Studying in Berlin
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Berlin Vol 1.7: parks, dinosaurs and the discovery of cheesy music

My trip to Berlin was drawing to a close and our final week started with the arrival of a couple of guests. When we first moved into our flat, the owners told us about a hipster market by the river on Saturdays. This was our last Saturday in the city so it was now or never, so off we went to Hipster Mart.

The stalls were full of fabrics, jewellery and other bits and pieces but, in the end, we saved our money. In the afternoon, we chilled in Görlitzer Park in the sun before heading off to Spreepark– an abandoned amusement park in the city.

It wasn’t quite what I was expecting. In the past, travellers could wander between the ferris wheel and the swan boats uninterrupted. Now the daughter of the former owner has opened the park up and holds tours for 15 Euros, twice a day, on the weekends. Sadly, we underestimated the distance between the train station and Spreepark, located at the end of Treptower Park, which turned out to be really long. Our uncertainty as to our direction meant that we were not walking with the conviction necessary to get their on time and sadly we missed the tour. Instead we took the 3 Euro train ride around the perimeter of the park. We couldn’t see everything and the majority of my photos were marred by the trees and plants that had been allowed to grow unchecked. I did manage to capture the corner of the ferris wheel and a few sites reminiscent of the film Hanna, which had scenes filmed in the park.

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The highlight was our own little photoshoot afterwards. Around the entrance is a little cafe with a couple of swan boats and little cars dotted around, as well as a very creepy looking giant gorilla. We played around in these- as one should play in a play- before popping to the nearby beer garden for some Berliner Weisse beer.

In the evening, we went back to Freiluftkino to watch the Place Beyond the Pines. Sadly, we had not got there in enough time and so we missed out on the deckchairs and were instead resigned to the plastic garden chairs at the back. Happily, however, they had not yet brought out the blankets and we managed to snag some of these and that’s the important part really. Deckchair or no deckchair, you are still cuddled up in a blanket watching the big screen outside, sitting on some kind of seating equipment.

Our last Sunday in Berlin meant our it was our last opportunity for a Mauer Park session. The flea market was absolutely packed, unlike the semi-deserted state we had found it in post-karaoke, on our last visit. This time, we had some amazing stone baked pizzas for lunch which tasted exactly like onion bread. That may not sound appealing to everyone but I love that stuff. After purchasing a ring that had once lived life as a teaspoon and a leather bound notebook which had paper far to nice to ever actually write on, we headed to watch the music.

We were a little confused as we arrived. By the open-air theatre, a big stage had been erected and had musicians playing on it. This was not the confusing part. The odd thing was that on the stage was a rotation of people that sounded like karaoke singers. We couldn’t tell whether this was meant to be the karaoke or a gig. Either way it was not as entertaining this time. In our broken understanding of German, we thought that the presenter said that there were a couple of final acts and then the usual programme would commence. We were wrong. Karaoke time (aka 3.30pm) came and went and the musicians started up playing again. We decided to go back to shopping instead. This wasn’t exactly a hardship but it was a shame. It just goes to show that you should check the karaoke is on before you go.

Our trip to the Reichstag was more successful. Although it is free to visit, we still had to book several days in advance but thankfully we were prepared and this was not an issue. Luckily, it was a crystal clear day so we could see right across the city from the glass dome.

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Our audio guides were automatic, so they started up as we stepped into the dome and onto the pathway that worked upwards. The voice instructed us to stop off at several points on the walk up so that it could describe what we were seeing- or what we were meant to be seeing at least. It actually worked surprisingly well and we were able to learn a bit about the city as well as the Reichstag itself.

That night, we decided to once again try a weekday night out. We had yet to have a bad night out in Berlin but there is a notable difference between going out during the week and at the weekend. That may sound normal but coming from a university town means that everyday was a possible party day and in fact the weekend was the quietest time as they were more for locals than students. Our choices were Matrix, a club that we had heard played something other than techno, and Weekend Club, which came complete with a terrace bar that we had frequented on my first Saturday night in the city. We had heard that Weekend Club had a special night on and music out on the terrace itself so we decided to try there.

Whilst I am certainly not yet a techno convert, I have to say that I was enjoying it more and more, each time I went out. Weekend Club was the right choice: techno music is at its best when the club is busy and this one was- even on a Monday.

The next day’s activity was the Alternative Free Tour around Berlin after school. I had already seen most of the street art and we couldn’t go to the artist squat I had heard about as it had been closed down a few months before but it was still totally worthwhile to see the images with someone who could tell you about the artist and the meaning behind them. We also dropped by the Jamaican beach bar, Yaams, where we sat listening to reggae music, including a rendition of the Jungle Book’s “I Wanna Be Like You” before recommencing our tour.

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Having been out the night before and finally managing to do as the Berliners do and come back when it is light and the morning commute has started, I was exhausted. I had actually made it in on time to my morning language class (9am start) and whilst I was very proud of this, I was suffering now. I’m pretty sure I fell asleep for a couple of seconds on my feet; I actually felt one side of my body drop. Needless to say, that afternoon, I napped and that night, instead of going out, I simply slept some more.

Wednesday was our last proper day in Berlin as Thursday was going to have to be a flat cleaning day. So what did we do? We went to Urban Outfitters, of course, to spend all of that non-existent money we had left. The problem was that it appeared to be more expensive than in England (not by much but we were jobless and every little helps). Instead, we went off to do something arguably more cultural.

There was one final thing left on my to-do list: the Natural History museum. It was interesting and again came complete with an audio guide. I particularly liked the dinosaur and the cosmos exhibits, reminiscent of the museum in London. There were also several sections that plunged me back into school science lessons- in a good way. However, taxidermy and creatures in jars are not quite for me and there were also several of those.

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Since my flatmate had to leave at 4.30am Friday morning, Wednesday was also our last chance for a proper night out and so we decided the time had come to go against the Berlin-techno-way and go to Matrix, where we danced to cheesy music with actual lyrics. It felt exactly like a night out at home, which was exactly what we had been looking for. A pleasant discovery was the presence of a wind machine that blew fiercely once in a while. It meant that I avoided the something-you-would-pull-out-of-a-drain look that I had adopted on our Prague night out.

The next day was a sad day as it involved saying goodbye to everyone in my school class. We went out for a falafel and ice cream lunch and then drinks in the evening- and that was it.

The next morning I finished tidying and left. It had been an amazing month and Berlin is 100% my favourite city in the world: nowhere is as cool. There is also so much to do, like there should be in a city, yet there is less of a sense of stress that you find in London- the fact that there are far fewer people may explain it. Although that doesn’t explain the lack of suits or the bar that was still going at 8.30am every morning.

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