After roughly 8 hours in flight from New York to Berlin, I’ve arrived and the journey around the world has begun! Going east, east, east, east, until I’m back home – round round round she goes!
Our Boeing 767 gracefully landed after gliding through the air over the United States, then Canada, just under Greenland, then Iceland, until finally over Ireland, the U.K., and into Germany. No matter how often I fly, it never ceases to amaze me that these little tin cans with wings can take us all around the globe by the time we wake up we’re in a whole new continent. Absolutely amazing!
With no trains going from the Berlin airport and my German language book deep in my duffel bag, oops, I fumbled around to find a bus going into the city. Once found, I nervously wondered if it was actually going where I needed it to, turned out it got close, we arrived 30 or so minutes later at the Berlin Central Station (Hauptbahnhof). Quite a large transit hub for busses and trains. The nice info booth man helped me catch the train over to Alexanderplatz. From there I stumbled around a bit until I found the subway to Rosenthaler Platz. Planes, buses, trains, and subways – oh my! Let the adventure begin!
Luckily the budget hotel I chose online was only a couple minutes walk from the subway station. For 7 euro they let me check in at 10am, thank goodness. After the overnight flight all I wanted was a nice clean shower and fresh clothes. After settling in for a bit, it was time to explore!
Not having slept much on the flight over, I knew the day couldn’t be too strenuous so opted for the hop-on hop-off bus (25 euro per person for 2 days). Without luggage, it was an easy walk from the hotel to the Alexanderplatz to catch the tour bus.
The day was focused on East Berlin. Alexanderplatz has a big Octoberfest market, plenty of quick and affordable food options, a beautiful historic church and the famous TV tower (Fernsehturm) you can ascend for picture opportunities.
From there we past a beautiful and ornate historical synagogue, which is interesting given the history of the city. Then onward to the Hauptbahnhof (haven’t I already been here LOL). Next was Gedenkstatte where I got off the bus to visit the Berlin Wall Museum, walk around the remaining watch tower and walls, and read some of the plaques in the park. Having been a youth when the wall went down in 1989, it’s been incredible to be here and see some of the history with my own eyes.
Starting to feel the lack of sleep, I stopped for a cappuccino before getting back on the bus. Next we went by a large park near where they do underground tunnel tours. Had I more time in the city, that sounded like it could be pretty cool to see. The underground tunnels were dug for people to cross under the walls.
Then on to a residential neighborhood and old factories so we could get a sense for how things have changed. We passed by Berliner Szene, a neat little neighborhood with some rich history. Then back to Alexanderplatz for a quick drop off/pick up of passengers. Staying on the bus we then went on to where the video game museum was, which somehow I wasn’t tempted to see LOL.
The next stop was the East Side Gallery. I got off to check out the sites, definitely worth a visit. A large portion of the wall was remaining and artists had painted murals along both sides. Most were political in nature and beautifully done. From there it was an easy walk to the Oberbaumbrucke, which is a really neat bridge with old red brick pillars dominating over the winding canal. Picture perfect.
After getting back on the bus, we drove past the Ostbahnhof which is the East Berlin train station and also quite sizable transit hub. Then we circled back to Alexanderplatz where I got off to utilize the bathroom on the 2nd floor of the Alex mall. Once that was out of the way, note many places do not have public toilets, much like New York, I wandered through the little stores of the Octoberfest eventually settling on a nice juicy brat with mustard. A little late for lunch, at this point it was 2pm, oh well.
Instead of taking the train back to the hotel, I decided to see if I could figure it out by memory and get a little more walking in. Probably not the best plan when sleep deprived but hey, it’s fun. I figured if I followed the train tracks I’d have a 50/50 chance of going the right way. Somehow following gut feel, I made it back to the hotel without issue or getting lost.
By the time I got back it was almost 4pm and the lack of sleep was no longer negated by the caffeine. It was time for a nap. The short 15 minute nap turned out to be hitting snooze for another two hours! Oops! It took me a bit to recalibrate so I used the slow time to catch up on emails, texts, and uploading of photos.
Then it was off to dinner, but where oh where shall I eat. My favorite go-to by far is Lonely Planet, and nearby me it recommended Orange Katz Bar. Great reviews, so I was off. Tucked on a quiet dark street and through a crack between buildings is a gorgeous cathedral looking structure. Outdoor dining tables line the courtyard and inside the ambiance is chic with an energetic buzz and old pop coming through the speakers. The atmosphere was subtle and modern with brick walls, warm colors, and Moroccan lanterns. The food was exquisite and the cocktails made by an artist. Sensory heaven.
As I’m preparing for the evening, I reflect on my observations of the day. New observations being that Germans I saw today obeyed the street crossing signals, unlike New Yorkers, and although many people speak English, there’s still quite a few that don’t. Things I observed that I knew in advance from prior travels were – hotels start on floor 0 so floor 4 is really 5, the hotel card is used to turn on the light, cheap hotels don’t have hair conditioner or dryers, cheap hotels don’t have safes, and many airports your plane can’t park at a gate you have to be bussed in.