When I was in Australia I noticed that Muse were touring Europe, and would be in Amsterdam and Berlin just after I got back. They did (a few months after I bought tickets) announce more UK dates however at the time I was torn between visiting these two great European cities. I have been to Amsterdam a couple times now, and this helped me make my decision.
I booked my flights, headed to Edinburgh airport and prepared for my first trip to Germany.
The weather wasn’t great upon boarding. However what better way to get you in the mood for a trip! But with Berlin being not too far away I wasn’t sure what the weather would be like there. Nor did I take a look at the forecast.
I arrived in a wet Berlin, it looked like it had just stopped raining however I thankfully avoided a downpour. I was pretty peckish upon leaving the airport and the first thing I found was a small food stand just outside of the airport as I headed to the train station. I dodged the puddles with my suitcase and headed for the small stand, offering some of Germany’s most popular cuisines.
I bought myself a currywurst, German sausage with ketchup and curry powder.
I got the train to the city, it wasn’t too much hassle nor did it take too long. The food was just enough to keep the hunger at bay as I headed to the centre.
I avoided the British temptations…
Now I ended up getting off at a station when I felt I was in the centre, in classic Sam style I didn’t have a hostel booked beforehand so I planned to head to a coffee shop and do just this. As I was walking down the escalator after getting off the train I met a really nice lady that was a little lost. She asked me something in German and I responded by apologizing that I only speak English, hoping of course that she understood. She did, and spoke English fluently and asked me how to find a certain trainline. Coincidentally it was the only one I knew, as it was the one I just got off. In return I asked where the best place to go is for someone that hasn’t been to the city before, and she recommended Hackescher Markt, a vibrant square in the city full of bars and restaurants. She told me that the line she was looking for went past here, and she insisted I follow her to the train and she would get off at this station and walk the rest of the way to her destination. It was a very kind gesture, we shook hands, exchanged names and went our separate ways.
I believe her name was Anker, the way she pronounced it was ‘anchor’ although I am unsure of the spelling. Anker? Janker?* She told me she was German but not from Berlin, I would appreciate if someone was to help me know what her name was exactly.
Sometimes you meet lovely people like this, she only knew me for 30 seconds however was still more than happy to show me where to go in person. This admittedly put me in a good mood as the guy serving me the currywurst at the airport was maybe the most miserable person I have tried to talk to in a long time. It wasn’t the best first impression but this lady at the train station restored my faith. So I thank her for that and for being a good person.
Update: Thank you to Mona Dee for letting me know the girl’s name is probably Anke, a popular name in northern Germany. Much appreciated!
I had a little wander around the surrounding streets as the rain started to fall.
I noticed the red and green ‘Ampelmann’ from some of the pedestrian crossings had his own store. Seems like he is pretty well known. After reading up on him I learned that before the Berlin Wall came down, East and West Germany had two difference sets of red and green lights at crossings. The west had a generic human figure similar to what we have in the UK, and east had this male figure. Since then the figure has acquired cult status and souvenir shops such as this one.
What I found funny about Berlin is that the rules regarding these Lime scooters are much more relaxed. I saw people riding past police without helmets, in fact I didn’t see a single helmet with any of the scooters. In Brisbane this would have not been possible, a hefty fine was handed out to anyone without a helmet.
As my phone battery was getting low and the rain heavier, I found a place I was guaranteed wifi to book a hostel and get my bearings. I have also quit caffeine in my coffee, and feel so much more focused for it. I enjoy the taste and realised I don’t need the kick, I got addicted in Melbourne and started to feel pretty terrible as a result. I also found it hard to find decaffeinated coffee in Berlin, I guess it is because I can’t speak German as I am sure coffee shops must sell decaffeinated, so found myself heading to Starbucks for my decaf-kick.
I booked a hostel for a good rate near Checkpoint Charlie and headed to the station.
What I didn’t know was that when I bought a ticket I had to validate it in these machines. I just jumped on the first train without using it and only realised upon getting off at my stop after seeing others doing it. Thankfully there were no ticket inspectors around.
I arrived at Kochstraße station, my hostel was just around the corner.
Now I am hoping this is just sheer coincidence but Mr Currywursts title of being the most miserable person I have ever met only lasted a couple of hours, as Mr Hostel receptionist snatched that title with two hands. Holy crap he was a misery, it was almost comical. The only reason he talked to me more was because he had to to give me a key. I was relieved to see it wasn’t just me he was like this with, after going to have a shower in the hostel I kid you not this is what one guest decided to warn us all about on the back of the shower door.
- Dude at reception is a miserable c**t that hates everyone.
- Vending machine only works 50% of the time. The other 50% is takes your money.
- Reception dude hates everyone.’
