BERLIN – 5-9th of May 2017
Sorry for the late post…I was dealing with some depression and anxiety but here is my Berlin experience! It’s shorter than I want it but I’ll update it with more details later. Anyway…
Berlin! Where do I begin…It’s been a long time coming but I’m so glad I could spend a few days here in Berlin! Despite an intensifying feeling of homesickness and loneliness, it’s been a blast being able to spend some time in a place I’ve been longing to visit since I started taking German classes in high school (don’t get me wrong though, all the places I have visited thus far have been absolutely amazing experiences).
I got into Berlin from Dresden around 2 PM on Friday. I stayed at the Heart of Gold Hostel, which was way cool because they were themed around the phrase “Don’t Panic!” from A Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy. The staff was way friendly and even though I stayed at the “mega dorm” (one large dormitory with two separate rooms – I stayed in the smaller one which had 12 beds instead of the other side which had a grand total of 22 beds…too many people).
As soon as I checked in, I picked a bed, took a shower then headed off to see the city. The neat thing about the place I stayed at was that a lot of places were within walking distance, if you were okay with walking a good half an hour or so in any direction.
The first thing I went to go see was the Brandenburg Gate and tour the Tiergarden, which is the large central park area in Berlin past the Brandenburger Tor and near the rebuilt Reichstag (now called the Bundestag). The gate was cool, although it was very, very crowded, as was expected with it being one of the focal points of Germany, being Berlin’s answer to Paris’ Arc de Triomphe. It was also kind of chilling that at some point in the past this was a border between the Soviet East Germany and the democratic West Germany…to use such a marvel for such purposes is a travesty to say the least.
The Tiergarten was beautiful. Although it was cloudy, as it has been every single day I’ve been in Germany save for two or three, the Tiergarden was still grand. And because it was spring, everything was so green and in bloom. Inside the Tiergarden complex is a bunch of memorials, such as a memorial to the Soviet victory over the Nazis. In the center of it all was the iconic Victory Statue, standing proud and tall as if guarding the city. Nearby I visited a Soviet victory memorial as well as the rebuilt Reichstag, now the Bundestag, seat of the German Parliament. Sadly I didn’t get in because the lines were so long it would take me about two to three hours of waiting.
I went back to my hostel to find a place to have dinner, which I didn’t. The first night all I really had was a donut, a pack of peanuts I got a few days back for snacking and some gelato — I’ve been having too much ice cream here but I can’t help it…it’s one of my all-time favorite foods and I find European ice-cream to be better than back home, based on my experience at least.
I made some acquaintances at the hostel with whom I just walked around town at night. We didn’t do anything particular, just shot the breeze and got to know each other. Amber from upstate New York, Keenan from London and Leif from Alabama were their names. It was good to finally have someone else to talk to because I honestly was getting a little lonely, which is funny because I chose to go on a solo backpacking European adventure.
I headed back to the hostel around 10:30PM. The others wanted to go bar hopping but I ended up just reading and falling asleep. I had a full day ahead of me.
I woke up around 9. After all the walking I did I was exhausted. I’ve actually been sleeping in a lot throughout my trip, but hey it’s justified because I walk everywhere for the most part and I get pretty exhausted.
I found a nice little café right by Museum Island to have French toast for breakfast. And yes, you read that right: Museum Island! This is where I planned to spend all day because there were five…was it five? I think it was five museums. Particularly, the main attraction for me, which took me an hour to get in due to the demand, was the Pergamon Museum. The downside to that visit though was that the entirety of the North Wing and the Pergamon Shrine were closed due to renovations. I pretty much cursed the heavens, but it was still quite the experience.
The two coolest things inside the Pergamon Museum were the Ishtar Gate and the Market Gate of Miletus. They literally took these structures from their original places and places them here to preserve them. Let’s be honest and say that I was in awe at the Ishtar Gate. I spent a good ten minutes just looking at it and I was almost in tears. It was beautiful. To think that this thing is thousands of years old and still beautiful preserved all this time. Wow. Just wow. Same with the Market Gate of Miletus as well where there were beautiful Corinthian columns on the façade.
There was also the Altes Museum (Old Museum), the Neues Museum (the New Museum), which both housed antiquities from Ancient Egypt to Etruscan art to just about everything. There was also Alte Nationalgalerie, which I skipped. As much as I love art and paintings I did not have time to hit all of the once I wanted to hit, which also includes the Bode Museum which had Byzantine sculptures and a collection of old coins.
