People say New York is the city that never sleeps. Well, these people clearly haven’t experienced Berlin. A city steeped in rich history, and characterized by poignant transgression. Where metal and culture blend and paint the skyline with memorable strokes. The 90 hours I spent in Berlin where among the highlights of my Erasmus thus far. Here’s how it all played out.
We touched down in Schönefeld airport just before noon last Friday. Everything seemed familiar at first. The airport works as efficiently as an airport can. All notices were in both German and English. It all appeared roughly the same as France. However that was until we strolled to the train station, on our way to Berlin city center. Immediately we were met by a hoard of people lining up to buy train tickets. There was something strangely robotic about the rows of orderly queues that stretched through the station. Everyone stood tall and straight, and moved in sync. No one dared moved out of line. I couldn’t help but think of the more laissez-faire approach the Irish, or even the French, take to forming queues. I thought back to my Intercultural Management class I took last semester where we took a look at the German approach to society. There was something distinctly German about the whole thing. Once we finally reached the top of our respective queues, we were met with a machine with an incredibly over-complicated interface to buy train tickets. We fumbled around with buttons for a while until someone working at the station kindly showed us that we simply needed a “Berlin ABC” ticket essentially to get everywhere in the city. Suddenly, the entire system felt redundant and I couldn’t help thinking all of the queues had formed due to the time-consuming, unnecessary system.
The trains are relatively modern, and the stops are plentiful and frequent. Our stop, Alexandre Platz, is quite central. Where you can find famous TV tower. Our hostel, called One80 Degree , was located about 10 minutes from the train stop. So central. I was genuinely quite impressed with the hostel overall. The lobby was spacious, with plenty of sofas and table to relax at. Three of us had to take an online exam that day for a class we were taking, and luckily the hostel had four PC’s that were free to use. Major brownie points for that!! It had a relatively big bar, and even had a nightclub downstairs. [We never went once] The staff were pleasant, and more than happy to help with any queries we had. Upon checking in, we each received a fresh pair of sheets to dress our beds. We all appreciated this, because it meant that the sheets were guaranteed to be clean. Always a plus. There were only four of us occupying the room in total across the four days. With four people, it was quite packed. The room itself was made for six, and I can’t imagine the nightmare having six of us in such a tiny area. The room had its own bathroom and shower room, which made up for this lack of space. I paid just over €75 for the four nights. Quite reasonable considering the location.
Something strange happens in Berlin throughout the day. The center is teeming with people during the day, yet around 8pm each night, it completely dies down. Only to experience a resurgence around 12am. The reason for this is the incredible nightlife. We went to two clubs during our trip. Prince Charles, and Ritter Buztke. While the first step the bar for nightlife in Berlin, the latter really blew it out of the park. The club itself was composed of several rooms, each with a different DJ. The rooms could be accessed via a corridor that ran straight down the center of the club, leading to the outdoor smoking area. Entry was €15, but well worth it. Everything you’ve heard about the nightlife is true. You go out late, you come home late. I’ve had those nights in Ireland before, but something about the Berlin nightlife is so infectious. You can feel the tiredness creeping up inside you, but something stops you. It has so much to offer. So much more than what I saw during my stay, I’m sure.
In terms of sight-seeing, we saw quite a lot. The Berlin wall, the Holocaust memorial, the Jewish Museum, all the classics. However, if you are planning on seeing Berlin and want to do something a bit different. I encourage you check out the Reichstag Dome. I never even knew it existed before I went to Berlin. It’s located just above the parliament, and is completely free. You just have to register online. You get a free audio tour, and the chance to see Berlin from a different perspective. It was genuinely so beautiful. The interactive tour asks you to stop at specific points while climbing the dome and urges you to look out at Berlin while a voice recites information about what you are seeing. We all visited the Tempelhof Airport, abandoned during the 80’s. The terminal is open to the pubic and at specific points around the airport, there are posts with information about its use and history. The building itself is closed to the public. A woman who stopped us on our walk informed us that it closed because it is currently housing refugees. Very interesting.
Overall, I truly enjoyed my time in Berlin. It’s such an incredible city. One thing I noticed was the plethora of open spaces around the city. Soaring buildings line the city, however, no matter where you walk, you’ll meet an open space. I believe it has something to do with the city’s past. A history of control and restriction has aged into something more open, and free. The skyline is quite metallic, and somber in parts. However, wherever you are in the city, you can find flairs of creativity bursting through its rigid surface. Graffiti paints the city, and stickers cover every sign-post in a fluorescent fashion. It’s really quite captivating. Throughout the city, you can find hubs of true insanity. Every night, just around the corner from our hostel, a man wearing a goats mask played loudly on his drums to any audience. Transgression runs through the city, like blood coursing through its veins. There is a raw urgency to violate social boundaries. This surfaces in the massive piercing and tattoo culture you can find there. I have never experienced a city quite like it. You can feel a sense of anger at the past, and an urge to be distinct, in the air.
Berlin is truly a study of the human condition, its perseverance and its defiance of societal norms. I strongly urge you to experience it for yourself.
Anyway, that’s what’s been on my mind lately. Hope you’re having a great day, and an even better week.
Thanks for reading!