Sunday, June 7, 2015

Berlin Berlin

The final city in Germany I needed to visit before returning home was Berlin, the capital city. I'd heard over and over how amazing it is and by the time I was boarding the overnight bus from Mannheim I was excited beyond belief. 

In true European travel fashion there were major hiccups in our plans, the most minor of which was the foul-smelling passenger next to me the whole ride. Our original travel plan was for Shannon and I to travel over Thursday night and spend Friday in the city on our own and three other friends would travel Friday night and meet up with us on Saturday morning. However, Shannon and I woke up to a text from Erin saying she was the only one of the three coming as the other two had stayed behind due to a ticket mix-up. Though we were two people short it was still a fun time and Berlin has quickly jumped to the top of my favourite places list. 

On Friday morning after dropping our bags off at our hostel - one of the best, if not the best hostel experiences I've ever had - and walked down to a cafe recommended by the hostel staff called Gipfeltreffen. In true Kreuzberg fashion it was the most hipster cafe to ever hipster; everything from the mismatched chairs and the sliding barn-style door to the old cash machine and pile of split logs in the corner displayed its rustic atmosphere. At that time in the morning all we cared about was coffee, of which they had plenty. 

We crossed the river to walk along the East Side Gallery, which was not quite what I expected. When I've seen other friends' photos of the gallery it looked like the Wall was separated from everything around it for preservation purposes, but instead it runs parallel to a sidewalk on a busy street and for all intents and purposes is just a wall. Nonetheless I was excited to see its famous pieces of street art.

We decided we were hilarious and took photos in front of a number of other walls in Berlin, titling them "A Berlin Wall." We picked the most ridiculous places to pose in front of, including a Crocs ad and several ordinary graffitied walls.

We found not one but six(!) Dunkin Donuts around the city. Shannon and Erin being Northeasterners and me having grown up on Dunkin were absolutely ecstatic and stopped almost every time we saw one throughout our trip. Berlin is the city of dreams.

"show me ur american face"
Our first day in Berlin was spent in and out of parks and fawning over the copious street art in the Kreuzberg neighbourhood. I loved how spontaneous and chilled out our day was; Shannon is the perfect person to travel with for exploring a blend of tourist attractions and the local. In the late afternoon we shopped at a small neighbourhood grocery store and took our food finds to join the numerous other picnickers in Gorlitzer Park, enjoying the sunshine and attempting to attract other park-goers' dogs (we failed).

At night we came back to the hostel to enjoy the self-serve minibar and spent a good two hours chatting with other hostel-stayers about their hometowns and travel plans. Everyone had a different story - some staying only for the weekend, others for a few months in Europe, others who had quit their jobs to travel full time. It was the first time I had ever gotten to know the other people in a hostel and it contributed to the small, homey atmosphere. Berlin has everything I love about NYC, my other favourite city - a sprawling mass of space, unique neighbourhoods, a neverending supply of things to do - but without the Northern attitude and with more green spaces, and as such I caught myself immediately falling in love. 

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