Aaaand Berlin. Finally we arrived at the most complex of train stations either of us had been to. Layers after layers of trains, U Bahns, S Bahns. This was indication enough that we would need a tourist pass. There were plenty of Germans but no free passes this time! Eventually we got to the hotel. You couldn’t miss it, being a skyscraper opposite the TV tower (which we didn’t go up funnily enough). I’d read negative reviews of the hotel saying that it’s always heaving and has small rooms and no free Wi-Fi. Much to our delight it was quiet and our room was on the corner of the 29th floor with views of the eclectic Alexanderplatz below.
We did have to pay for Wi-Fi but we thought fuck it. Between the two of us it was a tenner for 24 hours and we’ve spent so much already what’s another €10?! This did help us to avoid any wanger issues (anger that results from shitty and/or lack of Wi-Fi) which, as much as I tried not to, frustrated me more than I would like to admit. I now realise how dependant and addicted I am to checking in with Facebook, or playing on Candy Crush during ‘dead time’ (any time of the day from waiting for someone to on the toilet) and it’s a habit that I’d like to kick at the end of the trip.
Anyway, after not having a bath or shower for 38 hours, we fully embraced the clean sheets and bath-shower. I even nipped into the square and bought 2 kebaps and a beer which we demolished in bed. Absolute magic.
The next day brought us a lot of photo ops. We saw the Brandenburg Gate, the Memorial to the Murdered Jews of Europe and my personal favourite, the East Side Gallery. I just loved the quotes and messages in different languages that visitors over the last two decades have added to the wall’s history on the back of it, although the original artwork on the official gallery has been tarnished by people who in my opinion need to learn some respect. I may be wrong, but why graffiti someone’s livelihood when they can add their message on the other side? The city is constantly changing with the times, as is the back of the wall which is what I like about it most.
We learnt many German manners during our brief stay in Berlin. Now I’m not unaware of the rather European custom of paying for the toilet, but still it leads to some fundamental aversion to paying for what we believe to be a basic need! My flatmate was pissed off (pun intended) to begin with, especially as at times we suffered some serious tanger (anger from desperately needing the toilet) but as we experienced the awkwardness of do we pay, don’t we pay, how much do we pay more and more, we realised that it’s simply common practice to pay for a clean and well stocked pisstop (again, pun intended). If there’s no sign stating how much, then you can leave what you like but at the Mall of Berlin the sign basically said if they’re to your liking let us know in €€€. It was a real dilemma for us! Being Brits, we felt awkward not following the correct etiquette and so after umming and ahhing we left a whopping €0.70 between us. Phew! Felt better for it.
But now in hindsight, it makes sense to pay for the toilet. It’s not a business so who supplies the goods? I’ve been to some seriously dodgy toilets in the past. I’ve never been to one where you have to pay and it be a shithole (I’m loving the toilet puns, feel like I’m in my element here). Realistically, I can’t imagine the toilet attendants getting paid very much, and it must be a real shitty job so why not get a few tips for ensuring a more pleasurable and comfortable experience when relieving oneself in a public place? It’s awkward enough as it is… although when you have these babies, who needs an attendant?!
Another custom: asking for tap water is rude… Seriously. If we’ve paid €16 for two cocktails, why shouldn’t it be acceptable to ask for a pint of bloody tap water? Again, being Brits, this made us feel very uncomfortable and we didn’t ask again. Just like using public toilets… We couldn’t believe how direct the barman was about it. I understand it’s important to respect other cultures and customs when abroad, but he was just plain rude. It’s not like there’s a sign or it’s a blaring obvious custom like ‘Keep to the right’ on the tube. That is obvious and there is a sign. Yes, Brits might not be direct about things and you might get a tut here or there but at least they’re not openly rude about it.
One night, despite our hanger (hunger anger) we decided to track down a restaurant across town that was recommend in a magazine at the hotel as I really, really wanted a good schnitzel (even though it’s technically Austrian not German but close enough, right?!) and even though the food was excellent, it was rather expensive. At this stage of the trip we’d spent a fortune and the restaurant was ridiculously hot. When paying we used card and the barman asked for a tip. Again, we couldn’t believe the directness! I’m now starting to think that maybe they only do this to British tourists as they know we don’t like to be rude. Hmm food for thought… Anyway we scrambled what pitiful change we had left and well, left!
Anyway, enough moaning about customs and blah blah blah. Berlin is right up Laura’s street. It’s big, it’s modern and there’s always a load of cool stuff to do. In Alexanderplatz there was a street fair type event going on with international food stalls, music events and another personal favourite, old games! Once we’d figured out how they worked, we spent about 20 minutes playing with old bikes that had been turned into a ball game or using a magnet to flick bolts through a hole. It was different, and I like different. I saw one of the best street performers here too. The Argentine comedian used water jugs to entertain his audience, dancing and squirting people along with the music. It was so simple it was clever and very, very funny.
Laura popped into Primark whilst I went back to the room. She came back excited yet flustered as Primark is even cheaper in Berlin but she witnessed 2 German police officers beating the crap out of 2 oriental lads, smashing their heads into the side of the lift… Don’t Fuck tha Police here!
To round off our time in Berlin we wandered down Unter den Linden and across Museum Island. Even though we didn’t go into any museums, it was a nice walk and we crashed in some deck chairs riverside where sunbathing, beers and listening to a really good musician absorbed our afternoon.
So there you go. I feel that we barely scratched the surface of Berlin’s many cultural layers, but the ones we did have opened up an appetite to return and peel back the rest.