On Monday after returning from Prague, it was a bit of failed day…
I tried to get a visa and couldn’t because they said they couldn’t issue one in a city other than the city I would be living in for the summer (which is Heidelberg). I needed the visa to get a biosafety level 2 work permit, so I knew I wouldn’t be able to start my internship before getting the visa (of course, they only told me this after I arrived in Berlin). I couldn’t have gotten one before leaving anyways because I didn’t have my documents in time, but it definitely made me a little nervous having to wait until getting to Heidelberg to apply for the visa if I wouldn’t be able to begin work before getting one.
The foreigner’s office was near Charlottenburg palace, so I decided to go while I was in the area, and some other people from the language course were also planning on going so I said I would meet them there.
Along the way, I stopped into a grocery store for some snacks, and I found peanut butter for the first time – my only success of the day!! Finding peanut butter in Europe is a struggle. This was the sweetened, salty kind and I’m definitely more of a natural peanut butter girl, but I got my peanut butter fix so I was happy.
When we showed up at the palace, turns out it was closed on Mondays! We walked around the outside and checked out the gift store that was open, oddly enough, but then it started raining so we met up with the rest of our group in a coffee shop to make plans.
After our weekend in Prague, none of us felt like doing anything super touristy, so we agreed on meeting for a movie later then split up. I went to a Lush with my friend who wanted to buy some dry shampoo, and then we wandered around the mall because at least it was dry.
On the way to the movie theatre, we grabbed doner and falafel (classic), then met up with everyone else at the theatre. We saw the second Guardians of the Galaxy movie, and although I hadn’t seen the first, I thought it was pretty entertaining!
I went home for an early(ish) night because I knew the next couple nights might be late ones…
The next day after class, we all caught the train to Potsdam! Once we were there, we split up and some of us took a bus tour and some just caught the city buses around. I decided on the bus tour since it wasn’t very expensive, and I think it was worth it!
We got off at the Glienicker bridge, at the border between East and West Berlin.
We took a look at the palace there and wandered through the gardens before hopping back on the bus.
The next stop we got off at was the Cecilienhof castle, and along the way we drove by the building in which the Potsdam treaty was signed.
The castle itself was a little underwhelming because we didn’t have enough time to go in, and the outside was under construction, but we wandered around the castle grounds a little before catching the bus again.
The last stop we got off at should have been Sanssouci palace, but we accidentally got off a stop early and ended up walking through the Orangerie to get there, which was actually a pretty good mistake because it was beautiful!
From there, we walked to Sanssouci Palace!
The tour bus had stopped running at the point, so we walked back to the train station and caught the train back to Berlin.
After getting back, we all went to a famous schnitzel restaurant! Sadly they had sold out of their vegetarian schnitzel butI would have liked to try it. I was crazy hungry in Potsdam so I’d already had a falafel for dinner, so I was happy to just hang out with everyone.
Afterwards, we went to a bar that was famous for having a huge selection of beer. I would have loved to stay a little longer and try a few more different kinds, but it was still only Wednesday night and I had to catch the train home before it stopped running.
The next day for lunch, we went to an Asian fusion burger restaurant in a trendy area of town – it was one of the more expensive lunches I bought in Berlin but it was very tasty and it was the first time I’d had tofu in weeks!
After lunch, a few of us headed off to museum island – an island on the river that has five different museums. I bought a day pass for all five, but only had time to make it to three before they closed. I chose my top three – the Neus Museum, Pergamon, and the National Gallery.
Looking back, all my pictures ended up pretty blurry because I was going through everything so quickly and the lighting wasn’t ideal. I’ll skip posting too many pictures here but all the museums are really incredible! I definitely could have spent a lot more time in them if I had it.
There’s also the Berlin Cathedral on the island, and we went in and climbed the dome.
The view from the top was great!
We grabbed doner for dinner, then joined the rest of our group at a little underground (literally) jazz bar. Someone else had suggested it to us, and I hadn’t even looked into who was playing, but turns out it was actually a sort of open mic night! It wasn’t really what we were expecting, and it was okay but not great – I think everyone there was just there to see friends perform except for us!
I was pretty tired after a late night the night before, so I headed out pretty early and got some sleep.
The next day, I was planning to head to the East Side Gallery with some friends, but there was a mix-up and they left without me! I went for pizza with some other friends that had already been to the East Side Gallery – not vegan pizza but cheap and really, really good. North American pizza just doesn’t compare.
Afterwards, I decided that I would head to the East Side Gallery anyways, on my own. It’s a section of the Berlin Wall that’s still standing, and murals (and graffiti in some places) have been painted over it.
