Monday, August 12, 2013


This is part two of my trip recap. You can read a bit about Sweden right here.

To be honest, I really had no expectations at all for Berlin. I hadn't researched much prior to visiting and all I knew was that everyone I'd heard speak about this city had raved about it (and by "everyone" I really just mean Jian Ghomeshi).

We spent four days in Berlin (an extra two after deciding to avoid the flooding in Prague) and I am so glad that I got to spend so much time in this incredible city. Four days was the perfect amount of time to allow for a good balance of planned activities and just letting life happen—my ideal way to travel. Here are a few of my favourite things about Berlin:

Public Transit: One of the first things I noticed about Berlin was how amazing their transit system is. A cheap daypass will get you pretty much anywhere you need to go in the city via their underground and elevated train system.

Train door pattern

Curry36: One thing that was on our radar was Curry 36, a food vendor in Kreuzberg. This was our first stop after getting settled in our hostel when we arrived in Berlin (priorities...we got 'em). I can't recall how we heard about currywurst but apparently it is one of the things to try when you are in Berlin and Curry 36 is the place to get it. Basically, it is a bratwurst doused with curry ketchup. It did not disappoint and my sister's friend and I may or may not have eaten here three more times while we were in Berlin. We also tried currywurst at a number of other places (Berlin was not the most healthy part of this adventure) and all paled in comparison to the glory that is Curry36. Also, french fries and mayonnaise? Game changer. (U-Bahn Stop: Mehringdamm on U6 or U7)

Reichstag Dome: It's free, you just need to book a timeslot in advance. We went up to the glass dome where you get a free audioguide to follow while you walk up the spiral ramp to the top. I loved gazing out at the city as I walked up the ramp and seeing the old integrated with the new.  Berlin has been through so much and the dome atop the Reichstag offers a great 360˚ view of how the city has evolved.

The crazy mirrored cone pictured above directs sunlight into the room below the dome where the German parliament sits.

Napping by the fleamarket: We wandered around one of Berlin's fleamarkets (Mauerpark Markt) which was fun but honestly, it was napping in the field beside the market that I enjoyed more. It was a beautiful sunny afternoon and many people were just relaxing in the sunshine. There was a group of buskers playing nearby and a little further down the field the strains of a group karaoke event (Berliners are serious about their karaoke) could be heard. One of those perfect moments that can't be planned and a good reminder that you don't always have to be doing something while traveling.

This moment that happened right before said nap: Picture hundreds of people enthusiastically singing along to Backstreet Boys karaoke in a field. Oh wait! I have a video so that you don't have to!

I was sitting on the hill pictured above getting sleepy in the sunshine when I heard a massive cheer from partway down the field and the strains of I Want it That Way drift towards me. I headed over to the karaoke area immediately (ok, I ran) and the crowd was way more into this performance than any of the others that had preceded it. It was the greatest.

Sidenote: BSB released a new album a couple of weeks ago and the second track on it is called "Permanent Stain".......why has the internet not ridiculed this mercilessly yet?

Haus Schwarzenberg: This is a courtyard tucked in the Hackeschen Höfe shopping area. The surrounding area has been updated to create a trendy shopping district so the courtyard is easy to miss. Haus Schwarzenberg is a stark contrast to the gentrified neighbourhood it resides in and has maintained its post-war scruff. It has been owned by a group of artists called The Dead Chickens since the 90s and the walls are decorated with street art and graffiti while colourful bunting flies overhead. From the courtyard you can access the entrances to an independent cinema, cafe/bar, and an art/bookshop in the back (not to be missed!). There are also several museums including one that used to be a broom shop where the German owner hid his Jewish employees during the war. (U-Bahn Stop: Weinmeisterstraße or Rosenthaler Platz on U8)

Street art and graffiti: The street art and graffiti scene in Berlin is incredible. Some of my favourite spots were Haus Schwarzenberg, The East Side gallery (a large expanse of the Berlin wall that has been converted into the world's longest open air gallery), and this old warehouse area that I'm not sure what it's called but it is near the Suicide Circus club. On our last day in Berlin we went on an Alternative walking tour that highlighted some of the city's street art and graffiti and was a great way to learn a bit more about some of the artists. They are free (except for tip at the end) and happen every day. Definitely one of my favourite Berlin experiences.

Doner Kebab: After the war, many Turkish immigrants were brought into the city to help with the clean-up effort. Originally, the plan was for them to move back to Turkey after ten years but (shockingly) people usually grow accustomed to their life after living somewhere for ten years and so they decided to stay in Berlin. Consequently, Berlin is now home to a vibrant Turkish community which led to the invention of doner kebab! There are several places in Berlin that claim to have invented this but my favourite was Mustafa's Gemüse. It consists of shawarma meat and vegetables wrapped in flatbread and is insanely delicious, immense, and cheap. The only thing not to love is the line if you stop by the one near Curry36. I think we waited in line for 45 minutes the first night we got this. (We later learned that there was another one down the street from our hostel on Warschauer Straße. It took less time for us to get on the train, travel there, get our food, and eat it than it did to wait in line at the other one).

And here's where we stayed if you're interested:

Main Station Hostel: This was my first hostel experience and I have to say that it set the bar unreasonably high for all future hostel stays. Spacious rooms (there were eight people in the room we stayed in and it was perfectly comfortable), in-room lockers large enough to accommodate my big backpack, great lounge area, and a 24-hour reception desk stocked with beer and popsicles. Super friendly staff, as well. The only (minor) downside was that it wasn't very centrally located but with the excellent transit, this was never a problem.

Odyssee Hostel: More eclectic than the first hostel. My sister and I shared a two-person private room so I can't vouch for the shared rooms but our room was great with a nice view of the courtyard. There was also a nice spacious shower attached to the shared bathroom. This hostel was also more conveniently located than the other hostel. The only thing that was a bit strange was that each room only has one key so you have to check it in and out from the main desk.

Swiped a few of these photos from my dear sister whose camera is far superior to mine.

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