I ♥ Berlin!

Our next stop in Germany was Berlin.

Our hostel there was amazing! It was themed the ‘Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Universe.” After dropping off our stuff we went straight out to this burrito place called Dolores that was recommended in our Let’s Go book. The burritos were huge and tasted just like home (you’d be surprised about the lack of Mexican food in Europe) That night we relaxed in the common area/bar of the hostel and enjoyed some free wifi.
The next morning, we set out by foot towards a neighborhood called Kreuzburg, which is pretty hip, with tons of vintage stores and cut vegetarian cafes. Along the way, we passed Checkpoint Charlie. That’s the area where you had to go threw to get from East Berlin to West Berlin during the cold war.

When we got to Kreuzburg we found another recommended place called “Yellow Sunshine”. It’s got over 25 types of burgers and all are vegetarian. (Fake fish, fake chicken, hawaiin buger with fake ham and real pineapple) and surprisingly it was amazing! I know we talk a lot about food, but Berlin by far had the best and cheapest vegetarian food, which was very exciting for us to be able to eat all kinds of things we have been missing from the US (but even better!)

Later that day we had planned on doing the Free Bike Tour that is offered in Berlin, but it started to rain just as we were heading towards the meeting point. So, instead, we just walked around Mitte, the neighborhood our hostel was in. There were tons of Middle Eastern, Indian, and Asian restaurants with people lounging outside. We also came across this amazing establishment called Tacheles. It used to be a department store before WWII and during the cold war it was filled with squatters and anti-establishment anarchists. All 6 floors are filled with graffiti and Tacheles now houses a self-organized collective of artists, as well as a few bars and a night club.

a funny interactive art piece

Back at the hostel, we met a girl named Nina who was staying in the 7 person dorm with us. She was a 25 year old cryptographer from Sweden, but looked like she was about 15. She was very sweet and we all went out to dinner at an Indian place right around the corner from our hostel. After dinner we thought we would check out the mayhem that is the European Cup semi-finals. That night the game was Germany v. Turkey and this was especially important because not only did it determine who went to the finals but Berlin also happens to have a huge Turkish population (largest Turkish community outside of Turkey!) So we tried to go to the Gates of the city where the huge official FanZone was set up. But they weren’t letting anyone else in, because instead of the estimated 500,000 fans, over one million showed up in just that one area. Plus, every cafe, bar, restaurant, and even some shops were packed because they were showing the game too. These people are serious about their football!

this was as close as we could get.

Berlin’s mascot is the bear doing this thing…

We went back to the Kreuzburg neighborhood, which is where a good portion of the Turkish people live. It was an interesting place to be because one side of the street had German flags up and people on the other side were waving Turkish flags. We picked a random pub and watched the end of the game over a pint. Germany won at the last minute. There was dancing in the street, singing, and lots of broken bottles, but no violence. Before heading home, we walked with Nina over a big bridge to take a look at the famous molecule man statue, which wasn’t so impressive at night and too far away.

The next morning, we made sure to wake up early enough to catch the first bike tour of the day. It was a lot of fun, biking is definitely the best way to see the city.

Here’s some photos of what we saw:

The Old Synagogue

(which is actually the newly remodeled version, but with the cool original roof thingies that survived WWII)

This one is hard to make out, but it is a memorial for the book burnings that happened in Berlin while Hitler was in power. It is a large room just filled with empty bookshelves underground in the middle of the square where the biggest burning actually happened, but you can walk right over it and miss it completely.

Remnants of the Berlin Wall

Memorial to Fallen Jews

The artist that created this memorial has refused to give an explanation of what these sculptures represent, leaving it open for everyone to interpret. You can walk between each piece. The ground slopes and none of the pieces are symmetrical. Some say it looks like coffins, or a city, or a concentration camp…


This is still the building where the German government convenes. In 1999, the glass dome on top was added, and you can actually go up to the top for free and it looks down on parliament as it is in session. Apparently, this was done, so when ever the elected officials would look up, they would see who was really in charge, because the people of Germany could be up there watching down on them.

