Tuesday 2 December 2014

Berlin Mini Break

Over the years, I’ve heard so many wonderful and amazing things about Germany’s food, people, countryside and cities, it left me wondering why I had never taken a dip in Germany's culture vulture pool. So in early November, my friend Caroline and I decided that we should take a trip and went about booking a long weekend in Germany’s capital, Berlin.

We booked our flights and hotel through Expedia.com and even though we booked last minute, we each only had to pay £148; a real bargain I think.

(It helps that we were travelling out of season and at awful times in the morning!)

Us around 6:30am on the plane...eurgh

We flew into Berlin Schönefeld airport which is around a 50 minute train journey away from Berlin, which may sound like a pain in the backside, but the train station is only a few minutes walk from the airport and the journey went so quickly it didn't seem too bad. We did inquire about taking a taxi from the airport to the city but we were told it would be around 40 euro there, so instead, we opted to take the train into Berlin’s main train station, Berlin Hauptbahnhof, which cost us a grand total of 3 euro each. Ludicrous!

We stayed at the Mercure Hotel in Berlin City center; a large hotel, with similar style and quality of a Premier Inn. It’s local to some of the main tourist attractions and is only around ten minute walk from the main train station, Berlin Hauptbahnhof. Our hotel was modern, clean and welcoming and I genuinely couldn’t fault anything about it. Our room was cleaned each day, with fresh towels provided daily, the staff were informative and friendly and overall, I would highly recommend this hotel. It was inexpensive, easy to find, had wonderful staff members and was clean and comfortable to stay in, what more could you ask for?

There were several places I wanted to tick of my to-do list whilst exploring the streets of Berlin and thankfully, I got to do them all.

One was to visit the Reichstag building.

One was to visit the Brandenburg Gate.

And the last one was to visit the Jewish War memorial.


Luckily for me, all of these places were within a five minute walking distance of each other, so you would have thought I would have had zero else to do during the rest of my three day holiday, but you’d be wrong.

(I know the photos go from day to night, but we had a meal in between visiting the Brandenburg Gate and the War Memorial)

Berlin reminded me a lot of London, specifically, a Shoreditch on steroids (in a good way!). There are countless themed bars and restaurants, markets and shops, all glazed with a bohemian and eclectic style. We walked for miles (19 miles in one day to be precise :O) exploring the sights, sounds and smells of Berlin (oh yes, the smells!). We soon realized Berlin was a 24/7, ever awake, sort of city, with great food and great nightlife. We encountered the obligatory German food market, several themed restaurants and bars (such as a beach bar where they had a foot deep of sand all over the floor, which incidentally, is still in my shoes 3 weeks later), elaborate and themed clothes shops and wonderfully old aged underground pubs; there was a lot to take in!

Berlin seemed to be a very young, 'hip' kinda city, so imagine the type of people and beauties you get in London and you'll know what to expect when visiting. 

My Berlin tips:

Make a plan: I know this seems like a horrifically obvious thing to do, but honestly, make a plan of what you want to do and see. Berlin is a large city and like us, you could walk around aimlessly for hours in the wrong direction if you don't get a real idea of where you want/need to go.

Make the most of the underground system: There is literally an underground train station on every corner and travelling on it is very cheap, so make the most of your vacation and hit up that U-Bahn! (They have an above ground train system called the S-Bahn as well, don't you know!).

Validation for the nation! Now, I don't know if all mainland European countries do this just to confuse the heck out of us poor old brits (Italy does it as well), but after buying a train or bus ticket, you must ensure you 'validate' it before stepping onto either public transport. Don't ask me why they do this, I thought that if you've bought a bus or train ticket, the ticket would be proof enough that you've paid your fare and are able to ride the public transport of love...but no.

So remember to validate your tickets before going on public transport in Berlin, otherwise you may incur a penalty charge or just get thrown off the train/bus, which no one wants.

(Side note, on some buses, you will need to validate your ticket as you get on the bus, so if you see no validation machine, do not panic!)

Sprechen sie deutsch? If you’re anything like me and know zero German, I would strongly advise that you dust off  your old GCSE German phrase book and have a little go at it; you’ll thank me for it when you're there. I didn't encounter many English speaking people whilst I was in Berlin, so when we were lost or needed help, I became a well versed mime artist!

Invest in a travel guide: If you don't do this already when visiting a new country, why the heck not? DK Eyewitness travel guides are probably the best around and are pocket size, information overloads! Most of them 
include phrase books, maps, popular tourist destinations, a wealth of information on historical sites, hotel and restaurant suggestions and street names. Basically, all the essential information any tourist would need. You can grab them relatively cheap on Amazon too.

Weather: Berlin supposedly has similar weather to what we have in England, but I would like to disagree. Do not let these photos fool you of my friend walking around in shorts and a small leather jacket, Caroline was not prepared in anyway for how cold it was and trust me, it was arctic! If you're going in the Autumn/Winter months, be prepared! The weatherman is lying, it's absolutely freezing over there!  

I hope you enjoyed my little Berlin Blog, below are a few more instances of photographic evidence that I walked around a cold German capital for a few days!

I know, I'm being immature, but ha! Free Willy!


Come again? How am I pronouncing that bottom one?

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