Bratwurst City and to many Christmas markets to mention.

Berlin Travel Blog

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For some reason Berlin never really appealed to me. I just imagined it to be quiet gray and gloomy as is the stereo type of many European city's. I was trying to get from Edinburgh to Krakow in Poland, to visit friends for Christmas and new years. And I could find no flights for under around 170 pounds. So I decided to catch a cheap flight to Berlin and go by train the rest of the way. Doing it this way would actually save me quite a bit of money.

Then I thought if I'm going to Berlin I should probably spend a few days there anyway.

My flight to Berlin was at 6.20 in the morning, so I left for Edinburgh airport around 4.
The directions.
00am. One of my friends from Edinburgh Rach, had decided to come on the trip to Berlin with me. And the more the merrier I always reckon.  

I thought it wasn't possible to find a travel buddy as unorganised as me but I think I found that person. We both managed to check in online, but that was as organised as we got. Laughing to ourselves that now we wouldn't have to cue for 30min at the gate and we could breeze through security straight to the departure lounge. But ofcorse the printer decided not to work. And at 10pm in Edinburgh there is not much chance of finding a place to print the tickets at that hour. We should have probably wrote down the directions,name and reservation number of our hostel also. But no we just decided to meet up around 3.45am and see what happens.
The I hate to admit but I have no idea where we are face.

I didn't get any sleep that night I never do the night before I go travelling. And we caught a taxi to the airport. I was just hoping at check in they would be nice and wave the 8 pound fee that they charge if you book in online but don't have your ticket with you. So we had to make up some excuse. I didn't want to use the printer wasn't working because everyone would probably use that one. And the check in staff were probably sick of hearing it. So even though the printer wasn't working I decided to go with we left our papers in the taxi. Which I figured would be the third most common excuse behind, I was in a rush and left them at home. And it worked.

At 8 something o'clock we arrived in Berlin. Now the fun was to begin. Getting through customs and passport check was quite straight forward.
Now I just had to rely on my gut instincts that Germany a modern developed city would have some sort of airport express service that would take us into the centre. And that at the tourist information they are all fluent in English.

So after cringing and seeing my hard earned pounds go almost one for one with the Euro, it was of to the tourist information. I knew upon approach that the lady sitting there wasn't going to be happy. From experience I knew the German people were a generally well organised and systematic nation and they just wouldn't be able to understand how two people could be so unorganised.

 Every time I visit Germany I always wish I had paid attention at school when we had German class. But in Australia when your 13 years old learning German.
Most of us thought Why, I'm never going to need Germanwhats the point. Well I wish I had paid attention as German would have come in very handy a few times now.

But anyway back to my story, armed with the four words of German i could remember at the time. Which were Good morning, Good bye, thank you and cheers. I nervously went to the information desk and said Good morning(In german) Then she responded, I'm not sure exactly what she said, it was probably something like "good morning how can I help you".  And then Its the travellers worst time. That pause after you don't understand a word that has been said, and you say sorry dooo yooo speak English. And then they give you the Bloody English tourists look and say yes. So anyway after a few mints a few crosses drawn onto the free tourist map and a few train numbers and train stations scribbled onto a post it.
Mmmmmmmm Bratwurst....
We were on our way.. I still didn't have much idea where we were going. As she was quite grumpy with us, and I wasn't game to ask her to repeat what she had just said. Thankfully we got all day tickets which are quite good value for around 6 euro because we were gong to need them. 

We got to the right platform for the airport express to the city, and according to the map and the timetable on the wall the train was only going in one direction and that was to Berlin. So we got on the train that was waiting at the platform expecting to be in the centre and exploring in around 25 min.  But after 30min I started to relies something wasn't quite right as the scenery was becoming more rural, with lots of small lakes and fields with cows. And there was no sign of suburbia.
Thank god a lady sitting across from us could see that confused as hell look on my face as I was looking at the map. And kindly directed us in the right direction. And after only an hour and a half we were in Berlin central. One more train connection and we would be at the hostel.

