we would have found a place to do so. Berlin doesn’t sleep.
Then there’s this line on the ground, through the whole city, and if you watch closely you’ll see a sign that tells you that a few decades ago there used stand a wall that parted not only Berlin, but a whole nation, into East and West. I always have stories of people trying to overcome the wall, pictures you can now only find in history books that show people celebrating the reunion of the country standing on top of exactly that wall, in my head. Today, you can buy little pieces of the wall in souvenir shops. Today, crowds of tourists take photos in front of the remainings at the East Side Gallery, from both sides which are painted with colorful graffiti. Today, it’s just a line going through the city, next to the skyscraper of Germany’s biggest newspaper publishing company. How ironic.
I guess that’s why Berlin stole my heart a little, there’s so much history, but at the same time Berlin is so present. People don’t seem to be stressed, they never seem to hurry, they’re just being and enjoying life. In summer you can flee the feeling of being in the city by going to the Badeschiff. For 3€ (reduced) you can lay at a sandy beach, listen to music and swim in a pool which lies in Berlin’s river Spree, with a view of the Berlin TV tower and the Oberbaum Bridge. If you’re into flea markets, you should check the Mauerpark Flohmarkt out to find jewelry, clothes, old cameras, vinyls and work of up-and-coming designers. You’ll also find live music just outside the market and lots of kind people that are keen to chat.
My final tip: Keep your eyes open. There’s so much to see and whenever you go back it’ll be a little different, but read all the flyers and posters on the walls to find out about ice cream festivals, concerts and exhibitions- there’s always something going on in Berlin!
- Transport from and back to Ingolstadt (Bavaria): 54€ (booked via flixbus.de)
- Transport within the city: 7€ for a day ticket (Bus, Underground)
- Accomodation: at a friend’s place, but all the hostels I’ve seen seem pretty cool
- Food: there are take aways and little 24h restaurants everywhere, from Italian, Chinese to the original Currywurst or Burgers at the “Burgermeister”, you’ll find something for every taste and price range. I especially enjoyed the tiny Sudanese place called “Khar Toum” in Kreuzberg- best peanut butter sauce I’ve ever had
- Drinks & Going out: you’ll find surprisingly cheap bars in Kreuzberg, we usually had cocktails for 3,5-4€ at a Mexican restaurant called “Que past”; the drinking age in Germany is 16 (beer and wine), 18 (the rest), but many clubs will be 21+, so check the event you’re going to first in case you’re younger! We went to a club called “Tresor”, located right at the Spree, and with a 13€ entry fee quite expensive. But very worth it.