Big Cam & Dan’s Berlin Trip
Last weekend, Millie and I headed to the wonderful capital of Germany: Berlin.
After setting off at 6:30am from Hannover on Saturday with a journey of just under 2 hours, we’d already checked into our hotel, seen the Reichstag, seen the Brandenburger Tor (‘Brandenburg Gate’), and lost each other in the Holocaust Memorial before it was even 9am, before realising we hadn’t planned our trip too well and weren’t too sure where to go on from there. We knew where we wanted to go, we just didn’t know which order to do it all in.
Our next stop was Potsdamer Platz, where we came across the section of the Berlin Wall which was absolutely covered in chewing gum, which was quite interesting and quite disgusting, but quite cool, all at the same time. We then headed to the Sony Centre (which I panicked about at first because I knew it was around there somewhere but we just couldn’t see it at first, despite it being a gigantic dome-like building!)
Then on to the East Side Gallery, which is the world’s largest open-air gallery, and consists of remains of the Berlin Wall on which artists have created a massive variety of designs. In total, it’s about 1.3km long (around 0.81 miles), and it was just really interesting to see all of the different paintings on the different pieces, most of which had some sort of meaning (which could sometimes be seen in different ways, such as the picture to the right).
Alexanderplatz was our next stop, and one of my favourites. Though I’m unsure why, I’ve always wanted to see the ‘Urania-Weltzeituhr’, and, of course, we saw it there. Alexanderplatz is also the place where Millie thought that a tram coming up behind her was actually thunder, and where she also spent a good 5-10 seconds in KFC trying to tip what she thought was salt onto her chips, when in fact it was a refreshing wipe. Silly Millie.
We then headed to the Berliner Fernsehturm (Berlin TV tower). All in all, it was quite expensive, but it was nice seeing Berlin along with its tourist attractions from such a height.
After a stop off at some souvenir shops, including an Ampelmann shop, we saw the Lustgarten with the Berliner Dom (‘Berlin Cathedral’), and slowly walked down the ‘Unter den Linden’ street, where we passed the Humboldt University building. We finally ended up back at the Brandenburger Tor, took a cheeky photo of the hotel from which Michael Jackson dangled his baby in 2002, and saw some guy blow some absolutely gigantic bubbles. After some hesitation (OK, a lot of hesitation), we plucked up courage to ask someone if they’d take a photo of us with the Brandenburger Tor. The man was nice enough to take about 10 photos, a lot of which had his finger over the top of. Luckily his finger can be easily cropped out though for a nice picture which looks extremely touristy (and beats the awkward photos we tried to take with Millie’s phone which either chopped our heads out or didn’t have the Brandenburger Tor in whatsoever).
Due to the Holocaust Memorial Museum not being open when we’d arrived at around 8:50am that morning, we headed there again, now around 3pm, with it being around the corner from the Tor. Generally, I found the museum interesting, but really upsetting, with it being about the victims of the Holocaust, including letters written by them, as well as general statistics from the period.
Because we’d woken up at 5am that morning, we decided to go chill back at the hotel (after a döner which we were told we had to have in Berlin) and we got ready to go out for a meal and drinks with Sophie, a student also at the University of Exeter who’s currently working in Berlin after moving from Cologne last month. It just so happened it was Sophie’s birthday, so we’d picked a perfect weekend to hit Berlin as well as help her celebrate her birthday! Along with Phil, Sophie’s workmate, we headed to a place called ‘Schwarzes Café’ where we had some food and drinks, and generally had a nice catch-up. Afterwards, we met up with Gemma, who, like Sophie, goes to Exeter and is working in Berlin, and with whom I’ll also be living with next year when I return to Exeter. It was lovely to see both of them, and also to see a little bit of the nightlife Berlin had to offer, despite the fact we didn’t end up going anywhere after the Schwarzes Café due to Millie and I wanting a not-too-late night so we could continue exploring the next day.
We woke after a good nights’ sleep on the Sunday and forced tons of bread down ourselves in the hotel after the mad rush of school kids who were all on school trips in Berlin, and then headed straight for the Currywurst Museum. On the way, we managed to come across Gendarmenmarkt which is apparently Berlin’s most beautiful square – and I could see why!
After having lots of fun at the Currywurst Museum (including pretending to own a Currywurst stand, playing Gladiators with giant chips, and playing a fun video game making our own Currywurst), we ate our free sample of Currywurst and headed towards Checkpoint Charlie, where we visited the museum, showing a variety of ways people escaped over the Wall, and also came across a bunch of school kids who were obviously on a school trip, who all had wonderful Northern accents (though Millie probably wouldn’t have used the word ‘wonderful’. Maybe more ‘heinous’). We then went for a cheeky Back Factory which was perfectly placed across the road.
Due to running out of time (as well as probably not being able to go through yet another museum), we didn’t head to the Stasi Museum as we initially planned, but instead decided to go visit the Gedächtniskirche (Memorial Church), where we unfortunately discovered the whole church was covered in Baustelle or something similar, so the church itself couldn’t actually be seen. However, we went inside one of the newer buildings where service is held, and I was utterly amazed at how stunning the room actually was, probably due to the blue stained glass windows covered the walls, as well as the floor being covered in circles! There was also a giant organ, which was unfortunately not lit up, but I imagine it would have looked pretty fantastic had the lights around it been on.
Finally, we decided we would go check out the Siegesäule (‘Victory Column’). We walked down the Straße des 17. Juni and, after a good few attempts at taking a photo of the Säule but each time realising we were too far away to get a good shot, we finally made it there. Unfortunately, just as we walked inside, a lady told us they were just closing, meaning we couldn’t climb to the top and look down the Straße des 17. Juni, where the Brandenburger Tor was right at the end. We walked down the rest of the street (which is an extremely long street!) and got to the Tor, took a few really nice nighttime photos of it, and then headed back to our hotel to collect our things, followed by Vapiano in the Berlin Hauptbahnhof. I also bought some cookies from Millie’s Cookies, and Millie bought a McFlurry which she instantly regretted due to it being pretty damn chilly!
After around 1 hour and 50 minutes on the train, we arrived safely back in Hannover!
It was a fantastic weekend, and I finally learnt why there’s such a hype about Berlin (I’ve been before 3 years ago, but at the time I didn’t really know what I was looking out for, if that makes any sense). It’s a truly fantastic city, with so much history (and very recent history, too). There are a few things I would have liked to do which we didn’t get chance to do, but this isn’t a problem at all with me having plans to head back there at least twice before the end of my year abroad – once with Shane, and once with Phoebe. Though you may think I could probably hit two birds with one stone and go with the both of them together, this would mean one less trip to Germany’s capital, so I might as well use these opportunities to my advantage!