And and in true form we got on the right train, but yes it was going in the wrong direction. But we picked up our mistake early and got for at the next stop. City trains go every 3 min in Berlin so in no time we were on the next train and going in the right direction. As we were going up the steps of the underground I just jokingly imagined that that it would be good if the hostel was at the top of the steps, with golden gates in the mist and angels singing like we imagine heaven to be.
And to our surprise there it was St Christophers hostel at the top of the steps. Right next to the station. The best luck we had had all day. Not to bad going it only took as 3 hours to find the hostel and check inn. But it was still another 3 hours till we go go to our rooms. So we put our bags in storage and decided to do a bit of exploring of the city.

The main reason we were both a little excited about Berlin was we both liked Christmas. And Berlin was supposed to have lots and lots of Christmas markets. The hostel is well situated in Berlin, near Alexanderplatz which was good because the Berlin TV Tower which was built in 1969 by the East German government as a demonstration of its superior technological know-how was there. Wow I actually sound like a traveller who know what he's talking about in that last sentence.
But I really had no idea what it was  until I checked it out on wikipedia moments ago. And while I'm on this knowledge eye opener also on November 4th 1989, around 700,000 East Berliners gathered at Alexanderplatz to rally against the GDR government.  The Berlin Wall came down five days later. So I guess this is quite a monumental place in German history. But anyway history buffs back to my story.

This TV tower was good because no matter how lost we go you could see this tower from nearly anywhere in the city, so we always knew what direction to walk home. Yes I hear you say why don't you just buy a tourist map. Well firstly I don't believe in maps, you find and see so much more cooler stuff with out one, and even if it is not what you expected your so overjoyed to finally find it you don't care if its crappy.
And secondly I have to much stubborn male pride.  Yes I know I should ask that local for directions, but its a guy thing that women will never understand. To try put in context maybe its like I don't understand why women will shell out so much money for a pair of shoes or something when they already have 10 perfectly good pairs pairs at home. But to be honest I was surprised throughout the two days that Rach seem to not mind this renegade way of travel or maybe it was just so cold and her jaw was frozen shut so she couldn't complain. 

Anyway it  wasn't to long until we found our first Christmas market. In Alexanderplatz. I was in heaven as I was surrounded by gluevine( A warm Christmas wine) and bratwursts and all sorts of other traditional German food.
And Rach well flashing christmas tree lights at home impress her, so imagine what a Christmas market lit up like, well um a Christmas tree did. We were both very hungry so without any hesitation we began sampling the food. One of my main objectives of the trip was to find out what was better a bratwurst or a currywurst which had been recommend to me but I didn't see any signs of currywurst at this market. So after about a hour of wandering around this market we decided to move on. I'm also a sucker for flashing lights and Berlin streets can be long and straight. So basically if we saw flashing lights in the distance that is where we would head.

It wasn't to long before we found another Christmas market, wasn't quite as big as the one in  Alexanderplatz but the good 10 minutes it took me to walk there was reason enough for some refuling and what better way to refule than with the all elusive currywurst.
Was a little disappointed though it wasn't the taste sensation I was expecting. It was basically just a bratwurst cut into pieces and sprinkled with curry powder. I thought there would be a bit more passion and mystique into the initial creation. Something like the bratwurst was seasoned for 10 days with only the  rarest and finest exotic spices, hand picked by monks from the highest peaks of Asia. Yes I have high expectations for 2 euros.  But not even the currywurst could boost our energy levels. So we decided to head back to the hostel for a wee nap.

As we walked back to the hostel one last market caught our attention, it was quite big and it had a fairest wheel. Also a ice skating rink and a few other cool things. But not sure on the name of the market but all these markets I've been talking about were within about a 1 and a half kilometre radius of the TV tower.
MMMMMMM chocolate...
We noticed a few other markets around but our tired and weary legs could walk no further.

As soon as my head hit the pillow back a the hostel I think I fell asleep. And what was supposed to be quick nap ended up being about 5 hours. So at about 7pm we woke and went down to check out the bar and food in the hostel. I also stayed in the St Christophers in Amsterdam. And I recommend them both. Good value great range of facility's, safe, clean and they they both have a really good bar with good value food and drink.

