Me and my fabulous friend Ellie have holidayed together many times. Our first excursion was to Amsterdam with some other friends of ours (or it could have been Poland first; I forget!) and then almost straight on to Poland, for the Heineken Open’er festival in Gdynia (Errr-mazing!). I mean it cost like £100 and we saw Rihanna and Arctic Monkeys and, like, we could have seen Kings of Leon but decided not to because they are crap. We met at university and fell in platonic love. From then on we’ve had city-breaks in Dublin, Oslo, and most recently Berlin: can I fill you in?
First of all, I’ve worked for Aldi, soooooooo I know a thing or two about this so-called ‘German efficiency’. Aldi is cheap. We know that. In all honesty, Berlin is one of *the* cheapest capital cities I have ever been to, hands down. I’ve not been to all the capital cities ever but I would approximate that I have visited 12. Normally they’re pretty pricey, especially in the developed West. However, I didn’t feel priced out of activities, food and drink or transport whilst in Berlin. So, well done, Krauts!
They are indeed efficient. The trains run on-time and you’re never waiting long to be served. The very best thing they do is they bring your drinks to you :O No queuing, no barging chancers out of the way at the bar, no ‘garcon!’ *clicks fingers impatiently* (like I would..!). Oh no, none of that! A friendly person, normally a woman- such is the service industry- comes and takes your glass, asks if you will be requiring another beverage (I will require several beverages, fräulein) and brings it over to you, no fuss! Which reminds me: before I forget, STEINS. At risk of sounding quite hyperbolic, beer steins are the best thing about Germany. It just feels right.
We stayed at the EasyHotel (that’s right, just like ‘EasyJet’) in the central area of the city, Mitte, with excellent transport links and within walking distance of the main station at Alexanderplatz. On Ellie’s list of ‘things to do’, which she had compiled using various travel blogs, was ‘Kreuzburger’, a frankly amazing burger joint which we thought we would find only in the hipster Kreuzberg area. However, there was quite fortuitously a ‘Kreuzburger’ on our street, literally 5 establishments down the road. Being vegetarian, I ordered a tofu burger, which I think was a mere €4.50; by jingo! It was huge, a massive slab of tofu placed somewhat indelicately betwixt two rather large buns. Definitely worth every cent! I mean it doesn’t cost much less than that for a block of tofu… madness.
Working against chronological order, the first place we visited, before we had reached the hotel and which was situated right in the centre of Berlin outside the station, was a department store, ‘Galleria’. Famished, desperate for sustenance and exhausted from our early start, we slumped through the doors, hoping beyond hope that there would be some sort of hot, above-standard food; this looked like a fancy place, after all! Lo, we found such food, after seconds of wandering! It was this mad, kinda-fancy café at the back of the food hall, that served food from three menus- Thai, Italian, and, erm, standard cafeteria food- and of course, me being greedy me, I ordered from both the Italian and Thai menus (we ate it all). It was just delicious. Really, it was an amazing start to our trip, and set the precedent for the rest of our culinary experiences. I do have a picture, although it is shoddy quality due to hopeless lack of care towards cellular phones and their specs.
Gotta give the Berlin underground a shout-out. You can travel for free pretty much, however we saw the ticket inspectors from the safety of the carriage and there were a job-lot of them, so be wary! Travelling on the Metrolink and with Northern Rail, you wouldn’t think we were in the same continent! Our public transport is an absolute shambles, especially considering it’s at least double the price of the transport we used over in Berlin. In fact, the trains in Poland were better than the shite we get lumbered with over here. Anyway, I didn’t come here to talk about the state of public transport, except to say that in Germany, it seems to be very good.
Even the beggars are polite! Go to France, JE-SUS they will literally shove their wounded limbs into your face for change! but no, in Berlin they just politely walk on, much like our own beggars, but much more quiet. The streets there are clean as fuck, which comes as a shock for a northerner, all that wading through crap because the council forgot to pay anybody to empty the bins… None of that in Berlin!
I can see I’ve taken a turn for the worse here; let me steer us back onto a sensible path. Some low-quality pictures of landmarks, perhaps?
