Berlin – Saturday 29th April to Friday 4th May
We stepped onto the Ferry in Rønne, Bornholm, and questioned that we were in the right place. It was totally deserted, and the ferry was due to leave in twenty five minutes. We settled into the upstairs lounge, after spotting two fellow ferry-goers, and waited. Suddenly, at just before 9am, there was an influx of people and we were underway. Only twelve more hours to Berlin!
We drew in to Sassnitz, on the German Baltic coast, to discover that the port is 6km from the town and the train station. We tried to call a cab, but couldn’t get through. Not good. Thankfully Hannah was able to apply her ‘helpless tourist’ skills to get the lady at the ferry check-in desk to help us, and before long we were in a taxi to town. Phil convinced the driver to take €14.60 as payment as that’s all we had on us, even though it was a couple of Euro shy of the actual fare.
After killing time in a deserted, rainy, Sassnitz town centre we made it back to the station in time for our train. A short tip later we hopped off ready to get our connecting train to Berlin… onto a completely deserted, out of town station. It turned out Stralsund has two stations, and we’d picked the wrong one! Phil tied to call a taxi in German to take us to the other one to make our connection, but the taxi never arrived. Turned out Phil’s German was rustier than he thought!
Hannah sits brooding on an empty platform of the wrong Stralsund train station:
Thankfully, a beautiful thing about the German rail system, the tickets to take us to Berlin were regional roamer tickets, which can be used for any journey, anywhere on the regional network on the day of validity (great, right?). We reworked our route, and waited for the appropriate train on the empty platform.
We were staying at an Airbnb in Wedding, to the West of hip Prenzlauer Berg, for £47 per night. This is an area which is in the early throes of gentrification, much like Nørrebro in Copenhagen. The advantage we had here, however, was the amazing Berlin transit system. If you think London’s set-up is good, visit Berlin. We each picked up a 7-day travel pass for £25, which made getting around the city so easy.
On Sunday we decided to go check out the Fleamarket at Mauerpark, and based our day around there. The fleamarket is held every Sunday of the year, and it’s quite a sight. Antique, boutique, trinkets and junk all nestle together in packed rows and busy corridors. Our tip: get there early! By the mid afternoon, you could barely move for all the shoppers.
Crowds in Mauerpark:
We stepped away from Mauerpark to grab a coffee, and happened across Prater Garten, Berlin’s oldest beer garden. We snagged ourselves a prime spot before the place filled and sat in the sun with Prater Pils and white wine. A perfect spot for a bit of reading and people watching. Heading back over to the Mauerpark a couple of hours later we found the place transformed. It looked like a festival. Reportedly, 12,000 people had descended on the park to enjoy the bank holiday Sunday in the sun. We caught some of the outdoor karaoke and Hannah even got a little sun rouged.
Prime position for the Karaoke!
On the way home, after amazing burgers at The Bird, we passed a 3000-strong protest, complete with riot police. A reminder that Mayday in Berlin has a few other associations, too.
On Monday, Mayday, we decided to check out the Museum für Naturkunde, before a short walking tour through the city. We were a little underwhelmed by the museum. They have a few great exhibits, but too few exhibits in all; though a chance to see Tristan the T-Rex would have been difficult to pass on. Ambling through the city we took in a currywurst, the Brandenburg Gate, the Reichstag, and the Memorial to the Murdered Jews of Europe. If you’re ever in Berlin, these are absolute must-sees.
Tristan the T-Rex:
Phil then trekked down to Kreuzberg to check out the Myfest Mayday ‘protests’. Originating in the late 80’s, when police clashed with left-wing autonomists in the area, Mayday in Kreuzberg has become the focus of left wing and anticapitalist protest in Berlin. Although everyone was dressed in Black, and the police in riot gear were everywhere, this felt like more of a street party than a protest. The smoke in the streets all came from barbecues, not plastic bullets, and there was a stage set up on every corner, with punk, rap, reggae, and traditional German folk music all mixing one into the other.
On a friend’s recommendation, we at at Restaurant Jolly… Best. Peking. Duck. Ever. Enough said.
The obligatory Berlin currywust:
The rest of the week we slowed down a bit on the tourist front, and spent a bit more time just taking things in and relaxing. Tuesday we went out to East-East Berlin to explore an old Stasi Prison. Horrifying tidbit: the Stazi held files on 10 million people in the DDR; the population of which was just 17 million! Then on Wednesday we visited Berlin Untervelten, and toured an underground WWII air raid shelter.
By Thursday, foul weather had set in, so we just went on a short walk in the rain up to the flak towers in the nearby Humboldthain Park. After a short climb up the hill we found a Hollywood film crew shooting a movie. We’ve agreed that we’re pretty sure we saw Adam Driver, though neither of us actually think we saw Adam Driver.
Hannah enjoying the rain in Humboldthain Park:
Friday was time to pack our bags and head off. Note to other travellers: don’t expect a Deutsche Bahn ticket desk at every German station. We had to wing it on the train, even though we didn’t have a printed ticket, and were suitably chastised by both the German and the Polish train guards. Lesson learned, again. Our train tickets to Poznań cost £33.20 each from DB.
Thankfully we were allowed to continue our journey into Poland, on to the fourth country, and next leg of our journey…
Hannah and Phil x