Berlin. A city that wears its long, troubled history on its sleeve. A fascinating blend of past and future. The place where I decided to take my first ever solo trip…
Anyone who follows my Instagram will know I recently took my first ever solo trip to Berlin! I’d never been to Berlin before, and only to Germany once when I was in my early teens, so I was really excited to go and explore for a few days.
When I arrived I found it a little tricky to work out which train I should be on to get to Berlin centre from the airport, but thank goodness for iPhones because I was easily able to work it out with a little internet help! I honestly don’t know how we survived without them. And I know what you’re thinking: “Just ask someone!”, but I’m not that silly! I did ask the only attendant at the train station and he was very unhelpful actually!
But anywho, once I’d worked it out I arrived at my Airbnb and was met by the lovely David who gave me the tour of the apartment and my (absolutely stunning) room, before giving me lots of information about the local area, how to use the transport etc. I fell in love with my room the moment I walked in; it was incredible. It was huge! There was a king sized bed, a sofa, an island in the middle of the room with storage in and then on the back wall was a bathroom complete with luxurious bathtub which I certainly spent lots of time in every evening after long days walking around the city!
If you’re ever looking at booking accommodation in Berlin, be sure to check out David’s place as it was in a fantastic location and was immaculately clean, not to mention how friendly David and his partner were and the sheer luxury of the suite (without the extravagant price tag)!
Free Walking Tour
Now then, when I go to a new city I do love a good free walking tour. I first discovered them when I went to Barcelona and have since been in Bristol and was sure to look one up as soon as I arrived in Berlin. The beauty of these tours is that you pay what you want, so they’re ideal for any budget. I went with the Original Free Berlin Tour and had a great time! The guide, Mike, was knowledgable even though he was from Melbourne, Australia and seemed to have a genuine passion for the city and its complex history.
Berlin is a huge city and it took us a while to get round, especially since we actually picked up a couple of elderly tagalongs along the way which slowed our pace somewhat! But between stops Mike was easy to talk to, and I also chatted away with the other members of the group which was fascinating. We saw the Reichstag building, Checkpoint Charlie, part of the Berlin wall and the Brandenburg gate just to name a few things. It was a great way to get my bearings on the first day, as well as see some things like the Topography of Terrors and the Memorial to the Murdered Jews of Europe that I knew I’d want to go back to and explore more.
Topography of Terrors
The name sounds horrible but it really is worth checking out this museum. Located at the old headquarters of the Secret State Police, there is now an indoor exhibit with tonnes of information on the S.S and Gestapo as well as an outdoor exhibit running parallel with a section of the Berlin wall. I was easily there for an hour soaking in all the history, however sad it was.
Memorial to the Murdered Jews of Europe
The holocaust memorial was designed by Peter Eisenman and consists of 2711 slabs of concrete, each of varying dimensions, in columns and rows. As you walk through, the ground beneath you is undulating, and it’s very easy to lose your bearings. Friends and strangers pass by and then disappear amongst the imposing grey slabs. It’s eerily quiet in the centre of it all, despite being in the middle of a bustling city. And yet, whichever direction you look in, there is always hope of escape. A truly deep and thought provoking memorial, along with an underground museum to gather more information in.
East Side Gallery
On my second day I visited the East Side Gallery which is the longest section of the Berlin wall still standing. In 1990 artists were invited to come and paint on the wall as a memorial for freedom. “My God, help me to survive this deadly love” is probably one of the most famous murals, painted by Dmitri Vrubel. It’s such a shame that 2 thirds of the art has been destroyed by graffiti, something which I actually noticed everywhere in Berlin. Work is being done to restore the paintings, which now have been fenced off, slightly ruining the impact they have.
There is also a gift shop which will put a stamp in your passport, so if you collect them then make sure to take it with you (I would have if I’d have known!)
Berlin Wall Memorial
On my last day I planned to ‘pop’ to this memorial before heading to the airport. It was actually a lot bigger than I anticipated and I was so disappointed I didn’t have time to look around properly! There are many stories of the escape attempts, both successful and unsuccessful and I can imagine it would be easy to spend over an hour here! This place is top of my list if I ever go back to Berlin, which I certainly hope to some day!
Brandenburg Gate and Tiergarten Park
One of the highlights of my trip was seeing the majestic Brandenburg gate, standing there in all its glory. A symbol of peace and unity in Europe, it was built in the 18th Century and is one of the best known landmarks in Germany. I don’t know what it is about it, but I just felt so drawn to it and in awe of its grandeur. Behind it is also the Tiergarten park, where I ran to on one of the mornings, and in the centre is the Victory Column. The park is also home to a number of memorials, including the Soviet war memorial, and is a peaceful place to get away from the busy city and have a wander in.
Free German Lesson
Whilst eating my lunch on the first day, I was googling ‘free things to do in Berlin’ when I read about free German lessons you could attend. I thought that this was just an alternative touristy thing where you’d pop along and learn some phrases, but I was mistaken. It’s actually a ‘pay what you can’ 10 week language course for beginners (and they do courses for other levels)! So there I was sat there in amongst a crowd from all over the world who were actually living in Berlin. We jumped straight in with ‘wie heißt du?’ and ‘woher kommst du?’ (what’s you’re name and where do you come from?) but my cover was blown when we moved on to ‘wo wohnst du?’ – where do you live – and I of course, didn’t actually live in Berlin and wasn’t sharp enough to make something up. After a bit of verb-conjugating the lesson ended and the teacher chirped ‘see you all next week!’ to which I beat my hasty retreat.
I actually loved the lesson as I’m quite into learning languages, I was just sad I wouldn’t be there for the whole ten weeks! So if you’re in Berlin long term, I really recommend you check them out!
I absolutely loved every minute I spent in this city. There is so much history to learn about, yet at the same time it is one of the most modern and forward-thinking places I’ve ever been, especially in Europe. The buildings were so dominating and imposing, yet the people were so friendly and welcoming. I walked miles during my short stay there and I was so grateful to be able to soak in that glorious bath every evening! I would love to visit again and also see more of this fascinating country.
Be sure to check out my food guide which is coming soon to see what I ate during my stay too!