Being cool AS. FUCK. we obviously visited the East Side Gallery and pretended to care deeply about… issues and stuff. I wore a lilac bomber jacket to show solidarity amongst my fellow hipsters, aaaaaaand Ellie isn’t quite as fickle so she just dressed modestly but with that Scandi-style edge.
Jokes, we went for real to actually look solemnly upon the messages artists and regular bods had painted upon the gallery walls, often in painstaking detail and always wonderfully bright and really just magnificent. That particular image, I thought, was great, because I’m a sarcastic satirist myself most of the time. But it doesn’t do any harm to think about the ways we are all fenced in, moreover the fences we as a society build in an attempt to feel safe (getting real deep here guys).
There was probably loads of other stuff we wanted to do, and Ellie really had researched the shit out of Berlin. She took me to this wonderful market in the trendy Kreuzberg area, but I didn’t take any pictures because it was rammed and I had decided by that point that my phone was too shit to take any more pictures. You are probably asking, ‘what research did you do, Africa? Where did you want to go?’. Admittedly, I did no research, other than asking my friend, who also happens to be a beer connoisseur, which bars I must visit to get my lips around a cracking craft ale.
The beer was very good in general, as you’d expect, but… I wanted some proper fresh, craft ale. So I went and got some! My absolute favourite bar by far was named Monterey Bar, in the Winsviertel area just north-east of central Berlin. The atmosphere was lovely, quite dark but cosy. The bartenders were wonderfully friendly, advising me on different beers, especially those NOT to buy. After sampling, I was so glad the American lady who was serving dissuaded me from purchasing an awful flavoured beer. I sat alone and read Morrissey’s List of the Lost (which, despite my undying love for Moz, is quite amusingly dreadful) and a local woman who was studying talked to me a bit. All in all, I had a lovely few hours there and would certainly visit again!
Earlier in the day, I found myself at Kaschk, which was also a recommendation of my friend and handily just a few streets down from the hotel. It resembled a craft-beer establishment you might find in Manchester or London: that kind of back-to-basics, we-have-no-money-oh-wait-we-have-fucking-loads-of-money hipster style interior, you know with long wooden tables and benches a bit like a medieval drinking hall but 1,000,000% more expensive. I had a great To Øl brew from there, though sadly I didn’t document the name. The bartender once again, it must be said, was so friendly, smiling and even bringing my drink and vegan banana cake outside to me! Really, I can’t stress enough how polite the Berliners were. So, so friendly.
As well as these gorgeous bottled beers I had the pleasure of sipping at Monterey bar, I also indulged in Yeastie Boys’ Digital IPA, Oskar Blues’ Ten Fidy and Death By Coconut
Okay so I’m going to have to throw in the towel here. I have just spied that I’ve written almost 1,500 words, and mercy me, I am shattered! Rather than lying to myself and saying, ‘No Africa, you are not a person who has short, fruitful bursts of energy, prone to decline, which then descend into fatigue and boredom, until ultimately you reach a peak of apathy from which there will be no return for many days! You are not this wretch, Africa!’, I shall shoow humility and throw my hands above me head in admittance. Like honestly I wanted to update my blog and I had loads of memories from my trip, but now all I can think of is how I chafed so badly that I ripped my favourite jeans 😦 we walked so much, I have loads more to write about. I am tired of using my brain and must desist!
I suppose I’ll conclude with a list of landmarks and tourist attractions followed by extremely succinct reviews:
- Brandenburg Gate- quite impressive, good free tours in the square
- Berlin Wall- it’s a must-see, esp. with a cheeky English tourguide
- Checkpoint Charlie- pretty naff, really
- Jewish Memorial- don’t go to take pictures of yourself doing yoga u tit
- Berlin Cathedral- great if you like that kind of thing
- Altes Museum- literally ‘Old Museum’, beautiful neoclassical architecture
- Museum Island- not really an island
- Fernsehturm (TV tower)- really tall, built by commies; definitely visit
Auf Wiedersehen, meine freunde!