Do you know what it’s like when there’s a huge pay off, after months of anticipation? I certainly do! Since early this year, me and my uni friends have been planning to surprise our mate Rob with a three-day trip to Berlin – Germany’s glittering capital, for his 30th birthday. Here’s how it went…
Day one: Walls and crawls
Following a very early start, a two-hour flight and two transfers, we arrived in Berlin for a three-night stay at the One 80 hostel. Situated close to tourist area Alexanderplatz, the One 80 hostel is definitely somewhere I’d recommend. Chic and effortlessly modern, with friendly staff – like the ship I recently travelled on for my family cruise, this hostel serves as a comfortable, convenient base from which to explore this fascinating city.
Once we’d settled in, we did a little sightseeing, and headed to the Berlin Wall Memorial on Bernauer Strasse (street). It was constructed to commemorate the division and subsequent reunification of Berlin during the second half of the 20th Century. Inside, the building houses various written, visual and audio exhibitions giving unique insight into what life was like on both sides of the wall. Walk up several flights of stairs and you arrive at a viewing platform, where you can see a reconstructed section of the wall across the road, and it was incredible to behold.
After we returned, we decided to go on a hostel bar crawl, taking us around some of Berlin’s coolest nightspots. If you’re new to a city and you don’t know many people – or where to go, I’d definitely suggest you sign up to one of these bar crawls, as they’re just so much fun. Throughout the night we met and got to know so many cool people from across the globe, while experiencing the mysterious delights of Berlin after dark. The bar crawl culminated with a trip to one of Berlin’s trendiest districts, Warschauer Strasse, where we partied to pulsing beats in dance clubs into the small hours.
Day two: Berlin’s best
I woke up with a massive hangover on my second day in Berlin. I decided to get food, but as most of you know I’m a picky eater, so I split from the group to find one of my favourite fast food chains – Subway. I did discover a Subway – there’s one on Alexanderplatz, where you can find a whole variety of fast food joints. But for those of you who know of my love for meatball marinaras, you can imagine my horror when I was gruffly told that they don’t serve meatball marinaras in Germany. I was forced to settle for McDonalds chicken nuggets, before re-joining my group for more sightseeing.
On the second day, we took the U-Bahn (underground) to Potsdamer Platz, from where you can reach some of Berlin’s main attractions easily. As the day wore on we visited an exhibition featuring graffitied sections of the Berlin Wall and the Holocaust Memorial – an urban space where we walked along undulating surfaces while passing concrete blocks of varying length. This design is supposed to make you feel uneasy and intimidated, to remind you what despair – such as that experienced by the victims of the Holocaust – feels like. The Memorial certainly achieved this aim.
Afterwards, we experienced the grandeur of German architecture by visiting its iconic Brandenburg Gate and the Reichstag – Germany’s Parliament building. They were amazing, but I’d advise you to book a tour of the Reichstag – which we didn’t – so you can walk up the spiral staircase in its glass dome, from where you get panoramic views of Berlin. Our next stop was the Hard Rock Café, which we reached by U-Bahn. All I’ve got to say is that the burgers there are superb and the service is stellar! After another trip to Warschauer Strasse, where we partied hard, our second day ended.
Day three: Chilling with steins
As the third day dawned, I knew I needed to relax after partying so hard. I decided to stay in the hostel and chill, while my friends went to the East Side Gallery, where you can view a long stretch of the Berlin Wall which is renowned for its impressive artwork. Do you know what though? I actually had an amazing time, and the pizza I ordered while sitting in the hostel bar really hit the spot! This just goes to show that there’s nothing wrong with having some alone time while you’re on holiday.
On our last night, we wanted to do something really traditional. We originally decided to head to this beer festival outside of town, but with our flights scheduled for early the next morning, it wasn’t worth the risk. As luck would have it, however, there was a beer festival being thrown on Alexanderplatz a few minutes away from our hostel, so we went there instead. Admittedly it rained fiercely all night, putting a bit of a dampener on things, but we still had a lot of fun. With beers served by the stein, stalls featuring German treats like pretzels and wurst and quaint wooden huts – one which played what I can only describe as traditional Bavarian techno music, it was a blast!
Ich bin ein Berliner
After three days in this magical city, I feel like the infamous sentence once uttered by US President JFK, “Ich bin ein Berliner” applies to me – even if ‘ve taken it completely out of context. You can’t help but fall in love with Berlin, a city on the cutting edge, but which wears it’s intriguing – if sometimes harrowing, history on its sleeve. Book a stay in Berlin and you won’t be disappointed!