We made it to Berlin! Rocking up to this city, I really didn’t know what to expect. I had ideas in my head of its turbulent history, and terrible political past. How have the people been affected by the darker parts of the city’s story? After visiting, I realised it wasn’t at all what I expected. Here you’ve got Berliners, a free and liberated generation that make up one of the coolest, creative and eccentric cities in Europe.
My first day was spent getting out and enjoying the sun on what felt like a miracle of an 18ºC day. I heard it’s a thing for Berliners to laze around on the grass in parks whenever the sun comes out, so I thought when in Rome (well, Berlin), I’d better check it out. Mauerpark flea market was a friend’s recommendation, and I’m so glad I had a free Sunday to browse. Just a short walk over to the park from the recommended Busabout hostel, I followed the music and found hundreds of people perched on a hill enjoying the sun. It was a lively sight with bundles of stalls, vintage pieces, trinkets, art displays and every kind of hippy, punk, earthy, artsy, alternative beings to be found in one place.
Walking through Berlin on the Busabout recommended Third Reich Tour with Insider Tours felt like walking through a real life history book. This tour was a truly momentous part of the trip. Unless you do a tonne of research yourself and have a lot of time I don’t think there is any other way a visitor could cover that much ground, or gain that sort of perspective on the historical sights of the war. We visited all the significant locations that marked chapters of WWII, from the Brandenburg Gate where Hitler’s Reich Chancellery stood, to the very room where The Holocaust was planned, and the exact location of the Führer Bunker with accounts of Hitler’s suicide.
It was also interesting to learn that Germany places the utmost importance in educating their youth about these events. It is compulsory for school kids to take historical excursions to these sites, and most will visit the concentration camps at some point through their high school years. They are moving forward by making sure everybody truly understands the country’s dark history, to prevent these attitudes ever developing again.
We roamed around Kreuzberg to discover the street art scene with Alternative Tours, and they did not disappoint. Around the world, street art has a long running association with vandalism, but the walls of Berlin are a living testimony that it can be appreciated and admired. Street art and graffiti (we learnt there’s a difference) is a way for people to connect with the urban environment, turning blank walls into something beautiful. We explored graffiti and learnt how certain tags represent different crews with a long running history, and how it’s used as an opportunity to express and evoke political and social sentiment. Or maybe just make the streets a little brighter. Either way, I’ll never look at street art the same way again! We even got to head to the workshop and make our own artwork to take home.
Before leaving this town I couldn’t leave without seeking out the famous curried sausages. We had to hit Curry 36, Berlin’s most sought after currywurst. It’s a delicious German fast food dish of a seasoned fried pork sausage (typically in slices) with tomato paste or a spicy ketchup. This goes best with a side of mayo and fries!
I ended my final night soaking up this unique atmosphere amongst young bohemians and artists at Klunkerkranich. I met up with a local friend who took me up an elevator of a building that lead to a parking garage on top of a mall. This place was unexpected to say the least; a funky garden and a few dozen quirky ornaments, a 360º view of the city at sunset, and a bunch of locals mixed with tourists enjoying some awesome live music. This was the perfect spot to kick back and reflect on an incredible time, and observe its free-spirited inhabitants. I had a blast exploring the diverse city, and am so glad I spent some extra time here to see what it was all about. Berlin, I will definitely be back!