So last week I took my first ever city break!
I’d always wanted to visit Germany, and so when I found ridiculously cheap flights to Berlin on Skyscanner, I couldn’t resist. Just three weeks after booking, my friend Simone and I touched down in Berlin, and although we didn’t have long to spend there, we sure made the most of our time.
Read on to hear all about how we spent four nights in Berlin…
On arriving in Berlin, Simone and I took the 1 hour train journey to our Airbnb apartment (sign up here to get £30 FREE travel credit!) in the Prenzlauer Berg district of Berlin, and what an apartment it was.
We were staying with a young married couple called Walter and Natalia, and after Natalia had given us the tour and told us to help ourselves to coffee (!), we took some time to chill out in the room and gush about how wonderful it was. (You can read all about it here).
Seriously, how cute is it though?!
Deciding that we should celebrate our first evening in Berlin, we paid a visit to the local shop and bought a bottle of Prosecco, before returning to our room and polishing it off as we got ready to see what Berlin had to offer.
Natalia had told us that we were in a really good area for restaurants and bars, and so we wrapped up warm and set out to explore. It didn’t take long until we found a Greek restaurant named Asteria, and as we were pretty hungry, we decided to give it a try.
Asteria may well be one of the best restaurants I have ever been to.
On being seated, the waiters poured us shots of Ouzo, which turned out to be not only on the house, but our glasses appeared to magically refill each time we finished a shot! We ordered an absolute mountain of food, which included a sharing platter full of aubergine, beans, hummus, garlic mushrooms, rice wrapped in vine leaves and so much more. It was honestly one of the best meals I have ever had, and by the time our main courses arrived, we were so stuffed that we could barely touch them!
After eating as much as we could (and enjoying a few more shots of Ouzo), we found a candlelit shisha bar named Desert Shisha, and decided to call in for some cocktails before returning home. Despite being very quiet, Desert Shisha was very reasonably priced, with cocktails being around 5 euros, and we enjoyed a good gossip as we sipped our drinks.
The next day we woke up bright and early and grabbed some coffee before hopping on the metro and heading to Alexanderplatz, a large square in the very centre of Berlin. We didn’t have any concrete plans, and so spend a few hours wandering around on foot, admiring old buildings and churches, making fun of statues and eating noodles.
Next up was a trip to the Stasi Museum, a memorial for the political system of former East Germany and former headquarters of the Stasi (state security). We’d read that on Mondays at 3pm, a one hour guided tour in English is included in the 6 euro admission price, and as we’d wanted to see the museum anyway, we decided we may as well! When we arrived at the museum it was about 2:20pm, and so we decided to kill 40 minutes in the onsite cafe, where they sold mini bottles of Prosecco for 2.5 euros!
When 3pm rolled around, we headed to the entrance hall, where our guide, and a group of about 20 people were milling around. Over the next 60 minutes, our guide led us around the museum, explaining about how the Stasi, or ‘Secret Police’ recruited members, spied on the public, and detailed some personal stories of former Stasi members.
Something that was especially interesting to see was the office and living quarters of Erich Mielke, head of the Stasi, which has been preserved exactly as it was during its time of use.
After we’d finished our tour of the Stasi museum, we were starving, and so we headed to a gorgeous cafe named Spreegold for dinner, where I opted for truffle spaghetti and Simone got a chickpea burger. When we were full to burst, we went home to have some drinks and change, before spending the night talking about aliens and conspiracy theories in a smokey dive bar with red lights and cheap wine – the best kind of night!
Tuesday saw us taking the one hour train journey to Oranienburg to visit the Sachsenhausen concentration camp. While some people believe that ‘dark tourism’ such as this is unethical, I strongly believe that sites such as this should be visited, as I explained in my post about the Killing Fields.
Although Sachsenhausen did not claim nearly as many lives as Auschwitz, it was still an incredibly sobering visit, and we spent the whole afternoon wandering around the camp, listening to our audio guides and learning about the atrocities that took place there. We were able to go inside the barracks that the prisoners lived in, as well as visit the crematoriums and the gallows where prisoners were hung in front of large crowds of people.
