Having taught in a foreign language school for a good three years, I made a lot of friends from around the world, and I especially have a lot of German friends. So, last year I took a trip to Berlin, and although it was only a short trip, it was very very eventful -apart from one day, which was uneventful, but we’ll get to that soon.
Germany itself is a brilliant country and Berlin is a brilliant city. There is loads to do, loads to see, and it is great both in the winter, when currywurst and apple strudel makes a welcome break from the freezing cold, or in the summer, when it is easier to spend time in open-air museums.
In our time in Berlin, we learnt a lot. We learnt about communism, we learnt about the holocaust, we learnt about beer, and we learnt that Germans are a very friendly bunch. We also learnt what NOT to do.
1) Go at Easter.
We visited over the bank holiday weekend, which seemed like a good idea. We’d travelled to Spain previously over Easter. Here is the difference – in Catholic Spain, Easter is a big dillio. All the shops shut, and enormous parades / shows / fireworks are put on. In Protestant Germany, Easter is not that big a deal. Shops (and everything else) shut, but there is NOTHING going on in it’s place. So we spent the Sunday wandering around outside the Humboldt University wondering whether there had been a zombie apocalypse.
2) Pose in a full Nazi salute in front of the Brandenburg Gate.
I would like to stress that we did not do this. We were nice British tourists taking moody instragram shots. The Asian group beside us, however, obviously didn’t get the memo that WWII was not the Golden Era of Germany. Cue them posing, arms outstretched, while a bemused Berliner takes a photo of them. (The Berliners took this on the chin. Maybe it happens a lot.)
3) Go to a “local party”.
We spent an evening out with the locals, eating pizza and boreks and sipping beer, which was great fun; well, until an old, lonely man started rubbing the table vehemently while staring at us and getting very, very excited. One of the bar tenders struck up a conversation with us once we’d moved, and told us a great place to go was right across the street, so we went. I am not exaggerating when I say it was basically somebody’s garage. It had a “bar” in it – and by bar I mean some bottles lined up on a table. It also had a few chairs, which we sat on, and a dog, which we patted. The icing on the cake, however, was the group of guys who fenced us in whilst passing small packets between each others’ pockets.
4) Try to get on an U-Bahn as the doors are closing.
It was very naive and London of us to think that we could run and jump onto a carriage as the doors were shutting, only for the automatic sensors to allow us to enter. Automatic sensors apparently do not exist in Germany. Rachael ended up stuck in the doors, one leg in and one leg out, with the other two of us trying to pry the doors open as the carriage started moving. (Although I have previously stated the helpfulness of Berliners, I would like to say that only one person bothered to look up from their book as we screamed. Not one person tried to help.)
5) Put your drink down.
Drinking in the street is one of the pulls for many people who go to Berlin for the weekend. You can grab a bottle from home and wander over to a bar or party, or just wander, if that’s how you roll. Our first night in Berlin we saw a lot of people drinking in the street, but then it was the weekend. We also saw a man mine-sweep a half-full bottle of beer from the pavement. Now, bottles littered the streets of Berlin while we were there, so that drink could well have been there for a good couple of days.
Soon, I’ll upload a post of things you should do while you’re in Berlin, and there are plenty. But I felt this was more important – we don’t want anyone having their drink stolen whilst they’re stuck between the U-Bahn doors, do we?