When Elle and I travelled to Germany, we stayed in the city of Berlin. Unfortunately due to train times we arrived at Berlin station around 9pm, and the next day was our only full day to explore as our train was early morning the day after. We got completely “lost” trying to find our way to the hostel, we even had Google maps on but it wouldn’t calibrate. Turns out, we had just one more turning and it was almost literally right in your face. It was about 9.45pm; as we reached the hostel we try to open the door. Nobody answers, so we rung the bell. Still no answer. We were starting to getting really worried and tried to look at opening times on our phones, there wasn’t any information. We decided to knock louder, finally someone answered. It was the receptionist, he looked quite surprised to see us.. He informed us that the hostel actually closes at 10pm, and it was past that time. We insisted that we had been waiting outside for a while and we would have nowhere else to go. Thankfully, he was nice and proceeded to check us in. All checked in, he passes us the keys and walks us outside. Obviously at this point we were confused. Why were we going outside to go to our dorm? We walked into what seemed to be a massive garage, and walked up three flights of stairs that looked like they should be in a haunted house. On our way up the stairs, we noticed the wallpaper peeling, cracks in the walls and the decor was made complete with black and white print outs of smiley faces. Very “welcoming”. He showed us where all the facilities were; 2 toilets for everyone on the top floor of the hostel (about 30/40 people), a tiny kitchen that had no use as there weren’t any cooking facilities and the showers, where almost every door was broken. We could tell we were in for a rocky stay. As we reached our door room, the door had to be forced open and you had to be careful turning on the light as the switch was hanging off the wall. Our faces were mortified with what we were having to stay in. As soon as the guy had left, we spewed out our feelings towards the hostel, and we both expressed how little we wanted to stay here. Even though we couldn’t afford it, we were willing to go and ask if we could change to a private room and pay extra, or ask for our money back and find another hostel. As we were on our way downstairs the lights cut out, they must have been on a timer.. Talking about bad timing!!! We had to run down the stairs the rest of the way, scared out of our minds! We got to the reception and asked if we were able to change to a private room, unfortunately the hostel was somehow fully booked??? And when we asked if we could get a refund to stay at another hostel we were told that it was doubtful that we’d find a hostel, especially a cheap one as there was an electronic festival going on in Berlin. So, basically we were stuck and had to stay at this hostel.
The next morning, we woke up pretty early, mainly because we wanted to get out of the hostel as soon as possible and as long as possible. First things first, we headed out to find food, we were in a rather secluded location that didn’t have any cafes near by, so we had to walk into the city before we could even consider what we wanted. On our way into the city, we walked passed The Reichstag, which eas flooded with tourists. It is free admission to go up into the glass dome, but what we didn’t know was that you have to book in advance. So, unfortunately we were unable to go inside. A short walk past The Reichstag we came across a memorial the the Sinti and Roma victims. The design consists of a dark, circular pool of water at the centre of which there is a triangular stone. The darkness of the water beautifully reflects the sky above. The triangular shape of the stone is in reference to the badges that had to be worn by concentration camp prisoners. The stone is retractable and a fresh flower is placed daily. In bronze letters around the edge of the pool is the poem ‘Auschwitz’ by Roma poet Santino Spinelli.
Just across the road from the memorial, was Brandenburg Gate and the American embassy. I had always dreamed of seeing the Brandenburg Gate, my school had been on many trips to Berlin and a favourite landmark to see was this. But, I was never able to go on any trips, so to see it in person was crazy! Altogether it was about a 40 minute walk, before we came to a food court. The prices were ridiculous, it was raining so you couldn’t sit in the main food court and everywhere was full. We had to wait another 20 odd minutes before getting served and being to find a seat in a 2 table pizza shop, that was overcrowded by at least 20 people. We actually had to sit in the window seal, trying to eat our pizza before the plate slides off our legs onto the floor! After food, we headed down the road and came to “museum island” which was phenomenal! 5 massive museums surrounding beautiful gardens. We went into admission, as we knew that for a discounted price you could view all 5 of them. Little did we know how expensive it would be, 20€ each, I know it doesn’t sound like much, but 40€ to see some museums and we’d just spent about 15€ on a slice of pizza and drink each. Plus, we only had one day to explore everything in Berlin, we had so much more to see. The next landmark we went to see, is probably the most heart felt landmark in Berlin, it is as beautiful as it is eerie. The Holocaust Memorial, is definitely something that everyone needs to visit at least once in their lives. You don’t realise how big or tall the concrete is, or how much space it is spread over. Walking through the concrete slabs that are triple the size of you, hearing the echoing voices from people near and far. So much emotion rushes through your body, the deeper you walk, the more you felt connected. As we got towards the middle, we found a set of stairs leading underground, and we saw people queueing by the barriers. Curiously, we asked someone who seemed to be an assisted what was downstairs, she replied that it was a free admission museum dedicated to the holocaust. We joined the queue and were inside in no longer than 10 minutes. When inside, although it was completely packed, it was deafly silent. You weren’t allowed to take your bags or cameras through with you, so you had to put them in a locker. The museum is amazing, from the layout to the content. It was faultless besides how busy it was. We found out so much new information that you’re not taught in schools or that is publicly known. You get to read personal diary entries and shared letters. You find out in depth personal experiences. There were even interactive elements, which was great! I would definitely encourage and recommend people to go to this museum if you’re passing through Berlin. It is a must!
After the museum, we headed to see the remains of the Berlin Wall, as it was the next closest landmark. It was breath taking to see, and learn about the history whilst standing in the very presence of this obstruction. Alongside the wall, were buried artefacts that had been preserved from when the wall got knocked down. There were written facts that went alongside a voiceover from recordings back in the 1960s.
Next we decided to head over to Checkpoint Charlie, as we knew our hostel was only a 10 minute walk away. It wasn’t what we were expecting, especially since there were so many modern shops around, it sort of dampened the atmosphere and undermined the history of such a great historic landmark. As you can see in the image to the left. This is the part where it all goes horribly wrong. Elle has been guiding us through the city, ensuring we were walking in a loop so that the walk home weren’t too long as we had been out all day. She had been using the map on the booking.com app, as our hostel was a highlighted location we could dictate how far away we were. Considering we were now ready to go back to the hostel and get food, Elle pulled out her phone to see which way was home. As I waited for her to load the map, I saw her a dull look on her face, her face just dropped. “Abi…” She said. “It has saved the wrong hostel, our hostel in an hour away.” Of course, my face had now dropped too. WHAT!!! We have already scaled Berlin, been out for over 9 hours, and we have an hours walk home to top it off? This cannot be happening!! Elle reset the map, and had the correct location set up, and we headed off. I must say, it was a rather dull walk, the energy zapped out of us… Until, we decided to take a break on the bench, and look south down the road. There was the Brandenburg Gate, that we had seen earlier during the day. It was all lit up, with beautiful dark clouds behind them. I got the most astounding photograph, and it seemed to make it worth it, getting lost.