What is transportation but a means to arrive at a destination,
but can it be more? Can it be the destination or at least become part of it?
Feeling the air brush your face for the first time as you step from its threshold,
the travelling companion by your side each step of the way,
you are never alone.
“How often when we are comfortable, we begin to long for something new! ” ― Jacob Grimm
Time moves swiftly and we have already finished with Copenhagen. Next stop Berlin!
Its early in the morning but the sun has already started its day. Our first train ride awaits us. Having scouted the whereabouts of the train station already we had no trouble finding it again. The train itself is comfortable with plug sockets available overhead. The large windows gave way to wonderful views ahead. It is aesthetically similar to most trains with its seats facing the back of another with every few facing each other with a small rectangular table in the centre. So many backpackers move along the aisles looking for their seats with far more extreme travelling rucksacks than ours. Some even have one rucksack reaching heights above their heads and another dwarfing it wrapped around their front. I study them all while they take their seats before reverting my attention to the landscape just outside the window.
The countryside between Copenhagen and the German border is beautiful. We pass forests dense with greenery and hidden wildlife. As the train travels on the scene changes to wind farms covering the earth like giant daisies moving in the wind to cows lazily chewing grass in their mouths who’s head follow to the train as it passes. A lakes water sparkle and reflect the suns raze onto my face and onto the homes that lay at its edge.
The face of someone who is tired of boating.
Overall it was a pleasant and average journey, well it was “average” until we arrived at the Femer Bælt a strait that connects the Bay of Kiel and the Bay of Mecklenburg. As we travel left of the sea’s edge I sit wondering whether we would be travelling along the coast for the rest of the journey. Moments later my question was answered. The train began to reduce its speed. The natural light gave way to the synthetic and the train with all of its occupants slither into the mouth of a ferry. An apparent everyday occurrence for most travelling with us but for us, it was fascinatingly new. We travel across the Femer Bælt now on the ferries back towards Germany’s borders. We climb the stairs and the closer we get to the top the stronger the scent of sea air becomes. Stepping out onto the deck my eyes are dazed by the strength of the light. When my eyes adjust I see a blue sky and the sun shining down on everyone from the train even the dogs sat on the outer deck enjoying the weather.
Our Hostel was the Meininger Hotel Berlin Hauptbahnhof. It’s a pretty standard Hostel. Our room was small clean and functional with no wifi. The wifi was only available on the ground floor unless you wished to pay extra to have it in your room. A small bar was located to the left of the reception near to the dining area and a small section where you wash your clothes or cook a basic meal. The staff were really friendly and helpful. One explained to us how the metro system worked and which to take into town. The Hostel provided a paper map that had small replica images of different historical sites. Overall it was elemental but suited our needs. It was number one: Cheap and number two: close to public transport and the train station.
The way I would describe the Berlin Metro system is a treasure map that you need at least three people to decipher. It could also be described as the next level of a game quest. Copenhagen’s metro system was level one (beginner mode) and Berlin’s is Level two (expert). As three we became one badass gamer and made it past level two with bonus points. The U bahn and S bahn lines and all the numerous tracks connecting these lines make its map look like a spider web that you will never escape. Scanning the metro map is a little overwhelming especially when you add in the place names and descriptions in a language that your understanding is limited in. I’m making it sound awful but it as actually a fun experience trying to figure out the puzzle and reaching your destination. I felt like we had accomplished some sort of travelling milestone.
We exit the underground and look at the name of the metro station and then huddle around our map. The names match, smiles cover our faces. Cue the inspirational breakfast club music, we jump into the air raising our fist in triumph.
It took the two days for us to get to grips with it but it took until the end of our travels in Europe to realise we only needed to pay by direction and not every time you get on another connection, yep don’t make the same mistake folks.
We managed to meet up with two friends who were living in Berlin for the summer. We met them at a local bar near where they were staying. Berlin is a city that doesn’t sleep or at least sleeps when it feels like it. It’s bar’s don’t have a specific closing time or at least that’s how it seemed. At nights end and mornings beginning we found ourselves in a sports bar till 5 am. The bartender and his two friends were the only souls inside its walls. In order to be served one of the men at the bar had to wake the sleeping man in the corner and convince him to get up and attend the bar. After he sluggishly put on his shoes he served us beer and nothing else. We sat and chatted to his friends who poured out stick pretzels in bowls for us. We moved to tables outside so that the smokers of our little party could inhale nicotine and release the smoke into the air. Three men approached not long after we ventured outside. They came to our table and requested a cigarette which my friends obliged. One of the men told us he was related to Antonio Banderas while his kleptomaniac friend tried to visibly steal my friend’s purse from our table. Mr Banderases relation who wore a dark red suit apologised for his friend and left us to ourselves but only after he was told to move on. Not something you would witness on an average day. My thoughts so far are Berlin you are different.
