With Winter exams fast approaching, my friends and I took procrastination to a whole new level: 4 DAY BERLIN TRIP! Despite looming tests , the amazing Christmas markets, fascinating museums and other cool sights took priority.
We got cheap return flights with EasyJet for €58. Employing euro-saver tactics, we slept at Orly Airport (much cheaper than an early morning taxi), bringing food to avoid buying nibbles. At Berlin airport, we bought a Berlin Welcome Card; a travel pass and information booklet that gives you advice about places to go, city maps and discounts for museums – a good investment, people. Ticket prices differ so check out: http://www.visitberlin.de/en/welcomecard
We stayed at Schlafmeile Hostel on the East Side. I definitely recommend you stay here– it’s clean, really laid-back, comfy and cheap. You also get a discount in the restaurant which serves delicious food and a hearty selection of beer! It’s right beside a big supermarket and the tram line… Did I mention each room has a theme? Talk about added fun! All-in-all: excellent value.
Coming from a mild country, I didn’t have a concept of “cold”. Berlin changed that! It was approx. – 8°C during the day, -12°C at night so pack your woollies!
Once established, it was off to the East Side Gallery; the largest standing section of the Berlin Wall. The explosion of colours and the varying sentiments across the wall are wonderful. Despite only being 1.3km long, expect to spend a lot of time here as the artwork is really fascinating and it’s easy to get lost in it all!
Afterwards we walked to a nearby Lidl and stocked up on food for breakfast/snacks: an easy way to save some cash. As it was so cold, we ate out a lot more than planned – with that said, Berlin restaurants are really good value. Expect a lot of heavy, meaty meals when you’re over there; Kebabs or Currywurst sausages are very popular and only around €4 with chips. Something like Schnitzel, chips/salad and a beer costs about €12. If you’re a chocolate fan, then you’ll love the Hussel shops! We found ourselves going into them at every opportunity. Apart from beer, Gluhwein (hot wine) is also popular: inexpensive, delicious and great at warming you up. It was appreciated when we were walking around the Christmas markets, I tells ya!
While there are a lot of Christmas Markets around Berlin, the one in Alexanderplaz made the biggest impression as it was both big and located beside a fun fair! Being a Grinch, I was sickened when the Christmas markets inspired the seasonal spirit in me. The wonderful atmosphere of bustling wooden stalls selling their wears, sparkling fairy lights, snow crunching underfoot, mixed smells of pastry, Currywurst and Gluhwein floating in the air, busy ice rinks and open fires for everyone to gather around is enough to break the biggest Scrooge. Don’t be afraid to haggle; not only does it add a bit of excitement to you purchase but it can save a lot of money! Buying a present for my parents, I got €20 off the asking-price. BOO YEAH!
Despite being an impressive building, we didn’t go inside the Reichstag – a massive snowball fight outside it won precedence. Entry is free to the public for those interested. Check out times here. From there we headed to the Holocaust Memorial; another Berlin must. It’s something you need to experience to understand as photos don’t do it justice. Read up about its history hereto make the most of your visit.
Next, it was Checkpoint Charlie. Considering all of its history, it’s good to see but don’t expect some magnificent structure – it’s just a small kiosk-like thing lined with sandbags and the guard there asks you to pay for a photo with him at his post. There is a cool looking Checkpoint Charlie museum beside it with bits of the Berlin Wall decorating the exterior, but we didn’t go into it. If you think you’d be so inclined…BAM!
The Jüdisches Museum (Jewish Museum) is brilliant! We bought a €3.50 combi-ticket covering entry into a temporary exhibition and the permanent one. Now, I must admit my ignorance going here; I was expecting horrible images and heartbreaking accounts of abuse to be everywhere. Don’t get me wrong, people need to know about the Holocaust, but I wasn’t sure if I’d be able to take such a high dose of this depressing topic. The temporary exhibition dealing with labour camps was very much this but the permanent one is completely different – it’s full of colour with games and interactive displays everywhere teaching you all about the Jewish culture. It was so much fun! Towards the end, it does deal with the topic of WW2, focusing on exhibits like theVoid and the Holocaust Tower which give you an idea of what it was like for those persecuted during this time; eye-opening. We spent over 5hrs there. Go, you’ll be glad you did.
We were told the Sony Centre is a cool place. Maybe we missed something because if you Google it, really vibrant photos appear, but when we got there, it was really dull-looking; just a bunch of shops with statue here-and-there. Read this and make up your own mind: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sony_Center
One of the best nights out I’ve ever had was with the Berlin 666 Anti-Pub Crawl! Do it! €10 for entry to five “off-the-beaten-track” places with a shot at each included (and a few cheeky sips of the good stuff en route) – unbelievable value! The night we went took us to a trippy bar decorated like an upside-down field, a heavy-metal bar with skulls and leather EVERYWHERE, a ping-pong bar, a concert and finally, a rave in an old, bombed railway station, where you could play Super Mario at the bar! ABSOLUTELY AMAZING!
We spent our last day sight-seeing around the Gendarmenmarkt and Bebelplatz areas; gorgeous buildings and well worth exploring. The State Opera House, St. Hedwig’s Cathedral, the Old Library, the Konzerthaus (concert hall), the twin Cathdrals Französischer Dom and Deutscher Dom, Humboldt University (the oldest one in Berlin), the Altes Museum and the Berliner Dom are all around here. The Berliner Dom was the only one we tried to go into. However, they were charging an admission fee and the idea of paying to get into a church is one that really annoys me so feeling self-righteous, I refused.
For the record, we all got through our exams – totally worth the crazed cramming!