It begins in Berlin! Though I was technically going to meet up with some friends in Berlin, I still felt that I should have been more anxious about getting on the plane and embarking on this solo adventure. Everyone says that leaving home is the scariest part, but I left and arrived in Berlin with ease, as happy as can be. If you think I’m brave for doing this trip … do a trip alone and you’ll realize it’s really not a big deal, it’s just a lot of fun.
The first thing I noticed about Berlin is how clean and gorgeous it is! Normally when I take a bus into the city I’m visiting, I pass by not so nice neighbourhoods but from the beginning Berlin was stunning.
I arrived at the hostel, St. Christopher’s Berlin, feeling dehydrated and extremely jet lagged but I had to power through. In 2 hours I’d be off on a 4.5 hour bike tour of the city. Tylenol? Check. Caffeine? Check. Food? Check. Let’s do this shit!
The excitement of being in such a cool new country/city helped, and knowing that I’d be on a bicycle made it all the better (one of my favourite activities). Fat Tire Bike Tours is the company I did my Versailles bike tour with back in 2009 (aka one of the best days of my life), so I knew I was in good hands. I learned a great deal of history about Berlin that I had no idea about. Yes, I was aware of Hitler and WWII but not what it was like in Berlin during that time. I knew there was a Berlin Wall, but embarrassingly didn’t know what it was about and how serious and terrible it was. I’m not going to give you a history lesson here, but I really recommend taking a bike tour of the city to learn about it. On bicycles you can cover SO much ground of this huge city in a decent amount of time. Beyond highlights of Berlin history we also got to ride through the Tiergarten and have lunch and drinks at one of the beer gardens.
For a quick run-through of some of the things we saw on the tour:
Brandenburg Gate: stunning in person
Museum Island: a great place to chill in the day and at night
Bebelplatz: where they burned all the books; really fascinating after reading The Book Thief
Hitler’s Bunker: where he died is now an inconspicuous parking lot … which seems appropriate
Jewish Memorial: very cool … everyone has their own take on what the abstract memorial means to them
Checkpoint Charlie: looks gimmicky now, but important part of history
Tiergarten/Beer Garden: really nice chill spot
On this tour I felt great well biking but the jet lag pretty much felt like a hangover whenever we stopped to look at monuments, so when the tour was over I jumped in the shower and went straight to bed …. at 6pm.
On the second day I was meeting up with friends from my University. Doug and Connor were already in the city (I was supposed to meet up with them the night before but went to bed instead!) so we headed to the Topography of Terror museum together. I really recommend this museum. It’s free and it covers a great deal of detail about Hitler’s rise to power up to the Berlin wall. It’s a very sad part of history but extremely important to know. By noon, we headed back to my hostel to grab some beers outside and wait for our other friend Toni to arrive. Once she arrived, we all had some food, then headed around the city passing by some monuments and into the Tiergarten to hangout. It was a chill day with lots of walking so Toni could get a little tour of all the sites.
That night, Toni and I met up with the boys again and some friends they met in their hostel. We grabbed some drinks sat on the grass and played Never Have I Ever, laughing at the honest answers and revelations. Nearby our hostel is a really cool rooftop bar called House of Weekend. Once we were there I wandered off from my friends and mingled with other people on the rooftop. No one I came across was local, there were quite a few people traveling with interesting stories. I then walked up to two gorgeous British guys and chatted them up (I’m proud of me too). I spent most of the night with them, we popped champagne, danced, and had a great time. Definitely a night for the books!
Toni and I were both a bit hungover the next day so I suggested we rent bikes and explore the city. She was feeling really sick and thought biking was a terrible idea, but TRUST ME, biking when you don’t feel well actually helps! It’s when you stop that there is a problem.
Someone we met the other day in Tiergarten recommended we check out Volkspark Friedrichshain, a park on the East Side of town, as that’s where all the young people go. So we hung out there for a bit, chilling on the grass. We then continued on to the Berlin Canals in the East Side. This part of the city is insanely hipster. We ended up exploring a Wasteland-styled bar along the canal that isn’t even in a building. There’s plywood, chandeliers, and junkyard antiques. It was odd but cool to explore.
We later made our way to the East Side Gallery, this is the remaining part of the Berlin Wall with art all over it. It’s extremely long, so it was nice biking along the wall to see all the art.
After a much needed nap, we got some delicious Pho around 10pm then met back up with some of the boys for some drinks. Since it’s legal to drink in public in Berlin, we took some wine and wandered the city at night. It was a nice way to end my stay in the city.
The next morning I said my goodbyes and the solo part of my trip officially began … next stop, Barcelona!!