Monkeying around in Berlin

Trip Start Jun 16, 2011
Trip End Jul 21, 2011

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Where I stayed
Eastern Comfort Hostelboat Berlin
Read my review - 5/5 stars

Flag of Germany  ,
Monday, July 4, 2011


'Ahoj' from a really cool pub in the basement of our hostel in Prague, Czech Republic.

Before we start explaining our time in Berlin, there are some in between the line details we want to share with you first. While our traveling plans allowed us the opportunity to see a lot of cities in a short amount of time (35 days), it does come with some drawbacks. The longest we have stayed in any one hostel is 3 nights. Such short stays means we are constantly waking up early to re-pack our stuff in the dark, and relocating. Also with the short amount of time in each destination, we have felt pressure to see as much of the city as possible. This means we are always on the go, spending most of our days walking (we estimate around 8-10 miles a day). We have dealt with the mental exhaustion of trying to find our way around each new city and the physical exhaustion resulting from lack of sleep and often eating cheap/quick food. That said, while planning the trip we were faced with the decision to spend more time in fewer cities or do a whirlwind of a lot of cities that we had wanted to visit. Despite it being quite demanding, we wouldn’t have done it differently (yet).

We have found that upon arriving in a new city, the hardest task is trying to determine what the ‘must-sees’ are and how we want to go about seeing them. So please bear with us as we explain our visit to Berlin, Germany.

We made it to Berlin… by the grace of God. Once again uncertain of what our tickets actually said, we weren’t sure whether we were leaving from Amsterdam Central or another station a half hour outside of the city, we went early to the central station to try to figure it out. Once we finally got some information, we had 15 minutes to find the platform of the train that took us to the station where we could catch the direct train to Berlin. Reaching the platform we noticed a train was there and the doors were closing so we frantically jumped on board, relieved to have made it in time. After we pulled away from the station we quickly realized that something wasn’t right. Getting caught up in the moment, we couldn’t bear to see our potential train leave us behind, so we pulled the trigger too soon. The train we should have taken left 10 minutes later. Knowing that the replacement tickets would have cost us an additional 400 Euro, we were a little more than freaked out. A passenger, noticing our near breakdown, stepped in to help. With her assistance, we were able to reroute and make it to our correct station in time.  The trip takes about 7 hours or 8 hours if there is a ‘giant fire’ near the tracks that stops all rail traffic. It was late at night when we arrived to Berlin, and the sheer size of it’s train station was overwhelming.  It was larger than a lot of airports we’ve visited and featured dozens of restaurants, grocery stores, pharmacies, and clothing stores.

 For the first two nights, we were staying at the Schlafmeile Hostel. We had read the night before that the reception desk closed at 11 pm. Our train didn’t arrive to Berlin until 11:30. There was a chance no one would be at the reception desk and we would be left on the streets of Berlin for the night. Thankfully we had emailed the hostel that morning letting them know that we might be late… this proved to be a very wise decision because they were waiting for us to arrive before they closed for the night. An Australian couple we shared a room with arrived at 11:10 the night before and had to rent a hotel room because no one was there to let them in. The next morning we woke up to find something we thought we had left behind in Ireland… pouring rain. It literally did not stop raining the entire time we were in Berlin. Our hostel was located very far from the center of the city and being incompetent with the train system, we cheaped out on looking for the real Berlin experience and went to the Berlin Zoo and Aquarium. While not teaching us anything about German culture or Berlin itself, it was effortlessly entertaining. We will spare you the details, considering that most of you have probably been to a zoo before, but one notable aspect of the Berlin Zoo was their extensive primate exhibit. We spent a solid 2 hours watching the different species go about their antics, especially the big 3- chimpanzees, gorillas, and orangutans. We were extremely entertained as they wrestled around swaying from rope to rope and doing unspeakable things (think domestic abuse and lots of excrement). We sat on the bench laughing hysterically as families with small children quietly gazed on. We also got to see them feed the lions which was AWESOME, but we won’t get into it.

