Good evening! I’m always amazed at how much time seems to fly between blog posts – I‘ve managed to go since August without writing anything which is dreadful but in my defence, I have spent most of this university calendar year with my nose in one book or another, and finding time for extracurricular writing is a challenge, alongside 3+ novels per week for a single module.
Weekend getaways are however seemingly not a challenge, as I spent the last few days in Berlin thanks to post new-year spontaneity and the delights of Ryanair last minute flights. I’m going to warn you now that the 6am Sunday flight back was a big mistake, particularly as Berlin Schoenfeld is severely lacking in adequate 4am drunk snacks and places to sleep.
I try to remember to snap pictures of restaurants, landmarks or (much to the displeasure of anyone who accompanies me to dinner) food, to get back into the swing of reviews. Unfortunately, I didn’t do quite so well on taking pictures of landmarks, mainly thanks to the sub-zero weather conditions and numb fingers.
With flights at £50 return, only a few weeks in advance, and an Airbnb around £50 a night for a decent apartment, or slightly more upmarket flatshare, Berlin is certainly one of the more affordable European destinations. Whether it’ll be accessible or not in the future is debatable – the first question I was faced with by any and every German was my thoughts on Brexit (pitifully little, I’m not the one to be asked when it comes to politics). We crammed a lot into 2 days, whereas 3 would probably be a better choice to experience more of what the city has to offer.
Tourist attractions such as the Brandenburg gate, Berlin Victory Column, Reichstag Parliamentary Building, Checkpoint Charlie and the Holocaust Memorial architecture are all within walking distance – albeit more 30 mins. The latter is certainly impassive and eerie, interpretations widely debated but generally suggesting the grey, sobering abstract cubes to suggest the unease of a mass graveyard, and a sense of entrapment.
Food wise, the aptly named A Never Ending Love Story offered a basic but appetising brunch of pancakes and avocado toast, boasting neon lights and bubble-gum coloured walls as expected to draw in brunching millennials. Food is overwhelmingly cheaper than in London (surprise surprise), and dinner at Saigon Green boasted cheaper meals and a more vegetarian friendly menu than I found in Vietnam itself. Berlin is increasingly heralded as the most vegan-friendly city in Europe, so meat free options can be found on every corner. Even the infamous post night-out doner kebab shop offers numerous vegan options. On the topic of nightlife – I have absolutely no idea where we ended up out, but it was duly underground somewhere, in some abandoned warehouse building. Entering the elusive Berghain was not attempted on this occasion.
After spending a continuous year living out of my backpack and traipsing between hostel dorms, I still haven’t returned to the joys of sharing a room with 40 strangers, so have been using more of Airbnb as of late. We stayed in Humboldthain – a little north of the direct centre. Public transport makes all of the suburbs very accessible, and is easily navigated, although unfortunately not contactless.
My German is a little rusty round the edges at the moment. I can still understand everything, but sometimes I’ll go to speak and it feels as though someone has packed my mouth full of cotton wool, or my voice being 5 seconds behind my brain. Luckily, the German education system means that students excel at foreign languages, and pretty much everyone can speak English better than our basic equivalent of GCSE French or Spanish. So you can bring your pocket guide and put your best Guten Tag and danke and zwanzig Euro on show, but you’ll often find yourself met with a slightly amused English reply.