Oh Berlin. Possibly my new favourite European city (although I really love London…and don’t want to hurt its feelings).
Those who know me know that I have a mad love for history, particularly the Cold War. So I was rather psyched to get to Berlin and essentially nerd it up for a few days.
In an attempt to alleviate some of the guilt I’ve been feeling over the enormous carbon footprint I must have at this point, I took the train from Amsterdam to Berlin. I think I was the ony non-German on the train. All around me sat a sea of overly stylish and gorgeous individuals (preparing me, I guess, for the punch to the self-esteem when I get to Rome and Paris) all chattering away and laughing. I felt like I was missing out on the punchline of a joke. For six hours.
I struggled with language barriers a bit in Amsterdam. Berlin, however, was even harder. My charades skills are once again improving (you try acting out “single-trip ticket” and see where it gets you).
All of the “touristy” sites, however, are available in multiple languages. I went around with a gal from my hostel and we covered a lot of ground in a short amount of time. And so, I present to you:
I Did Berlin on the Cheap, And So Can You!
Brunch: Wake up just late enough that you can justify combining breakfast with lunch, but not too late that you miss most of your morning. This way you get a nice lie-in and skip the need for two meals in a span of a few hours, therefore saving you money! Cost – 5 Euros
Sight-seeing: We started with Neue Wache, which is an interesting memorial to the victims of war and tyranny, with a cutout in the ceiling that exposes the statue to the elements. We also stopped at the site of the Nazi book burning on May 9, 1939 (a day after the anniversary, I should have timed that one better). Cost of each: free
Continuing on, we took a quick peek at Checkpoint Charlie, which was A)free and B) took all of three minutes to snap a photo of and move on. There is a museum there but I wasn’t overly fussed about spending more time as it felt a bit too touristy for me (they’ve actually put in a beach bar right next to it, which I feel detracts from the seriousness of the area but I suppose it pulls in the visitors).
Next stop was the Jewish Museum, which was a total steal at 5 euros. The building, designed by Daniel Libeskind, is a complex layout that confuses the senses and adds to the dramatic content that’s housed within. I’ve read that the tunnels within were was designed to represent the connection between the three realities of Jewish life in Germany – continuity with German history, emigration from Germany, and the Holocaust. We spent almost three hours wandering hallways and galleries that document the remarkable history of the Jewish people spanning two thousand years, and I think this is my favourite museum/gallery that I’ve been in on my travels. A must-visit, and well-worth the cost of entry.
Snack Break: Frozen yogurt topped with German chocolate and fruit – yum! 3 Euros.
Refueled from the snack and the chance to sit and rest our feet, we went to the Topography of Terror. An extremely through overview of what lead to the Nazis taking power through to the end of World War II. Much like the Anne Frank Huis in Amsterdam, I found this to be both powerful and extremely moving, and could have spent hours there. A fabulous spot if you’re keen on going into great detail about the Third Reich. Cost of entry: free
Rather-ominous clouds rolled in at this point, so we hustled over to the Holocaust Memorial (interesting, but I would have liked a little plaque explaining the motivation for such a structurally unique piece, although perhaps it’s open to personal interpretation) and attempted to find (unsuccessfully) the Memorial to Homosexuals. Wherever it is in that park, it’s hard to find. It then started to rain, so we paid a quick visit to the Reichstag (large and impressive! There’s a restaurant at the top where you can get spectacular views of the city, but eating there would’ve broken the budget for several days) and the Brandenburg Gate before collapsing, brains full of knowledge from all that we’d seen that day.
Snack break: splitting a pretzel for 2 euros. It was just okay – I would have liked mustard on it, but feared a repeat of the mayo bomb from the frites in Amsterdam. We ate by the Hotel Aldon, which is where Michael Jackson (infamously) dangled Blanket out the window to his fans below. No babies were dropped during our visit.
Dinner: Instead of something ending in “wurst” we went for…Vietnamese at a quaint little place called Good Morning Vietnam. And it was divine. After we plowed through appetizers and enormous mains (plus, of course, local pilsner), I introduced Kylie to Vietnamese coffee and converted someone else to the magic that is coffee and condensed milk. Cost for the entire meal including tip – about 15 Euros each. We then got to-go beers and some German chocolate for dessert and rested our weary feet back at the hostel.
Total cost of day: 32 Euros, which for Europe is pretty darn good!