Travel

A non-baby getaway with friends – my 30th birthday adventures to Berlin

Last month I was lucky enough to getaway without my baby girl for a rare weekend off with my friends. I spend a far amount of time away from home for work. However I rarely leave T and Spike to spend time doing things I love, especially not for more than a night or so! However, for a joint 30th birthday celebration, me and my friends decided to enjoy some fun adventures in Berlin.

Flying for the first time in 6 years

I haven’t been on a flight abroad for more than 6 years. I think the last place I went was Spain with T in 2012. Before that I’d flown to Bulgaria, but justa few times! I’ve not been on many flights and I was nervous about it all. I can remember feeling funny during take off especially the last few times I’d flown so I expected to feel the same this time. However it would appear that last years skydive has hardened me. I wasn’t bothered in the slightest and enjoyed watching the land get further and further away.

First impressions of Berlin

Me and my best friends making use of Berlin's amazing public transportWe landed and got straight off the plane, through Airport security and were treated with a small airport terminal with a very clear tourist area dedicated to a travel card which helps you get around the city. We grabbed ours and decided to head for the train station to get into the city. My first impression of Berlin was that is was huge. It’s around 35 miles wide, which is the distance I travel to work every day, and it takes a while to get around! The Berlin Welcome Card was an easy way of us knowing that we could get anywhere at anytime, because as I soon found out, Berlin’s public transport is awesome!

Our Meininger Hotel

Our hotel room at the Meininger hotel Berlin AlesanderplatzWe were doing the whole trip ‘on the cheap’ so decided to go for a hostel type hotel. The Meininger Hotel near Alexanderplatz was ideal. Originally 4 of us were travelling but it ended up being just 3 of us as one couldn’t join us, so the four dorm room was perfect. With an ensuite and the hotel had a bar, guest kitchen and a good reputation, so what could go wrong. It was right next to a subway station, relatively quiet, though some of the guests were a bit loud and the bed was comfy. It was well worth the £83 for three nights stay in my eyes!

Our first night in Berlin

It took a while for us to get our bearings and we only got to the hotel at around 7pm on the first night. Once we’d changed and got out we headed towards Alexanderplatz central area for food. However we actually ended up on the edge of Mitte, eating Asian food from a gorgeous restaurant. It was a chilled out evening and we headed to a bar on the way back to the hotel for a beer. I don’t usually like beer, but having spoken to the barman, who was happy to let me taste a few different ones, I found one I could tolerate!

A Saturday jaunt to the Brandenburg Gate

My friends in front of the Brandenburg Gate in BerlinWe woke on Saturday and took to the fantastically hipster restaurants on our road for a breakfast to make anyone envious. It was truly ‘gramable! Then we took the the fantastic public transport to find our way to the Brandenburg Gate, which was ridiculously easy in all honesty. It was packed there, but we found the Sandemans New Europe tour operators quite easily, and took to the Starbucks like true tourists while we waited for our tour to begin.

Sandemans Free Tour of Berlin

Memorial to the Murdered Jews of Europe We’d booked on to their free tour of Berlin which was a 2.5 hour walking tour to see the highlights. The idea of these tours is that you take them then pay the tour guide what you believe they should be paid, and our tour guide deserved a lot! She was fantastic! The tour started at the Pariser Platz, in front of the Hotel Adlon – the hotel Michael Jackson dangled his baby off the balcony of back in the day! We then went to the Memorial to the Murdered Jews of Europe which was mesmerising. We only stayed a short while so decided to come back later – more on that in a bit! The tour then took us to a car park which now sits above Hitlers Bunker. Then continued to a number of amazing locations which are notable because of the World War, including Checkpoint Charlie and the Cold War. We saw part of the Berlin Wall, and some of the most beautiful buildings in Berlin which show just how amazingly free the people of Berlin have been, other than the times of oppression of course!

Book burning and political demonstrations

The tour ended at Bebelplatz which is famous for the Book Burning of the World War. Having read and loved ‘The Book Thief’ I really wanted to visit this place. I’m so glad I got to see the incredible memorial to the event. While we were there a political demonstration went passed and our tour guide explained how this was a normal Saturday thing for Berlin as everyone fights for their right to speak out about every type of oppression. It was amazing to see and hear as I know if this country that wouldn’t be as well received!

Traditional German Christmas Shop, Monkey Bar and food!

Traditional Christmas gifts in BerlinWe then headed to a Traditional German Christmas shop. It was amazing, and I wanted to spend an awful lot of money there! The wooden Christmas decorations and Nutcrackers were amazing! I managed not to though! After which we made our way to the Monkey Bar – which was unfortunately shut due to a private function. The Monkey Bar sounded amazing so I’m gutted we didn’t get to visit it! For those of you planning to go to Berlin – its a cocktail bar overlooking the monkey enclosure at Berlin Zoo! What’s not to love! We instead ended up hitting the mall next door for some food, and their food court was amazing! It was full of incredible smelling food from crepes and waffles to fish tacos and burritos! It was nothing like the food courts you find in UK shopping centres!

