We arrived in Berlin at around 8am, with little to no sleep from our memorable journey. I remember it had also been raining – hard – in Birmingham when we boarded the airplane from outside, as is common in Europe. I remember waiting in line in the pouring rain, our soaking jackets, and a wet and cold plane ride.
But alas! We were in Berlin! The skies were clear and white, my absolute favorite. White skies provide the perfect lighting for pictures, evoke such a serene and calm aura, and most importantly, do not blind light-sensitive people like myself. We couldn’t check into our Airbnb until 3pm, which was unfortunate, so we just explored the city with our luggage.
Our first obstacle was figuring out the Berlin transportation system. The fact that each city has its own unique transportation system is somewhat of a pain, especially when you’re only in a city for two days max. We soon learned that Germany has this amazing honor code transportation system. It was 7 euros for an all-day pass (till 3am the next day), and it was valid for all forms of transportation in the city. Trams, subway, buses. Everything! There was also no ticket gate, so technically people without a ticket could enter. However, occasionally (read: rarely) there were guards who patrolled the stations, and those that were caught without a ticket were heavily fined. I know I’m writing a lot about a weird topic – ew transportation, BUT I was so so impressed and in awe of the cheap price, ease, and honesty of Berlin transportation.
We first stopped at Cafe Einstein to eat breakfast. I was excited to try a “traditional German breakfast”, which essentially was just an arrangement of cold sliced meats, cheeses, lots of bread, fruit, smoked salmon, chicken curry (??), yogurt, and lots of jams – arranged in the style of traditional English afternoon tea. Emu got an aesthetically pleasing avocado bagel. Both stuffed, we began wandering the streets of Berlin, stopping first at the Victory Column, a large monument located centrally to the city; Tiergarten, a massive park; Brandenberg Tor, a beautiful gate and symbol of Berlin; Reichstag Building, which used to house the German parliament; and the Holocaust Memorial.
We dragged our poor suitcases through many miles and tourist attractions, but the sights and architecture of the city were well worth it – as you can see from the beautiful pictures. We checked into our Airbnb, connected to Wifi, and disappeared for a bit into our virtual worlds. For dinner, we went to a restaurant called Schnitzelei Mitte. They served us welcome beer, which was the most amazing beer I have ever had in my life. I never thought I would like beer until that moment. We ordered German tapas and veal schnitzel (which is sort of like a pork cutlet), both of which were delicious. We also learned the unfortunate way (as seems to be a theme in our travels so far haha) that in Germany, it is customary to tip the waiters and waitresses, unless we thought the service was bad. Oops.
The next morning we pursued what was reputed to be the most delicious bakery in all of Berlin, Zeit Fur Brot. We shared the chocolate swirl bun and apple strudel, quickly scraping the plate clean. We then visited Alexanderplatz, a central plaza; Berliner Fernsehturm, a tall tower; Berlin Cathedral Church, which was unfortunately closed; National Gallery; and the Bode Museum.
The four museums were all located on an “island,” and charged one fee for all the museums, which I thought was pretty neat. Not only that, but kids under the age of 18 had free admission! I couldn’t help but think that maybe this is why Europeans, or at least the ones that I have met, are more cultured. I personally didn’t visit museums much/at all as a child, and most museums charged at least a few dollars. The museums also all provided audio guides, which I loved. We only had time to go to two museums, but I felt like I really got something out of these museums. The audio guides taught me a lot about the artwork, and the emotions/impressions/scenes the artists were trying to convey. I especially loved the paintings of Adolph Menzel, mainly because the museum showcased a lot of his unfinished work. For one of his more famous paintings, Flute Concert with Frederick the Great in Sanssouci, the museum showcased his drawing of the piece right next to the finished painting. It was so cool to compare the two side by side, see what he left out, see what he added, and understand a bit better what Menzel was trying to convey. On the other hand, the Bode Museum housed a lot of Christian artwork and sculptures, none of which I’m a huge fan of. However, the museum’s architecture itself was gorgeous and grand! Lots of pictures were taken.
We explored an art market that displayed lots of original, creative concepts, such as wooden bowties, small plants in jewelry, polygon-shaped handbags that looked like pieces of modern art, etc. Then, we treated ourselves to gelato and headed to the East Side Gallery – a remaining portion of the Berlin Wall that had since turned into a gallery of graffiti art. The graffiti was truly very cool and abstract, but many had cool quotes. One in particular that stood out was “If street art didn’t change anything, then it would be legal”. We grabbed some currywurst and headed back to get ready for clubbing.
Berlin techno. Apparently, Berlin is known for breeding some of electronic’s / techno’s best DJs and home to some of the best electronic nightlife. Berghain is one such club and is open 24 hours from Friday – Monday morning. It is so popular that there is a queue during all hours of the day. Not to mention, the bouncers maintain a strict door policy. It’s still unclear what their exact policy is, but Emily did a lot of research online and some of the myths on how to get inside include: wear all black, don’t talk, don’t use your phones, look 24+ years old, don’t dress up, etc, etc. She also read that the best time to go for the shortest queues was Sunday afternoons. Emily did my makeup and dressed me, hoping that we could pass for 24.
4:30pm. We made our way over to the sketchy, abandoned power plant and entered the line. After 30 minutes, the bouncer at the door took a quick glance at us, and with a shake of his head, we were escorted out. Rip. “Oh well, I have a list of clubs that we could try out in the likely chance we wouldn’t get into Berghain”. Emily to the rescue!
5pm. We grabbed some doner kebabs and proceeded to wander to two more clubs; the first, “:// about blank”, was temporarily closed for the next two weeks and the second, “Sisyphos”, was just not open on Sunday night.
7pm. We headed home and decided to take a break and do some research before heading out again. Given that it was a Sunday night, we realized our options were limited and opted for a smaller club with mostly positive reviews on Google, “Beate Uwe”.
10pm. We got to the club and immediately I realized it was an indoor smoking club. Anyone who has ever walked outside with me before knows that I absolutely detest smoking and the smell. On the streets, I usually run past or hold my breath. Inside the club, I mentally prepared myself for the 1.5 hrs I would be forced to inhale the secondhand smoke. The club was unique in that most everyone danced with their shoes off, which apparently helped people “feel” the music. We also immediately noticed the much older crowd that was vibing with us. The music was definitely electronic but not what we expected. It had chill vibes with African and Indian influences, and while it was objectively a good mix, it was not the upbeat, lit night we had anticipated. I closed my eyes and vibed to the chill mix for 1.5 hrs.
11:30pm We left, we got KFC and called it a night.
Thank you, Berlin. What an incredible cultural experience you were.
Till next time,