This past weekend I had quite an eventful trip to Berlin! You are probably curious as to where my title came from, but due to multiple flight cancellations and airport strikes our trip to Berlin was cut short, but we made the most of it and had a fabulous time!!! My friend Bisma and I flew Ryanair (Europe’s best low-cost airline in my opinion and many others) for the first time from Brussels Airport to Berlin Schonefeld Airport. Unfortunately, due to a ground staff strike over pay at the Berlin airport, our flight on Friday night got cancelled and the only time we could reschedule it for was Saturday evening. Therefore, we were going to lose more money by cancelling the whole trip due to the cancellation fee at our hostel than if we just rescheduled the flight for Saturday.
Saturday night, Bisma and I arrived at 11:00pm in Berlin and we had two hours to get to our hostel before the reception desk closed. The problem is we had an hour train ride from the airport to our hostel and we had no clue how to navigate through this airport. As we got off the plane we had to get on a shuttle to take us to the gate, therefore I kept checking my watch constantly in worry that we would be stranded in downtown Berlin without a bed for the night, but I knew we had the code to get into our hostel, but if we got there too late we couldn’t get the keys to our room. While literally running down the tarmac and asking random people if they knew how to get to the station under the airport and I constantly received blank stares, so I decided to ask one more person who luckily was an American college student studying architecture for a year in Berlin!!!! THANK GOODNESS FOR HIM!!! His name was Will and he was nice enough to swiftly walk with us to get our tickets (because of our luck, the machine was messed up and was only taking coins at that time which we didn’t have enough change, just bills, so he said just let me pay for your tickets it’s no big deal at all, like what a nice guy!!!) God was definitely looking after us at that moment and Will had to get on the same train as us too, so during our hour train ride we all shared our life stories and experiences abroad. In the moment this was a very stressful situation, but thankfully for him, Bisma and I walked into our hostel on time at 12:40am and had made a new friend along the way. A very nice young man greeted us at the door and said he was expecting us so he was going to wait a few minutes anyway before he closed the register for the night. Therefore, we could finally relax and prepare for our 24 hours in Berlin! We were ready for the challenge to see as much as we could.
This trip was planned at the last minute. We got such a good deal on our flights so a hostel was all that we could find available. It was called “The Alcatraz Backpack Hostel.” It was an older hostel and much smaller than the hostel we stayed in on our trip to Amsterdam. I actually liked my experience in this hostel better because I felt much more welcome and comfortable due to the friendly and courteous staff. They were very easy to work with when we had to cancel our reservation for Friday night and we were supposed to pay back 50% of the night that we canceled, but the man at the front desk said not to worry about it because of the issues they had been having with the airport strike. They were also extremely courteous to us when our flight home were cancelled as well, so we had to buy train tickets Sunday night and get a refund on our flight for Monday morning. If you aren’t aware, keyboards are set up differently than they are in the United States and certain letters and symbols are located in different spots or you just can’t find them on the keyboard. So it was quite stressful when we were trying to do about five things in the matter of an hour and find a way home by Monday at 2:00pm to return in time for our mandatory Monday class. If you’re not too picky, and want something cheap and clean, I recommend this hostel. If you are looking for anything with the least bit of luxury, this hostel is NOT for you.
~PLEASE NOTE, I highly recommend downloading the “maps.me” app for your phone when you need a directions but don’t have phone service or wifi. It is a great way to not have to worry where you are going if you are trying to get somewhere quickly and in the dark without having to stop and look at an actual map. It works anywhere in the world!
Bisma and I got up bright and early the next morning to begin our adventures. We first headed to the Berlin Cathedral which is the largest and most significant church in Berlin and was finished in 1905. Unfortunately, due to time constraints we were not able to go inside because when we did return around 6:05pm we discovered that they closed the doors for visitors at 6:00pm, so this will be something to put on my bucket list for my next trip to Berlin. The admission fee is seven euros.
Next, we headed just right down the street to see the “Brandenburg Gate”. This is a piece of architecture with a neoclassical style that was constructed in 1788. The gate was opened on August 6, 1791. This gate was built to be a landmark that leads you straight from Berlin to the town of Brandenburg. King Frederick William the II of Prussia commissioned the gate as a sign of peace.
