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Berlin in a Week

by Jason B. on July 6, 2010

I had a nice start as soon after we crossed the border between the Czech Republic and Germany a man in his 30′s entered my carriage. He was eager to share information about Berlin and at the same time he knew when to shut up. A respectful combination that is necessary to me. It’s even better since I really have not many locals in the 4 weeks of my Euro trip. But I had good feelings about Germany.

I initially forgot to write down the address of my hostel in Berlin but the German man looked it up on his netbook for me so by the time I arrived at Berlin’s train station I was confident about where to go. Still, I had to take the subway one stop and finding it was more difficult than I imagined as the subway was more like a local train line so I was searching for something that did not exist. As with most problems abroad they are easily solved by asking a stranger.

That evening I reached the point where an actual human connection was absolutely necessary to stay sane so I dragged myself to the rooftop bar. Traveling alone really means being alone much of the time unless you are naturally super outgoing. I am not. And the people traveling in Europe during the summer seem more interested in staying in hostels for a cheap vacation rather than meeting people. So as I said, at the rooftop bar everyone was glued to the TV watching a worldcup match.

I sat with my beer and as everyone left soon after the match I approached a group of two girl travelers. They were from Scotland but without the thick accents. We had a nice conversation going and brought it downstairs where we met a German. Together we had some drinks and talked about travels and Germany until the German convinced us to come along to a bar with him. So that you really understand this guy you have to know that as we passed men negotiating with hookers he would comment with something  in German, “offer her less”, just for fun. He was fun and took us to a bar, and then a small nightclub where he took us into the VIP section about bought two bottles of champagne to impress the girls.

One day in Berlin I wandered and it took me little time to declare that Berlin is the least photogenic city I have visited. It’s not ugly but there is very little that is special. I tried hard to take some interesting photos but found my camera stuck in my pocket most of the time.

View a few blocks for the hostel

You can tell it’s summetime

The restaurant’s in Berlin are very reasonably priced but I still ate German’s famous “Donor Kebab” at least once a day. It’s really not that great with the low quality meat but it’s filling and cheap.

Another evening I met the type of solo traveler that gives the rest of us a bad stereotype. I saw him sitting alone so I asked him where he was from. His response was to ask, “what do you mean”. He told me he was confused why I asked because it’s the first time someone asked him first, rather than the other way around. Well, he is from Quebec, Canada. We related about traveling solo and he appeared normal. Through him I met a group of other Americans traveling after a study abroad program. I could tell they though he was annoying and then I could tell why. He had no self awareness. He could nott understand how to have a conversation with more than one person. He repeatability interrupted to change the topic to Berlin’s architecture, which museums are best to visit, and other equally uninteresting topics.

We soon met an American/Portuguese brother/sister and pair of Americans. Our group later wandered out in the night to find a disco but in the end settled for drinking in the park. Sometimes this sounds so spontaneous and cool but every time this has happened it’s because we couldn’t find anything better to do. So we spent the night drinking in a park and it was just as uneventful as you can imagine.

Another day I went on one of the free tours offered by a local company. I saw much of the same as before when I walked around the city. The subjects in these photos are pretty important and have historical significance but I can’t be bothered to explain them or even pretend I really care all that much.

Since this photo is going to seem strange I will at least explain that it’s a memorial for the Jews murdered in the holocaust. The blocks do not have any specific meaning but is meant for each person to interpret them self.

The Berlin Wall of course. If anyone travels to Berlin just to see this you will be really disappointed.

The following night I went out with the same group plus a few others – a random Canadian traveler, and one of the group’s friends from Hong Kong. When we left the hostel it was 7 of us. At the metro one of the American girl’s drank too much and was passing out so we were down to 5 of us. Their friend, the girl from Hong Kong, asked me to show where we were on a map. I turned around a moment later and she had jumped on a metro heading home. Now we were 4. We arrived at the club and both the Canadian and I entered and waited for the two American/Portuguese. They never entered. Down to 2 of us. The Canadian was really drunk and screamed obscenities so I quickly ditched him. I was alone but soon met a group of Germans. It wasn’t an ideal night but I spoke with one of the guys about our countries for a few hours. I would have rather met a cute girl but the most important thing I took away from our conversation was this. The Germans don’t hide the past and are very serious about making sure nothing like that ever happens again. Which means that in most situations its looked down upon to feel any nationalism. Well he and apparently many others are quietly fed up with this attitude since they feel they had no involvement or responsibility for what happened.

Another night I went out with a bunch of Americans working on an American military base for the summer as camp counselors. We all went out to what I later learned is one of the best discos in the world, Beghain.

“The club is located in a former power plant in Friedrichshain, behind the Berlin Ostbahnhof railway station. The building is distinguished by its enormous dimensions, which accommodate an 18 meter high dancefloor and space for 1500 guests, and also its minimalist interior design, dominated by steel and concrete. The club contains a “cavernous” main room, as well as a smaller upstairs space called the Panorama Bar, which is decorated by enormous Wolfgang Tillmans photographs and tall windows with a view of East Berlin. Only half of the building is currently in use.” – Wikipedia

Towards one of my last days in Berlin I went on an “alternative tour”.

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{ 3 comments… read them below or add one }

Andrew July 31, 2010 at 11:22 pm

That sounds awesome, but it’s a bit odd that you say Berlin isn’t photogenic and then promptly show a beautiful photo of a waterway that is actually quite photogenic :/

Advice regarding having fun, picking up girls, and really getting to know a place: quit hanging out with other backpackers and start hanging out with locals.



Andrew July 31, 2010 at 7:22 pm

That sounds awesome, but it's a bit odd that you say Berlin isn't photogenic and then promptly show a beautiful photo of a waterway that is actually quite photogenic :/

Advice regarding having fun, picking up girls, and really getting to know a place: quit hanging out with other backpackers and start hanging out with locals.



Jason August 1, 2010 at 11:29 am

Thanks Andrew. I still maintain that point that it’s not such a pretty city. I had to try really hard to find locations like those. Most other photos are boring pictures of gray concrete.


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