A Weekend in Berlin

Before travelling to Berlin, I searched for blog posts to help Darren and I decide what to do in our short time there, but I didn’t find any that were overly helpful. So, I put this blog post together to hopefully fill that gap!

We travelled to Berlin on March 31st, making it just in time to tick March off the list for my 2017 Travel Challenge. We spent 2 nights there and there was just so much to do. So much that I really want to go back and do it all again, as well as do the things that we didn’t get to do.

It’s unusual for me to want to revisit a place. I am all about travelling to and experiencing new places but I really enjoyed it and feel like there’s much more to see and do.

Our trip wasn’t all good and as I said on my Facebook page, I think it’s just as important for me to share my negative experiences, so that you guys can try to avoid them where possible.

Direct v Connecting Flights to Berlin

When I initially priced flights to Berlin from Dublin, about 3 weeks before we were planning to travel there, direct flights were working out at about €300 per person, however if we got a connecting flight, it worked out at about €150 per person. Obviously direct flights are always the preferred option but for half the price, we opted for the connecting flights.

As I said, we had just 2 nights in Berlin, so we had a jam packed couple of days! We needed as much time as possible there so I booked the earliest flight available, which was at 5.55am, so we had to be in the airport for 4.30am.

On the way over, a 1 hour and 45 minute flight took us from Dublin to Frankfurt. By the time we got off the plane and grabbed something to eat, it was time to board our flight to Berlin. We landed in Berlin ‘s Tegel Airport 50 minutes later and I remember saying to Darren how painless it was and that I couldn’t wait to tell my followers about how we bagged 2 hassle-free flights to Berlin for half price. However, the fact that there wasn’t much time between the 2 flights turned out to be detrimental to our journey back home. More about this shortly.

We got the X9 bus from Berlin Tegel and got off at the last stop. We were told to get the 200 bus after that but we were too tired so we ended up hopping in a taxi instead. The bus was €2.80 each and the taxi was about €10. Not bad as far as airport transfers go! We got a taxi to the airport from Berlin City on the way home and it cost €25.

Now on to the drama that I talked about above. On the way home, our plane from Berlin to Munich was delayed by a few minutes, but because there was not much of a layover, we missed our connecting flight to Dublin, by 5 minutes despite us Usain Bolt-ing it through the airport.

I make a conscious effort not to exert any energy on things that are out of my control and so I told myself (and Darren) that it wasn’t a big deal, we would just go get some food and drinks and catch the next flight home. It turns out it was a big deal, an 8-hour long big deal to be precise. There were no direct flights to Dublin until the next morning and the very dismissive, extremely unapologetic German airline booked us on a flight to Frankfurt, where we would wait for 4 hours before flying home to Dublin, on top of the 2 hours we had already waited. It’s tiring just thinking about it!

We got home at 12am, absolutely exhausted, rather than 4pm as initially planned. I would say that this drama may not always happen, but the laid-back reactions from the air hostesses, the comments from the other passengers and the attitude from the airline staff, gave me the impression that this happens more often than not. Something to consider when making the decision between direct and connecting flights.

Travel Tip: If you choose connecting flights, give yourself plenty of time in between. A 3-hour layover is nothing when you think of it. By the time you get something to eat and take care of the usual airport formalities, the time has passed. Lesson learned.

Now that that’s off my chest…

Let me tell you, Berlin is an amazing city and as I said on my Snapchat, it’s so far my favourite European city, and I’ve been to quite a few! The flight drama could in no way take away from our trip, I loved every second there and here’s why.

Accommodation

We stayed in Motel One at Potsdamer Platz, be careful if booking because there are a few Motel Ones in Berlin. It was spotless clean and so reasonably priced at €198 for 2 nights. Shout out to booking.com for hitting the nail on the head as always! The best thing about it was its location. I could not believe when we arrived that it was part of the Mall of Berlin! It was part of the mall, but separate at the same time, as in, there was no noise or disruption.

The Mall is a landmark, so it’s very easy to direct a taxi driver to, if your German isn’t up to scratch! Also, it is sign posted all around the city, see the below picture of the sign post at the Berlin Wall, so even when walking, you can’t get lost. The hotel is very central, you can walk anywhere in the city from there.

If you’re not sure where to stay, I have no reservations about recommending this place. The rooms are small but I mean, you literally just sleep there so, a small, clean room in a central location is all you really need!

