Travel Journal: Berlin
In the last weekend of 2014, me and my lovely girlfriend Aline went on a short trip to Berlin and it was the first time either of us went. It was about a six hour trainride from the Netherlands and it was definitely worth the trip in my opinion, because we didn’t have to arrive early at an airport or go through security or have to travel far to get to the actual city center. Since I’d never been before I decided to write this to share how someone with fresh eyes feels about Berlin.
Beautiful architecture — I’m a total sucker for Eastern-European architecture and Berlin did not disappoint one bit. Beautiful and powerful buildings like the Reichstag combined with the rough communist flats spread throughout the city is just excellent. I can’t properly explain how it all felt, but just the entire vibe was great.
Amazing Public Transport — This I did not expect at all. Admittedly, we barely did any research on getting around in Berlin but I was pleasantly surprised when we got off at Berlin Hauptbahnhof. The S/U-bahn metro still has a bit of the old-school Eastern-European feel but is totally reliable. That goes for all public transport in Germany. It always works. We even had snow on day 2 of our visit and everything just kept on working. On the day we arrived we got a card that allowed us to travel for 72-hours and after stamping it just once we didn’t even have to think about it. Just get on train and sit down.
Street Art — You literally can’t turn a corner in Berlin without seeing at least some street art or graffiti on a wall. While I’m normally not such a big fan of graffiti because it’s pretty much always ugly or because it stands out too much it just felt right here.
Sunday Markets — So it turns out Sundays are holy in Berlin and pretty much every store is closed on that day. Luckily this is also the day that several squares and parks get turned into ‘Flohmärkte’ (flea markets) where you can find everything from second-hand clothing tot old vinyl classics. We went to several of these markets: Mauerpark (a big market with lots of great food), Arkonaplatz (small market near Mauerpark with some really cool little stands), Boxhagener Platz (medium-sized market located in the middle of a neighbourhood) and we also checked out RAW Gelände which had the most industrial feeling.
During our time in Berlin I also realised a few things that made this trip that much more enjoyable. In general, this was the most laid-back trip we’ve ever been on and that was definitely for the better.
Take Pictures — With this I mean take the time to actually document the things you’ve done. At the end of the trip me and Aline took a look through the almost 1000 photos we’d taken and realised tons of little things we had done. If you get the opportunity make sure you get in a photo booth. It hardly costs anything and it’ll last you a long time.
Make a list — Do some research up front and make a nice list of things you really want to see. Try not to put too many touristy things on there –you’ll probably run into tourist attractions anyway– and try to find what makes the city you’re visiting unique. For us that was mainly the vintage markets that are throughout Berlin on sunday and all the hip coffee places. So. Good.
Don’t Rush — It’s okay if you don’t see everything on your first go in a city. You can always go back another time. Instead, try to relax and enjoy the thing you are doing. The more time you spend worrying you’ll complete your list, the less fun you’ll fun. Trust me on this.
Maps Only — For the first time visiting a foreign city, we only used a paper map as a point of reference. I definitely would recommend this to anyone who has a basic sense of direction because you’ll appreciate your surrounding a whole lot more when you’re actually looking at them instead of looking at your phone the whole time.
No phones — As an addendum to the Maps Only point, I also recommend not using your phone. We both didn’t get any data plans for travel so we hardly even had the opportunity to use our phones. Not having a way to look up how you’re going to get to a place also helps you find the place later on because you’ll actually recognize the place.
Allow for Serendipity — It took me a long time to realise this, but sometimes the best restaurants and shops aren’t discovered through Foursquare or a travellers guide. Just walking about and stopping at a restaurant only to have an amazing meal is such a cool experience.
Places I’d recommend
If you’re still reading at this point, I hope you’re willing to give Berlin a shot. We found a bunch of restaurants and shops during our time there and I’d like to recommend the following to you:
Do you read me?! (Auguststraße 28) — I’m a sucker for great magazines and saw this place recommend in various places when researching Berlin. Really varied selection and magazines are actually affordable here as opposed to some shops in Amsterdam. Bought a nice stack of magazines here ☺
The Barn (Auguststraße 58) — As much as I like magazines, I like good coffee even more. The barista at The Barn took the time to explain the fine details of the V60 drip coffee I ordered and the hot lemon tea was equally delicious.
Nola’s am Weinberg (Veteranenstraße 9) — I’d never thought I’d recommend a Swiss restaurant, but I really learned to appreciate cheese fondue and white wine here. Before our dinner at this lovely restaurant located in the middle of a park, I didn’t really like either but I’m totally converted now.
Factory Girl (Auguststraße 28) — We actually almost wandered past this place but I’m glad we stepped in. Lovely food and it appeared to us that the entire place was run by just one woman. Amazing!
Hans im Glück (Friedrichstraße 101) — This restaurant was located just a few 100 meters from our hotel and it was awesome. It’s been outfitted to feel a bit like you’re eating in a forest and the Mojitos they serve here are divine.
I’ve also created a Foursquare list of all the places we liked.
So there you have it. All I have left to say about Berlin is just how much I’d recommend going there. We only went for four days, but I think you can easily entertain yourself for at least a week over there.
If you liked this piece feel free to let me know on Twitter or by hitting the recommend button below. ❤ Writing these kind of posts is quite tough for me because it takes me at least four tries before my thoughts properly get translated into English and onto the screen.
Note: All photos were taken by Aline and myself using a Canon 5D MKIII.