As I searched through my bag frantically, it dawned on me that all of my clothes smelled like sweat and Berlin – I couldn’t procrastinate any longer, it was time to do laundry. So now I’m sitting in a big Pulp Fiction t-shirt and a tiny pair of spandex shorts watching my laundry go through the spin cycle. Peace.
Date: May 12th, 2016
Time: 12:04 p.m., 12:04
Location: Sunflower Hostel – Berlin, Germany
Since my last blog post, I have been non-stop. I know NYC claims to be the city that doesn’t sleep, but I think Berlin has it beat. Yesterday a friend texted me asking if I was still alive, and all I could think is “but I’m barely breathing.” My body is more sore than it’s been after a heavy leg day, my hair is a crazy curly mess, I can’t remember the last time I ate healthy vegetables, and I haven’t slept more than 5 hours consecutively since I was in Amsterdam, but I have loved every second of Berlin.
After blogging on Tuesday afternoon, I went on a free alternative tour of the city. The street art in Berlin is like nothing I’ve ever seen before. People treat building walls like empty canvasses just waiting to be transformed. Despite the massive fine upwards of 15,000 euros, artists take the risk to make a statement. Some of the art is a result of political unrest, some of it as an attempt to make people smile, but all of it is saying something if you’re open to listening.
We also explored some of the more gritty neighborhoods of the city, and our guide explained that even though the wall has been torn down, there’s a striking difference between the East and West. East Berlin is gritty and grungy – it is constantly giving a big middle finger to big corporations; whereas, West Berlin is posh, the stores are nicer the restaurants are pricier, and everyone seems to be oozing class out of their pores. But regardless of where you are, they all seem to hate tourists.
After the alternative tour, I walked through East Side Gallery and continued exploring the art scene of Berlin. I found myself wanting to pick up a paintbrush and create. This city is so full of life and expression.
Later, my group and I ended up at a surprisingly delicious Mexican spot called Santa Maria for 1 euro tacos and 4 euro margaritas – it’s good to know everyone appreciates Taco Tuesday.
We made our way back to the hostel around 7:30 p.m., and by 10:00 p.m. a huge group of us had accumulated in the lounge area to brainstorm the plans for the night. Although we didn’t really make any concrete plans, at 1:00 a.m. we took a leap of faith and began our journey into Berlin’s nightlife. At first our group consisted of about 13 people, and we ended up at this techno spot called Suicide Circus. It was a little empty and the music was a little too dark for me, so I gathered the group to see if anyone was up for finding another club, but it seemed like everyone was just ready to head back home. One guy said he’d accompany me, and we ended up at this really cool club that was by water called Club der Visionare. As the sun began to rise, we decided to call it a night and made our way back to the hostel.
I fell asleep around 5:30 a.m. and woke up at 11:00 a.m. to explore the more touristy side of Berlin. I took a train to Alexanderplatz by myself and just began walking. In case you didn’t know, even if you’re not able to use data or WiFi, as long as you have your WiFi on, Google Maps can track your location (which is both very helpful and very creepy), so I wasn’t completely lost. My first stop was Museum Island. I paid 9 euros to get a day pass to all of the museums, but only went into the Pergamon and Neues. The
Pergamon had beautiful exhibits of ancient Greece and Islamic art as well as many other cultures, but it was the Neues that really pulled me in with its stunning Egyptian artifacts. Getting to see the iconic Nefertiti Bust was worth the 9 euros alone. Unfortunately, they had a strict no pictures policy in the room with the bust, but if you ever have an opportunity to see it, I highly encourage you to do so.
After the museum, I continued my sightseeing. The Brandenburg Gate, although full of tourists, was stunning. I found myself unsure of how to feel at the Monument to Murdered Jews; it was supposed to be a place of respect, but it was a maze where kids ran around and people took casual pictures. However, the Topography of Terror really struck a nerve. Reading about the dark history of Germany made me nauseous; I’m not
necessarily a huge history buff, but I think it’s important to explore the past in order to understand humanity. Checkpoint Charlie, although a tourist trap, was still cool to walk by. Most of the touristy spots are close together, so it was easy to walk from one place to another. That being said, according to the Health app on my iPhone, I walked over 40,000 steps yesterday.
I met up with a friend of a friend for drinks in Mitte last night, as I walked from the train station to the restaurant, I noticed that it was like being in a whole new Berlin. On my alternative tour, the guide had mentioned the differences in East and West Berlin, but seeing it made it so much more obvious. East Berlin has grungy techno clubs, andWest Berlin has trendy rooftop gin and tonic bars – one of the guys explained that a lot of wealthy people in Munich have come into Berlin and basically taken over parts of the city. Gentrification.
I made my way back to the hostel, and at midnight, everyone met up in the lounge to go for another round. Our first stop was Cassiopeia for Reggae and Old School Hip Hop, admittedly I was thrilled to get to dance to something besides techno. The club was full of a diverse group of people who embodied the expression “Dance like no one’s watching.” Being in the Hip Hop room reminded me of being back in a club at Atlanta. I sang along as banger after banger played. When they played an Outcast song, I felt a little hint of pride. I love how music has the power to transcend borders and unite people.
Around 4:00 a.m., we left for Club der Visionare. At this point, our group consisted of two girls and four guys. When we got to the door, the bouncer looked at me and said, “Are you all together?” I nodded my head, and he responded, “Sorry, you can’t go in.” Although I had heard about how particular Berlin clubs were, it was still annoying to have gotten rejected, especially since I still had my stamp from the night before on my wrist.
Two members of the group decided to just call it a night, so only four of us remained. One of the guys insisted on going to Watergate, and even though I had heard it was a spot for annoying drunk American tourists, I stuck to my philosophy of “why not?” My verdict: don’t waste your time or money.
I made it back to the hostel around 5:30 a.m., and slept until 11:00. I’m not guna lie, I feel physically exhausted. I decided today would be a day to catch up on blogging, eat something healthy, and plan out the next few days.Right now, I’m waiting for this spin cycle to finish, but I know this is just the calm before the storm.