When I asked people where I should travel, the pretty much ubiquitous answer was Berlin. So I thought, why not? And then, I remembered a friend, Anna, who lives in Berlin, and who came to Prague but didn’t even visit me, and I thought, why not?
So I decided last Monday I would go to Berlin and sent her an email. I bought my bus tickets on Tuesday (~$60 round trip, 4.5 hours each way), I found out on Wednesday that I could crash at Anna’s place (aka, no hostel necessary), and I left on Thursday. I love spontaneity, although even I usually plan trips more thoroughly than this. But even with only the loosest of plans, my trip was phenomenal.
I left Prague at 7am on Thursday and arrived in Berlin around 11:30. Anna had class, so I figured my way around the U-bahns and the S-bahns and got myself to her building. I met bunches of Stanford students spending the quarter in Berlin, and sat in on the last 45ish minutes of their introductory German class. Unsurprisingly, I still don’t know German. Somewhat surprisingly, I now understand (for the most part) how to convert from future singular to future plural verb forms and back again. Not sure how useful that will be in my life, but there you go.
My research consisted mostly of asking someone I know, who has led many, many trips to Berlin, what I should do. I took her suggestion and made a reservation to walk into the dome of the Reichstag building; I made it at sunset per another suggestion, and it was the best idea ever!
We also took an afternoon to hit chocolate-world, including making our own chocolates (mine was dark chocolate with caramelized almonds and raspberry pieces – amazing!) and also to get hot chocolate at the best chocolatier in Germany. Truly and wonderfully amazing. But actually. And then there was the mid-day breakfast at a market, followed by falafels for lunch. And the flea market on Sunday just before I went home.
Prague, though it is truly amazing, doesn’t have as much ethnic food as I wish (I grew up in San Francisco and go to school in Boston; when I go out, I’m used to at least a half dozen options within one region…) Ergo, Berlin, which all the amazing food options, was easy – we ate out. I was only in Berlin for three and a half days, and had exactly ten meals there, including falafel, spinach quiche, currywurst (worth trying, but not as amazing as everyone says), thai food, burritos…. So that was awesome.
I also went on a scavenger hunt with Anna and her German class; they asked all sorts of questions of people (in German, of course!), and I just got to see all the best sights without actually having to navigate. And, I got to be a part of their “creative photo” requirements.
I went to the East Side Gallery, which is a long stretch of the Berlin Wall left standing and painted by prominent artists. Some of the work is truly amazing, and sadly some of it has been painted over by those of significantly lesser skill. I went alone, but then found people from the Stanford program to spend the afternoon with.
I think that this, and the other painted parts of the wall that you can find all over the city, were potentially my favorite part of the trip.
Finally, you really can’t go to Berlin without experiencing some of the night life. I’m really not a partying person, but even doing Berlin “lite” means going out after midnight and not getting home until 6. Since my little brother reads this blog, I’m going to just edit those six hours (times three!) out, and merely make oblique references to the random Slovak guy with whom I spoke for a couple hours one night, the “Turkish” bar that isn’t actually Turkish, and the lady that gave us a lighter to help since we were struggling opening our beers on the U-bahn…