A Saturday night in Berlin!

Our tour guide earlier in the day made a mention of a great area of the city to find food called Oranienstrasse so we went there and explored a bit more, finding a great pizza place called Paglia which did pizzas bigger than you can ever imagine! After dinner a wander down to the River to see the city lights reflected on the water was called for and we headed to a Tap Room on my friend’s to-do list. We spent most of the evening chilling out at Stone Brewing Tap Room and found the guys there hilarious. Again I found a beer I actually loved and there was a great atmosphere in the bar. It was located in Pankow and I wish we stayed up there and explored a bit more because it seemed like a great part of the city as we were walking home.

Sunday’s Alternative Tour

Comentary on the tourists visiting the Street Art alley and Anne Frans museumSunday was another trip to a hipster restaurant, followed by another free tour. This time is was an ‘alternative’ tour looking at the arts culture of the city and its amazing street art in particular. The tour guide started in Alexanderplatz by saying it was the most boring part of the city and it probably is. Its popular for tourists but its very corporate and you’ll find all the shops you are familiar with from the UK in this area. A quick walk took us to more interesting places and JR – the tour guide – started talking about gentrification and the impact of tourism on the city. The whole thing was a bit of an oxymoron and made me and my friends feel like frauds! Interested in this alternative side of the city, whilst adding to the things that the artists dislike!

Street Art Alley in Hackescher Markt

I could talk about this alley in one whole blog post. I want to live here. It was incredible and I loved every second of it. I didn’t see everything I wanted to see because it was a rushed 20 minute visit. The alley is home to the Anne Frank Museum and Museum Blindenwerkstatt Otto Weidt, both of whom were amazing people involved in the World War. The murals of both of these people take over huge spaces on the walls in the Alley and are left mostly undisturbed by other street artists.

Yaam Beach and the East Side Galley

The Alternative Tour ended at Yaam Beach, a community funded Caribbean bar and art gallery. The vibes were amazing and it had a true family feeling. I would have loved to share with Spike had she been there. She would have loved the entire tour to be honest! From there we headed to the East Side Gallery – a huge section of the Berlin wall which is still in place. This open air art gallery is truly stunning! I loved the art that was on show on the gallery and what it said about the history of the city.

A chilled Sunday in Mauer Park

We then jumped on the train to head to Mauer Park. Apparently this is the place to spend your Sundays in the summer and I can totally understand why. There’s loads of music, entertainment and more during the summer. By October this calms a bit. However, if the few hours we spent there is anything to go by – it doesn’t calm by much! We had some food and explored the Flea Market but thats all we had time for!

The Memorial to the Murdered Jews of Europe

We got back to the Memorial to the Murdered Jews of Europe late Sunday afternoon. The sun was starting to set and the light across the memorial was beautiful because of it. We had a coffee stop then got to the entrance of the information centre under the Memorial just before they let the last people in the queue. From what our tour guide said the information centre always has a queue. That was true when we went past on the Saturday and 2 hours before close on the Sunday. And once you are inside its easy to understand why.

Remembering those lost in the Halocaust

The information centre begins with a detailed timeline in English and German explaining the events of the First World War. The events that you don’t read about in school. The events that led to the death of millions of Jews. Following the timeline there is a room where you can view letters and diaries of those who witnessed these events first hand. One of the diaries was written by a little girl and I couldn’t help but cry, thinking about how terrified Spike would be in that situation. The rooms that followed were just as powerful. There was a room that only contained benches and white walls. Here the name of each murdered Jew was projected along with their city and birth and death dates. You could sit and listen to what was known about each of these people for as long as you wished. There was also a room that focussed in on the stories of different families, from different countries and how the war effected them. Another showed maps where victims were from and the countries that were torn apart by the events of the war. It was truly harrowing.

Sunday evening in Berlin

Following our visit to the Memorial and a long day spent exploring we weren’t in the mood to go all out on our last night in Berlin. We headed up to the hotel then went to see what food we could find. We ended up in another Asian restaurant in the city centre. Once fed we retired to our beds early so we could get up for our flight at 6am!

I fell in love with Berlin and I want to go back!

I had an amazing time in Berlin but I barely saw any of it. My main recommendation would be that if you go, have more than 72 hours to explore – you will need it! Me and my friends had an amazing time! Although I missed Spike, I loved every minute! The street art, the culture, the food, even the beer! It was incredible!