Time for yet another update. Recently, I've found myself in the city of Berlin, the enormous German capital in the east of the country. It has most certainly been quite an interesting experience.
I arrived in Berlin somewhat a fish out of water. The crises were rolling in from the very first moment. Firstly, I was unaware of exactly where I had to go from the second I touched down at TXL, and had to determine the address, and explain it to my cab driver (who barely spoke English) without any internet connection. Eventually I arrived, at Esmarchstraße 12, and figured out which button to press for my host to greet me and let me in. Unfortunately however, I was not able to get into the room until 6 (it was currently 3), and my battery and Internet situation was worse than ever. I left my bags and went exploring the city to see what I could find until my room was ready. For about the first hour, problems arose at every turn. My phone had merely 9% of battery left, and was quickly depleting even while being conservative on Airplane mode. I needed to find an Internet connection and a power point at some cafe urgently, but in a relatively quiet neighbourhood this would not be easy. To make matters worse, I needed an Internet connection to top up my bank account (from my main savings account) that was too low to fund a cab fair to a popular tourist place I knew would have places to solve my problems. I was quite stuck. Eventually I happened across a cafe that had free wifi and a seat near a PowerPoint. After about five minutes, I successfully managed to communicate to the lovely cafe owner that I needed to use both of these amenities and I'd buy a coke zero and doughnut if he let me. I could see light at the end of the tunnel. I remained at the cafe until my phone had reached 20% (it got to 1%, that's how desperate the situation became) and I used Internet to ensure enough money was on the account. I found a hotel bar that had power points and an Internet connection, the grand Westin in the city, and directed my cab here. Spent the next hour or two here, charging up my phone and getting back online properly, figuring out transport links home, good restaurants, bars etc. I had always thought to myself "what would I do if I was plonked in a city with no idea where to go, no available money and working phone," and it was very interesting to see that I managed this situation quite well. The drills I'd played out in my head had paid off.
Once I'd dealt with this emergency, I went to a traditional German bar where I got myself a home brewed Pilsner (was actually quite good) and a traditional dinner, two sausages with mashed potatoes, sauerkraut, gravy and mustard. It was really quite delicious.
After this I headed back to the apartment where I was staying, as Angelika the host was about to show me around the place. It was really quite incredible. The ground floor consisted of a lovely bathroom, quite large and nice; a large living area with dining table, couch, great TV and original fire place and finally a comprehensively fitted kitchen, that would have been perfect had I actually bothered to get to the supermarket. The upstairs loft (still featuring full height ceilings) consisted of a queen size bed, and enough floor space to fit a desk and cupboard. The apartment was very impressive, and honestly something I would consider myself to be perfect to move out to next year. Then again, renting something like this in Melbourne would cost you an arm and a leg, completely out of budget. Kudos to Angelika for such a great place (and not listing it as a penthouse, which it would surely qualify as and fetch at least $50 more a night for).
The next day I decided to head out to the Berlin Wall, which was honestly incredible. There are two main sections of it in Berlin left standing (although there are plenty other areas too). The first part I visited was the art gallery area, which extends a kilometre, and I walked all the way along to the outer parts of the city. This was really nice, the artwork utterly incredible, but was completely devoid of any factual information about the wall itself. I knew a bit but felt I would benefit learning a little more. I got in a cab across town to visit the memorial/museum, which was packed full of information and left as preserved as possible. The most shocking thing about the wall is how recently it was actually a thing. Only around 25 years ago this thing has come down. I know many, many people who have lived through the entire thing, from its erection to its fall. This to me is pretty incredible. This section was very informative and I learned heaps about the entire thing. They even keep a section of it preserved, with the outer wall, inner wall, alert fence and death strip fully visible from a viewing platform. Pretty incredible stuff.
After a long hard day of cultural experience however, it was time for a beer. I headed to Newton Bar, a small kind of trendy bar in the city. I have mixed feelings about it. On one hand, the slightly wanker vibe and seemingly conceited staff were not the best, but on the other, the good beer, admittedly quick service, extensive gin menu and wall consisting of floor to ceiling photos of beautiful naked women made it actually an alright spot. Jeez that last point makes it sound seedier than one of the top 20 rated bars in Berlin, look at the photos. Following this I went to a cocktail bar that must have been the most 1920s place I've ever been. From the decor to the bar staff dressed in tuxes, to the people (quite legally) smoking at the bar, to the hand carved spheres of ice they used in drinks. It all sounds pompous and over the top, but this had to be the most down to earth and nice bar I visited in Berlin.
The next day was rough after quite a big night the night before. I didn't end up bothering to leave the place until 1pm, as hadn't had any downtime over the past practically two weeks; Edinburgh was seriously a marathon session from the night I arrived on the 23rd till the night of the first (night before I left). I needed at least a few moments of downtime plus hangover recovery. This day I went out to go to the Reichstag building, but was unsuccessful, appeared you needed to make a booking and I hadn't, plus the security shit you needed to go through before getting in didn't interest me. I guess they just don't want it to be burnt down again.... Ended up visiting a few of the museum areas and walking around the city. Went to an Italian place for dinner and called it a night after a beer or two, my flight out of Berlin to Kraków left very early in the morning, so had to keep it quiet. To my friends judging me for this, I promise you, from prior experience, flying with a severe hangover is possibly the last thing you want to do. I blame you, Melissa J...
Got back to Tegel airport and flew out on a crash 8. More on this in the next post.
Overall, Berlin was quite interesting. It was a cool city, with interesting attractions such as the Brandenburg Gate, Holocaust memorial, Berlin Wall etc. But I couldn't get past the fact that the city was utterly dead. I know it was the middle of winter, and not the most popular time for people to go out, but the city was one of the quietest I've ever visited. A main shopping and bar street, Friedrichstraße, had probably about five others on it when I was walking around 9pm. Berlin is full of a very rich nightlife. But unless you know the places, are really into clubs, and know how to get into some of the notable ones (it's incredibly hard), then you'll find the nightlife hard to navigate. Then again, the cocktail/beer bar I found was utterly excellent. Find the places that are good and you'll be fine. I just don't think the time I was there was enough for this. But maybe I was just too lazy.