Ah Berlin, we meet at last !
Since a long time ago, I had often heard that this city had something special. Being more and more interested in German culture, as well as being a techno enthusiast, Berlin had made it to the first place on my to do list in Europe, if not in the world.
I got there in the middle of the week, arriving at Charlottenburg’s bus station. I had chosen to stay at an hostel near Alexanderplatz, spend a the first few days on my own, and the week-end with my friends.
First thing you have to know about Berlin : it is freaking huge ! 8 times the size of Paris (without its suburbs), or the size of New York City. Yet public transportation is very efficient, and one thing I love is the fact that a lot of trains (S-Bahn) are aerial and go trough buildings. This way you get to see the whole city while moving. And there’s a lot to see, especially if you’re going from the west to the east, but we’ll speak about it a bit later.
I had planned to walk a lot, as usual when I visit a new city, but here in Berlin if you want to go out of the city center (Mitte), it takes a freaking long time to go anywhere by foot. Even the biggest park in Mitte is almost 3km long. The good thing is, you won’t lack space there, you’ve got so much room in Berlin, you don’t even feel you’re in that big of a city 😀
Fortunately a lot of places of interest are not too far away from Alexanderplatz, where my hostel was. From there I could easily go have a nocturnal walk in Kreuzberg, one of the most famous districts in Berlin, known to be a cradle for counterculture, as well as a good place for pubs and nightclubs.
On my way there I even found myself walking for several km along the remaining part of the Berlin wall, now used as a memorial for freedom : the East Side Gallery. The wall is covered with more than 100 paintings by artists from all over the world.
Going back to Mitte the next day I went to see the Reichstag, the german parliament. As you can see January is not be the best time of the year for traveling, I got soaked almost everyday, but nothing too bad, I’m still alive to this day, and ready to get some more 🙂
This kind of shot is tricky to get, you have to take 1-2s exposure and often end up with water drops on your lens.
Since year 2000 the building has a big glass dome on its Rooftop, offering a cool 360 view over Berlin cityscape. You can visit it for free, but you have to register first on the Reichstag’s website, or by phone.
It’s amazing to see how much history this city has witnessed. From the WW2, when you see pictures of the Reichstag now and then, or even tank shell impacts on some old monuments, as well as until 1989, when the city was split in half. Even 25 years later the difference between the east and the west of the city is flagrant. West looks like any regular European city, almost like Paris in some parts, whereas east has lots of abandoned buildings, but is more interesting for urban exploration in my opinion.
This area is covered with thousands of rectangular pillars arranged in a grid pattern. Walking through it almost gives you a feeling of claustrophobia, while all these concrete blocks lower your ability to see, hear or be heard. I think all this was emphasized by the rainy weather and the lack of light.
The day following this tough -but interesting- visit, I decided to discover a completely different part of the city, not in terms of location, a different experience.
I met Giulia, an Italian girl who had settled down in Berlin a couples of months before. While having a coffee in the afternoon she told me about a club she knew. This place called Brunnen70 is one of the best clubs I’ve tried so far. I didn’t take any picture of it, anyway it wouldn’t have depicted the whole thing, but I can try to quickly describe it with my words.
First from the outside you can’t tell something’s going on, just a regular building entrance. Then they let you in that tiny room with a couch, no windows. This room is actually an elevator which brings you downstairs where the party is. I don’t know if it was the music or the general atmosphere -or both-, but this night was awesome. I went there with a nice girl I had met the same day, and everyone seemed to be easy going and to have a great time, I sure did!
Throughout the city you can find those old, open air, black and white photo booths, definitely gives a sovietic look to your souvenir pictures 😀
What I would recommend to do in Berlin :
- Go to both the East and the West side of the city. Visit the East Side Gallery.
- Visit what’s in Mitte : the Reichstag, the Brandenburg Gate, Berlin Cathedral, the museum island, the holocaust memorial are all located in this very own district.
- Go and try Berlin’s nightlife, try to ask locals about cool places they know. You can also try to go to the Berghain but just know it’s not that easy to get in.
What I will do differently next time (oh no, it’s not my last time in Berlin 😉 ) :
- Go there in the summer, not only because of the cold. I think there must be so many things to do outside, like cultural activities, parties…
- Couchsurfing : it’s the best way to meet locals, and get to discover what they like about the city.
- Take a bike : the city is very cycle friendly, I think it’s a good idea to try to do everything by bike.
I liked this trip so much I started learning German as soon as I got back home, because I know I would love to live in such a place.
Also, bis bald Berlin !