Out of all the European cities on my list of places to visit, Berlin ranked highest. Every single person I met raved about the city and its bohemian allure, creative energy, and of course, its crazy nightlife and beautiful people (they say Berlin is poor, but sexy!) I was really lucky to have some incredible company during my stay, including Ben, my extremely cool couchsurfing host, Sarah, my old Crossfit coach from NYC who happened to be in town at the same time, and Sarah (!!!), who is friend's with my best friend, Christa.
Because I thought Berlin was a place that would be a little overwhelming to navigate without the help of a local and because hostels were crazy expensive since it was the UEFA final that weekend, I ended up couchsurfing. I had a fantastic host, Ben, who lived in Kreuzberg, a neighborhood which some people described as the “Brooklyn of Berlin”…. even though I thought Brooklyn was trying to be Berlin.. but, anyway. Ben is an incredible writer and overall cool ass dude with an amazing flat filled that had tons of sunlight and books.. basically it was heaven :) He was incredibly knowledgable, creative, and witty… the perfect embodiment of a Berliner. He took me out to a few of his favorite neighborhood cafes and restaurants, walked me around the city, pointing out his favorite places and giving me some small history lessons, and brought me to a little get together with his friends where I drank and had a good time.
Of course one can't go to Berlin without checking out some of the more touristy/historical sites. I decided to have my big, touristy day on Saturday. I took a bike tour around the city, which was fantastic since it's an incredibly bike friendly city. I stopped at a few places including Checkpoint Charlie, which was sooo commercialized, the East Side Gallery, which had some cool murals, the topography of terror, the Reichstag, Brandenburg Gate and the Holocaust memorial, which was extremely poignant . My most favorite place was Bebelplatz, which is right in front of Humbolt University. It's where Hitler gathered banned books and burned them. As a commemoration to this terrible event, there is a book sale every day of the year, including on Sundays and public holidays. I bought the only English language book I could find, Tis, by Frank McCourt, author of Angela’s Ashes (I’m a fan!)
Standing at these historical sites almost felt unreal. It's something you spend a significant time at school learning about, and suddenly, you’re there, staring at the Berlin Wall. This not so menacing, not so tall, shabby piece of concrete is symbolic of the Cold War, a time which tore so many places apart, in a literal and emotional sense. It's been fascinating to be in Berlin, and start heading East at this time because of the news that talks about Russia financially supporting left wing and right wing political groups in EU countries to destabilize their government, as well this fascinating piece about state sponsored propaganda-it's like watching history repeat itself in a 21st century manner.
But anyway, enough with the current events (sorry, I'm a nerd!!) Berlin is a city with such a chaotic history. It’s been completely destroyed and devastated, yet because of the destruction, they’ve been able to rebuild in this creative manner that reuses old, abandoned spaces and turns them into something new and unique. For instance, my best friend Christa, virtually introduced me to her friend Sarah, who as studying art history in Berlin. We ended up having a picnic at Templehof Feld, which is an old airport turned public space/park. It was awesome to be sitting in an old airport field, people watching, eating food, etc. And of course, you have the clubs in old, abandoned factories and commercial spaces.
Speaking of clubbing, I had a fun and crazy night on Saturday… TBH, I don’t really remember too much.. including where I went or the names of the people i was with.. I just know I had lots of fun and drank way too much Club Mate + Vodka, amongst other things. I initially started out at a beer garden to watch the UEFA final and ended up partying with an excited group of Catallonians, who were exuberant that Barcelona won. As we all know, I love partying with Spaniards because they are always up for whatever. I slept for a total of 3 hours within at 36 hour period, consumed a ginormous doner kebab (a Berlin invention!) after many, many hours of dancing, and woke up with huge scrape on my knee (dunno how it happened!) but it was greattttttttt.
Since i was so exhausted from all the partying, I decided to chill out for the next few days and grab dinner at Lokal in Mitte, with my old crossfit coach, Sarah, who was in Berlin at the same time (excuse me.. is this paleo?). It was so nice to catch up over a few glasses of presecco and good food. We chatted about our obsession with traveling, diving (Gotta get my PADI!) and upcoming trips (We're hopefully going to meet up again!)
I would have love to spend more time in Berlin, but since my mom is coming in about a week, I wanted to get through a few more cities before I meet up with her in Prague. I have a strong feeling I’ll be back in Germany sooner rather than later because I have a good friend whose planning to move here in the next few months to attend art school and Christa’s boyfriend also just got a job in Durrselfdorf, and I’m dying to see her!!