Here is a long, long overdue retelling of my spontaneous visit to Berlin to see Vicky. I was only there for two days, from the 14th to the 16th of January, but we managed to pack so much into that time that I came away feeling absolutely shattered!
So, for starters, I feel like I should give a shout out to myself for organising my own travel and successfully catching a plane with next to no supervision. I got my timings spot on, caught all the right trains, didn’t forget my passport – and had more than enough time to peruse duty free before the gates opened (if I’m remembering correctly I opted for a Boots meal deal, my plane boarded from gate 2 and the flight was delayed by about 15 minutes).
My flights there and back were both really pleasant. I got window seats both ways, the gent next to me on the way out fell asleep almost immediately after take off, on the way home I got a double seat to myself and there wasn’t a single bit of turbulence on either journey. The more and more planes are good to me, the more and more I’m starting to actually enjoy flying.
Victoria met me on the other side and we caught the bus and S-Bahn (? I think) over to her neck of the woods, Friedrichshain (thank you, Google, for helping with the spelling). On first impressions, I was really surprised at how dated everything looked in Berlin – the buildings, road signs, even the trains and buses. I learned that this is all to do with Berlin’s economic standing while trying to rebuild the city after the Berlin Wall was brought down. While other European capitals, like London and Paris, have been able to build on their pre-existing wealth (read as: becoming bloody expensive places to live), Berlin has had to focus more on its reinvention.
I learned so many other little bits of trivia via experience in Berlin, thanks to Vicky and her expertise – the cool fact about east Berlin’s crossing men, the Ampelmännchen (the fact that they’ve only got the funky lil hats on the eastern side, and that they’ve survived reunification where they were in danger of losing their hats to the more generic Western crossing men. They’re now a bit of a German icon. It’s all to do with the West being the more built-up, businessy side, while the East was a hive of culture and creativity. I think.) I also learned that in Berlin it’s totally cool to drink a beer on public transport – so cool, in fact, that there was a little counter in the offy with a bottle opener attached.
For two days we managed to cover a lot of the touristy bits. Most of the more popular ‘things to do’ in Berlin only really require walking past and having a look. Amongst other things, we stood (and took an attrocious selfie – see left) under the Brandenburg Gate, we ventured up the Reichstag, we walked along the ‘no man’s land’ which would’ve been between the two sides of the wall, marked by some pretty prison-like metal poles, and on the morning before my flight home we walked the length of the East Side gallery. Something I think gives Berlin it’s own kind of charm is the city’s tacit appreciation of graffiti. It’s everywhere, really fits with Berlin’s slightly worn vibe and is a million miles from my hometown’s approach to street art – which is hastily sprayed over by the council and dubbed anti-social.
As well as indulging my inner tourist, I also got to experience Berlin from a student’s perspective – Vicky took me to her favourite Indonesian restaurant on my first night, which we then followed with drinks at a really cosy bar with some of her year abroad friends. We hopped on and off trains and buses with little panic or map-fumbling, and I felt so at home in her flat (the coolest flat I’ve ever been in, by the way) that it was nice to just chill there and not feel the urge to be squeezing as much as we could into every last minute of the day.
It’s only a shame I couldn’t have stayed for longer, but I’m so glad I made the fast decision to book my flights on a lonely night at home. (Also a lovely excuse to see one of my oldest and dearest friends!)
Until next time,