Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Berliners & Wieners

What can I say? Two weeks later, Berlin's odd charm drew me back. I decided to return because I had a ticket to the "We Are One" music festival, but I also got a deep second look at the city's culture and history.

Mornings in Berlin strike a large contrast with those in Sweden. Whereas the sun comes blazing out at 4 am in Lund, the Berlin skies slowly transform into a light gray...and stay that way. If I could describe the city in one color, it would be gray. This is not as depressing as it sounds, since the city has risen from the ashes of war and transformed itself into a bustling modern city.

This trip started out in none other than the very heart of the city, Alexanderplatz, with Berlin bears and curbside currywurst. Currywurst was invented in Berlin supposedly, so they sell this stuff everywhere.

From there we wandered past the TV tower, into a beautiful cathedral, and then onwards to Museum Island. With little time to spare, we only stopped to snap a few photos before hurrying to the Brandenburger Tor (Brandenburg gate) for our "Third Reich" walking tour.

The tour turned out to be an intense 4 hours of walking and standing, but the amount of history and hidden gems we discovered made it well worth the time and money. Our guide led us through the three famous WWII/Holocaust memorials. Interestingly enough, these memorials were designed with a modern, abstract edge that allows the viewer to draw his/her own conclusions about the meaning.

Along the walk, we also stopped by the patch of grass covering what was once Hitler's bunker, the New Synagogue (which survived Kristallnacht but not later bombings), and the little "stumbling stones" (located throughout Berlin and parts of Europe) marking the homes of Holocaust victims prior to their deportation to concentration camps.

That night, our group split in half to experience Berlin's famous nightlife. The two guys went to try their luck at Berghain (the most famous club in Berlin) while me and another girl headed for the "666 Anti-Pubcrawl." Unfortunately, neither party got what they wanted, but the boys ended up having a great time at another big club while we were redirected to a really cool industrial-complex-turned-club-area called "RAW Tempel." These rundown buildings, covered in graffiti and street art, have been converted to individual clubs, bars, and artist workshops. We paid 7 euros (whaat) to go to the biggest club, Cassiopeia, for a night of mainstream (but fun) hip-hop/funk music.

Photo courtesy of berlin21.net

Our whole group knocked out until 1 pm the next day. A trip to the grocery store for some festival pregame material was also mandatory, and we walked out carrying a ridiculous load of cheap alcohol.

The "We Are One" festival was located in an awesome medieval citadel (Zitadelle Spandau). We saw Eric Prydz, Max Graham, and Paul Van Dyk tear up the stage, but the festival ended all too soon by 11 pm.

Not satisfied with just one half night of dancing, we immediately jumped on the subway, got a little bit lost, and ended up walking to the trendy district of Charlottenburg for some drinks. Sausalidos, a Mexican-themed bar, turned out to be one of the highlights of our nighttime adventures. The design was amazing, the music was on point (no dancefloor though...), and the half price JUMBO cocktails were bomb. Also, the other girl in our group turned 21 that night, so jumbo drinks were perfect for the occasion.

We also had a "free entrance" voucher from our hotel to club Q-Dorf, which turned out to be a cool club with an absolute s*** crowd. Not the business...

For our last day in Berlin, we headed for the oceanside area of Treptow. We wandered around aimlessly for a few hours, discovering some amazing street art and the freakin best 1.20 eur ice cream ever.

We happened upon our lunch place by accident, a riverside line of cafes and bars. It felt like we were on the Jungle Cruise at Disneyland!

I asked the waiter for their best beer, and after a moment of thinking, he suggested, "Since you're a girl, I think you'll like this one a lot. All the girls I know drink this!" Well needless to say, I was a little offended but after some backpedaling and explanation, he convinced me to order a Kristall beer.

For the latter half of the day, we walked down the East Side Gallery on the Berlin Wall and visited the Topography of Terror museum (former SS headquarters). The exhibit was well-done, but we were all so exhausted that we could barely walk.

I was all too happy to board the S-Bahn back to our hotel for some Thai food and relaxing. At 11 pm, we were back on the Eurolines coach (business class what what) to Copenhagen, ready for some serious R&R. As exhausted as we were, I am so thankful that I had the chance to see Berlin again with a fresh pair of lenses. It really is a beautiful and incredible city that has quickly climbed near the top of my most-loved travel destinations.

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