Very early start, up at 5 a.m. and shaky. On the up-side, I’ll be in Berlin before lunch. It’s probably the busiest I’ve ever seen T2, how can this many people be up this early? The queue for security moves pretty quickly though.
I hand a beautiful girl a crate for her belongings. She smiles at me and says ‘thanks’ in a wonderful accent. I rue not having the confidence to get to know her. I have decided to try and grab opportunity as it arises. That was one I did not.
The Pfefferbet Hostel has a real bohemian feel to it and with reservation made for about 20 of us, and only 4 here, we should be fine for space to lay our head. I’m not sure it’s technically cancelling a booking when you do it standing in front of the guy on the day in question.
Down by the Brandenburg Gate there’s an Erdinger stand set up for the Berlin Velothon, €3 a beer and a small deposit on the cup which is a great idea and definitely stops people just lashing them on the ground. It goes down well and, with the sun shining, sets up the day. We grab a bratwurst, it’s almost as if they intended on the ridiculously over-sized sausage in the ridiculously under-sized bun. I’m laughing, but looking around, no one else is.
We end up missing the guided walking tour by a few minutes and laziness stops us tracking them down. So we negotiate a price for the bike tour. I say bike, the vehicle in question has pedals, gears and all the other usual bike paraphernalia but instead of not having six seats in a circle around a small table it has six seats in a circle around a small table with Olaf (our tour guide) steering and guiding from the seventh control seat. It draws a lot of attention around Berlin as we see the sights and take in the incredible knowledge Olaf has to offer. He is the perfect guide, he waits for question, is not overly pushy with knowledge and was in his teens when the wall went up so he knows his stuff, first hand. We joke about East v West and he takes it well. He had family on the East side during the Cold War. He could visit them but they could not come to the West. He brought them coke and other Western luxuries but could not bring news from the other side. It really is a brilliantly entertaining and insightful tour. Well worth our €15 for the nearly two hours, despite us doing most of the work on the cycling side of things.
The day pushes on and only having our bratwurst to both fill and entertain us today, we head out in search of some food. We end up with a sub-par meal in District Mot, an Asian restaurant on Weinmeisterstrasse. The food is good enough, but the service is shocking. John doesn’t get his main, Gav had eaten it when it arrived as his starter. So, they managed to combine John’s main and Gav’s starter in a small portion of ribs. John’s only course of action is to ask what the quickest thing they can get out onto the table is. Not the way you want to order your food at all. We also end up paying for two beers that never arrive.
Down in Hackescher Markt we end up in The Kilkenny Irish Bar, which has it’s entrance in the underpass next to a train station. We bump into some Bayern Munich fans in town for the DFB Cup Final. One seems fairly interested in our group and sits up on our table to have a chat. He claims to be a hooligan, shows us the flair in his pocket, the face mask sewn into his hood and his bum-bag. Yep, his bum-bag. Something I imagine no hooligan leaves home without. He goes on at length about his 300 Km/h BMW, definite bullshit but you just have to smile and nod. Then, out of the blue, attempts to blow out the lit candle on our table. Blowing wax straight up and all over his face. He really tries hard to play it cool, but he looks in some serious discomfort. Time to leave the salubrious surrounds of The Kilkenny Irish Bar, thankfully.
We manage a couple more beers before it’s time to finish up. On our way back, Gav attempts to explain to the taxi driver that we need ‘aqua’…… He looks at us confused. The German for water being of course ‘Wasser’. We give up and just walk around a bit near our hostel and find a shop that charges us €6 for two 1.5ltr bottles of still Wasser. Past midnight we’re all on the make I guess.
I’m up early and out by 8:30am, breakfast al fresco outside Pfefferbett Hostel, it’s a beautiful morning and it would be a shame not to make the most of it, so I start off walking toward Brandenburg Gate. I get there and just keep going, finally stumbling upon a market off Strasse des 17, catching some cool music and just a really great atmosphere with the sun shining. After a while I stroll back to the general Brandenburg area, trying for a coffee in Starbucks opposite the Gate. There’s about 15 people in the queue so I keep going. The only thing for it is to aim for Coffee Fellows (which I spotted on the way down). The coffee isn’t great or cheap, but…….there’s free wi-fi.
Enter some loud Borussia Dortmund fans, megaphone screeching awkwardly as their fellow fans order coffees. To go, thank fuck. I quite fancy a lonely, settled coffee without the piercing sounds of German football chants. I know it’s a lot to ask at mid-day on a Saturday after a fill of pure German beer, but…….
