I was all booked, packed, and ready for my next mini-adventure in Berlin.
Excited to be ticking off another country and city from my bucket list, but yet again, the night before jet-setting off, I was nervous and anxious.
I have already done the whole traveling-alone-thing and I had a great time. And this time around I was much more prepared and I knew what to expect.
So, why the nerves?
…maybe I will always feel like this when I travel to a new place?
The next afternoon, after bagging myself a window seat on the plane (#Win), I landed in Berlin.
Whilst making my way to the metro station, I started wondering what public transport trains would be like.
I was in the capital of Germany after all – and we’ve all heard that German engineering is the best in the world.
I was expecting a train that glided silently above the tracks and accelerated at a whisper. Something super-slick covered in chrome and other shiny materials.
Instead, I heard it squeaking and squealing from a mile away. Needless to say, the rickety old train that pulled up was not what I expected from the Germans. And I’m pretty sure that the driver stalled it – twice!
Ah well, I guess their engineers are all busy designing BMWs.
Arriving at my hostel, Plus Berlin, and my new home for the next four nights, I was waiting to be checked in when I overheard some lads chatting to the hostel staff. They were checking out and raving about how good their stay had been and that they had the best time.
It filled me with confidence that I had chosen the right place, and I too was going to have an awesome time.
I checked into a 6-bed mixed dorm.
Upon entering my room, I was greeted by a guy, who I’m pretty sure was naked and certainly not expecting anyone to enter – especially a female.
I quickly nipped into the bathroom.
In that time he managed to find some pants and we could continue with the scheduled program of questioning. What’s your name? Where are you from? How long are you staying? etc.
By the time I had unpacked and claimed my bed, it was about 7pm. After 4 trains and an airplane, I didn’t feel like venturing into the city so I decided to make use of their indoor pool and sauna.
Yes, you read correctly.
A pool and a sauna in a hostel that I had paid about €20 per night for. (#DoubleWin)
What a lovely way to relax after a day of traveling I thought to myself.
Although upon entering the pool, that soon changed.
My standard pool attire is a bikini. But in this pool, I needed a fully insulated wetsuit. It was so cold!
‘Come on Roz, stop being a wimp. Do a few laps and you’ll soon warm up’, I thought.
After about 20 laps I started to feel like an Olympic swimmer, but I wasn’t getting any warmer.
Sack that – off to the sauna I went. Which was much more enjoyable.
I’m not complaining though, the pool and sauna were still a great bonus and the first time that I had heard of one in a hostel.
In general, the whole feel of the hostel was fab – it gave off this relaxed, cool, and edgy vibe. And upon exploring the building I found all these jaws dropping pieces of street art covering the walls.
The photos really don’t do the work justice.
If you’re ever in Berlin, you should definitely check out Plus Berlin Hostel & Hotel. (Yes, you can have your own hotel room there instead of a hostel dorm room, if you prefer.)
After all that vigorous swimming, my belly started to rumble and I went off on the hunt for food.
I remembered seeing some food trucks not too far from the hostel on my walk from the metro station. I thought that would be a good place to start.
On approaching, I could see the usual ham and cheese sandwiches, doughnuts, muffins etc, and then a full range of food that I had never seen before and had no idea what it was.
I asked the lady, “I’d like to try some German food please, what have you got that’s very German?”, to which she responded…
“This is Turkish.”
Well, I couldn’t be bothered to walk anywhere else, so Turkish it is then!
“Ok, what have you got that’s very Turkish?”
She gave me three pieces of food, which I have no idea what they were called or what they were made of. But I enjoyed them anyway.
That was food fail number one.
Food fail number two was buying a bottle of water from the vending machine and upon opening said bottle of water it hissed.
Because I can’t read German, I had purchased sparkling water, which I hate.
My stomach sank slightly with disappointment. I had to pour it down the drain in order to refill the bottle with good old council pop (tap water).
Back in my dorm again. My new roommate was out (hopefully with clothes on) and no one else had checked in yet, so it was just me on my lonesome at about 11.30pm.
Time to go to bed.
But then in walked a lad rocking the bad boy look – complete with dark jeans, boots, leather jacket, and a Mohican…
…named Fred. (obviously)
We instantly got on well with each other and the next thing I knew it was 3.30am and we were still chatting.
We covered the usual subject of religion, science, life, death, and rice pudding. You know, the usual stuff you talk about when you first meet someone.
And I was hit with the bombshell that the Queen of the UK (Queen Elizabeth II) is also the Queen of Canada – she’s on their currency and everything!
