Guten Tag, everyone! The trip has been a whirlwind so far, making it difficult to update with any frequency. We’re long past Germany now, but we wanted to share some of the highlights from our short time in Berlin. Hilary is in normal text and Jess picks up in italics!
The train to Berlin was a long one. The Roskilde festival, a music festival in Denmark, was going on, and we had to make our way through a sea of hippie-fied festival goers. Imagine a festival the size of Bonnaroo where everyone packs up all their gear and travels by train. Oh, the sights and smells! There was a train that we could not fit on because it was so packed with people (There were literally kids shoving each other in tighter in the stairwell so that the doors could shut. I imagine they all just tumbled out backwards when they got to their destination). When we finally made it to Berlin, my friend Sam met us at the train station. I met Sam in college years ago during my two year stint at UT Knoxville in Tennessee, and we hadn’t seen each other since. When I posted on Facebook about the trip, Sam reached out and said he was living in Berlin as an architect (yeah..I know, right?) and that we could stay at his place while we were in town.
Sam took us to his flat in the Wedding neighborhood and it was on the top floor of the building- with no elevator. After our 10-hour train ride, we had to walk up 10 flights of stairs with our backpacks and weary bodies. Once we got to that top floor, though, it was worth the trek. Sam’s place is beautiful with great skylights and plenty of natural light flooding in.
The 27th was Jess’ birthday, and I wanted to be sure that we made up for having spent literally the entire day inside a train. Sam was ready with wine, beer, and a mint flavored German liquor called Rumple Minze that tasted like mouthwash, but was happily drunk by all (so sweet! Thank you, Sam!!).
He took us to his favorite Schnitzel place for dinner and taught us how to toast like a true German: don’t have a sip until everyone is at the table, look each person in the eye, clink everyone’s glass (don’t cross the streams), say “Prost!”, and bottoms up! If you don’t follow these rules it’s seven years bad sex, or something. Can’t have that!
“Prost!” to being on a train for 10 hours! Can you tell?
One thing I’ve learned on this trip so far that any time I utter the phrase “Ohh, I’m really excited for _______!”, whatever is in that blank is not ever going to happen. “Ohh, I’m really excited for wifi on the train!” Nope, you missed the direct train that has wifi and now have seven connections. “Man, we walked 20 miles yesterday, I’m excited to sit on the train for a few hours.” Nice try, the train is full and you and 40 other people have to stand in the aisle for five hours (more on that later). Jess has even started shushing me any time I start to say I’m excited about anything. (Seriously, it’s bad.)
Anyway, case in point: At the restaurant, I ordered the spaetzel, a cheesy noodle dish. Or so I thought. “I”m so excited!” The restaurant was close to closing the kitchen when I ordered, and our waitress looked at me warily even though Jess and Sam had ordered schnitzel (When she brought out the silverware and napkins she also brought a tiny cup of mustard. When we saw that we were all a little curious as to what that could possibly be for). Twenty minutes later she came back, gave me a special knife, and said something I didn’t understand. Sam looked at the knife, horrified, having understood that she had said “That’s for the Haxe!” In my mumbly English, I’d mistakenly ordered Haxe, a ginormous dish of pig knee with hard, fried pig skin (and a handful of hairs) on top of a heaping pile of potatoes.
I think she might have said, “I’ll have the…” and lovely little German woman heard, “I’ll Haxe.” Either way, the pig knee was humongous and everything made sense then. Of course the woman was shocked that this American girl boldly ordered a giant pile of meat right before the kitchen closed. No wonder she had to check if they still had time to make it, even though we were all wondering why pasta would take longer than schnitzel. Hilary ate it like a champ though, I must say.
Should I eat this?
“Yes,” she says, too tired hungry to consider another option. Sam looks on admiring Hilary’s courage.
Luckily, it was delicious.
