After Munich, my journey took me to Berlin. I would have loved to take the train to Nuremberg and then Dresden, but time was limited. Besides, my amazing cousin, whom I have only seen once in the past 15 years, has agreed to conduct a great bus journey from Kiev to meet me in Berlin. I was over the moon excited to see her! And now I had a dinner buddy!
She arrived in Berlin a day before me; so while I was exploring Munich, she had a head-start in Berlin. Munich to Berlin flight was super quick, less than an hour, and because I was paranoid about missing my flight and didn’t sleep the night before, once I got on the plane, I passed out (I don’t even remember the take off). Actually sleeping through a flight is the best way to fly :P.
From the airport I took a regular public bus into the city. All hail Google maps (can I get some endorsement deals, Google, please?)
Once I got off at the bus station, I didn’t have to think, my cousin met me and took me to the hotel. I booked Hotel AMANO Grand Central for about $100 a night. This hotel, like my Munich pick, was also very fresh and new. Main reason for picking it was that it was right across the street from the Berlin Hauptbahnhof.
Btw, German is the strangest language to me. When people speak it, it doesn’t seem that complicated, but seeing the words written I think I’m more likely to learn Chinese than German.
At this point I was VERY sleepy and my feet were killing me from walking 13 miles the day before, and, as a bonus, jet lag was kicking in. But we only had 1 and a half days in Berlin together and it was time to sightsee!
The first day we took it a bit easy. First stop, of course, was the Brandenburg Gate.
It also happened to be May 9th, the day when Russia celebrated WWII victory over the Nazi Germany. There were MANY Russian tourists, but perhaps the most ironic thing was the middle eastern men selling Russian hats (not pictured) and flags. Hey, you gotta do what you gotta do to make a living. 🙂
After a few minutes of people watching we went to the Berlin Reichstag and reserved our tour for the following day (reservations are made at a small kiosk across the street). We then hopped on the bus and exited by the Berlin Cathedral Church (admission 7 euros). We didn’t have the time to explore the Museum Island fully, so we satisfied our craving by climbing the dome at the church.
The view from the dome was pretty spectacular!
We even had a clear view of the Fernsehturm!
After climbing 270 steps up and then down again, per my request, we headed to the famous Checkpoint Charlie to snap a new photos as a prove that we have visited.
We then just kept walking down Friedrichstrasse, turned a few times, and ended up at a restaurant, the name of which I didn’t capture, and of course GPS didn’t work on the camera, so really, I don’t know where or what it was, but it was mid-range priced and the food was pretty good! The two balls were some sort of potato creation, I didn’t care for them much. My cuz got the sausage, and her dish was delish! The beet appetizer was my favorite.
Ok, as I was writing this, I decided to give it one more try before I gave up. I remembered that next we went to the Mall of Berlin and looked at all the restaurants between Checkpoint Charlie and the mall and voila! The restaurant is Der Thüringer! Tiny from outside, but spacious and homey inside! You’re welcome, I think I spent 45 minutes just looking for the name. 🙂
So yes, two girls traveling alone, it was only natural that our senses led us to the mall!
Some high schoolers had a mall excursion?
Although food helped, considering I was running on very little sleep, my first night in Berlin ended early. To be honest, I don’t even remember how we got back to the hotel. Walked, took the train, the bus? Well, what matters is we made it back to bed!
(P.S. Why are European beds so hard?)
Rested and re-energized, we had a long day ahead of us! Looking back, I’m shocked we were able to fit all activities into one day.
The morning started with a visit to the upper deck of our hotel and swinging on ultra fun chairs. Yep… we’re related.
On our way to the bus station, I saw a sign for Maker Faire! If you know me, this is in line of my work. I’d love to see the Berlin Maker Faire! So far I’ve only been to the New York and Houston ones.
For breakfast we headed to House of Small Wonder, just something I found on Yelp. The bus passed by Sammlung Boros, also known as The Bunker, now a contemporary art museum, but once an air-raid shelter, then a POW camp, and in 90s a techno club. There is damage to the facade of the building from war. Ironically, the top of The Bunker now houses a glass walled penthouse. I didn’t get any pictures of it, but Google is your friend. 🙂
We almost walked past our breakfast destination because the main entry door was on the side with a small sign and not visible at all. Once inside though, the place was pretty spacious! We found this to be common in Berlin restaurants – seemingly unappealing from outside, so comfy inside! Breakfast was really good and the atmosphere was super relaxed. Fit our moods perfectly.
From there we found a small local grocery store. I always make a point to go into a local grocery store and look for local spices, sauces, chocolates, fruits, and drinks. 🙂 I find that you can tell a lot about the current culture of the country (not the stereotypes from 500 years ago) from the products prevalent at grocery stores.
I ended up getting a few spices, some vegan chocolates, and a few new juices to try.
A train ride later, and we walked out at the East Side Gallery, this was on my Must Do list, my cousin didn’t care for it too much.
The main graffiti I wanted to see was the Fraternal Kiss of Brezhnev and Honecker by Dmitri Vrubel. Walking up to the piece, there was a limo parked outside from which came 5 Russian people to take photos in front of the graffiti. It was a bit surreal – reminded me of the movies Brat and Brat 2 (if you’re into international movies, look them up, they have them with subtitles). I was waiting for them to break out a bottle of vodka (who’s judging the stereotypes now?)
There is a fence around the painting. It had to be redone in 2009 because vandalism deteriorated it to a point of almost no recognition by 2005.
And how can any large city exist without a naked street musician to call their own?
We ended our tour at the Oberbaum Bridge.
Our next destination was on the opposite side of Berlin, a 45 minute train ride took us to Charlottenburg Palace.
My cousin, whose name is Olga, btw, just came back from St. Petersburg and I feel like I’ve seen my share of palaces, so for the sake of saving time, we opted not to tour the inside and just walk the palace grounds.
I wish the weather was warmer and the restoration work would have already been completed. 🙂
I made my cousin carry all the goodies we bought at the grocery store earlier. 🙂
We then returned into town and wandered around this random church the name of which I am not even going to bother trying to find. But there were shops next to it, which we also visited. 😛
The next place was on my cousin’s Must Do list, the Berlin Reichstag. Entrance includes a free audio tour. After two very cold days in Germany, the sun finally came out when we were at the top of the dome and it was so nice to just sit, look at the city and warm up.
After all the walking we did, we deserved a reward, and reward ourselves we did!
We went to The Pub – Pilsner Unique Bar and stuffed our stomachs through the way of our faces in a mostly all-dude pub who were fascinated by the two tiny girls finishing all that food.
After that massive dinner, all we could do was wobble. Tired, full, yet relaxed, we took in our last night in Berlin by walking through the streets hoping to come back one day again!
Next morning we took a train to Hamburg. Figuring out the seating arrangements was a story of its own, but the important part is we made the train and we found seats.
P.P.S. The fun part in Berlin was trying to find as many Berlin Bears as possible. We only found 6.