I manage to cover 12.5 Km of the capital and see most of what I want to see. I find a different side to Berlin than the more touristy elements I got yesterday. Very cool, liberal vibe going on. Passing an ally, I take a chance and stumble upon a guy doing graffiti, I’ve never seen that before and it’s pretty cool to witness. The wall is incredibly alive. It’s a strange sort of show to be allowed to observe for a few moments.
Berlin, there seems to be a real anti-established order engrained in the people. Not hard to understand why. Rebellion seems like it is a civic duty given the history of what happened in it’s absence.
So, tourism done and we head to Brauhaus Lemke, order the house weissbeer and sit and wait. Absolutely delicious. One of the nicest beers I’ve ever tasted. We could sit here all day sipping away but the sun is roasting us and we need to head back to the hostel to freshen up. There is also an unfortunate number of flies swarming the beer garden and it’s becoming a difficult task to keep them from the sensation that is the Lemke Weissbeer.
Walking through Hackescher Markt, there’s an amazing voice filling the atmosphere with a familiar song that I just can’t place. I stop and disappear for a few moments losing my friends. I’d happily stay here and watch and I do so for a little while, knowing where they are headed. I’m in no rush to get there. I join them, have a watered down Guinness and then head back out to the square with the intention of just sitting alone, sipping a weissbeer and listening to that beautiful voice. But the small, curly haired lady has vanished. Her gear is still there and I assume she’s on a break. 30 minutes later, there’s no sight of her and I face the decision of ordering a second beer or heading back. I take the cowards way out and rejoin the F.A. Cup Final.
The F.A. Cup Final, I could take or leave it. We’re in the company of aggressive, yet entertaining, Hull fans in Kilkenny’s pub, the only place we could find showing the game. Extra time is not at the top of my list. We’ve already spent an hour and a half watching football while in this incredible city but the players of Arsenal and Hull have different ideas I suppose.
Again, we settle for dinner in a convenient place, 1840 Restaurant, and again we are disappointed. A dry, lifeless burger which they are at pains to tell you is ‘180g of meat’, whenever I see this type of thing alarm bells go off and I should have listened this time. Steve fell asleep as soon as we landed though and required my assistance in ordering. I think he went for exactly the same as me to have it hassle free. Night 2 fissles out pathetically with the previous night shaming us into retirement.
It’s Sunday and it’s raining. Heavily. Another early start, I want to spot some graffiti so I grab a quick bite to eat in the courtyard and feed the birds. They don’t seem to be overly enthused by my high protein, low carb, weird bread. I can’t say I blame them. Without the peanut butter and banana it’s dry as fuck. Can birds eat peanut butter or banana, I can confirm now that they will. I won’t be here long enough to see the dead bodies if they can’t. But at 10:30am, when I get back, they’re still singing, so? Maybe?
You don’t have to go far to see some cool images and ideas poured onto the sides of buildings. It seems to be something embraced by the city. It’s not so underground maybe. There is an awful lot of crap, uninspired ‘tags’ much like every city really, but there are certainly some real gems too. I like not knowing who the artist is, not having any sense of their style or peers.
I get wet walking to Coffee Fellows, which is a shame because I packed light and don’t have much of a change to fall back on. The coffee gets a second chance and still isn’t great but it’s manageable and the wi-fi is still here, so I can check the 40 emails in my inbox. All ads. Wonderful.
Later, for lunch, we head down to Burgermeister, on Oberbaumstrasse. I hear they do a good burger. Street food, no indoors but a permanent fixture. Simple menu, amazing burgers, right up my street. No bells or whistles and no nonsense. The food does not disappoint. I go for the chilli cheese burger and it’s a meal of food right there. This is not fast food, someone has thought about this, and has a passion. That’s really all anyone could want from their food vendor. Absolutely shames the excuse for a patty they threw in front of us in 1840 too, and at half the price.
Walking along the East Side Gallery with it’s interesting, if crowded, artwork on the remaining sections of the Berlin Wall and around the area. It’s a sombre reminder of the history of Berlin, until you reach a break in the Wall, where a Curry Wurst stall sits unashamed among the symbol of communist rule in the East. I’m not really sure what to make of that.
We stroll around Kreuzberg for a while, it’s a decent area but it’s only mainly restaurants and bars open today being a Sunday. A protest for something grabs our attention for a while. A heavy Polizia presence but nothing we expect from this fact kicks off. It’s a nice way to end a short stop in Berlin. Relaxed, and filled with the best food we’ve had all weekend. Next time, I won’t be settling on the tourist trap for sustenance. It does feel like an element of this trip was left behind due to our poor judgement. It’s strange, because food and drink are usually the things we nail.