The Weather

The weather was beautiful, perfect actually, because it wasn’t too hot. The Irish are always very appreciative of a bit of Vitamin D, considering there is a deficiency in our home country.

I packed dreadfully for this trip. Darren told me at 1am, the night before we left, that it was 23 degrees in Berlin. I was way too tired to re-pack and so I didn’t. Off I went with my jeans, boots and jumpers! It was too hot for boots, even jeans, so I lived in my little silver mules for the weekend. It was grand, but I would have preferred some lighter clothes!

Travel Tip: I probably don’t have to tell most of you, but always check the weather forecast before you travel. The iPhone Weather App is really helpful and pretty accurate.

Food

I received so many laughing emojis when I explained my food experience on Snapchat. When it comes to food, I am a home bird and extremely picky. So unfortunately I won’t be of much benefit on the food front because I live on Sour Cream and Onion Pringles when I’m away (not quite but you get the idea).

I did try the world famous (so we were told) Currywurst. It’s basically a hotdog (no bun) with curry powder and ketchup. The quality of the meat in Germany was so poor in the past, they sprinkled the curry powder on it to mask the bad taste and smell! It was actually nice so you should definitely give it a try.

Price: About €4 for the Currywurst and chips.

Travel Tip: I can confirm that Sour Cream and Onion Pringles are the same all over the world so if all else fails…

Things to Do in Berlin 

We did so much during our trip but there was so much that we didn’t get to do. There are hundreds of museums for example. I don’t like museums in general but I would have liked to go to the Nazi museums. In saying that, I wouldn’t have chosen them over anything that we did so I’m happy with the choices we made in terms of what to see.

Tiergarten Park

I was pleasantly surprised to hear that over 40% of Berlin is forest. I just love it when you can escape the hustle and bustle of a city and retreat to a peaceful setting within a very short radius. Central Park, Stephen’s Green being great examples and Tiergarten Park in Berlin being another.

Remember I said we booked the earliest flight available? Well considering we got 3 hours sleep the night before, we needed a power nap when we arrived in Berlin, which turned into a 3 and a half hour sleep but it was well needed. When we woke up, we headed out to explore the streets of the city and stumbled across this park. It was just as good as empty, so I could hear the sounds of the birds chirping and the trees swaying and I just felt so content walking around with my husband holding one hand and a coffee in the other.

Price: Free.

Travel Tip: There is so much to see and do in Berlin so if your stay is a short one, it will be intense trying to fit everything in. Visit this park one of the days to recharge your batteries.

The TV Tower

At over 200 meters high, this 360-degree platform provides a great view of the city. We booked ahead online because it books out quite quickly and unintentionally got the fast track tickets. We were separated from the regular queue at the start but were directed back into it at one stage so it was definitely not worth paying the extra few bob for!

Price: Standard tickets are €13 and fast track are €19. Both can be purchased here.

Travel Tip: You can book a meal for the restaurant, I was sceptical of the food  so we just had drinks at the bar. During the walking tour (more below) our guide told us that the food is fantastic there so it might be worth considering.

Berlin Highlights and Hidden Sights Historical Walking Tour

We booked this tour ahead on TripAdvisor and it was by far the highlight of our trip. There were so many tours to choose from but this one was rated 5 stars, reasonably priced and included everything that we were planning to visit.

Mike was our tour guide and he was one of the most charismatic people I have ever come across. His introduction to the group: “Hi, I’m Mike and my wife is a communist…” set the tone perfectly! He was so funny, extremely passionate and his knowledge of European history was nothing short of amazing, honestly. Mike made himself available for questions during the break and stayed back after the tour until everyone had left. He directed us to the best Currywurst in the city, bike rentals and suggested ways for us to get to the airport.

He was so helpful and couldn’t do enough for the group. He’s the reason that I’ll be leaving my first ever TripAdvisor review (If I ever finish this blog post). He had an iPad with him and showed us historical footage of some of the sites we visited. We were shown maps of Berlin throughout the ages, old currency and he even drew us illustrations on the ground to help us understand the complex history of the Berlin Wall. Mike really did go above and beyond.

The tour started at 10.30am and lasted for 4 hours. We walked from the East to the West side of Berlin and seen everything in between including The Berlin Wall, Hitler’s bunker, Reichstag, the Holocaust Memorial, the Brandenburg Gate, Checkpoint Charlie and so much more.

