A few weeks ago, I took the bus from Munich to Berlin to enjoy a long weekend with some friends from Texas who were in town. Rachel and Denise were doing a 2-week Europe tour and their only stop in Germany was in Berlin, so I thought that would be a fun excuse to head up there and see them.
The only other time I visited Germany’s capitol city was back in 2010 when my cousin Margo and I did a backpacking trip together around Europe. That experience was also only for a few days, so I was excited to explore a little more of the city.
We all arrived late Thursday evening and after checking into our hostel, we set out to find somewhere to eat a late dinner. We found a decently priced Italian place and got some delicious pizzas that we ate while catching up on each other’s lives. The girls were also excited about trying a German beer, so we all order Radlers, the typically Bavarian specialty that is beer mixed with lemon-lime flavored soda… very refreshing!
Our hostel had a rooftop bar with a beautiful outdoor terrace that included a great view of Berlin’s skyline. After dinner, we decided to head up to check it out. Unfortunately, the outdoor part is only open in the evenings and was already closed for the night (which is probably due to noise complaints- it was so loud!), so we hung out for a little bit before retiring early for our first night.
Friday we got up and found a cute café for lunch before heading to Pariser Platz to start our walking tour of the city. I actually did this exact tour 3 years ago, but I had enjoyed it a lot and learned so much about Berlin that I thought it would be a great way for Rachel and Denise to see all the big sites and hear about the history of the city. The tour company, Sandeman’s New Europe, does free walking tours in most big cities across Europe. The guides earn their pay solely on tips received at the end of the tour, so as a result, they give GREAT tours. All of the guides are enthusiastic, funny and tell great stories that you probably wouldn’t otherwise hear if you were exploring the city yourself. It’s about a 3-hour tour, with a break in the middle, and you visit all of the big tourist attractions. It also gives you a good idea of things you would like to come back and revisit on your own if you need more time. If you are ever in a city that does a New Europe tour, I highly recommend it! We really enjoyed ours and it helped that the weather cooperated all weekend long, giving us beautiful sunny, warm days.
After the tour, we took a break and hung out in front of the Berliner Dom, then finally decided to go to the top of the Fernsehturm (TV Tower) to see the panoramic view of Berlin. It costs 12 Euros to go to the top, which I thought was a little pricy. However they do have a restaurant and bar at the top, so if you went at sunset and made a whole evening out of it, it might be worth it. It’s still a pretty nice view from the top, though, and something I hadn’t done before, so it was a cool experience.
That night we decided to head out into the city. Berlin is pretty famous for having a crazy nightlife… the kind where it’s common to come home after the sun has already risen. We weren’t that hardcore, but we did still have a good time. Rachel, Denise and I had made friends with some people in our hostel who were celebrating a guy’s birthday, so we joined the group and experienced a couple of Berlin’s bars and clubs. I had to speak German with the bouncers to get us into both places (they are super weird about who they let in…. and are very particular about how you’re dressed… it’s the exact opposite of Dallas- the grungier/more alternative you are, the better. We did not fit this mold!) I even had to pretend we weren’t with some people in our group who the bouncers didn’t like so that we could still get in! Oops! I guess that’s what they get for not speaking German. It was an interesting night but we can now say we have successfully had a night out in Berlin.
Saturday we ventured down to the East Side Gallery—the longest stretch of the Berlin Wall still standing covered in beautiful graffiti, some of it kind of random, and some of it displaying meaning and symbolism. We walked along the wall and took LOTS of pictures.
Another friend of mine came in town that afternoon, so we met up with him and all headed to see the Siegessäule (Victory Column), a large column in the middle of the Tiergarten (Berlin’s largest park), with a golden statue of an angel on top. There is definitely some historical significance and I honestly do not remember what it was, but if you want to know about it, you can read the Wikipedia page for it here. We climbed the 285 steep stairs to the viewing platform at the top, and enjoyed the beautiful views of Berlin and the Tiergarten from above.
After lots of walking (and even more step climbing), we all went to dinner at a very typical German restaurant. It was a little touristy, but Rachel and Denise needed to experience at least one traditional German meal (aside from the bratwursts we had already bought from street vendors), so it was perfect for that.
The next morning, we all checked out of the hostel and had a Sunday brunch together before taking Rachel and Denise to the airport, where they continued on to Zurich. It was a really fun weekend and I was so glad to share it with some Texas friends!