So just before I disappeared Down Under, Tom and I went to explore the German capital. I’ve been to Germany twice but I never managed to get past Munich, so I was glad to finally see this famous city. I didn’t have a blog back when I was backpacking around Europe so I won’t have mentioned them before, but my favourite European tour company is Sandeman’s New Europe. I first discovered them in Amsterdam, where I met Rachel Sandeman – sister of the founder, and fellow Boston University alumni. I loved the tour, and better still, it’s free! Tour guides accept tips at the end of the tour, and the great thing about that is that the tour actually HAS to be good. Bad tour = no money. Plus it means even if you’re really really broke, you can see and learn all about the city and it doesn’t have to cost you a dime. Perfect.
After Amsterdam, I went on the Munich tour BOTH times I visited the city plus the Pub Crawl tours which have never been a disappointment. So of course I tracked them down in Berlin.
Our first day in Berlin was pretty uneventful. We arrived, having only slept on the plane and were told we couldn’t get into our room. Hmm.. I’m still wearing my clothes from Thai Square, I haven’t showered, I haven’t slept. I don’t look or feel good at this point. But there’s nothing to do but go out into Berlin to grab some lunch, unpleasant body odour or not. And so we did. A wander around Museum Island and a club sandwich later, we returned to the hostel and collapsed in the reception for awhile. We were woken from our nap and told we could finally get into our room. Where we slept. Again.
The evening didn’t go to waste though! We dragged ourselves up, showered and put on clothes that didn’t smell like a London club and headed out to dinner and a little music. Tom decided to be as authentic as possible and get a jellied leg of pork. I went with the salmon… Then we went in search of somewhere for a few quiet drinks and found the B Flat club. It’s the perfect place if you’re looking to grab a few cocktails in a slightly hidden bar with fogged up windows and a grand piano. It also helps if you like jazz music. We listened to the sounds of the Diego Pinera Group for a couple of hours before finally calling it a night and collapsing for a very good nights sleep. I should mention that our hostel, City Stay, was great by the way. Perfectly located in the centre of Berlin just by a train station, with a good bar and really nice rooms. I would recommend checking it out.
The next morning, after a false start, we found the Sandeman’s New Berlin Free Tour and walked around the city for almost five hours with Nikolai, our Bulgarian born, American raised, German resident guide. The tour was great if not exhausting, but these tours are always the perfect way to see the city and actually put all the buildings and sites into context. That night it was off to the New Berlin Pub Crawl which started in Zapata. Zapata was exactly how I imagined Berlin bars to be. Dark, graffiti-ed, not unlike an abandoned warehouse with a table tennis table in the middle. Naturally. We moved on to a few other bars with our friends from the Free Tour before we parted ways as they went off to the clubs and we headed home since we were determined to get up the next morning and make good use of our final day.
True to our plans, we were up and off to the Jewish Museum bright(ish) and early(ish). We spent far too much time in the new exhibit which was really interesting, and so unfortunately had to rush a little through the permanent exhibit which was a shame. It’s a very good museum. Then it was off to our Red Berlin tour (also provided by the lovely people at Sandemans) where Paulo took us around some of the lesser known parts of Berlin, as well as some famous sights like the East Side Gallery. We saw a part of what is now called the ‘Death Strip‘ (the space in between the Berlin Wall that stopped anyone from having a hope of jumping across). Paulo had a pretty interesting perspective on everything which was nice. Wasn’t the average talk about how the wall was nothing but terrible and that the opening of the wall is the greatest thing to have happened to Berlin. There’s a lot of different opinions out there and a lot of sides to the story, so it was nice to have a tour guide who appreciated that and maybe opened my eyes a little to what life is really like these days in Berlin.
That night after a way too filling dinner, finding out our train was canceled, and grabbing a taxi just in time, we made it to the airport to make our way back home to London. We arrived at midnight and went straight to packing up the rest of my things to prepare to leave for Sydney the next day….