So the last two weeks have been an absolute whirlwind of excitement, adventures and travels. For the first time ever, I packed up a backpack and headed off on a two week trip through Berlin, Prague and Bratislava. I had never solo-travelled before, nor stayed in a hostel, and I can honestly say that if you are thinking about doing it, and find yourself hesitating, just go for it. Solo-traveling turned out to be one of the best things I have ever done. It provided me with new experiences and I made some really good new friends along the way.
Let’s go back to Tuesday two weeks ago, last minute packing my backpack (gotta meet those RyanAir carry on policies), about to get on the bus to London Stansted and I realise “Bugger, the only German I know is ‘Ja’, ‘Nein’ and ‘Auf wiedersehen’ (thanks Heidi Klum and Project Runway). I’m not sure why I chose to fly into Berlin, Germany had never interested me as a kid and I never took German at school, most likely the flight was cheap.
Flying into Berlin Schönefeld on a warm 10ºc, windy night, I made my way across the tarmac towards immigration, where I was asked if I had come to Berlin to ‘meet’ someone.. if only Mr immigration man… if only…
Getting from Schönefeld into the centre of Berlin is a breeze and is only €3,30 for the train. There are two different ways you can go by train, either the regional trains, RE7 and RB14 which stop less frequently and are more direct, or, you can miss the regional train like I did and jump onto the S-Bahn S9 train. Same price, and only takes about 10 minutes longer. I feel missing the regional train paid off, the S9 was full of locals going about their business and it was the first time I realised one of the main things I love about Berlin, you can be completely who you want to be; goth, punk, hipster, and no one looks at you different and mistreats you.
If you’re looking for a hostel to stay at in Berlin, I would definitely go with Wombats. Located in Mitte, is super easy to get to just about any of the tourist attractions. It’s only one stop from Alexanderplatz on the U2 metro line (get off at Rosa-Luxemburg-Platz) and trams lines run right past its front door. It is also right around the corner from the best kebab shop (Luxa) in all of Berlin, although I’m biased as I did eat far too many of their shawarmas. Wombats was also were I met five of the best people I have ever met in my life, three of whom became my travel squad in Prague. The hostel has a great bar (frequented every night), with a rooftop terrace that offers fantastic views of Berlin and the TV Tower. No you may be asking, “Jason, where are the photos?”, we will get to that…
Another thing I love about Berlin is the food, cafes and coffee. Currywurst and Shawarma and Pastry oh my! The best breakfast I had during my time in Berlin was at TINMAN, conveniently located right next door to Wombats hostel. After dragging my hungover self to a table (the aftermath of a pub crawl the night before… which we all decided was NOT worth €30), I dove into the best pastrami sandwich I have ever had. They also do a killer Americano. 10/10 would recommend and would definitely go back there if I’m ever in Berlin. Another place I would go back to is Zeit Für Brot. Located about 50 metres from Wombats, a 5 minute walk from Rosa-Luxemburg-Platz, or a 10 minute walk from Alexanderplatz, this place has the best bread and pastries I have had in a long time. Make sure you get in early though because by 10am there will be a line out the door that snakes its way down the street.
Speaking of hangovers, bars and pub crawls, Berlin is fantastic if you want to party. Techno and EDM is something that Europe does amazingly, and before going there, I had no interest in. Now first things first, make sure you have cash! Believe me, the majority of bars and clubs will be cash only. Three of my new mates and I headed out on the Thursday night to Watergate, apparently a notoriously hard place to get into. Seriously, half the reviews online are of being being rejected at the door without an explanation as to why. Make sure you know who is playing that night/what even is on, because if they ask you and you don’t know, then see-ya. Amazingly, we had done our homework and got it. While the place had great views out onto the Spree, the music was ehhh. One of my friend’s also got €50 taken from her coat in coat-check. We learnt to always empty the pockets after that.
This is also where we encounter the reason why I have basically no photos from Berlin. After dancing away for a couple of hours, we leave the club, I pull out my phone to check Google Maps or Uber and then *woosh!*, before I know it, there goes my phone, along with all my photos, in someone’s hand as the run down the street. Honestly, worse things could have happened, I would rather they steal my phone than my wallet.
Tresor is apparently also a good techno club, if you’re let it.. which we weren’t after waiting in line for an hour.
If you aren’t the clubbing type, and want more of a cool bar to chill in, then I would definitely suggest Mein Haus Am See. Open 24/7, this is maybe the most “hipster” looking bar I have been in, with its stacked stair seating at the back which is great to perch on for some people watching. The staff are super friendly as well. Located in Mitte, right next to U Rosenthaler Platz, which is on the U8 line. We ended up there twice during the few days in Berlin.
Mein Haus Am See, 2.30am.
Of course, there are the must do tourist attractions, Brandenburg Gate, Memorial to the Murdered Jews of Europe, Checkpoint Charlie etc. Berlin also has an amazing collection of museums, ranging from the Altes Museum and the Neus Museum, to my personal favourite the Deutsches Historisches Museum (German Historical Museum). I learnt so much about German history, from Charlemagne right to the fall of the Berlin Wall. On that point, the Berlin Wall Memorial is also a must do. It fascinates me that it fell less than 30 years ago.
No European city would be without scammers and pickpockets. Berlin is no exception, so watch out for people asking for donations for the Deaf and Mute. Also, if you’re out at night and someone asks if you “want” anything, they are asking if you want drugs.. which will be fake.
Overall, Berlin is a great city with a grunge aesthetic. It’s a great place to be if you want to live your life without being judged, party, eat good food and if you’re like me, spend a crap tonne of more money than you thought you had. We even encountered a party happening on U-bahn!