Berlin trip: a different experience part 1
For most travellers Berlin is the history, the Berlin wall, the quirky night life and the alternative life style you experience for a few days.
For me, Berlin was a different experience: sleep deprivation, hunger and a porn star maniac. How did that happen? Pretty easy, let me explain.
The day me and my friend left Manchester we only slept for 2 hours as our plane left at 7 am and had to do some last minute packing as well. Got to the airport but confused the terminals so had to do a sprint from Terminal 2 to Terminal 1. Not easy when you have a 16 kg backpack attached to you.
Tip for first time backpackers: If you are used to travelling with a suitcase and thinking of getting a backpack make sure it is right for YOU. Too big and you’ll carry too much weight and hurt your back, too small and you’ll never fit the things you need in it. For expert advice on choosing the right backpack from Nomadic Matt here. READ IT!
From Berlin’s main train station our plan was to visit Potsdam as well, as we bought the Berlin Welcome card.
Tip: There are several options for using the card depending on how much time you plan to spend in the city. I got the 5 day option for 36 Euros which included discounts to museums, restaurants, etc. plus free transport all over Berlin and Potsdam, fair deal in my opinion. There is also a 3 day card for 27 Euros.
Potsdam had nothing that we expected: we wanted to do a cycle tour but it wasn’t the season so we couldn’t rent one, we wanted to visit the museum but only one flour was open with 4 paintings in it. The Film Museum was under construction and then we got lost on our way to see the Sanssouci Palace.
Tip: If you plan to visit Potsdam check what will be open at the time of visiting as I personally discovered most things are closed at the beginning of Spring so it might be worth going in late Spring or Summer to see the best places there.
With a few hours left to go back to Berlin to meet our friend who was our host for 2 nights, we decided we needed to do some work as well and went to find a coffee shop/restaurant with free Wi-Fi.
We struggled to find one but eventually found Dein Alex with 1h free Wi-Fi and some pretty good food options: spicy BBQ Nachos with sour cream and salsa for € 3.50 and a fruity tomato soup (pesto with sun-drenched tomatoes, sour cream and baguette) for € 4.10. Got a pretty good Ice Coffee as well and some emails sent. Time to go back to Berlin!
Wilkommen in Berlin
Got to Berlin Hauptbahnhof safely and easily. Had to meet our friend at ICC Messe Berlin where ITB – the International Travel Trade Show in Berlin, was held at 7pm. Waited in the cold for 1h and a half cause he had his phone switched off and we didn’t know what else to do or where to go for that matter.
After waiting for a while with no sign of our friend, back we went to Hauptbahnhof to find some internet and along with that maybe find a hostel for the 2 nights within our budget traveller range… I’ve never been happier to see a Starbucks in my whole life. The lady at the counter saw our faces and gave us a coffee for free. That’s how bad we looked. Bless her – that was the best thing that happened on this Berlin trip.
Stranded in the train station
With no free rooms in more than 10 hostels we tried, we started to think about sleeping in the train station as it looked like the only valid option at the time. We were about to give up when we found the Three Little Pigs hostel with 2 free beds and breakfast included for 13 Euros. It was a miracle! We left the station in a hurry, starving and needding a shower and managed to find the place quite easily but my back was really starting to kill me. It was all in vain though as we finally entered the reception only for the guy to say: “I know I told you over the phone we have spare beds, but we don’t anymore”. Was literally about to cry.
Usually, when this happens you always have a Plan B or C. We didn’t. If there is something I learned on this Berlin trip is that whatever you do ALWAYS have a backup plan. Fortunately, Three Little Pigs called City Hostel Berlin and got us a room there.
And yes, this time it was ok but it was already 10pm and we could barely keep our eyes opened. Took our room key went up, took a well-deserved shower and went to find a place to eat and a beer. Plus, we wanted to get to the ITB TweetUp asall the travel bloggers were there which was a meeting organised by iambassador, Traveldudes & the Global Bloggers Network and I’d been looking forward to that all week.
How to get lost in Berlin
If there is something I am a master at when travelling that is getting lost. I managed somehow to get as far away from the hostel as I could. Don’t ask how! I was really living up to the stereotype that women can’t handle directions and maps. My friend should’ve known better than to trust me with the map, we’ve been friends for 6 years, she should’ve known.
Being 11:30 by now we decided to go to Loewenbraeu pub which looked pretty good and some Italians in the street said it had the best beer in the city. Can’t really argue with that when there’s nothing else in sight!
Then just as things started to look better, surprise – surprise! They don’t serve food anymore because it’s too late. So we got some pretzels and a beer and thought this night can’t get any worse. Yeah, I jinxed it. What was I thinking?
Just go to the hostel!
Somehow and I really can’t explain how it all happened we didn’t eat, didn’t get to the TweetUp, and were walking in circles for the past hour because we couldn’t find the street where the hostel was. We gave up at one point and got the cab only for the driver to start laughing at us. Why, you ask? The hostel was two streets behind us and was the only one we didn’t go down it seemed like in the whole of the area.
No more words for the first day in Berlin.
- Always check what you need need before you leave home. Check if the backpack is too heavy and try and travel as light as possible. I know it all seems important at the time but you’ll end up not using half of the stuff you pack.
- Always have a plan B for everything: accommodation, food, transport. Don’t just put your trust in friends.
- Uncap your phone data subscription before leaving the UK. It’s saving you a lot of money in terms of Roaming charges but you’ll have to chase Wi-Fi everywhere and not all places offer free internet.
- As I’m not a big planner when travelling I prefer to just discover things as I go along so I only read a few reviews about the main attractions. So maybe try to check what is open and what is not and reviews on the points you want to see. One, because a review can help you decide if the place is for you or not thus saving some cash along the way for others.
If you think the first day didn’t go so well, wait to see how I managed to find myself in a porn stars apartment, learned about the XXX industry in Germany and saw the Berlin Wall before running away from the city to Prague….. more about this in part 2.