So after dinner, we joined tables with a couple of other backpackers from Australia. They had been playing drinking games all afternoon so there were already quite on there way by the time we joined the fun. Wasn't quite sure of the name of the game we were playing but it had something to do with kings were the card to avoid.
So the idea of the game was to put all the cards face down. And every card you picked up had a different rule, example if you picked up a two you take two sips of drink, three three sips a jack might be truth or dare and if you drew a king you had to drink the mystrie drink in the middle. You get the idea. As the night wore on it got towards midnight and the drink promotion was about to end. So we ended up buying a crate of carlsberg that should be enough to see the night off. I should have known, but after 10 minutes the other two Aussies were totally gone. As they stumbled of to bed I was left with a good 15 bottles which I didn't plan on drinking but I didn't want to waste them and Rach didn't drink beer. Such a dilemma.  For the past 2 months I had been working day and night so this was my first chance to relax and unwind for a while.
So over the next 3 hours I think I told poor Rach my life story. And about 3ish im not sure.  We stumbled of to our beds. Ok I stumbled of to my bed. I was quite lucky Rach was the head of reason that night as I was determined to finish the night of at the casino.

Day 2,

I woke up surprisingly refreshed and early, well 10am but for me that's early. And without further ado we were out of the hostel as we had a lot of exploring of the city to do.

We didn't really know what we wanted to see. The Berlin wall of course, but I hate to admit it but that was about all we knew of in Berlin.
Our first objective was to find some brunch. We thought we would try and be a little civilised and have a nice meal in some sort of restaurant.
After walking past a few we went into one that looked kind of reasonably priced, but on sitting down and the waiter giving us the menu and a strange look, we could see this was not the restaurant for us. The first clue was there was well...It was full of very  kinda camp men and secondly it wasn't quite budget pub grub we were looking for .  So we pretended to look interested in the menu, until the waiter went to serve another table, and we quickly slipped out the door.

 But it wasn't to long before we stumbled onto another Christmas market and I got my morning bratwurst fix. Rach on the other being the girly girl had caught the scent of chocolate. She had done well to last this long but I guess it was inevitable. Luckily for me she wears a bright red coat.
And as my nose wasn't as well refined to follow the scent of chocolate I soon found her in line for a crape, smeared in Nutella. I knew it must have been a good crape, just the look on her as her face as her eyes began to dilate with just the smell, then after the first bite you see that chocolate rush hit like a shot of adrenalin. So with our hunger temporarily satisfied it was time to begin exploring.

We had all day travel tickets, so our plan was to just to hop on random trams and buses until we saw something interesting and explore.
We got on a tram and at the next decent sized station we got off. I wish I kept a better travel journal and actually wrote down names of places. As yes we found another Christmas market. And now I'm starting to get really confused in which order events now took place.
The markets, which are all unique yet all seen kind of the same. So I think from this market we walked down a quite a nice river or canal to another market. Where there was quite an interesting stall which was selling cup cakes. But not little cupcakes with icing and sprinkles on top. These were a German version which seemed to be a pack of scotch finger biscuits dipped in chocolate and moulded into a huge ball. At this market I also saw another interesting thing. It was a portable  ATM mini truck thing. It was quite tempting as I just wondered how my life would be if I got away with the heist. Imagining I would be sitting back in my deck chair on a tropical beach. With an ice cold beverage by my side. Ok time to wake up again.

From wherever we were, we jumped on a bus, it was a good choice as it turned out.
It took us right to The Brandenburg Gate. Thiss is where many of the most defining moments in German and world history took place. In 1987, President Ronald Regan delivered his now famous speech "Mr. Gorbachev - Tear down this wall!"

