So after our adventures in Amsterdam we made our way to the fantastic city of Berlin!! On our train ride to Berlin we shared a cabin with a lovely old German lady who couldn’t speak much English but she was more than happy to have a conversation with us and show us photos of her family. She was even kind enough to give us a block of chocolate for helping her with her bags – it was good chocolate too! Anyway so after encountering some unhelpful customer service people and working out the metro system we eventually made our way to our final destination – the home of someone we had never met before. No, we didn’t try couch surfing despite our best efforts but Cuz actually had a friend in Berlin who was more than happy to host us (yay)! So after we met up with Nath (not his real name for privacy reasons) he took us around his neighbourhood each with a beer in hand – yes, you can openly drink a beer on the streets we found out AND they are dirt cheap! Unfortunately Nath had to work during our time in Berlin so we were left to our own devices, which was kind of dangerous…. Now, the weather in Berlin was pretty crap – it was cold, wet and just miserable so we didn’t really venture far from his neighbourhood (in other words we didn’t venture off his street – oh dear). We did however enjoy some amazing Thai food (twice) and we even decided to have a night of Thai food while watching True Blood – yes we were nanna’s in Berlin and we liked it! As I’m also writing this I’m realising we literally did not eat any traditional German food, it all seemed to be from other countries – oops!
After a couple of days of us being lazy we thought we should probably go out and do Berlin some form of justice considering we were leaving the next day (did I mention that we were nanna’s?). We were quite determined to see Berlin and decided to do a 6hr long walking tour – yes you read right, 6hrs! We were a little worried at the start that maybe the guide would bore us to death or perhaps we were too unfit from all our pastries, cheese and Thai but neither was the case! Okay I’m going to say this right now, if you are ever in Berlin go on a Brewer’s Walking Tour, especially the Brewer’s Best of Berlin tour (which is the 6hr one). This tour was one of the best tours we have ever done! Our guide was Asoka and because she knew so much and was so passionate about everything, it just made it that much more interesting! You tour around Berlin visiting some historic and important spots learning about WW1 right through to modern day Berlin so you really do get a good history lesson. You will find remnants of the past everywhere around this city if you look hard enough – from bullet holes in walls to buildings that still show signs of damage from the war to the little walking man for pedestrian crossings.
Make sure you keep your eyes to the ground though as you will see sidewalk-affixed plaques at the front of buildings. These plaques are a little memorial to the victims of the Nazis and are known as ‘Stolpersteine’ or stumbling blocks and represent the people that were taken from those buildings. The plaque will read ‘Here lived…’, giving the name, date of birth, details about the victim’s fate, and the dates of her or his incarceration and death, if known. I found this was quite interesting and I probably never would have known what they were if someone didn’t tell me.
Another interesting thing that I shall share with you lovely people is how to tell if you are on the former East or West side of Berlin. Tram lines run in the former East Germany and buses run in the former West as the West got rid of its tram tracks in the 1960’s, however trams are slowly being reintroduced back into the Western side…. Interesting right? Another way to tell that used to be effective but not so much anymore is the pedestrian crossing symbols. If you see a little red or green man in a hat (known as Ampelmännchen or “little traffic light men”) then you know you are in the former East side whereas the former West side has the normal green/red man. However, due to traffic lights being replaced etc the normal men do appear in the former East side.
Berlin is obviously a city with a lot of rich history so I’m not going to get into the history side of things or list all of the sights you should see because there really is way too much. There are also a lot of things to see and do that don’t relate to war but once again that’s another looong list – honestly Berlin is the place to be, it has such a great vibe and I actually wish we had of explored the city a little bit longer!
Anyway, after our 8hr long walking tour (yes, our tour actually went for an extra 2hrs because we had a couple of pit stops at coffee shops) we were recommended a place to try out called Weinerei Forum which we went to check out with a couple of Dutch guys, a Canadian and a lovely gal from Chile. Find this place!! The wine is quite cheap and good there BUT after 8pm you can have all you can drink wine and all you can eat food and you just tip them what you think is fair. I know it seems like there must be some sort catch to it, but there isn’t! Seriously check it out because it made for quite a fun night as well!
So that’s all I got for Berlin, short and sweet unfortunately but honestly I will be back because Berlin is quite a fascinating and nice city to visit and I promise that next time I’ll do it a little more justice!
Keep an eye out for our Prague blog where fairy tales do exist!