After the zoo/aquarium, we went on a quest to do something German so we searched the city for some good schnitzel… and WE found it. If you are ever in Berlin, make sure you visit the mall food court near the Zoological Garden metro stop. For a very reasonable price, we had schnitzel, sour kraut, and roasted potatoes. This also included you choice of a 300ml soda or beer on tap. Yes, beer on tap at a mall. Beer is available nearly EVERYWHERE in Berlin; the mall, the McDonalds, the Metro, EVERYWHERE. Whether it’s legal or not, drinking in public was very prevalent and it was not just bums.

From there we explored Berlin’s internet, seeing what shows we were able to stream. Jersey Shore- No… Geordie Shore- Yes. This is Britain’s version …youtube it. This didn’t allow for any interesting experiences, but it was nice to be able to relax and do nothing for the first time in 16 days.

We woke up the next morning and became hopeful seeing that the rain had lightened up to a drizzle. For our last night in Berlin we would be staying at The Eastern Comfort Hostel. So we packed up our things and headed there. Eastern Comfort was a lot like the other hostels we’ve stayed at… with the exception that it was floating on a river and mobile. As you can imagine, being on a boat everything was small but it was fun. It was located on the River Spree just on the west side of the largest part of the Berlin Wall that is still standing.

With the new kind help from the front desk, we found out about a huge flee market and with no other ideas on what to do in Berlin we decided to check it out. This place was a hipster’s paradise. It featured tons of cool vintage clothing, antiques, vinyl, and every other accessory to help you avoid becoming too mainstream.  From there we decided to go do some sightseeing. We took the metro into the center of the city and upon arrival we walked straight for one of their main attractions, the TV tower. We are unsure of its significance, but having already been to the top of the Eiffel Tower we knew this would seem inferior, so we moved on. It was then that we found a sewage grate that featured all of Berlin’s main attractions etched on the top of it. So with the tv tower crossed off the list, we searched for the rest. Basically there were a couple churches, a pole with a big flame at the top, and the Brandenburg Gate (which was actually cool). From what we saw, Berlin ‘must-sees’ are a little lackluster but we can’t complain too much. It’s mainly because our grandfathers tore most of the city apart during WWII. Our favorite attraction we saw in Berlin was the high-end VW dealership. Inside they had all of this year’s new models on display, including but not limited to the two coolest cars we’ve ever seen in our lives…the Bugatti Veyron and the VW California Campervan. In case you don’t know, the Bugatti Veyron is the fastest production car in the world with a top speed of 262 mph. Being well versed with this car from the British tv show Top Gear, Ryan was especially impressed as he rambled off every fact he could remember about this supercar. Just when we thought it couldn’t get any better, we met the VW California. Road ready THIS supercar looks like an oversized mini-van. But park her at your favorite camping spot or sporting event, and it transforms into a full blown campsite. The roof pops up and turns into a bed, the two front seats swivel to face the two back seats which are next to the stove and refrigerator, and the back is fully equipped with a drop down movie screen , movable speaks, removable lawn chairs, and a couch.  After about 45 minutes of playing with her (including the floor rep coming over to turn the radio down), we both agreed if we are going to become mini-van driving dads we are totally fine with it, as long as it is the VW California.

Next, we wanted to try some more authentic German food but unfortunately the mall was closed. So we settled for a small festival that was going on in front of the mall and enjoyed some brats and riesenbouletten… they were delicious as expected. We wrapped the night up in the aft of our hostelboat playing rummy and talking with the very cool manager.

Our opinion of Berlin is probably skewed due to the horrible weather. That said, Berlin was cool and the food was delicious, but it’s not that big of a tourist destination and there is good reason behind it. Our likelihood to return to Berlin is slim at best, although we would give other areas of Germany a look.

Now on to Prague,

Patrick and Ryan
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My Review Of The Place I Stayed

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