The temperature was in the 40’s (degrees not Fahrenheit) and the humidity was so high it was as if someone was trying to force me down by my shoulders into the cement under my feet. Brain dead from the heat and hungry we slump into Vapiano a self-service restaurant near the TV Tower. We enter and are handed a card that you return to use as our bill. All three of us drag ourselves upstairs into a large open room full of bar tables and numerous food stations. I stood investigating the menu’s and moving from queue to queue I tried to figure what was on offer. With the confusion of the language, the heat and how tired I was from the night before (also adding that I get stressed when there are too many food options) this was all too much for my brain to handle. We returned to the front counter and hand over our unused food cards, leave the building and go to a bar nearby called Caram bar. The bar is modern with a red-themed colour scheme outside. We sit outside under large umbrellas and sift through the standard menu, perfect simplicity for our tired brains. The girls got pasta and salad and I got the soup. It was all pretty tasty and gave us the kick we needed for the day ahead. Brains re-energized and ready to see all there is to see in Berlin we went on our way. I definitely want to revisit Vapiano though when I next return to Berlin because the food did look extremely appetizing and it is all prepared in front of you which can only add to its appeal.
After feeding and watering we walk past the giant Scepter towards the chain of bus tour sales reps in their brightly coloured t-shirts and matching shorts. Each tries to persuade us to use their bus but we choose the cheapest of course. But before we hand over our cash one of my fellow companions suddenly realises that she has left her purse in the bar. We race back to retrieve her belongings. The table which we so recently dinned, the floor surrounding it and even the waiter’s cupboard was searched through thoroughly. A waiter drifts over to the scene. My companion relays the same question asked of everyone else working in the bar. He then reaches inside his apron, we hold our breath. A small black purse emerges from inside the apron pocket. In her flash of joy my companion embraces him excitedly and begins thanking him. We leave the bar with slower heartbeats and make our way back to the waiting brightly coloured t-shirts waiting to take our money.
Carrying around a purse with all your funds and or bank cards inside is a bad idea when travelling around cities full of people willing to take all your cash off you. The post office has now created a post office card that can be used as a debit card but has limited funds and no connection to your bank. If it is lost or stolen you can cancel it without losing a lot more then if your debit card was stolen. There are plenty of these types of cards to choose from. Something to think about before you start travelling. Anyway back to the bus tours. Every bus tour pretty much does the same route so if you go cheaper it doesn’t mean you get less.
We step onto the red double Decker city sightseeing bus. I dip my hands into the box of red earphones and hike up to the open top and seat myself on a red seat (I feel like there might be a reoccurring colour scheme here). The other two follow and the tour soon begins. There are a few different language options on the handsets. I choose English but from time to time I switch between channels to hear what English words sound like in other languages. 历史 (History) sounds like Leeshai if you say it phonetically or the French word for Parliament “Parlement” sounds more like Parlemon (or so it sounds to me).
The bus ticket allows you to hop on and off at you lesser for a maximum of two days where you can travel by many historical and political locations hopping from where you choose to. Some of the sights you will see include the German Bundestag, The Brandenburg Gate, The victory Column inside Tiergarten (Berlins largest inner city park), Checkpoint Charlie, The Jewish memorial and the Berlin wall museum.
We never ended up reaching the top of the tower. The queue was monstrous and we decided that there where better ways to spend our limited time. Also, it cost 13 euro for a view and I feel views should be free.
At Checkpoint Charlie there is a free outdoor museum that displays photography from when the wall was active and it also included fragments of the wall itself. These fragments were covered in different colours from the moments of its demolishment. Every chip a scar of time, every colour an emotion embedded into the brick.
I wonder if they were asked “How much” so many times they felt the sign was necessary or they predicted the question before it was asked. Either way, it says a lot about society don’t you think?
I am suffering from the heat in this photo, my face a shade of red only witnessed from an electric stove.
I experienced an unexpected emotion when visiting the Jewish memorial. When first entering its allies, I like every other tourist took touristic shots of myself and my companions around its corners. But when I studied my surroundings I began to feel a moment of shame. I watched as two men raced their children in buggies through its winding pathways and people climbed its back to reach above the shadows positioning themselves for the perfect stylistic shot which they will probably post to their Facebook or Instagram. Is this not meant to be a place of respect? or has all historical points become just another place to take a selfie. I hope at least somewhere there merely for the curiosity and exploration of history. I myself will try to put down the camera and just live in the moment instead of living down the lens.
Ampelmännchen (little traffic light men) are pedestrian signals in the former communist section of East Germany. I didn’t know much about it until the curiosity behind these men wearing hats made me research a little more. You can buy their image in every tourist trap located in Berlin.
This section of the wall had more impact on me than any of the others dotted around the city. It looked closer to how I imaged it would when it was in full force, a dominant creature stretching its arms in front of its trapped souls. I was an inferior force covered by the Colossal shadow. Everyone walked silently around the museum below. This was truly a place trapped in a historical event,
What else would you do after a long day of exploring and a long night of bar hopping and drinking by the river? Well, I know what would and did do. I chomped down on a burger from one of the best burger joints/renovated public toilets in Berlin. Burgermeister is a small take away burger place in Berlin and is on the webs top burger places to visit. The burgers are pretty tasty and the staff are chatty and friendly. Why don’t you try it out yourself and make your own decision to whether it deserves its title.
Two days just isn’t enough time to see everything Berlin has to offer so I am just going to have to revisit it’s again and maybe add in a few other German cities to my visit.
Hope you enjoyed the read.