InterRailing: Berlin

Surprisingly after our second night out in a row in Prague we woke feeling really good. We even managed to go down and have some of the all you can eat breakfast which came free with the room. After this it was time to finish of the last of our packing and check out. We made our way to the metro, buying some food for the train on the way. Our train journey today would be the longest yet and take almost five hours. It was now our third InterRail experience and we were all feeling like we were getting the hang of it. Not that there is much to get a hang of. In essence all you are required to do is find a train, then the correct platform; then board that train. Even so we felt a lot more confident than we did when getting our first train.

We had pre-booked our seats when we arrived in Prague so our journey was all planned out. This was helped by the iPhone app ‘Rail Planner’, a superb and essential app for anyone thinking of doing Eurail or InterRail. When years ago people, like my parents, had to heave around a huge great book which listed all the train times. Someone now has had the insight to convert all that into an app for iPhones and Android smart phones. It’s even better because it is free! It works offline, so no need for internet, and when you put in your location and destination it tells you how to get there, train numbers and times. It really couldn’t be much better.

With a short wait for our train at Prague’s train station we boarded our train and found our compartment. Yeah compartment, we were on an old school train, just like the Hogwarts Express from Harry Potter. It was pretty awesome because none of us had ever experienced anything like it. We settled in for the longest train journey of our lives, so far.

After five hours of tearing through the Austrian and then noticeably German countryside’s we finally made it to Berlin HBF. It had been a great journey, and a very picturesque route. Although the tiredness had set in and we all spent some portion of the journey asleep. Well all of us had except Milo; he had taken it upon himself to learn German during the train journey. Being so annoyingly good at languages he had managed to pick up an awful lot already. So reassuringly we arrived in Berlin with someone who could speak some German.

As had become our routine, once we arrived we immediately went to the ticket office to book our tickets on the night train to Amsterdam. Unfortunately we ended up with possibly the grumpiest woman on planet earth. It wasn’t a great welcome to Germany. Using my app I knew there was a night train, however she insisted there wasn’t and tried to charge us extortionate amounts for a train we did not want to get. Instead of paying we decided just to leave and join the back of the growing queue, hoping that when we reached the front for the second time we would not get the same miserable woman. Fortunately we didn’t, we got a fantastic woman who when I showed her my phone with the ‘Rail Planner’ app open proceeded to book us onto our beds for the night train. Wahoo! It was all very simple, much simpler than that grumpy woman had tried to make it for us. The grumpy woman in the meantime was giving a poor Chinese woman a hard time who had actually resulted to tears because of the woman’s meanness. I really don’t think a job in customer service was right for that woman; she would have been much better suited to something like prisoner interrogation.

With our beds booked we had to navigate Berlin in search of the East Seven Hostel. This task was delegated to Calum. Two wrong trains and a lot of walking in the wrong direction later we had made it. By this point we had been travelling with our huge bags for an awfully long time and I think all of our threads were running a little thin. Luckily East Seven served to lift our spirits. It was just so homely! Everyone was smiling, there was a great selection of cheap beers, a nice clean lounge and kitchen, table-football. It was perfect. Just what we had been looking for. Even better, we had ourselves a private room. Even better for me I managed to secure a double bed to myself. Definitely the highlight of the day for me. Isn’t that part of why we travel though? So it makes us truly appreciate our beds when we get home to them.

After a brief snooze, we headed downstairs and then out for a little wander. It was getting dark now and we still had not eaten dinner. Luckily just a few metres from our Hostel we found a great restaurant. Run by a Turkish family, it was amazing. It was just what we were looking for, pizzas, pasta, kebabs all under 5€ and all really tasty. We would definitely be returning there. After dinner we were all in the mood for an early night. So we chilled downstairs for a while having a few drinks and making plans for the next day.

On Monday we woke feeling refreshed. Well I certainly did in my double bed. It was to die for. Today we had decided to go on a walking tour of Berlin, it seemed like a good way to get our bearings, see the city. It was also really convenient because it left from our Hostel. After showers and breakfast we started walking. We met our tour guide Polly and so it began. It was great! Really detailed and really informative. Of course we didn’t go everywhere but it was one of the best tours I think I have ever done. We had a break for lunch at Checkpoint Charlie so in the summer sun we could try our first, and definitely not last, bratwurst. I really recommend doing a walking tour if you are in Berlin, it really gives you a flavour of the city and you get to know it better walking round with someone who lives in the city. It is also nicer than going on a bus where you zoom pass everything. When you are walking everything is more sedate and at a slower pace so you have more time to ask questions, take photos and take in your surroundings.

Halocaust Memorial

Holocaust Memorial

The walking tour ended late afternoon, we all felt like we had a much richer understanding of Berlin after it. Polly kindly indicated more places of interest to check out on our map. What great service for a ‘free tour’, it is not totally free as most people decide to give 5-10€ at the end to say thank you. Even saying that I think it would have easily been worth 20€ so definitely worth doing if you are in Berlin. After the tour we headed over to the Topography of Terror museum to have a more comprehensive look round than we got on the tour. It was a very emotive place, especially being on the site of the former SS headquarters. The best free museum in Berlin.

