Oh Berlin.  How do I explain Berlin?  I’ll start at the beginning and maybe it’ll make more sense that way.

We arrived on Friday night near 10 in the evening.  Our train had taken two hours longer than anticipated, having been rerouted due to flooding in the area (there were trees almost underwater and the flooded area had current, that’s how massive it was).  First impressions: the Berlin Hauptbahnhof is huge.  Absolutely massive.  There are at least four stories (or so it looked to me, anyway), and at least as many stores as in the local mall in Dusseldorf.  If we’d thought ahead, we would have bought the Berlin Welcome Card instead of spending 1 euro/map for a couple of cheap maps just to get around until the morning (and find our hostel).

An interjection about the Berlin Welcome Card.  There are a lot of options that are worth considering depending on what you want to do.  For those who are unaware, a welcome card for a given city generally gives free public transportation and discounted entry to specific museums.  Berlin has several welcome card options that just give you free transportation (within different areas of the city) for 24, 48, or 72 hours.  But there is also a slightly more expensive option that gives you all of the same things as the aforementioned card for 72 hours, but also gives you free entry to all of the museums on Museum Island (six museums in all, definitely worth the cost of the card if you plan to visit more than two, I believe).  If you’re planning a trip to Berlin, keep this in mind.  It can save you a lot of money if you plan well.

Shortly after leaving a train station closer to our hostel than the main station, we came across a line of bricks in the pavement.  A label revealed this to be the location of where the Berlin Wall had been.  I think that the city did an excellent job of integrating their history in this non-obtrusive but also very relevant manner.  You can see the differences in traffic lights on the East and West sides (google it if you’re not sure what I’m talking about), and these small things about the city even today put it into an excellent historical perspective, in my opinion.


After settling in, we were hungry after our six-hour train ride and went to look for food.  Of course, we were in the area of Berlin that apparently doesn’t have restaurants open late on Fridays (except for the kind where there is a bottle of champagne on each table and waiters in tuxedos).  So we accidentally found our way to a McDonalds (I know, I’m ashamed, but it’s the only thing that was open).  Coincidentally, it was right next to Checkpoint Charlie, which is really cool.  I also really enjoyed seeing the signs written in four languages, all of which I either know or am currently learning.


To give a little bit of context: I’m not a party person, I don’t go out much, I don’t go to clubs.  But I’m in Europe, so I’m determined to experience everything I possibly can.  So when some people went out clubbing at 01:30 (yes, at night), I naturally came with.  And the thing is, I had a great time.

The directions we had been given went about like this: get off at this stop, and find the sketchiest alley you can, go down it, and you’ll end up in a great club.  Sounds like excellent advice, right?  But we did exactly that, and funnily enough wound up at the same exact club, Suicide Circus.  Which, even in my opinion, was pretty damn great.  They had an indoor and an outdoor area with two different types of music, and the atmosphere on the whole was just easy-going and fun.

It started to get light at around 04:00, and we wound up leaving around 05:00 to go back to our hostel.  On the tram ride back, a couple of people with instrument started a sort of dance party, and the whole experience was really surreal and awesome for me.  Even though we only got two hours of sleep that night, it really set the tone for the rest of our time in Berlin, and I think that this feeling of it being a bit of an unreal city helped me to enjoy it more than I would have otherwise.


Saturday was the day of trying to see everything we possibly could in one day.  Among the first things we saw were the Brandenburg Gate (Brandenburger Tor) and the Holocaust Memorial, both impressive in their own right.

100_3642 100_3656

We then proceeded to the museums of Museum Island.  I won’t go into much detail, but I’ll give a few highlights.  The Pergamon Museum was probably my favorite of them.  I was expecting another traditional museum with displays on walls and in the center of the room, but when you walk into the Pergamon, the first room is huge and the entire thing is an exhibit.  There are sculpted walls and columns and stairs of the sort you would have found in a particular era.  The same thing holds true for the next rooms as well.  It feels like walking through history.  Everything is on a tremendously large scale, and the variety and artistry of each room is absolutely incredible.

Another one of the museums on Museum Island (I don’t remember which one, my apologies) also had a special exhibit focused on the bust of Nefertiti.  So we briefly ducked into this museum just to see the bust.  It is amazing to me how well something can be preserved after such a long time, and it really was a beautiful sculpture.

Even though we were all absolutely exhausted by the last museum, we pushed on and went to see the East Side Gallery, which is the remaining portion of the Berlin Wall.  We started off looking at the side of the wall closer to the river, which was covered in graffiti and documents a lot of people’s thoughts about Berlin.  After that, we moved to the other side, which comprises the East Side Gallery.  I’m not sure what I was expecting, but what I saw was amazing.  The entire length of the wall is covered with mural after mural.  Some of them talk about Berlin as a city, some commemorate the second world war, some focus on bigger messages about people, and some talk about working to make a better Earth, both in the sense of environmentalism and in the sense of human kindness.  There was an excellent balance of content reflecting on the past, and content looking forward to the future.  I think that the East Side Gallery is an excellent way to preserve the history of Berlin without being stuck in the past.  It was probably my favorite of all of the things we saw in Berlin.


That evening we spent a long time searching for a place to eat dinner (I didn’t think it would be so difficult in a city as large as Berlin), and then went to another club (at 02:00, of course).  The next morning was spent at a large and impressive flea market, where I managed to acquire a real leather trench-coat for 33 euros.  After this, I went to the zoo.  Because I was running short on time, I only spent about an hour there, but on my next trip to Berlin, I plan to actually explore both the zoo and the aquarium.  I’ve already started building up a list of places to see the next time I go, so now I just need to pick a weekend and go back.