Even funnier was that someone else decided the following day to write ‘Agreed!’ underneath it, reminding me further that sometimes we just shouldn’t take things personally. Sometimes the behaviour of some is a reflection of themselves and not you. But I started to miss the lovely lady at the train station very fast indeed.
In my room was a lovely Argentinian girl called Jorja. We decided as day turned to night we would have a wander in the city and not waste the evening. We had a sneak peak at Checkpoint Charlie, the Brandenburg Gate and the Berlin Wall. All of these places I will talk about further in parts two and three of my Berlin trip.
Now below is the biggest dome I have ever seen. It looks like an entertainment complex below it with cinemas and restaurants, however the highlight of this place has to be that roof.
And not far from here, the Brandenburg Gate. It looks very impressive at night.
Berlin doesn’t hide from it’s darker past, and the many memorials in the city are a reminder of this and that we don’t want a repeat.
I don’t like taking photos without at least giving some change, so I gave this guy what small change I had. He pulled out a hand fan with the word ‘thanks’ on it before I could take a picture. He didn’t even stop playing, a real pro.
As you can see the weather improved a lot, and remained great for the rest of the trip.
I decided to go back to the huge dome and see it during daylight, it was just as impressive if not more with the light shining through. This area is called Potsdamer Platz.
The following day I did a walking tour, I managed to get the last English speaking tour of the day. The tour leader was from Mexico and moved here a few years back. He was very informative and in a group of six we went to some of the major sights in the city. Some of these sights will be in part 2 and 3 of the posts.
Below, the location of Hitlers Bunker.
The bunker is way bigger than I had thought, you can see above how many rooms it has, I believe it was over 30. This was a fascinating stop on the tour, as despite being the location of Hitler’s death you would have no idea walking past. There isn’t anything but a car park and surrounding flats, the sign above is the only thing there that informs you of the locations significance.
This mural below can be found at Detlev-Rohwedder-Haus, a building that was home to the German Ministry of Aviation. This building survived the war, our tour guide saying that it was preserved by the allies so they could use it as a landmark for where they needed to bomb around it. It is now used as a tax office, so I guess the building itself hasn’t exactly won people over since the war. The mural outside is very impressive though, completed in the 50’s, depicting a happier future for Germans.
Just outside the building, we learned about the Berlin Wall. I have saved the pictures for the next parts however I share this image with you from the area. This hot air balloon rises 150 meters into the air, connected to the ground by a steel cable. An amazing event happened in East Germany on September 16th, 1979, two families made a hot air balloon out of materials they bought and successfully escaped across the border to the west. They rose to over 8,000ft, enough to make them detectable on radar but not identifiable. Their first balloon attempt didn’t make it, and to prevent the police from finally closing in on who did it, they quickly made another and attempted a second time. They made it across, the only injury being a broken leg. Amazing!
Below, another stop on the tour. This is Gendarmenmarkt, a square consisting of the Berlin concert hall and a French and German church to the left and right as you exit the hall. I was like a mirror had been put in the square, with the two churches being seemingly identical.
I bought my mum some chocolates from a nearby chocolate company. I was recommended by the tour guide and they were very good indeed.
Sadly I didn’t stay long enough to check out some of Berlin’s best examples of street art and murals, but I did see some smaller ones on route.
I remember seeing a bar I really wanted to try out when I first got to Hackescher Markt, so I did. Behind the bar was a really friendly and helpful Berliner that was happy to have conversation and let me know of some places to try out.
I told the bartender that I was going to head towards the Mercedes-Benz Arena as this was somewhere I was told to head for a few bars. She said she wouldn’t really go there herself, she preferred the bars along the river at Holzmarkt. She also told me about Resident Advisor, a must for people that want info on the city.
So off I went on a search for another bar.
Now I don’t know if I headed to the wrong place or if it was more of a daytime area, but I didn’t find anywhere lively when I got off the train in Holzmarkt. I probably headed to the wrong place.
And as I didn’t really know the area I went into the first bar I could find open. It seemed like your typical local pub, full of men chatting over a smoke and a beer and occasionally looking over to the obvious outsider. It was decent though, I enjoyed my beer here before heading closer to the arena.
And a very happy and very strange ending to the night came when I arrived at the arena. I noticed some of the Berlin Wall is located here, with some impressive artwork along it. I took some shots as I walked along it and out of nowhere I bumped into Jorja again! She was with some friends from the hostel and I was grateful to be invited along with them to a bar they heard about. It was very busy, we had a lot of fun and walked back to the hostel which I didn’t know was in walking distance. That’s the funny thing being in a big city for the first time, you can spend an hour getting on and off train and could be right next to or a million miles away from where you started. The night ended, I looked forward to seeing Muse the following night and I also look forward to sharing the pictures from some more parts of the walking tour from this day.
I hope you enjoyed part one, as well as all the shots from the trip so far!
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