After this the sun was getting very low, the sky turning orange, and our feet were getting incredibly sore. We were also really tired; it had been a long day.  We all agreed it was time to retreat back to the hostel and find something to eat along the way. Funnily enough nowhere seemed as nice or as cheap as where we had eaten the previous night. So back it was, tonight I was going to venture out, although the pizza had been delicious I went for the pasta bolognaise. The meal did not disappoint and definitely hit the spot. All for just 4.50€, it was amazing! Definitely worth checking out if you are hungry and near Senefelderplatz.

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We woke at about midday. Despite what you may be thinking this is not because we were feeling lazy. We had decided to go out the previous night to a club called Tresor. As Berlin nightlife is so different to anything we had ever experienced we found it awesome. There was heavy electro music but the thing we found most different was that people don’t go out until 2am! We were actually able to have a proper sleep before we had to go out. We slept until 2, then showered got changed, had a drink then went out just before 3am. It was crazy. Fortunately we got lucky and managed to make it into the club by 4 and then we stayed until about 8am. It was totally awesome.

We vowed to burn the candle at both ends though and not waste a day. So rather slower than usual we got ourselves up and ready to go. We wandered down to the Alexanderplatz where after getting on the wrong train twice we eventually found the right train and headed over to the East Side Gallery section of the Berlin Wall. It is pretty epic, well worth the short train journey. After this we headed back over to Museum Island as you get free entry during the last thirty minutes. We figured we could do one museum in this time. We chose the Altes Museum and we did it!

East Side Gallery, Berlin Wall Alex's Cycle

East Side Gallery, Berlin Wall

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Next it was time to walk our weary legs back to our local and try something else from their insanely tasty yet cheap menu. We had all elected to have a night in tonight although that would mean having to sample all the beers our hostel had to offer for just 1€ a pint!

Last night was a lot heavier than we initially intended it to be. Somehow though we still woke up early. Today our plan was to rent some bicycles and cycle around Berlin, heading over to the Tiergarten for the afternoon. For the small sum of 10€ we were able to rent four huge Dutch bicycles from our hostel for the day. Score!

It was awesome. Yet again the sun was shining and I was really enjoying finally being back on a bicycle. Even if it was a big heavy one with only one brake. We drifted though the city cycling in roughly the right direction. We had decided to do away with the maps and just explore on our bikes. Bikes were a great choice; they meant we were graced by lovely cool zephyrs in the hot summer air.

Cycling through the Tiergarten

Cycling through the Tiergarten

Eventually we made our way to the Brandenburg Gate, beyond which lay the vast expanse of the Tiergarten. The Tiergarten is a wonderful place to cycle, riddled with criss-crossing cycle paths, memorials, and as always Bratwurst vendors. We cycled for a good few hours until eventually having a good rest. We lay down on a lovely sunny patch of grass taking our tops off to get a good tan. It wasn’t for a few more minutes until we realised where we had decided to stop. People walking past were giving us strange looks. Then we looked around and saw it. Somehow, unbeknown to us, we had decided to sunbathe in the gay nudist area of the Tiergarten. We didn’t even have any idea that this area existed. We certainly don’t have anything like this at Piccadilly Gardens in Manchester. We actually found it quite funny.

We stayed there for a while, because it actually was a nice spot in the sun, until our bellies were crying out to us for food. We swiftly got onto our bikes and headed to find a bratwurst.

After lunch we continued cycling and resting through the Tiergarten. It really was a fantastic day, really chilled out and a great way to recuperate. When finally the sun began to set we headed back to the hostel, again without a map, taking quite a few detours. Then there was only one thing for it, to head to our local for some more pasta.

Our local Italian

Our local Italian

It was now our final day in Berlin, the day had finally come. Our night train to Amsterdam departed at midnight. Today we would go to a few museums on Museum Island and then head over to the Reichstag where we had booked a tour of the dome a few days earlier. If you want to do this, you have to book in advance and you can do it easily online before you arrive in Berlin. You just select a date and time of your tour and then they send you a confirmation email. It is completely free too.

Despite the overly crowded security checks to get into the Reichstag once you got up the views were amazing. You can walk right to the top of the dome and look out over the whole of Berlin and the Tiergarten.

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I was so glad we had chosen to spend so much time in Berlin because there is just so much going on and so much to do. It is definitely one of my favourite cities, so I can definitely see myself visiting there again. For two simple reasons, there is so much that I still have to do there; for the Bratwursts and Curry Wursts. They are simply to die for! I think during the last day we all grew quite nostalgic. Soon we would be heading to our final city, Amsterdam, and I think we all began to realise that there was no way it would live up to Berlin. We knew it would be fun, but Berlin offers so much more than that as a city. There is so much of everything going on in Berlin that no matter what your interests are you will find loads to see and do. I also think stopping off on a cycle-tour here would be great!

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