Museum Island

They even took us to Hitler’s Bunker, where he killed himself. Which is actually just covered up by a parking lot to an apartment complex. There is no sign or marker because they didn’t want any Neo-Nazis to create a shrine or make pilgrimage to see it.

After the tour we went to a place called Dada Falafel in our neighborhood (Maybe one of the BEST Falafels ever!) and then took the S-Bahn (like the subway, but overground) to the East Side Gallery, which is a long stretch of the Berlin wall that is still up and has amazing paintings and murals all over it. it’s a 1.3km long section of the wall that is an international memorial for freedom. The only thing that was a little sad was that people had tagged ugly graffiti signatures on top of the beautiful art work.

At a break in the the wall, there was a little man-made beach complete with a beach bar, volley ball nets, a skate park, lounge chairs, and reggae music. We had a corona and enjoyed the view over the river.

Then we wandered around the Friedrichshain area, which was really artsy. (there were so many cool neighborhoods in Berlin!)

graffiti art everywhere!

We came across a really cute hair salon with cheap hair cuts, stylish stylists and good music, so Ellie decided to get her hair cut there.
On the way home, we ran into some other people staying at the hostel and we all went to Tacheles together for a few drinks.

just one of the small pieces of art in Tacheles back yard…

The next day, we relaxed at the hostel and got some laundry done. In the afternoon, we went to the Hamburger museum, which was a modern art museum and had absolutely nothing to do with beef.
Across the street from the museum, there was a giant sand sculpture competition!

And we came across a street festival with bands and crafts booths. When we asked what the occasion was, we were told “just because.” Apparently Berliners like their street parties.

At the end of the day we ended up back at Kreuzburg, one of our favourite neighborhoods, where we hopped round to tons of funky little bars. We ended up at one called Luzia, which was playing oldies and had an amazing atmosphere and tons of hip young people.

The following morning, we checked out of the hostel and went to grab some lunch back at Dolores, the burrito place, before heading to Hamburg. There was another huge event going on this day too (it felt like every day was a different celebration in Berlin) this one was the Pride parade. During the summer, each city in Europe celebrates gay pride on a different day. It was very colorful and a lot of fun to see all kinds of people in the parade.

After we watched most of it, (there were over 50 floats!) we ran to the train station to jump on the train to Hamburg, where we were only staying for a one night stop over towards Denmark. Within a few hours, Gabi, our couchsurfing.com host, and her friend, Megan, met us at the Hamburg train station. We quickly dropped off our backpacks so they could show us their city before night fall. Both the girls were from the states, so it was really cool to get to talk to some one who lives in Europe who we can really relate to. Unfortunately we didn’t grab our camera on the way out the door, so we didn’t take one single photo in Hamburg. But, we did learn this little known fact: Hamburg has more canals and bridges than Venice and Amsterdam combined!
Well, we needed to get some groceries before heading into the expensive Scandinavian country of Denmark, and Gabi informed us that the only grocery store open after 7pm is in the red light district, so we made our way over there. Apparently, there is one street that no women are allowed to go down (or the prostitutes will beat you up) and this is even enforced by the cops (mostly for your own protection!) Anyway, we got our groceries and got out, seeing a few stag and hen (bachelor and bachelorette) parties heading towards that area on our way out.
After doing a quick freshening up at Gabi’s apartment, she took us back out to meet some of her friends who are also involved in couchsurfing. We had a drink or two and ended up at an amazing baked potato store. But didn’t stay out too long, because we had a 5am train to catch to be able to meet Gena and Merlin in Copenhagen the next afternoon. Even though we spent a total of about 12 hours in Hamburg, we had some great conversations and got a very positive feel for the city.


1 Response to “I ♥ Berlin!”

  1. 1 Eléonore September 14, 2008 at 10:14 am

    Heyyyy you were so right about Belrin, I visited it last weekend and it was amazing ! People are really cool and everything is so cheap ! crazy atmosphere….
    Hope everything's going on well for you both back home,
    hugs & kisses !

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