Back in August I went to Berlin. Now although I’d been to places in Europe before on family holidays, ‘lads holidays’, a stag do and skiing I’d never found myself on a city break. At the time I was in regular contact with a girl I’ve known for a length of time somewhere between a year and two years. My memory is really poor so it’s difficult to pinpoint the day she “accidentally” super liked me on Tinder but that doesn’t really matter. For one reason or another me and Laura go through spells of talking and then not talking. Anyhow, she’s a really good person to have in my life and I do think an awful lot of her so when she invited me to tag along on her solo trip to Berlin (she loves Germany & solo trips away) I was more than happy to. I threw caution to the wind, booked on the trip and waited impatiently to get there.
The day finally came and after the usual airport security process (and Laura choosing a horrific sandwich in WH Smith – egg and cress or something like that) we were off! We landed in Berlin Schönefield airport a few hours later and our trip had officially begun! I let Laura lead the way on this one as so to give her a bit more of a sense of importance…It had nothing to do with the fact I’d have been lost without her. We got a train from the airport to Berlin which took around 25 minutes. Trains in Berlin are pretty different to the ones we have in the UK. Some of them have two floors to start with. Like a double decker bus, but a train. They’re also generally cleaner and more aesthetically pleasing. I’m used to the bin shed trains northern rail supply that often stink of piss and have seats dustier than a nun’s… you get the point. Quick navigation from the train station to the hotel with help from google maps and Bob’s your uncle, we’ve checked in and freshened up.
It was late afternoon, around 4:30pm and we were both pretty hungry so we set off looking for food. We walked up the road about 20 minutes. I was trying to take everything in but I was just thinking about food by this point. One thing that is weird about Berlin, and I’m assuming the rest of Germany, is that people only cross the road when they’re told to by their little white man (not a green man like the UK). Even when the road is clear they won’t cross if that man isn’t showing. I was happy to go along with this but Laura was a little more impatient and just decided to go. We found a place to eat and ordered two beers. They came in those big glasses we call steins in the UK. I forgot what they’re called in Germany but it was a litre of beer anyway. We then both opted to order the pork knuckle to eat. Laura ordered a half and me, being greedy, ordered a full one. They don’t look appealing in the slightest but I can assure you it was fantastic.
I couldn’t possibly manage to eat it all but I gave it a good go. Feeling full we made our way to Checkpoint Charlie; the name given by western allies to the best-known crossing point of the Berlin Wall. It was pretty busy but that didn’t put me off. It was the first bit of real history I’d seen in person, ever, so I was keen to soak it all up. Now I’ve never claimed to be clued up when it comes to wars but I knew a little bit and I’m open to learning more. Checkpoint Charlie became a symbol of the Cold War, representing the separation of East & West Germany. It’s location now as a tourist attraction is different to where it was actually located but I tried not to focus on that. There were three checkpoints (A, B & C) but Checkpoint C (Charlie) is most famous because it was the only place diplomatic personnel, non-German visitors and American military could cross into East Germany.
There was a Berlin Wall museum near by so after taking a few standard tourist pictures we moved on to there. You’d be pretty stupid to go to Berlin and not see the Berlin Wall. It’s such a big part of history and I was really excited, for lack of a better word. It was crazy to see it up close. Unlike it’s East Side Gallery counterpart, this Wall was relatively free of graffiti and still looked as raw as you’d expect it to have been. Grey in colour. Great in stature. Clear signs of ageing. It was hard not to imagine the Germans back then standing near it, shouting over to the other sides, longing to bring the Wall down. We walked the length of the wall and read the accompanying bits of text detailing facts about its construction.
After the museum we headed back as we were pretty tired. We found a bar near the hotel and had a few pints before getting to bed, ready for the following day of being top tourists.
We got up at around 8 to have a shower and get sorted for the day ahead. It was really warm out. About 25C. We walked for about 45 minutes to the East Side Gallery which is the East Side (obviously) of the Berlin Wall in which they’ve had artists paint murals to spark thought about freedom, the segregation & Cold War amongst other things. It’s hard to describe it in any other way. It stretches quite far, I’d say a mile long. So we walked the length, taking photos of the murals we liked and soaking in the sun rays as well as the messages the gallery sets out to send.
We eventually walked back. I was starting to burn actually because I didn’t think I needed to apply suncream. En route back to the city centre we stopped in a little coffee shop that was Ramones themed; it was really quirky. Laura had some really pretentious home made flavoured tea whilst I had some water. We both had a savoury croissant. That was pretentious too BUT I really enjoyed it actually so I can’t knock it too much.
We continued our stroll to the city centre to see the rest of the standard tourist sites (Berlin Cathedral, Brandenburg Gate, Reichstag Building etc). We would then come to what I thought was the best bit of our trip and that was the Memorial to the Murdered Jews of Europe. It was surreal. It consists of 2,711 concrete slabs that are arranged in a grid. The ground they’re on is a sloping field so as you walk nearer to the centre of the memorial the slabs grow taller. It becomes really intimidating and I did lose Laura at this point because I thought it would be amusing to sneak off. I took a photo anyway which I thought was cool and the time alone gave me chance to really think about the atrocity the holocaust was and it felt a little eery after a while.
We bought some cookies from a Subway nearby after this and then fell asleep in the park for a while which was nice. Once we came to we headed back. This was our only full day in Berlin so we wanted to cram as much in as possible. After a quick shower and wardrobe change we went back to the bar from the previous night, had a bit of food, some more beers, reflected on the trip and retired for the night.
We spent the last half a day chilling and eating. We were quite tired to be honest; a combination of sun and lots of walking. We got the train back to airport, this time sitting on the top deck, and waited for our flight. We didn’t even have seats together on the plane. We arrived in Manchester and caught the train home together. We get off at different stops so after saying our brief goodbyes we parted ways and we’ve not seen each other since.