After dinner we walked back to Sam’s place to get ready to go out. On the way back we stopped in a market and got a 3-pack of Reese’s to split as my birthday cake. (Sam had emphasized how exciting it was to see a Reese’s in a German convenience store). Naturally, I handed them out and then promptly dropped mine face-down on the floor. Nothing was going to stop me from eating my birthday Resse’s though so I just applied the 5-second rule and ate it.
We had some of the alcohol Sam had bought for us and made our way back into the city for some Berlin-style night-clubbing. Sam took us to this place called Fritz Klub (which Hilary thought was called Eingang all night because of the sign hanging above the doorway. Eingang, in German, means entrance). The DJ played nonstop and we danced right along with him for 5 1/2 hours to artists like Spice Girls, Backstreet Boys, Lil Jon, and some German artists we didn’t know but pretended we did. I had such a great time and was glad I danced off all of the beer and schnitzel I had eaten earlier.
Look at the fun we’re having!
That brings me to a theme I noticed on this leg of the trip: Germans don’t mess around with their beer and meat consumption. I don’t think you can fathom the amount of sausages there are in any given square mile of Germany. Everywhere you turn there are stuffed cylinders of meat in various forms just waiting for beer-laden citizens to devour. Don’t worry, if you don’t like sausage there are about 50 other types of meat to feast on like the schnitzel (fried pork) I had. Even Sam, a 2-year Berliner, had sausage at 6am when we left the nightclub. Yes, we left the club at 6am and the party was still going strong.
Walking home in the 6am morning light after a night of Berlin-ing
Hilary has the unique ability to fall asleep anywhere.
We made it back to Sam’s place, ready for sleep, at 6:30am. All three of us took some Ibuprofen and immediately fell asleep.
Later that morning (like 10:30am, somehow) we woke up to Sam cooking some leftover schnitzel and some scrambled eggs. It was amazing. I could really get used to all of these men cooking meals for me. Between Oliver in Copenhagen and Sam in Berlin, I have been quite impressed.
Arguably one of the most infamous parts of recent history in Berlin, the Berlin Wall, was our first destination of the day. Sam acted as tour guide as he showed us sections of the wall that are still standing where it originally stood as a reminder.
Tall bars, like these, and bricks in the sidewalks show where the wall once stood.
Sam, our tour guide for the day, sharing some interesting facts about the Berlin wall.
An aerial view of an area set aside to show what the wall used to look like. There’s a guard tower in the corner.
Berlin Wall memorial site
Sam’s friends, Whitney and Sebastian, met us then and we made our way to the Flohmarkt, a German flea market. Obviously since we were in Berlin we had to stop at a market to get beer for the walk over. Apparently in Germany it’s totally cool to just walk down the street with beer like it’s water.
We walked around the huge flohmarkt for a few hours while admiring the furniture, vintage clothing, other bits and bobbles, and or course, street food! We nommed on korean dumplings and drank fresh juice to cure our hangovers.
No caption necessary.
Jess Is Berlin.
Next to the flea market was a large, open space where all of Berlin’s young people hang out.
The hip place to be!
Stadium seats where karaoke singers show off their skills.
The large mass of people in the stadium seats were watching karaoke singers perform. Every weekend, volunteers from the crowd sing Michael Jackson and Prince songs while the rest of the audience cheers and sings along.
We spent the rest of the day walking around Berlin taking in the sights.
The line was long when we arrived at the Holocaust museum, so we explored around the memorial instead. The picture of the columns is deceiving. The columns vary drastically in height and the ground slopes down as you venture deeper into the memorial until you’re lost in a (very neatly laid out) maze of tall ten-foot high columns.
In the middle of the Holocaust memorial.
Jess in front of the Berlin Cathedral
After walking around for hours, we ate a quick meal at Berlin’s version of Chipotle and parted ways with Whitney and Sebastian. Sam, Jess and I went back to Sam’s apartment for a chill, wine-filled evening so we could rest up for our train ride to Prague the next morning.
Thank you to our Berlin hosts- Sam, Whitney and Sebastian!
Thanks Whitney and Sebastian!