Please don’t tell me that I am the only person in the UK not to know this….I blame it on my lack of travel growing up.
Anyway, he was only in Germany for one night. He was up the next morning to catch a flight to Iceland and then his final flight back home to Canada. But he left me with a Canadian dollar with Queen Elizabeth II on it to remind me of the Commonwealth. (I still have that coin today)
The next morning came around and this was it – time to be a tourist and to start exploring the city.
To find out where I went, check out these Top 9 Tourist Attractions in Berlin That You Cannot Miss! (With Handy Walking Route).
Berlin was very different from the previous European cities that I had visited. It seemed a lot edgier and a lot more open to freedom of expression.
The first thing that I noticed was the amount of graffiti. I don’t disagree that some of it is jaw-droppingly amazing – pure street art that enhances the city (example below). Although, I do have to admit that the rest of it around the city is probably classed more as vandalism.
In the main city center, I stopped for a coffee in a place called The Digital Eatery.
If I were a local, this would be a regular stop for me – I loved the place. It was like a healthy café, come coffee shop, come Microsoft store.
There were Microsoft laptops, tablets, and products for sale. A gaming area complete with a large flat screen and sofa. Along with the usual coffee machine and food counter. The overall environment created a great vibe that I was very comfortable in.
Whilst I was sat down enjoying my coffee and checking my map, a guy came over and said something to me in German. After getting past the whole, ‘oh, I don’t speak German’ thing, he asked in English if he could join me at my table since the café was rather full.
I was like, ‘yeah, no problem at all! Pull up a seat and rest your feet!’
He smiled, sat down and we continued with some friendly conversation whilst he ate his very healthy looking chicken and vegetable lunch.
Although I never asked him his name, I do know that he lives in Berlin and he’s a journalist who was having a rather stressful day at work.
He kindly advised me on places I should go and visit and pointed out some hidden sights on my map.
We spoke about his recent trip to London and his planned trip to Cornwall this summer.
After he had finished eating he rushed back to work and I stayed sat there feeling rather fuzzy.
I enjoy meeting new people, and it was especially nice to have met a local. For him to share his views of Berlin and living in the city, as well as sharing his opinions and impression of the UK, it was all rather pleasant – I felt like a proper adult.
Parking spaces are more like guidelines
Whilst wandering Berlin, I noticed quite a few little things, but there was one thing I kept seeing over and over again. And it was people who had parked like this….
It seems to be an unspoken rule that if the space is too small and your car does not fit in lengthways, you have permission to park it on a diagonal.
I saw this numerous times and each time it made me laugh.
The language barrier
Back at the hostel and more people had checked in.
My dorm was now full.
It included a guy from Romania, a guy from Brazil, a guy from the UK, and two guys from Sweden.
All were cool and quirky in their own ways and we all cohabited well together for the next few days.
Whilst speaking to one of the Swedish guys, he kindly complimented me saying that I speak really good English…
……..[slight blank expression]
I thanked him and didn’t want to burst his bubble and announce that I am actually English and I cannot speak any other language.
A compliment is a compliment at the end of the day, so I just took it and ran with it.
‘No More Wars, No More Walls, A United World’
4 days quickly went by and it was soon home time. Time to catch another train and a plane back to the UK.
Whilst sat on the plane (in another free window seat #TripleWin) I mulled over the sights that I had seen, the experiences that I had, and my overall impression of Berlin. And to be quite honest, I found Berlin to be difficult at times.
You see, most of the sights and tourist attractions are there because horrific things have happened. The Wall, the concentration camps, the Memorial to the Murdered Jews of Europe, etc. When visiting these sights they’re not happy things to see.
I wish that none of these places existed.
Please don’t misunderstand me. I think that it’s a good thing to have the memorials and the museums to ensure that the events and the people who lost their lives are not forgotten.
I suppose what I mean to say is that I wished none of the places existed because I wished none of the events ever happened.
As I was walking around reading the information, looking at the pictures, and watching the videos, I often questioned, ‘how did it get that extreme?’
At the Berlin Wall, one of the street artists had painted a mural which quoted, ‘No More Wars, No More Walls, A United World.’
Currently, as I am writing this post, there are wars going on in Syria, Mexico, Iraq, Afghanistan, Sudan, Libya, and more. There’s even the possibility of a wall going up along the Mexican and United States border!
Many people are claiming that we could be leading up to World War III. And with the development of nuclear and chemical weapons, it has the potential to surpass both previous World Wars.
Is history always going to repeat itself?
I paid my respects and remain hopeful that we can learn from the past.
‘No More Wars, No More Walls, A United World.’