Berlin: the best of times, the wurst of times
- Recommended for:
- Cultural, Short Break, Nightlife, Budget, Mid-range
Berlin proves to be more than just a decadent delight of bars and clubs for a bunch of lads on tour
When a bunch of my buddies and I began to bounce the idea of a weekend break around, it didn’t take long until the usual boozy hotspots cropped up: Malia, Ayia Napa and the Balearics to name but a few. After trading a few dodgy ideas, one bright spark amongst us suggested the German capital, Berlin.
I’d heard good things about Berlin from fellow students and budding city explorers alike. Rumour had it that once you’d been to this emerging metropolis of cool, you’d never be the same again. Along with my fellow explorers, I was keen to put this bold statement to the test.
Where to stay
Berlin plays host to a great number of lavish hotels, such as the Grand Hyatt located in the extremely post-modern Potsdamer Platz, an entirely new district of the city constructed after the wall came down in 1999. However, as smelly students, we were under little disillusionment that staying in one of the city's many hostels would be the shrewdest decision. We opted for the Meininger hostel, located on Hallesches Ufer, which catered for our party of eight at approximately £10 each per night.
Overall, and considering the cost, the eight bed dorm we called home for the next three nights was sufficient and provided all the amenities we’d require i.e. an en-suite bathroom, bunk-beds and secure storage lockers. Furthermore, the hostel offered a guest kitchen, internet access and a bar, which never seemed to open. However, one couldn’t help thinking that, as the Meininger hostels are a chain, it would’ve been nice to stay in onethat communicated more personality as well as an edible breakfast.
I’d argue that the single, most unavoidable expense during any city break is the cost of travel. A silent assassin that gradually drains your holiday spending without you realising. Fortunately, for €22, one can purchase a travel card which gives 72 hours of unrestricted access to the city's various travel links.
Hopping from Berlin’s incredibly efficient tube system (U-Bahn), to the various surface rail (S-Bahn) and bus connections was simple and stress-free. Be warned though, whilst the city doesn’t operate any formal method of ticket inspection, plain-clothes inspectors operate on the more popular travel routes, regularly checking tickets and dishing out hefty fines to those who’ve tried to cheat the system.
It’s a known fact that lads can’t function properly without a belly full of food. Luckily, Berliners seem all too aware of this and provide more opportunities to fill your face than you’d think possible. A place of culinary choice was Alexanderplatz, a large public square occupied by an overwhelmingly huge TV tower. Amongst the standard food-chains, we found a number of eateries such as Gaststättes, the German equivalent to a gastro-pub and many an Imbiss or take-away, serving traditional German fare at exceptionally reasonable prices. The countless bars and restaurants around Hakescher Markt and Oranienburger Strasse served great food and bar snacks until late and with exceptional care and consideration. With such varied choice, we’d often try a different resturant in this area for lunch and dinner. For those more adventerous than myself, it’d be worth trying the national dish of Currywurst, a boiled, curried sasuage.
To truly test whether rumour was true and Berlin could change a man forever, we knew we had to check out the city's vibrant and trend-defining club scene. It seemed apparent that the newly developed West-side of Berlin (including Hakescher Markt) contained all your commercial clubs and bars, I’d recommend a swift half in the Irish Bar underneath Hakescher Markt’s S-Bahn station. However, to gain a true taste of Berlin’s brilliant nightlife; you have to go west. Kreuzberg, located south of the Mitte area, is awash with hip and trendy bars, clubs and the odd not-so-secret warehouse rave. The old industrial town, which now houses Berlin’s bohemian dwellers, still boasts it’s old Eastern Bloc architecture making it an edgy and theatrical spot to enjoy a glass of German beer.
It soon became apparent that Berliners love to party and they love to party as late as possible. Berlin nightlife starts sturring at about 11pm, with the top clubs such as Tresor (www.tresorberlin.de) and Watergate not opening until midnight. It’s in these minimalistic clubs where you can expect to be immersed in the city's own brand of techno music. For those who truly want to experience Berlin club-culture then the iconic Berghain and Panorama Bar is a must. Located in a disused power plant in Freidrichshain, this club isn’t for the faint hearted and operates are renowned door-policy to ensure only the most hedonistic revel in its historic status.
We never intended, or wanted, our trip to Berlin to be solely about the club culture. Thankfully with a city steeped in such a prolific history we had no choice but to spend our days soaking in the magnificent architecture and museums on offer. The Brandenburg Gate, situated a few kilometers from our hostel, made for great photo oppurtunities, as did the famous Checkpoint Charlie situated on Friedrichstrasse. The city contains over 160 museums but a must on short visits is the powerful Jewish Museum (www.jmberlin.de) on Lindenstrasse, which charts over 2000 years of jewish history within an aesthetically astounding piece of architecture.
On the whole, Berlin made for a brilliant weekend excursion: offering attractions to suit the need of any tourist. The city was welcoming and diverse with an indescribable depth and attraction. I can’t explain why, but I completely understand why many would argue that once you’ve been, you’ll never be the same again.