Berlin was my favourite city of the six I visited on my interrail trip. It was at the top of my list of places to go when the trip was its planning stages and I sincerely hope it won’t be too long before I visit again. It reminded me of London as it’s more diverse, more urban and a little less pristine than Vienna or Prague. Berlin is the perfect city to discover little coffee spots or hidden fountains and is where I felt most relaxed during the two and a half weeks. It’s a fast paced city and I love it. The constant motion drives me to keep going and I don’t get stressed out by the busyness around me. There was a sense of familiarity with Berlin despite it being my first time there. I loved riding the S-Bahn, getting lost in museums and running with the vibe of the city.
It’s roughly a four hour train from Prague to Berlin and the journey was beautiful. We left our Airbnb in Prague at about 9am because we wanted to get as much time in Berlin as possible. We were staying at the Generator Berlin Prenzlauer hostel which isn’t the most central location but is right next to an S-Bahn stop meaning we could get to the other side of the city easily and quickly. We promptly dropped our bags off and were straight out again to explore the city and all it has to offer.
We headed to what is arguably the most iconic spot in Berlin, the Brandenburg Gate (Bradenburger Tour). I’m a sucker for symmetrical architecture so I fell in love almost instantly. The area around the gate is pedestrianised and has a lively atmosphere with many, many people taking photos, myself included. It was so amazing seeing the light shine between the columns as we looked down towards Siegessäule (Victory Column) in the late afternoon.
Holocaust Memorial and Exhibition
The Holocaust memorial and exhibition was somewhere I really wanted to visit in Berlin, especially after seeing the Shoes on the Danube in Budapest a week prior. The exhibition was honestly one of the best I’ve ever been to in my life and the seamless, minimalist style of the memorial really enhanced the meaning behind it all. I became so engrossed that I read basically every word and fell far behind my friends. It’s all written from such a personal perspective as you learn so much about a tiny fraction of the people that the holocaust affected. I was a little shaken afterwards and went very quiet for a while as my brain tried to comprehend the whole thing. The exhibition and memorial are both free to visit but donations are encouraged.
The previous night in Prague, we watched a storm at the Dancing House from the view at our Airbnb. The stormy weather had then followed us to Germany because for the next few nights there was rain, thunder and lightning. Before it all kicked off in Berlin on our first night, a few of us nipped out after dinner to see the Reichstag Building and the gorgeous sunset. We didn’t go up to the glass dome because we didn’t have tickets but had a little walk round back to the Brandenburg Gate before the storm started.
I don’t know if I’ve ever been outside during a lightning storm before as I can only ever remember watching them from my window. However it was a truly amazing experience and the most surreal moment of the entire trip, for me anyway. At the exact moment that I pressed the shutter button on my camera to take a photo of the sunset behind the Brandenburg Gate, lightning struck straight down the middle of my frame and I may have cried a tad at the result.
I spent my first full day in Berlin by myself and I started it with coffee at Ben Rahim. It’s a little specialist coffee shop with a wee courtyard and seats inside and out. As there weren’t any tables available outside, I sat at the window so I could still people watch on a stool that was too tall for my feet to touch the floor. I never had a graceful dismount. Being at a sophisticated and specialised coffee shop I opted for a flat white rather than my usual cappuccino with two sugars. It was one of the best coffees I’ve ever had. I don’t know anything about the blend or where the beans came from but that flat white and the buttery croissant that I had with it was the prefect breakfast.
Berlin TV Tower
Feeling fuelled for the day I took my camera and went off to explore Berlin. I had planned my day the night before to try and make the most of my time in the city. I wandered along to Alexanderplatz, one of Berlin’s largest public squares and from there on to the Berlin TV Tower (Fernsehturm). I wasn’t particularly fussed with going up the tower, mainly because of the ticket price, but I do wish that I had gone to the panorama terrace at the neighbouring Park Inn hotel for a view of the tower and at a much cheaper price.
Just south from the TV tower is Neptunbrunnen, a fountain dedicated to the Roman God, Neptune. It’s such a fabulous fountain with expertly carved statues of four women, representing the main rivers of Prussia and water coming from the mouths of a few animals. I couldn’t help but peek into the Radisson Blu hotel to see the Aquadom and lift that goes right through the middle. I’m not entirely sure if I was allowed to be there as I wasn’t paying guest of the hotel but the door was open so I just walked in anyway and tried to act like I belonged there. On my walk towards Museum Island I also came across statues of Three Girls and a Boy. They mainly faced the River Spree and across from them is the Berlin Cathedral.
