One of my first solo adventures was a 3-day trip to Berlin. For a country so steeped in a dreadful history, it’s incredibly beautiful and surprisingly hot. I went at the beginning of September and temperatures were in the late 20’s/early 30’s C.
I flew to Berlin-Tegel airport from Birmingham early in the morning. The first thing I did when I arrived was to buy a Welcome Card, which they sell at stands in the airport. This card gives you unlimited access to all the public transport as well as discounts on certain attractions, along with a handy map of the city.
I was staying in an Airbnb which was about half an hour outside the city, so I jumped on a bus and headed there first to dump my bag before exploring the city. I can honestly say I have never met a more brilliant, if slightly mad, person in my life than the host of my Airbnb. His name was Kevin and he was a novelist. Now I love to read, so already I was a little bit in awe of this guy – I holiday essentially to read books in places that are prettier to look at than England.
He was absolutely brilliant though, every evening when I got back to the apartment we’d end up chatting for hours about what books I was reading, what books I had read, the book he was writing (it was about only being able to achieve immortality when you recognise that at some point in your life you want to die – it was kind of complicated!), and just books in general. For someone who loves books, it was a dream come true.
Not only was he incredibly generous and helpful in terms of the apartment but so intelligent and we had some of the most amazing conversations I have ever had about books, even at university. A conversation we had even inspired me on what to write for my English Literature A-Level coursework. I have nothing but kind words to say about him and Airbnb for giving me the chance to meet people like him.
The apartment was in Alt-Tegel which is an absolutely stunning part of the city. It’s like stepping back in time. Alt-Tegel is a pedestrian-only, cobbled street with a fountain and old-fashioned street lamps. It has restaurants and houses running down both sides leading to a beautiful, little church in the centre. Behind this is a few more houses and then the lake. Conveniently, it also had an underground station right at the top end of the road.
Now, I live in London, so frequently use the Underground. I never thought much of it until I went on the Berlin underground: The Berlin underground is one of the cleanest, welcoming, intuitive places I have been. It’s so simple, and I have never seen, before or since, a cleaner public transportation. And for so cheap as well using my Welcome Card.
Another great thing about the underground is the conveniences. In the major underground stations, there are shops and services for convenient snacks and items. One of my most memorable lessons on Germany was when my teacher told us the story of JFK visiting Berlin and stating “Ich bin ein Berliner”. Most people will be aware of this famous speech where rather than telling the Berliners’ that he was one of them, which was his intention, an issue with the grammar meant the US President stated he was a berliner, a jam-filled doughnut.
I was remembering this story when on my way through one of the stations I spotted a bakery selling berliners for 0.60€, so of course, I had to buy myself one. I ended up buying a lot more than one! Such a delicious doughnut, I thoroughly recommend whilst you are in Berlin, you try for yourself a berliner and become a true Berliner.
There is a lot to see and do in Berlin, it is a city rich with history. My first day I went to ‘Museum Island’ which is a section of the city that houses a plethora of art and history museums, all of which are definitely worth a look around, and most of which are free. I would highly recommend the Pergamon Museum which houses ancient Roman and Greek artefacts. From here I went to the Brandenburg Gate, the Holocaust Memorial and then the Tiergarten, which is a wooded area near the Holocaust Memorial that houses a number of statues and other memorials – my personal favourite, if that’s the right word, is the Gay and Lesbian Memorial, which is perfectly unassuming and plays a video inside of the brave people open about their sexuality during WWII.
My second day I went on a bike tour of Berlin, with Fat Tire Tours. You can book with them online here for Berlin and several other cities. My tour guide was lovely and took us on a great tour of the city. The highlights included sections of the Berlin Wall, Hitler’s Bunker, Checkpoint Charlie, the Brandenburg Gate and the Victory Column. A bike is a wonderful way to travel around Berlin, there are designated cycle lanes on all the roads so it’s an incredibly safe, cost-effective and healthy way to get around the city and see some sights.
The final thing I urge you to see if you are ever in Berlin is the Wall Museum. It’s a section of the wall that is still standing and artists and citizens have turned it into a masterpiece. I can’t even quite explain how awe-inspiring it is. Just go and see it. There are also some excellent ice cream shops at the far end.