On Monday July 1 I abandoned rainy Scotland to go and live and work in Berlin. Writing a travel guide of the city for young people just like me who have never been to the beautiful German capital before, I couldn’t wait to jet off.
I moved into my apartment (basic, but homely) which happened to house two other Glaswegian girls, which could be a happy coincidence for the homesick, but none of us are (sorry mum). The next day, I did the most touristy thing possible and went up the TV tower. With a viewing platform and a restaurant at 203 metres high and 207 metres high respectively, you can enjoy 360 degree panoramic views of the sprawling city for a mere €12.50. Helpful information boards point out sights and areas of interest and help you get to grips with the general direction of where you need to be going.
After getting a little lost on the way home, I discovered the necessity of downloading the BVG app, the local public transport system simplified for your smartphone. It allows you to enter the nearest public transport to you and the destination you wish to go, and provides you with accurate and clear instructions as to exactly what mode of transport, which line number, which destinations and what connections you need to take.
The next day, Wednesday, I met all my colleagues, who all stay in the same apartments and who are all incredibly lovely – hooray! We were shown the offices where we will be having our German language classes (Ich speche deutsch, ja) and where our travel guide meetings and planning will take place. Travelling 40 minutes from the accommodation (from Lichtenburg to Jannowitzbrucke) at 9am may annoy some poeple, but rather than begrudging the morning commute, I love the fact that it makes me feel like a real Berliner.
After a brief introductory meeting with our company organisers, we headed into the centre of the city and took part in a walking tour round the main sights of the city, such as the Reischtag and the site where Hitler’s bunker once stood. The excellent tour guide easily answered every question we had (relevant and irrelevant to Berlin’s rich history) and her charisma and enthusiasm managed to keep an exceptionally rowdy group of 24 people in their early twenties enraptured – no easy feat. I HIGHLY recommend Brewers Berlin Walking Tours to any novice to the city, as it made me feel immediately acquainted with the place.
After dinner, drinks and group bonding at fab wee places in Rosentahler Platz to end the day, Thursday passed in a whirlwind of German classes and initial planning of the guide.
On Friday, the group went their separate ways to visit places we personally wished to write about.
I chose the Natural History Museum (or the Museum fur Naturkunder) , home to the worlds tallest mounted dinosaur skeleton and various other delights. It was all incredibly interesting and prompted some…unusual selfies.
That night (after another run round a beautiful local park I had discovered earlier in the week, which has already been the scene of some of the most stunning runs I’ve ever had) we all as a group got a bit silly in one of our flats before heading out to various venues in the infamous Kreuzberg. I hit up Club der Visionaere, which was every bit as wild as I’d heard, and so much more. It had a chilled yet bouncing atmosphere, set mostly outdoors on the bank of a canal. With a small balcony, plenty of chill-out zones, a tiny dancefloor rammed with gorgeous Berliners partying to techno-dub blends and decently priced drinks, I was in my element – and so made the most of my first night out in Berlin by doing it how the Germans do and partying long enough to admire the sunrise shimmering on the dancefloor before rolling into my flat at 7am.
On Saturday I found ‘Down by the River’ festival in Ostkreuz, out for its fifth year running. Set in the hidden woodland garden of an affluently cool club, students and families alike milled around wooden-huts-come-tiny-stages showcasing the best of Berlin’s musical talent – good enough to, literally, phone home about.
I managed to squeeze some article writing and a little bit of sleep into my busy schedule after the sun had set, and then Sunday began in the perfect way. After an epic run in the sunshine, as a group we all adventured out to Mauerpark market. The thousands of stalls selling everything you could possibly ever imagine, let alone want or need, were enough to make any quirk-lover drool.
But for us all, the highlight of the day was the karaoke. Picture this: a mini amphitheater where daring singers young and old take centre stage and belt out tunes to a crowd of (minimum) 1000 avid watchers. They sing whatever takes their fancy – in a few short hours I witnessed Rick Astley, Beyonce, Limp Bizkit, Stevie Wonder, Nikki Minaj, you name it, you can do it. The crowd, with their cold beers and cigarettes in hand, dance, clap and sing along like it’s a festival and you’re the headline act. The electric atmosphere is indeed undoubtedly festival-like, and this – combined with random salsa dancing afterwards whilst strolling to the exit – was an absolute highlight of my trip so far. In fact, I loved it so much that I declared I was never returning to the UK – and that night spur of the moment booked a flight back here a mere week after my month is up, to return here for a holiday with my lovely boyfriend. Woohoo!
Today, Monday July 8, we toured the East Side Gallery and saw all the incredible graffiti along the historic wall. It was absolutely breathtaking.
I think to myself every day here, ‘this day was the best, there’s no way that this can be topped’. And then it is beaten by the following day – and the following, and the following.
Without getting too deep or hippy, I truly feel I’ve found my spiritual home here – or something like that. I would move here in a heartbeat. I cannot wait to see what Berlin has to offer me in the rest of my wonderful month here.
Here is a short video made by another member of our group. Featuring a brief snapshot of yours truly, watch to gain a teeny weeny snapshot of insight into the awesomeness of my Berlin experience so far.
Auf Wiedersehn til next week!