It was especially chilling to see inside the room where autopsies were performed, and go down into the cellars where hundreds of dead bodies were stored, and it was with a morbid fascination that we walked around, in awe of how such horrors could take place.
After a long afternoon at Sachsenhausen, we were both physically and emotionally drained, and so we grabbed some food at trendy Georgian restaurant Tbilisi before heading home to get changed and pre-drink for our first proper night out in Berlin.
We’d heard a lot about techno club Berghain, but after reading about the strict door policy (which includes no laughing whilst in line, only speaking German and being quizzed on your knowledge of techno by the bouncers), we decided that it wasn’t for us, and so opted for Suicide Circus instead.
Suicide Circus is also a techno club with a very underground/industrial feel, but it seems to be less discerning about who it allows in, and so we actually managed to find a handful of people that were also tourists in there. After doing way too many shots of Jagermeister at the bar, we made our own entertainment by putting stupid lyrics to the monotonous techno music, made even more amusing when a guy turned around, looking baffled and said “sorry but were you just singing Pretty Green Eyes?!’
Despite not getting to bed until 6am, we set our alarms and were out of the apartment by 11am the next day in order to really make the most of our final 24 hours in Berlin. We began with breakfast at Spreegold (pancakes for Simone and avocado & smoked salmon toast for me), before heading to the ‘Memorial for the Murdered Jews of Europe,’ and the accompanying underground museum that is free to enter, which details hundreds of stories of Adolf Hitler’s victims, along with letters, postcards and diary entries written by the deceased, sometimes just before they died.
The memorial itself comprises of 2711 rectangular concrete blocks, laid out in a grid formation, which are designed to produce an ‘uneasy, confusing’ atmosphere, and the ‘whole sculpture aims to represent a supposedly ordered system that has lost touch with human reason.’
Next stop was Brandenburg Gate, one of the best-known landmarks of Germany, and a site for major historical events. Both Nazi and Soviet flags have hung from the gate, and it was fascinating to see.
After admiring Brandenburg Gate, we decided to pay a visit to the Berlin Magic Museum, Magicum. We’d seen posters advertising it, and thought that we may as well see what it had to offer.
After paying our 9 euro entry fee, the man at the desk handed us a deck of Angel Cards to play with, before showing us a Chinese ‘magic bowl,’ that we were supposed to rub our hands on to try and make the water inside vibrate and create a loud humming sound. The theory was that if you were successful, then your body and spirit are in harmony, or something.
Anyway, Simone managed to do it without a problem, but of course I only managed to make a kind of screeching sound. Of course.
We made our way through the museum with our little worksheets (!), reading our fairy cards, astrology signs, numerology and more, and read the wall displays about witches and all of the major religions, before coming into a final room, full of puzzles, tricks riddles, pendulums etc. We actually stayed in that room for ages, working our way around the various stations and reliving our childhood.
By the time we finished, we were flagging, but determined to see what remained of the Berlin Wall, and so we dragged ourselves to it, took a few pictures and then jumped in a taxi back to our apartment, dying of exhaustion and cold.
Once we were safe and warm, we perked up a bit, and after I’d had an iced coffee and a currywurst from the stand on the corner of our street, I was feeling excited for our final night. Because we had a couple of hours to kill, we watched a film in bed and allowed ourselves some relaxation time before heading back to our favourite restaurant, Asteria, for a goodbye meal.
The waiters were so pleased that we’d returned, and poured us two huge glasses of ouzo, which they kept filling up each time we took a sip. After gorging on aubergines, olives and hummus once more, we were given a free dessert and decided to stay for some more beer and ouzo rather than move on to another bar.
Before we knew it, it was 1am, 6 hours before we had to be up to catch our flight the next day, and so after a lot of cheek kisses and handshakes, we finally left Asteria and made our way to bed.
Have YOU ever been to Berlin? What did you think? Share your thoughts with me in the comments below!