It’s been over a month since I got back from my little Christmas getaway to Berlin, and I’ve been so busy with exams that I haven’t had chance to write about it until now. Considering that, upon deciding where to go for a city break, me and my friend picked Berlin out of a hat (it was up against 10 other European cities), combined with the fact that not once have I considered visiting Germany before, the city itself was a pleasant surprise.
Considering that it had never really appealed to me before, I ended up leaving Berlin feeling like I could spend another week there, at least. The modern, progressive vibe of this place is unlike any other city I’ve visited, Amsterdam included – so it’s definitely fair to say that the German capital has secured itself a firm place on my “will go back, must go back” list. Here’s why Berlin is now one of my favourite cities in Europe.
The nightlife is like nothing I’ve experienced before.
I’ve always heard about Berlin’s hedonistic, crazy nightlife and bits and bobs about the notorious BDSM fetish clubs. Although I didn’t get chance to experience the latter (and to be honest, I’m not sure I would), the three nights I went out were fantastic. The first night, we were taken by a member of the hostel staff to a jam session event at Badehaus Berlin in Friedrichshain. The location itself was unlike anything I’ve ever seen before. You walk down a metal staircase off the main street and you’re in this creepy, quiet square full of old warehouse buildings, each with their own personalised grafitti decor. The atmosphere was symbolic of what the city itself is all about: gritty, free-spirited and liberal.
The second night, we headed to the Matrix club on Warschauer Platz with some American guys we met in the hostel, and on the last night, we belted out some tunes at Monster Ronson’s Ichiban Karaoke bar on Warschauer Strasse, a minutes’ walk from the Matrix.
Nightclubs in Berlin stay open until the early hours; I’m talking 8am in some places. Going out every night showed me that the city really does have something to suit everyone’s taste and music preferences, and I feel like I need another week in Berlin to experience the other bars and clubs it has to offer. Each place has its own unique vibe to set it apart from the rest, which I really feel England should learn from.
There are photo booths on the STREET.
More straight-to-the-point, it’s inevitable that a city with photo booths on its streets is going to be one of my favourites for this reason, and this reason alone. As if the currywurst dispensers weren’t enough, you can hop into a photo booth on near enough every street and pose for a selection of vintage-style photos. It’s truly fab, and I don’t know why other cities haven’t caught on.
Nobody does Christmas like Berliners.
There I was thinking Sheffield Christmas Market was one of the best, and then I went to Berlin. (No disrespect, Sheff.) We visited the most famous of the Christmas markets in the city, the Gendarmenmarkt. Being as obsessed with Christmas as I am, it was a dream come true to actually be there, mulled wine and giant hot dog in hand. Walking amongst the stalls and crowds takes a good few hours, but it’s so worth it. I treated myself to a bag of hot roasted walnuts and bought some of the most beautiful handmade Christmas decorations to take home to my family. I even managed to get a picture with the eccentric guy dressed up as a Christmas tree. For anyone who loves Christmas as much as I do, you’ll love Berlin in December.
The history is rich and compelling.
To be perfectly honest, I really didn’t know what to expect when I visited the Berlin Wall Memorial. Aside from the Reichstag and the Brandenburg Gate, it was the only historical monument we had chance to visit in the three days we spent there. The atmosphere was peaceful as soon as we left the metro station, a sharp contrast to most other parts of the city. The memorial itself contains the last piece of the wall, and the grounds behind it have been preserved. Pipes and certain parts of watchtowers and other buildings have been cordoned off and preserved, each fenced square containing a description of what once stood there. A short walk down Bernauer Strasse and you’re at the visitor centre, which has interactive exhibitions and a timeline of the wall’s rise and fall. I really didn’t know much about the history of the wall before I came here, but the information is so clear and concise in the visitor centre that I left with loads of new knowledge that I wouldn’t have learned otherwise. What I love about Berlin is its honest recognition of its dark history. It hasn’t swept anything under the carpet, but instead recognises its history and embraces the fact that it has moved on from those times. This, along with everything else, is an aspect of the city I loved the most.
Berlin 2018, anyone?