A visit to Berlin has been on my list for ages, actually ever since I first moved to Amsterdam back in 2009. Time flies and too many things kept getting in the way. Thankfully, not this time!
Remember last summer when my Dutchman bought a boat? Well, this time around he bought a car, to fulfill dreams of taking road trips (which I told him are probably cooler in America). He came home with a car and we left one busy city for another and headed to Berlin! He enjoyed cruising along the autobahn (which we don't have in America) and we made it there in around 7 hours.
We booked a hostel, packed up the car and headed east towards Berlin without much of a plan. I tried my best to be spontaneous (his way) instead of following a general plan (my way). basically drove me crazy, but hey, I tried. In the end it was a good thing I had my secret backup list of fun things to do since random spontaneity doesn't always work out ("wait, that museum is closed today?! ha!) Research and planning are parts of what I love about traveling aside from actually taking the trip, duh.
I wouldn't consider Berlin a beautiful city (Amsterdam, you'll always have my heart) but it is so interesting! The industrial sometimes dingy vibe mixed with history weaving in and out of every corner, is almost eerie at times. Berlin, I like you, quite a lot.
Here are of my favorite Berlin bits and pieces...
It's almost overwhelming to see old pictures of the destruction around Berlin. I couldn't help but imagine 'what happened on this corner?' or imagine living there in the golden 1920s before things got crazy.
We stayed at the Amstel House Hostel, a simple, clean and fun choice not only because it's named after the river we boat on so frequently but because the backpacker vibe was great and after seven-hours in the car 1.50 beers for happy hour couldn't have been better. When staying at hostels (in a private room, please) you always end up meeting other interesting travelers, it's a great way to socialize and pick up a few last minute travel tips!
DDR Museum - A museum about, you guessed it, life in Eastern Germany.
Mauerpark Flea Market - As recommended by many friends, this flea market kept us entertained with knick knacks and vintage goodies (a post of its own coming up soon!)
Third Reich Walking Tour - My Dutchman's choice but a very interesting and inexpensive tour offering a peak to some interesting (and eerie) historical sites like theses...
Wandering through Kreuzberg - A fun, random day filled with graffitied squats, the uber-touristy East Side Gallery, a mural covered chunk of The Wall. We finished off with an evening of remarkably cheep tequila and massive, delicious burritos (more on that, later!)
The Berlin Wall Memorial - Check out what remains of the wall around Bernauer Straße. This is where to go if you want to see real bits of the wall (as opposed to the East Side Gallery, above, that has only modern murals) Plus, there's an interesting open air exhibition on the growing division of the neighborhood. This is there area especially know for people literally jumping out of windows to escape to the western side. It's almost unbelievable.
Can I just say it once more? Berlin is so cheep!
It's far less expensive than Amsterdam, which was great when we were there and quite disappointing to leave. Two lattes and four or five (big) pastries costs around 8 euros which is the equivalent to just a latte and a muffin here in Amsterdam. Sad.
We found a great bakery in our quiet neighborhood where we gorged on inexpensive pastries and lattes each morning before taking the metro to sight see. Needless to say, I've been eating salads a lot upon returning since my diet was about 99% pastries while in Germany and my new jeans are now a very tight squeeze. Oops!
Following an afternoon wandering around the Kruezberg area our final stop was Santa Maria for happy hour. What a great choice, we had so much fun! For real. Not only because there were plenty of 1euro tequila shots (and 4euro margaritas!) but also the stellar atmosphere and delicious food.
If you plan to visit, definitely get there early, this place was packed. Friendly staff and even better food, what's better than that? I had a veggie burrito with black beans and pumpkin. Too bad we didn't make it there for Taco Tuesday cause I'd love to go back!
If you like chocolate do yourself a favor and stop by the Ritter Sport Chocoworld Shop. It isn't far from Check Point Charlie, and a lot more fun that that dorky tourist trap.
I brought home a big selection of flavors like strawberry-yogurt chocolate and my favorite dark chocolate mind and...cornflakes! Some might say I went a bit overboard but hey, they were a fraction of the price. You can also make your own chocolate bar but I opted not to for fear the summer heat would destroy it.
Can you guess which ones are true to size? Ha!
As recommend by a friend and Berlin local, we wandered past the Rosa-Luxemburg Platz up to the Schönhauser Allee which is filled with (cheep!) food choices, in search of something tasty on our last evening.
For dinner, we chose curry at a Vietnamese spot, Wraps and Rolls, before heading down the street to White Trash Fast Food (WTFF) for an evening of rock 'n' roll. A few tequila shots were had in the street, because hey, you can do that kind of thing in Berlin. In fact, one of the most exciting parties seemed to be taking place right outside of the liqueur store, ha!
White Trash Fast Food was a wild spot! Housed in a massive, old Chinese restaurant (complete with all authentic, wacky, old decor), this bar enlisted a rockabilly band upstairs and a DJ spinning downstairs right next to the in-house tattoo parlor. Yup, it was a feast for the senses. The (pricey) menu was full of great sounding Americana food like artichoke dip and giant burgers which would have probably been a great cure for my latest bout of homesickness but I was stuffed from that evenings mango curry.
That's all for now. Our long weekend was pretty action packed but it still seems like we hardly hit the surface.
I'll share another post soon with some more snapshots from around the city. If you have any Berlin suggestions definitely let me know, I'd really like to go back again one day!