Although arriving with only the faintest idea of what we wanted to do and see, we managed to pack an enormous amount into our short two-day, three-night visit to Berlin.
We stayed with Anita’s cousin Talara in Neukölln, a short 20 minute train ride away from the city centre. After arriving in the late afternoon, we all had a quick catch up before walking to a few of Talara’s friends’ apartment to join them in their weekly ritual of lighting a candle and eating cake. They did this each Sunday leading up to Christmas in December, a tradition that I was more than happy to get behind given there would be cake. Anita and I took this opportunity to also pick everyone’s brain on the best things to do and see while in Berlin, then we all grabbed our coats and walked to a local open mic night for some live music.
The following morning we sprung out of bed and took everyone’s advice on taking a free walking tour of Berlin. The tour was with a company called Sandemans and free because the guides work for tips. We started in Pariser Platz and continued our walk past the Memorial to the Murdered Jews of Europe, the site of Hitler’s bunker and supposed cremation area (now a playground), Luftwaffe HQ, the Berlin wall, the Topography of Terror, Checkpoint Charlie, Bebelplatz, the book burning memorial and Gendarmenmarkt. It was such a great tour and we highly recommend it to anyone visiting Berlin and looking to cram a lot of history into a short amount of time.
That evening, my cousin Tom who had also travelled from Kiel met us all for dinner at a Lebanese restaurant nearby. Although there were four of us at dinner, we ordered the platter for three as Talara said the portions were ridiculously large. Even then, when our food hit the table we all gulped and looked at eachother with wide eyes. There was far too much food, and for me to say that is really saying something. After dinner Talara took us to a little bar where we continued our night over a drink.
It was only a few drinks later that I checked my phone and saw a message from my sister Pia asking “are you all OK?”. I thought it was a little strange so asked Talara to check her phone for any news updates as the rest of us didn’t have wifi. It was then that we learnt of the truck which had plowed into a Christmas market in the west of Berlin. We were all shocked and a little sickened, so finished our drinks and headed back to Talara’s where a barrage of messages and emails awaited us. After confirming with family and friends that all was ok, we all agreed on our plans for the next day and went to bed.
Tom met us early the next morning and we all walked via the Tempelhofer Feld, an old airfield turned park, to hire bicycles for the day. We first rode to the Turkish market in Kreuzberg for a bite to eat, then to the East Side Gallery for a look at some street art painted across a remaining section of the famous Berlin wall. We then continued to the area of Friedrichshain where we parked and explored the area on foot, before returning our bikes and refuelling with some Thai and a few beers for dinner.
It was then time to say goodbye to our playmates as we needed to be up early the next morning for our 7:45am flight to Zürich. We really wish we had more time in Berlin because it all seemed a little rushed, but we were really grateful for the time we did have and the parts of Berlin we were able to experience with our cousins by our side.
Thank you Talara for keeping us warm, keeping us fed, and taking the time to show us around the wonderful city of Berlin.