Whenever I’m asked to share my favourite place in Europe, “Berlin” I always almost yell out. I can’t help it. It’s just one of those places that has such an amazing vibe and rawness, it’s an interesting place to be in.
This post will be a simple “guide to Berlin, a la Nicole style”, which means there were no plans. I simply wondered around based on recommendations from people I met.
I need to state this from the get-go – this hostel made my trip. It has one of the friendliest atmospheres and
moremost importantly, cheap beer.
I arrived early in the morning from Copenhagen, on a night bus where I got barely any sleep, and crashed on their couch as soon as I arrived. I slept through the breakfast crowd and was offered some tea when I got up.
I walked into a little celebration on my first or second night there, I can’t really remember. They were celebrating Ozzy’s first month of stay at the Sunflower. This was when I was also offered a tequila shot by the manager who previously lived in Australia. She spoke German fluently, because she’s German; but also spoke in fluent English with an Australian accent. It was the tastiest shot I’ve ever had.
I was given a wedge of lime, dipped in coffee on one side, dipped in sugar on the other. Her instructions were clear: “With the coffee side up, bite into the wedge, hold the juices in your mouth and down the shot. Then, suck on whatever is left of the lime.”
Best. Shot. Ever.
Because of the hostel’s location, there was a lot of talk about this club. By 6pm on Friday, you’d see groups of people dressed in black and looking all edgy and cool and hip, heading towards this mysterious warehouse which is supposed to be the home of the coolest club in town. Excuse me, I meant on the planet. Their bouncers might kill me if they saw this.
Speaking of their bouncers, Google Berghain and you will find way too many stories about their legendary bouncers and how they turn people away for no good reason. So, legend has it that the Chief Bouncer has a scar on his face and he’s a giant. He’s dressed in black and has the power to make our break your weekend of partying.
Here’s how it goes:
You line up for ages. You don’t talk because Berliners don’t like noisy clubbers, apparently. You don’t look at your phone. Don’t you dare. You just wait, in silence, in your black outfit.
When you finally stand before the Chief Bouncer, he will size you up in one glance say one of two things: “Ya” or “Nein”.
I was lucky. I wasn’t sized up by the Chief Bouncer, just his second in command. He asked how old I was and my new found friend who told me to “act cool, shut up and let me do the talking” (not in those exact words, but more or less really) replied “trai un twanzig” (okay, it’s really spelled dreiundzwanzig”, no spaces).
He glanced at me again. I wasn’t sure if I should have looked friendly or not. I smiled.
Dang it. I shouldn’t have smiled.
I went on two tours. The first was the free walking tour, duh. I had the pleasure of being led around by Lucy, an Australian who visited Berlin ages ago and decided to make it her home. It didn’t take me long to realise why. She was a great story teller and her last story was incredible. No spoilers but it involves students standing up and making a change, you’ll just have to go on one of these tours yourself to find out what it was all about.
The other one I went on was the Third Reich tour, a paid one. By this point, I had learnt so much about the Nazi regime that it only made sense to learn about how everything kicked off at the heart of it all. It was another fantastic tour, albeit a little long. If you decide to go on it, make sure to wear comfy shoes, carry enough water and bring some snacks. You’ll need it.
Both tours were truly eye opening and it brought us to a lot of the famous spots in Berlin. One of which was The Memorial to the Murdered Jews of Europe, designed by the architect Peter Eisenman.
It is sites like this one, the Berlin Wall, Checkpoint Charlie, and the Brandenburg Gate, that make Berlin. It is a place filled with so much history and culture, it makes Berliners too. Every other Berliner you meet will have a story to tell about any one of these places, and it’s worth finding and listening to them.