We took the 10 hour bus ride from Amsterdam to Berlin. Our first time trying Meinfernbus, we were pleasantly surprised at the space, wifi and power outlets available to us. We settled in and watched Lost for most of the journey. Arriving into Berlin we headed to the subway station and tried to get tickets….unsuccessfully. None of our cards worked, nor did cash. We were saved by a Berlin native who asked if we could read the notice board – really need to learn German – turns out the subway was on strike for the next week. Fortunately, she guided us to the underground transportation which was still running.
Before we left we had used Google maps to work out the best route to our hostel – big mistake. While Google maps works great for the subway it often neglects other forms of transport such as trams and the underground even if they are a far better way of getting there (instead you should use Rome 2 Rio to plan your trip – for more travel tips like this check out our upcoming Travel Survival Guide!). We ended up 2 stops past our hostel where the underground and the subway connect. Getting out, we found we were literally in the middle of nowhere – tracks either side and the only way up was an elevator which took us to the middle of a bridge road. We flipped a coin and headed right down the bridge with our massive bags as cars beeped at us, just as perplexed as we were as to how we ended up here. After a twenty minute walk, completely exhausted we made it to ‘The Wallyard’ hostel.
We must have looked awful, because the staff there literally spoiled us rotten. Taking our bags, and giving us a glass of wine as they filled us in on the hostel and all of the things to do and see in Berlin. The hostel is an old mechanics shop with a big walled in yard which the owners and their family, who live nearby, converted so that travelers could come and experience the community. We loved it – we spent all our time at the hostel in the downstairs bar hanging out and meeting the staff (shout out to Kateline and Misel for making it near impossible to leave) and other travelers and hearing their stories. We grabbed dinner from the bar and crashed after our long journey.
The next day we wanted to explore as much of Berlin as possible, so we grabbed breakfast downstairs (lush to say the least) and walked 20 minutes south to the Tiergarten – a enormous park in the middle of Berlin. Walking through the shaded pathways and laying out in the sunny clearings – you could easily forget you were in the heart of the city.
After getting more than a little lost, we walked out of the park adjacent to the Holocaust memorial – designed by Peter Eisenman and Buro Happold – a sea of concrete columns arranged in a grid. So many meanings can be taken from it but the concept that stood out the most to me was how easy it was to lose yourself amongst the columns.
From the memorial we headed onto Checkpoint Charlie – the iconic U.S. manned checkpoint on the western side of the Berlin Wall. The checkpoint remains there today, still manned by soldiers in the middle of a busy road. Adjacent is an open air museum, detailing the history of the wall and all the events which led to the building and final removal of the wall. I learned so much just by spending an hour reading – the hardships suffered under the communist regime, the design of the walls and no mans land, the escapes and attempted escapes of the East Berliners. Walking back to our hostel, we stopped by the iconic Brandenburg Gate and the Reichstag – hard to believe both of these monuments were so close to the Berlin Wall, abandoned and left to fall into disrepair.
Sitting downstairs at the hostel, we met some girls who were studying abroad and wanted to experience some of the famous Berlin nightlife including an underground club. After hearing so much about it we decided to join and meet them out. Arriving to the pub crawl, we found it to be the standard mix of Canadians, Aussies, Kiwis, a few Brit’s and Americans. The pub crawl finished at Matrix, the infamous club built underneath a subway station. Definitely not my favourite – apart from the amount of glass on the floor and being unable to move, the vibe seemed more ‘just turned 18.’ We bailed, and went unsuccessfully in search of munchies before heading home.
One of the things on my bucket list has been to go to a Russell James exhibition. I was in luck – the Victoria’s Secret photographer had his ‘Angels’ exhibition at CAMERA WORK Berlin. Excited, we headed downtown to check it out. Breathtaking is the only way I can describe it. Such an inspiration to see the Angels shot so raw – very simple backdrops, no accessories – just their natural beauty and their connection with the camera. I really loved this one below of the fantastic Miranda Kerr.
For our last day in Berlin, we headed to the flea markets in Mauerpark. Every Sunday, the park is packed with people selling just about anything you can imagine, karaoke and live music. I loved going and checking out the huge variety of jewellery available for sale.
Walking back to the hostel, we stumbled into another Berlin Wall memorial. Scattered throughout the city, on the location of the original wall, are different memorials covering different aspects of the history. This memorial was particularly powerful – the no mans land was left bare and sections of the wall on either side remained in place. Only a short distance between the walls in reality, it must have felt like miles to the citizens of East Berlin.
We loved Berlin and definitely want to head back soon, check out the East Side Gallery, go out with the locals to some underground bars and explore more.
Next Stop: Prague
Edited by RC.