I had a little time before I had to meet up with my group again for a tour of the Reichstag, the parliament building, so I just hung out by the river for a little while and knit.
I caught the train to the Reichstag and met a bunch of other students at the language school there – the school had registered us for a group tour because it’s really hard to get in and see it.
We toured the inside and learned way more than we ever needed to know about the German political system thanks to our guide that really, really liked to talk (very very slowly).
Then we climbed the glass dome, and there was a pretty great view from the top! It’s surrounded by glass so none of my photos show very much of the view, but we had fun taking some ~artsy~ photos up there.
(Photo credits for most of these to my friend Yusi because my phone didn’t handle the lighting very well…)
You could also go outside on the roof, which was nice because the dome felt like a greenhouse!!
Afterwards, we decided to try the best doner in Berlin. Three hours in line and three street beers later, they sure tasted reeeeally good. Maybe that’s part of their strategy – make people wait so long that anything tastes amazing.
(To be fair, it was the best doner I had in Berlin. I wouldn’t wait in that line again, but I’m glad I did once.)
That, my friends, is the face of a very hungry and slightly tipsy girl when she finally gets the doner she waited three hours for.
The doner place was in Kreuzberg, a trendy area of Berlin with lots of cool bars, so we checked one out, and tried to meet up with our friends that didn’t want to wait in the line for doner. When we finally met up with them in one of the dodgier areas of Kreuzberg, they wouldn’t allow groups larger than six at the bar they were at, so we all left.
No one seemed too sure whether we were going somewhere else or heading home… but it was very very close to the time that the last train left so I decided to leave rather than stay out until the trains started running again at 4 in the morning (which seemed like a good idea a little earlier).
I was going to catch the bus to the train station, but I was stopped… I appreciate that the guys in my group were a little concerned about me being alone in one of the sketchier areas of Berlin, but they ended up arguing for so long about the best way for me to get home that I ended up missing the last train.
Berlin night buses weren’t as sketchy as I was expecting, but it ended up taking me about three hours to get home rather than one, so at that rate I almost should have just stayed out all night!
After class the next day, I went for one last pizza lunch with my friends that were leaving that afternoon. The pizza in Berlin is so beautiful – I just had to take a picture!
Yes, that is four pizzas for four people. No shame.
After that, I pretty much headed home after stopping to buy flowers and a card for my host family. I had to pack up and sleep a little because I knew I wouldn’t be getting much sleep that night…
Despite running on less than four hours’ sleep after my adventure on the night buses, I couldn’t sleep when I tried to take a nap, so I went for a bit of a walk around my host family’s neighbourhood instead. I didn’t realize how cute it was! I had been spending most of my time in the city and it was usually dark by the time I was back at night.
After packing up, I headed back into town to meet up with some friends and experience a little Berlin nightlife.
Clubbing in Berlin is quite different than clubbing in North America – the clubs can be very exclusive but in a very different way. They’re not necessarily friendly to foreigners, and they want to make sure you’re actually there for the music. People dress down rather than dressing up, and everyone wears all black. It’s much more about the music and the atmosphere, rather than about finding someone to take home for the night. As someone that just likes to go out and dance, I love it!
We headed to a club in Kreuzberg and hung out in a park for a little while once we met up. We walked by the club just to see what it was like at around 1 am – and it was still deserted. We hung out a little more by the river before heading over in small groups or individually – because clubs in Berlin apparently don’t like big groups.
We all ended up getting in, although that may have been pure luck because we accidentally went on a gay night and they were probably being more lenient. I don’t have any pictures from the night because they make you cover your phone camera with a sticker, but that’s maybe for the best. It was a pretty fun night – the club had lots of rooms with different music and a huge outdoor patio (and it was finally warm enough in Berlin to be outside without a jacket!).
My original plan was to store my luggage at the bus station, and in retrospect I wish I’d done that, since Berlin nightlife goes very late and into the next morning (and some clubs don’t close until Monday morning!). I ended up leaving my stuff at my host family’s house about an hour out of town, so I left around 5:30, but I fell asleep on the train home and ended up at the end of the line. It was only a couple stops further than I needed to go, but it meant that I only had about 10 minutes to pack up the last of my stuff, wash my face, brush my teeth, and run to the train station. Everything worked out and I caught my bus to Heidelberg, which gave me 8 hours to sleep.
It was one helluva way to end my time in Berlin, but I’m glad I had at least one night out! I don’t go out like that very often and I was sure pretty tired the next day, but it’s definitely a part of the Berlin culture that’s worth experiencing!