After going around Museum Island, which also included other buildings like the Berliner Dom, or Berlin Cathedral, which was beautiful, I hit up a nearby market square to have what should’ve been lunch. It was around 5 when I was finally done with all the museums and I was starving. I got some actual Berliner Currywurst from this local stand at the market square and it was so good I had to go back for seconds.
The rest of the evening I just hung out with Leif. We hit up a bar where I only got soda (I don’t drink) while he tried out German beers. I had a fun time though just talking, getting to know someone new all that. It definitely beat the loneliness back into the shadows.
I spent the next morning trying to figure out how to get to my church. I’m LDS, or Mormon, and I decided to not be a lazy bum and make my way to Church which was a subway and a bus ride away. After church I decided to just walk back to the hostel through the Tiergarten and pass the Brandenburg Gate once more. It took me a good solid 40 minutes but hey, it was a scenic walk.
Once I got back to the hostel Leif sat there waiting for me. As per usual he was reading something. It’s funny to me that most of his luggage is comprised of books. You see, he was a history major (graduated from college already and he was only 21!). He didn’t look the part but he certainly acted like it. Even with his Kindle in tow he decided to bring a library with him. Anyway, Leif and I discussed the night before to check out this big open air market somewhere in Berlin. We spent a good deal figuring out how to get there because it wasn’t on Google Maps. We eventually figured it out and mapped it on an actual map (yes, those still exist) and set out.
On the way we checked out this Vietnamese restaurant that was super amazing. According to Leif’s guidebook to Berlin it was rated the best Vietnamese restaurant. Sadly they didn’t serve pho, for some odd reason, but they had this amazing duck noodle soup that only cost me around 7-8 euros and was pretty filling.
The open air market was what you’d expect…well maybe not. I was expecting mostly food but it was full of various things like shirts and jewelry and well, food, as well as vinyls and so much more. We spent a good hour just looking around and checking what they had. After that we checked out this Biergarten that Leif had been itching to visit. He got beers, I got ice cream and we talked and talked until we both decided to head back to the hostel to take naps or something like that. I was tired from all the walking as the open air market was a good 30 minutes away from the hostel on foot but I ended up just reading to pass the time.
That night Leif told me he wanted to check out some bars and maybe grab dinner. Well, grab dinner then check out bars. I decided to tag along, not wanting to be alone more than I already felt. We actually headed back to the same direction we came from earlier today, close to the open air market, which kind of made me silently cry on the inside. I didn’t want to walk. There were trams and all that but Leif insisted on walking. He promised we could take the night tram back though because where we were going was a good 10 minutes further than where we were at earlier that day.
For dinner we decided to stop by this restaurant called Habba Habba. It was a tiny cramped place but apparently they had the best Arab food in town. I don’t know the relative comparison to the others but it was very, very delicious. They specialized in wraps and I had this kufta wrap. Kufta is this meatloaf type of thing made up of lamb and a bunch of spices and my it was so good I wanted seconds, and all it cost was 4,50 euros. We then checked out this bar called Beckett’s Head, which required you to ring a doorbell first. I loved this bar’s atmosphere. It was just relaxed and chill. I guess it was more of a cocktail lounge than a bar. I didn’t get anything but water, which came free for once while Leif tried out some cocktails. We sat there and just talked, as we have been doing. He was fun to talk to because he had so many opinions and insights about things relating to history and why we are failing as a society because we fail to heed history’s warnings. It was a great time (Below are some photos from Habba Habba and just night scenes in Berlin).
The next day I woke up pretty late but I decided to spend the day checking out things I missed, like Hitler’s Bunker, which was honestly boring, and Checkpoint Charlie, which was also boring to me (sorry if that offends anyone). I also went to the far side of town to check out the Nymphenburg Palace, which was mostly closed due to it being a Monday and all. I wanted to check out the Zoological Gardens to pass the time and enjoy it because I love aquariums – I was mostly interested in the aquarium part of the zoo. There are zoos in America so it’s not like I’m missing out…Anyway, I headed over the Nikolaiviertel, or Nikolai Quarter, which is the oldest part of Berlin, if I remember correctly. It’s the heart of Berlin.
I left that night to head to Vienna. I missed one thing but I can always come back to that when I visit Europe again, and this time I’m bringing a friend!