Ever since I was about six years old and did a project on the Ancient Egyptians in school, I became fascinated with them. This fascination has led me to multiple exhibits in museums across the UK, and now Europe, to look at sarcophaguses and papyrus. Therefore in Berlin, the Neues Museum was a place of interest to me so I could go see the Bust of Nerfiti and the rest of the Egyptian collection. When I was about halfway through the museum I was told by one of the staff that if I wanted to learn more details about the artefacts, the audio guides were included in the ticket price. There was also a particularly interesting temporary exhibit on the similarities between German and Arabic literature which I loved. I never realised the full extent of the crossovers in stories and how the same tale can be told hundreds of different ways. In total I ended up spending over four hours at the Neues Museum because I was so engrossed in the exhibits that I forgot to check the time.
As I spent far longer at the Neues Museum that I had intended, the other museum on my list, the Altes Museum didn’t get the same attention unfortunately. I mainly wanted to see the busts of Cleopatra and Julius Caesar but because of the many sculpture inside, I once again, ended up spending longer than planned at the Altes Museu. Sculpture is one of my favourite mediums of art because of the permanence in each chip. The statues were gorgeous and the rotunda inside was a beautiful reflection of the architecture throughout.
In fact, the architecture all over Museum Island was a treat. From all the museums and the Berliner Dom (which was unfortunately under maintenance), I was in complete awe. My student ticket was 8€ and meant that I could get into all the museums with their free audio guides and cloakroom. I would easily have spent days exploring the island but my time in Berlin was limited.
After the baths in Budapest, I was desperate to have another relaxing swim at some point during the holiday. I discovered a swimming pool in Berlin (probably on Pinterest) that was in a barge on the River Spree. So in the morning of my last day in Berlin I took the S-Bahn a few stops and spent some time unwinding in The Badeschiff. It was perfect as there was hardly anyone around. I swam a little and admired the view of the Berlin TV Tower and Molecule Man sculpture and just enjoyed the feeling of being surrounded by water. It was only 3.5€for a student and a 1€ padlock fee (with 10€ deposit).
Once I had popped back to the hostel to shower and change, I went out again, this time to Checkpoint Charlie. I didn’t know much about the Berlin Wall until after I visited Checkpoint Charlie but I felt like it was something that I should do whilst I was there. I did find it a bit strange that people saluted and posed as a soldier for photos but each tourist to their own I guess. I tried a traditional Currywurst nearby because I wanted to try a somewhat traditional German dish. The sausage itself was nice but was ultimately ruined by the inch of ketchup on top of it.
Topography of Terror
I then walked to the Topography of Terror. After the very personal stories at the Holocaust memorial and exhibition, it was a lot easier to process the events when reading about them in a more factual way. It covered the rise of the Nazis, WWII and the Berlin Wall on a long timeline outside. There was also a section of the Berlin Wall that you could walk on but I didn’t spend much time at the Topography of Terror because I was meeting Ursula and didn’t want to be late.
After we met up, Ursula and I had a wander around Tiergarten, next to the Brandenburg Gate. It was a lovely afternoon and many other people clearly had the same idea as us. There had been some sort of event going on earlier in the day so the park wasn’t as free to roam as we had hoped but we still found a lovely wee stream, cute bridges and a play park.
Boulevard der Stars
On our way for coffee we stumbled upon the Boulevard der Stars. It’s essentially Germany’s answer to the Hollywood Walk of Fame but in a way, it’s cooler. The floor is red and only features German-speaking people whether they be directors, actors/actresses, composers, the lot. They had projection boxes so that when you looked through them, you could see the celebrity standing on their star. I was super excited to find one dedicated to Hans Zimmer as I’m rather a fan of his.
Ursula and I were headed to Brammibals Doughnuts. It’s a vegan coffee shop with an insane doughnut selection and an aesthetic interior, featuring a neon sign or two and many, many plants. I had a G&T doughnut, despite not being a big G&T fan and an oat hot chocolate. Both the doughnut and hot chocolate were delicious and I took a couple of stickers to put on my cello case.
After a neb in the neighbouring shopping centre to go to Bijou Brigitte and a walk along the canal we caught the S-Bahn again to meet the others for dinner at Burgermeister. It goes without saying that we got burgers for dinner and then took them down to the bank of the river Spree to eat them. We all agreed that they were some of the best burgers we’ve ever had, including the vegetarian option.
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East Side Gallery
To round off my time in Berlin, I wanted to go to the East Side Gallery as the perfect conclusion to my time in Berlin. I loved all the street art, even some of the lesser famous paintings.
I honestly fell in love with Berlin more than I could have possibly imagined. It’s a place I could perhaps see myself living one day if I spoke more than four words in German. When I’m next in town I want to do more of Museum Island and some vintage shopping. I’d love to see more of the hidden spots from coffee to culture and fully immerse myself in the city for longer than three days.
My Other Interrail Guides
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