It was where I also got one of my most interesting souvenirs. There was as in every landmark I have ever visited an opportunist trying to get a little bit of the tourist money. But this guy was quite good. He was dresses as a communist Russian soldier. And had created his own little check point. He had German, British, French Russian and US visa stamps from back in the day and real Visa papers that would allow you to cross from East to West or vice versa during the cold war. He told quite a good story about the history of the place and was very helpful.
Then he would stamp your visa and check your photo and stamp your passport. Then you could freely cross from east to west. As I said it was quite an entertaining set up. And it only cost a few euros.

From here we had been told to go left at the gate if we wanted to find some of the Berlin wall. And after 5 minutes of walking led us to our next interesting find. At first we just thought it was some abstract piece of art. It was a lot of different sized blocks in rows, the size of a few football fields. And we thought it was fun to jump from  one to another like stepping stones.  But eventually we found a plaque which explained what it all was.   The Holocaust Memorial.  And came to relies it was large and powerful tribute to the millions of Jews murdered by the Nazis.

 It was quite cold so we stopped for a quick hot chocolate to get a bit of warmth into our feet and continued the journey.

10 minutes up the road we finally found some of the Berlin wall. It wasn't the best part of the wall but it was still very interesting. I have a very warped sense of humour at the best of times and though it would be funny to jump back and forth from east to west side of the wall. But I have never said I plan to grow up yet. I'm pretty sure after looking at other blogs we were at a place called Potsdamer Platz, it was Berlin's commercial and entertainment centre prior to World War II, however, the area was devastated by bombing.  In 1961 when the Berlin Wall was erected, the wall passed directly through the centre of Potsdamer Platz.

Across the road from Potsdamer is the Kurfurstendamm it is the main commercial street in the Chalottenburg district of Berlin. Of course there was a  market there with a cool little snow slide which you go down on a tube. It was quite fun. Don't think I had ever heard a girl scream so much going down that short little run. But I think we found a new contender. If you like shopping, restaurants, theatre and entertainment I think this is a great part of Berlin to visit.

From there we pushed on with our weary little legs. We ended up on a very long street somewhere. At the end of this street which was well over 1 and a half km we could see some quite bright lights. And as stunned rabbits looking into headlights, we began walking towards the light.
Turned out to be checkpoint Charlie which was another crossing from East to west. I thought it was named after some guy called Charlie, maybe a war hero or a super spy, but was later disappointed to find out it was just named after the letter C  in the NATO phonetic alphabet. Somewhere in Berlin there was also a check point Alpha and check point Bravo. I think my version of how the check point came to be named was better.

Anyway it was getting late and thought it would be a good time to start heading home .  Not sure how we managed it, but we had walked in one huge circle. Like a boomarang.  We checked out our last market. It was quite a busy one and the first one we had to pay an entry fee. It was next to an opera house or something and it had live performances every hour.
  It was ok but very crowded and took quite a while to get from a to b. I think it was called Weihnachts Zaber Gendarmenmarkt.

 We were only one tram stop from home. And we actually got on the tram going the right way this time. So after a midnight kebab our two day adventure had come to an end.  And I will definitely be coming back to Berlin.

So at 8  the next morning it was time for me to check out and head to the station for my 10 and something hour trip to Krakow. Which almost didn't happen as I got very confused and got on the wrong train to Hamburg. I just figured the announcement was saying this was the next train to Krakow, it was actually saying something like all trains are delayed 10 mints.
Just as I realised this as the doors locked and the train left the station. But luckily a nice German came to my rescue and by luck the two trains were on the same path for a couple of stations. And to my relief I was again on my way to Krakow.

And for Rach, well she left for the airport about a hour before I left the hostel. She thought it would be funny to steal my tooth brush, she has a wacky sense of humour also.  Apparently she got quite lost at the train station but just made the flight in time. And after 6 failed marriages she now lives alone with her cats for company. 


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The directions.
The directions.
The I hate to admit but I have no …
The I hate to admit but I have no…
Mmmmmmmm Bratwurst....
Mmmmmmmm Bratwurst....
MMMMMMM chocolate...
MMMMMMM chocolate...
MMMM foood....
MMMM foood....
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photo by: CFD