I’ve finally done it. I’ve ticked Berlin off my ‘must visit’ list. It’s only taken 14 years of living in London to do so, but good things take time as they say.
I had a moment of spontaneity a week before departing, and decided to take a two night trip somewhere in Europe. I weighed up my options (basically I looked at the cheapest flights), and decided Berlin was my choice of destination.
So before I knew it, the days passed between booking and leaving, my alarm was ringing in my ear at 5am, and I was up, dressed and on an Easybus to Gatwick Airport.
I arrived in Berlin, made my way to the train station, joined two queues before successfully managing to purchase a ticket into the city centre and I was on my way. I’d printed out the directions to my accommodation, but thanks to the multiple exits at the train station, I of course walked out one that had me heading in the wrong direction for 30 minutes, before someone finally said ‘No you need to be all the way down the OTHER end of this street’, and it was a long street, so back on the train I jumped, and finally, much later than anticipated, hot, sweaty and achy from carrying my bags, I saw the entrance to Generator Hostel.
I’d decided on staying in a hostel to keep the cost of the getaway down and to meet people. I’ve made so many amazing friends over the years just from striking up conversation in a shared room. I checked in, dropped my bags, grabbed my map and head back outside.
I feel I should add a little disclaimer here, that if you’re reading this and expecting a blog post on all the historical sites of Berlin, then you are most definitely in the wrong place! I did not spend three days taking in the history of Berlin, and some may find that shocking. Even I felt a bit guilty! But I’ve been to so many places over the years and seen so many historic sites and tourist spots that my quota of cathedral and statue viewing is kinda full to overflowing.
And so, in Berlin, I did exactly what I wanted to do. Walk the streets taking in the street art, people watching, finding good cafes and locating the photobooths I’d read about that are dotted around the city, because I do love a photobooth!
Back at the station, I spent a lengthy amount of time trying to figure out which train would take me to Kreuzberg, the ‘hipster/gritty’ area of Berlin. Finally working out which train and in which direction I should be going, I was on my way.
I had read in my guide book that there was a good ice cream shop in the area and the afternoon was muggy and hot, so ice cream seemed like a perfectly good idea.
Locating the store made me grumpy and frustrated. Reading German street names is not the easiest! But finally I walked down the street and spotted copious amounts of people shovelling ice cream into their mouths and my grumpiness evaporated immediately.
Fräulein Frost served all sorts of amazing flavours. I love chocolate ice cream but lets face it, you can get that anywhere. I was up for something more wild and adventurous!
I asked my server which flavours he suggested and I ended up with a scoop of Goats Milk and Strawberry and a scoop of Cucumber, Lemon and Mint – I think that’s pretty wild and adventurous!
They even obliged when I asked if they’d take my photo.
The flavours Mr Ice Cream Guy had suggested were perfect, so delicious and really refreshing. I recommend swinging by for a scoop or two if you find yourself in the area. It cures grumpiness too.
I wandered along, passing people relaxing next to the canal.
And as I walked further along the street I was curious to know just exactly what was inside that building, but not curious enough to investigate. Hell didn’t sound like somewhere I wanted to spend any time in!
The one thing about travelling solo is that it’s not super easy to take photo’s of you + the scenery, so after this failed selfie shot of myself and some bricks, I swallowed every little bit of pride and vowed from there on in, to ask strangers if they would snap a pic for me.
I chose my stranger, a friendly American (could’ve been Canadian, EEK it’s hard to tell!) and she willingly obliged. Success! Me + the pretty arch of the bridge.
By this stage I was actually within walking distance of something historical/touristy, so I didn’t completely ignore all of Berlin’s important sites. The East Side Gallery, an existing part of the Berlin wall was nearby and I wanted to check it out.
This remaining part of the wall is really something. Filled with murals and street art, the 1.3 km’s of the wall shows some amazing art work reflecting this particular time in history.
Artists from all over the world have left their mark, with their interpretation of the dismantling of the Berlin wall in 1989.
Heading further into hipsterville, my eye caught sight of the word ‘Photo’. My heart did a giant pole vault and I suddenly realised. I’D FOUND A PHOTOBOOTH!
I picked up my pace, and waited impatiently for my turn to jump in, pull the curtain closed and make posey faces for the automatic camera.
Photo’s snapped, I waited, again impatiently, for my photo’s to pop out of the little exit.
Ta-da! Totally the best 2 euro’s I’ve EVER spent! Amazing what an ice cream and a photo strip can do for my mood. I’m what they would call, easily pleased, I think?!
Conveniently, next to the photobooth of happiness was another destination I wanted to tick off my list. Raw Gelände. A former train station, it’s now a cluster of derelict looking, graffiti covered buildings, where you will find everything from a gym, to climbing walls to beer gardens and clubs.
It’s the sort of place, that as a tourist, despite having similar areas in London, I still kept asking myself ‘Am I actually safe here?!’, but at the same time, admiring how much this place was oozing cool.
There was no shortage of art work to look at, and I spent over an hour in the area sort of mesmerised and confused by it all.
Walking into a HUGE empty parking lot, I came across a graffiti artist, and asked him if he’d mind me taking some photos. He was totally cool with it, and I snapped away as he worked on his masterpiece.
Every time I turned another corner, there was something else to take a photograph off.
Even Michael was there.
I eventually looked at the time, 9pm, and decided to go in search of food.
My guidebook mentioned an Indochine style restaurant called Lemon Leaf, within walking distance of RAW. I made my way over, because by this stage I was like a total expert at reading German street signs (amazing what a difference a couple of hours can make!).
I chose a seat outside as the evening was still warm and ordered the prawn rice paper rolls, because it would be a crime not too when they’re listed on any menu.
And because I’m greedy, I also ordered the chicken with avocado salad and silently congratulated myself at my ability to choose well from a menu.
I mean look at that spread of food. Looks good right? And it was. So add this destination to your list too.
My meal was over, and I walked with confidence to the nearest train station. I’d been in Berlin for, ooh, about 10 hours. But in my mind, I was now practically a local. I knew how this place rolled. Bring on Day 2…. To Be Continued.