Wednesday, 14 September 2016

Travel | Berlin, Germany


Berlin was my second destination in my interrailing experience. To read my post on my first destination, Amsterdam, click here.

Getting There

After having to get a day train rather than a night train (read our messed up train journey catastrophe on my Amsterdam post), we arrived in Berlin at half 1 in the afternoon. This meant that we were missing out on half of our first day in Berlin. Berlin HBF train station is very modern looking and really big. When we arrived it was very stuffy, muggy and the sun was rather bright! We got a taxi to our hotel which wasn't too far of a journey so the price was rather cheap. However, our taxi driver was a bit odd and kept saying "What the shit!" over and over. When we got near to our hotel the driver realised that the road to our hotel was shut off and guarded by police (we're not sure why) so he had to pull over and let us walk the rest of the distance. Thankfully it was short!


When we booked this hotel we didn't realise it was a 5* until we actually got there! The hotel we stayed in was Hotel Palace Berlin which must have been a very cheap price for a 5* hotel because somehow us 2 travellers with a limited budget could afford it! The place looked so posh that we felt very out of place and were worried we somehow had got the wrong hotel. There was even a bellboy to carry our heavy backpacks to our room and open the door for us every time we left or came in! Our hotel room was also amazing with a big double bed that was a lot comfier than the beds we had in our previous hotel in Amsterdam. Furthermore there was mood lighting that changed colours in the bed frame which we had a giggle at! But our favourite thing about this hotel was probably the spa...there was a swimming pool and hot tub which was open until 10pm each night! We used this each night between 9-10pm and it was so nice to relax and have it to ourselves. The staff were very friendly and overall we just could not stop laughing at how we managed to end up at a posh 5* hotel without even realising. We didn't pay to eat any meals there, we ate out the whole time, so I can't speak for that. Location wise it was right next to a large shopping area as well as very close to bus stops, including the bus stop for our sight seeing bus. I recommend it and would love to go back there. 


Konzerthaus Berlin

Likewise to Amsterdam, we travelled around on a City sightseeing bus. We got a 48 hour ticket and started this on our second day. These are good as a tourist because they take you to all the main landmarks and sights whilst giving you a map and an audio tour. You get to learn a lot about the history and can get picked up near your hotel.

We didn't use any public transport but bikes seem to be popular. Not quite as popular as Amsterdam but it still seems like something you can rent to do.

Things To Do

On our first day we were a bit flustered. Because of our train mishap from Amsterdam to Berlin we had missed half of our first day which we had originally planned to do sightseeing with. We tried to go out after we had gotten to our hotel but it started thundering and raining! So our first day was a bit of a wash out. 

However, our second day we took full advantage of. We hopped on to our Sightseeing Bus and made our way to Brandenburger Tor (also known as Brandenburg Gate) which is a magnificent monument from the 18th century which has played various roles in German history. Afterwards we made our way to the Reichstag building which opened in 1894 and had acted as Parliament. If you studied History Modern World in Britain like I did you will probably remember this building from learning about Nazi Germany! When we were done there we stopped off at the Berlin Wall East Side Gallery. The Berlin Wall closed the border to West Berlin many years ago but now the East Side is covered in beautiful artwork made by artists all over the world; representing freedom. It's definitely one to check out!

On our last day we did some more tourist sightseeing. We travelled to Checkpoint Charlie which was the best known checkpoint for crossing the Berlin Wall between East Berlin and West Berlin during the Cold War. It is a good opportunity for a photo although the fast food logos behind it kind of take away the atmosphere of seeing something famous in German history. To further our knowledge we then went to the Checkpoint Charlie Museum which is next to it where you can learn all about the Cold War and how people attempted to cross the border. If you weren't allowed to cross you could get arrested or even shot so people came up with many creative and imaginative ways to get across! After that we took a little walk and found a large fragment of the Berlin Wall with a large timeline around it explaining the history surrounding it.

Shopping also seems good in Berlin as there was plenty of shops nearby our hotel. They have a H&M and I bought a long t-shirt dress with skeletons on. We didn't go there but KaDeWe wasn't far away which is the largest department store in Europe and has 8 floors. They've got designer brands aplenty as well as 2 floors dedicated to food. If you're a big fan of retail therapy this is certainly one to see.

Food & Drink

On our first evening we went to an Italian restaurant called L'Osteria which was literally just across the road from our hotel. They do HUGE pizzas! Originally we both asked for a pizza each but the waitress warned us how big they are so we decided to go for half a pizza each. I went for the vegetable one and the lady was right, the half size was just enough for us! For pudding we had the amazing ice cream and strawberries above with strawberry sauce. The ice cream was delicious as it was chocolate with white chocolate inside. We liked the restaurant so much we came back here on our last day and had the same meal! It was a fairly cheap price but decent quality food so was excellent for our budgets. 

On our second day for dinner we went to Vapiano which was an interesting new experience for us! Vapiano is again, Italian, and you actually get a card that tracks how much you have to pay. You go upstairs and line up with a tray where you then go up to a chef and tell them what you want and they make it. You get to choose the type of pasta you want, what you want on it and then they cook it right there in front of you. When it's done you place the card on a scanner and it adds the meal to your card. It was pretty cool seeing the chef cook your food and they like to have a friendly chat which was nice! Again, this was a budget friendly meal.

For breakfast and lunch we only went to cafes and bought shop food as we were budgeting. Nearby our hotel was a Dunkin' Donuts where you could buy pastries, and of course, doughnuts, and by the Brandenburger Tor we were able to get a drink and a sandwich from Starbucks.

From a vegetarian point of view there wasn't a time where we struggled to find vegetarian food. However, although we didn't struggle for food we also didn't see a lot of variety and instead had to stick to the safe option of Italian. If I were to go to Berlin again I'd definitely make sure I researched any vegetarian restaurants first!

First Sleeper Train Experience

Blurry photo but I wanted to show you what inside a double sleeper looks like

After Berlin we were then travelling to Paris. As part of this journey we had to catch an overnight train to Mannheim which was a sleeper train. We chose a double sleeper which was a room for just the two of us with a bunk bed, a sink and a mirror. I slept on the top bed and there is a net on the side to stop you from falling out! Sleeping in a bed on a train was a weird experience. I found I could fall asleep but kept waking up at multiple times in the night. Inside the train is very quiet as everyone else is sleeping so all you can hear is the train running on the track. Before the journey begins a member of staff comes to your room and asks you what time you want to get up so they can set off an alarm in your room which is helpful as you don't have to worry about missing your stop! We arrived at Mannheim at 04:40 and sat in the station until 06:40 so we could catch our next train to Paris. It was tiring but an overnight train meant that we didn't have to miss a day in one of our countries and also helps us save money on accommodation. It also meant that we didn't have to sit down for hours bored out of our minds as we could sleep through the majority of the time instead.

Final Thoughts

Deutscher Dom

Despite losing half a day in Berlin due to unforeseen circumstances we still managed to get lots of sightseeing done. I enjoyed Berlin and although on the first day it was raining the rest of the days were sunny and hot. If you're interested in history and particularly German history there is so much to see and learn! You really get a sense of how different things were years ago when it can be difficult to imagine how a city could be so divided. It seemed like 3 days was enough for us and we didn't miss anything that we wanted to see.

Have you been to Berlin? Also, look out for my upcoming travel posts: the next one will be Paris.

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