The Memorial of the Murdered Jews of Europe
This memorial is also known as “The Holocaust Memorial” and is definitely a MUST SEE when traveling to Berlin. The memorial is also free of charge. The memorial opened on May 12, 2005 and was designed by Peter Eisenman. It is an absolute beautiful tribute to the Jewish people. It is very moving to visit as it really puts into perspective the reality and absolute terrible torture that Germany put the Jewish community through. It is hard to wrap your head around the fact that less than one-hundred years ago one man caused the worst-case of genocide in history.
This is the parliament building and it was constructed in 1894. As you can see from my picture below there is a gorgeous glass dome that sits on top of the building and it provides perfect views of the city when the weather is nice. A German friend who lives in my hall highly recommended that we go up into the dome, but due to flight cancellations and time restrictions we did not make it in time to make a reservation for the one day that we had there. Therefore, I would make a reservation to go up into the dome before you leave for your trip so you know exactly what time you need to be there. We were not aware you had to have a reservation until we were turned away at the door. So this will definitely be something I plan to go back do someday. Admission is free, but make sure you have a reservation!!!!!
Berliner Fernsehturm (TV Tower)
This is the large TV tower that overlooks Berlin and was a 10 minute walk away from our hostel. Due to time constraints we did not get to go up in the tower, but we did get some nice pictures of it at night. If you have time I know that you can go up into the tower and there is a revolving restaurant in the sphere if you are up for some great views while eating dinner.
~PLEASE NOTE, the five sites I have mentioned above are all located very close to each other so I would plan to do all of those in the same day just to make it easier for you to branch out to other places.
The East-Side Gallery
The East-Side Gallery is 1316m of the Berlin Wall and was created in 1990 as an international memorial for freedom. The Wall contains paintings from 105 artist from all over the world. Two-thirds of the paintings have been damaged by graffiti, but this is definitely a MUST SEE!! Just to give you some insight on the historical background of the Berlin Wall from 1961-1989 this wall divided East Berlin and Germany from all of West Berlin. This wall was referred to as the Anti-Fascist Protective Wall to protect East Germany who at the time were trying to create a socialist state. I could go on and on with the history of the wall, but you will just have to go to Berlin and visit it yourself!
The second half of our day we went to the beautiful city of Potsdam which is a 30 minute train ride south of Berlin. This is a MUST SEE!!!! This was probably the highlight of our trip and walking around the city is like a fairytale. The architecture and beauty of the buildings in the city gives away that it is quite a wealthy city. I don’t recommend taking a bus tour unless you need to because the walk is gorgeous, most of the tour guides don’t speak great english, and you have limited time in each place. Therefore, we bypassed the bus tour and walked around on our own.
If you have limited time in Potsdam it is crucial that you go to Sanssouci Park and see the Old and New Palace! The palaces and landscaping will take your breath away! It is a very relaxing walk and it is a completely different atmosphere than Berlin. Outside of the park, you have a wonderful selection of cute shops, restaurants, cafes, and of course a Starbucks if that suits your daily needs. I could go on and on about Potsdam, but if you have time it is definitely worth a visit. I was really shocked that I had never heard of it before coming to Europe because I definitely think it is a major highlight of Germany. It may not be the Palace of Versailles (Which you should definitely go visit if you find yourself in Paris) but it is something to see for sure! Visit potsdam-tourism.com for more information.
~PLEASE NOTE, We took two different trains to the Berlin Wall and Potsdam. There is a train that leaves from the station where the Berlin wall is that goes directly to Potsdam without any changes. I suggest getting a day pass. (Purchase zones ABC to see Berlin and Potsdam for seven euros and seventy cents)
I hope you enjoyed the crazy adventures that Bisma and I had in Berlin! You should definitely visit this beautiful city and I look forward to a less stressful visit in the future! We made it back safely on our 4:00am train home and made it to class on time with some time to spare on Monday afternoon! This weekend trip taught me a lot and just remember to always stay calm when travel arrangements don’t go as planned. If there is a will there is a way!
P.S. “Don’t ruin a good today, while thinking about a bad yesterday. Let it go.” ~ Anonymous