The remains of the Berlin Wall were not what I expected. I had imagined it to be more colourful, full of graffiti, and a lot bigger.

Some of the remains had graffiti on them as seen in the picture below but I thought the whole thing was like that.

It wasn’t as tall as I imagined or as thick and there wasn’t as much of it left as I thought. Throughout the city, double cobblestones marks where the wall once stood.

What I absolutely loved about Berlin was that there has been no effort to sugar coat it’s horrific past. The city is a shrine to the victims of the atrocities and there are no excuses being made. There are really effective, poignant memorials all over the city (Holocaust Memorial below).

There is a real sense of apology, if that makes sense. Hitler’s bunker is a car park, with no indication of what once stood on the site (and rightly so). The blue van in the below picture, is parked right above where his bunker was.

This tour was particularly good for putting a very honest lens on the events of the past and I can’t recommend it enough. Put it this way, if you told me you had just 5 hours in Berlin, I would tell you to spend 4 of them on this tour, the other hour for travelling!

Price: €14 per person (I would have paid a lot more). Buy tickets here.

Travel Tip: You should not leave Berlin without doing this tour.

Getting Around

There are so many ways to get around the city not including by foot or by taxi. You can also get around by…

Trabi

Segway

Buggy

I think that’s the name of them? Myself and Darren are having a debate as I type!

Bus

Bicycle

This was our chosen method of transport. We’ve hired bikes in every city we’ve ever visited, well just about, and there are many bike rental places in Berlin. We tried to hire the “LIDL Bike Rentals” but couldn’t figure out how they worked! In the end, we got them from Rent a Bike and the process was very straight forward. We used the bikes to travel to the abandoned airport. Yes, an abandoned airport (I’ll get to that soon)!

Price: €12 per day or €8 for 4 hours.

Travel Tip: There’s a phone number at the bike stations that you can ring (if nobody is there to help), or WhatsApp and they have an app.

If you’d rather less walking, cycling or driving, you can also go up into the Reichstag Building (Parliament) and view the city from the glass dome. If you fancy it, you need to book online a week in advance or join a pretty large queue when you get there, hence why we didn’t do it!

Or you can get an awesome view of the city from this hot air balloon!

Berlin Tempelhof – Abandoned Airport

This was an awesome experience. Mike, our tour guide, told us about this place and the minute he said it, myself and Darren looked at each other and nodded in agreement; we were definitely going! I absolutely love anything abandoned or historical. I can’t explain it, abandoned buildings give me all kinds of feelings. They make me feel really emotional! Is that strange? Probably, but I never said I was normal!

We cycled out to the airport and we were so surprised when we got there. Hundreds of people were there, rollerblading, cooking on BBQs, playing football, throwing frisbees, and everything else you can think of. The atmosphere was amazing, with all kinds of craic going on.

There was a smaller abandoned building on the grounds with an abandoned airplane and submarine!

It was just so random, there was even a circus set up there. We cycled up and down the runway, explored the grounds (you can’t go in to the airport itself, unfortunately) and people-watched! I really recommend that you take a trip to Tempelhofer Feld Park, it was a bizarre, but awesome, experience!

One of my followers, Rachel, snapped me to tell me that Berlin has an abandoned theme park too! She told me about it the morning that we were leaving and it was too late but that didn’t stop me from Googling it. I would have loved to see it. When I was searching for it online, I came across so many buildings that were abandoned during the Cold War and World War (read more here). These are the reasons I want to go back to Berlin.

Price: Free

Travel Tip: You should definitely have a BBQ or a picnic on the grounds, especially if the weather is nice.

Where to Next?

If you made it this far, thank you so much for your time and attention, this post was a long one which hopefully reflects my love and passion for the city.

When I set myself the challenge to travel somewhere new once a month, every month, I never considered the fact that I’d need to take time off work! See, I’m very impulsive, I make a decision first and then let the rest sort itself out. I don’t look for reasons not to do something and it always works out, always. Anyway, this has just means that some trips will be shorter than others.

Our April trip was to BRUSSELS! You can read all about it here. If you want to follow me on the rest of my travel challenge, you can via my social media channels Facebook, Instagram and Snapchat (livelavishlycom). You can also catch up on February’s trip to Iceland here if you’re interested.

Peace out…

 

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