Saturday 8th April 2017
I woke up at about 4.15am for my journey to Berlin, having not got much sleep at all. Perhaps unwisely, I’d gone to a friend’s for dinner and drinks the night before and instead of leaving early I’d lost track of time and arrived back home at 11-ish. I still hadn’t packed at that point. Or done my washing up. Needless to say I was exhausted – but still I managed to move. The Flatmate and I met another friend at Brixton station and together we headed to Tottenham Hale to catch the train to Stansted airport. We’d already collected our train tickets, realising we’d probably oversleep and not have much time at the station before our train arrived. We needn’t have worried though, we were excited enough to be up and out and we arrived with plenty of time to spare. Another friend had already hopped on the train at Liverpool Street and was awkwardly telling people they couldn’t sit at her table as she was saving us seats. The train was surprisingly busy for 6am on a Saturday. Thankfully, it didn’t take us long to find her and we were on our way.
We didn’t have too long at the airport before we needed to head to the gate. Once there, we ended up queuing for ages as the flight was delayed. My flights are always delayed. Admittedly this time there was a lot of fog so I was just happy we would be leaving at all.
Eventually, we boarded and it wasn’t long at all before we were touching down in Berlin. It had been quite a comfortable journey as we managed to snag six seats between the four of us so we were all able to get some sleep. It took us about an hour once at Schonefeld airport to get to our destination in Schoneberg. We got in, dumped our stuff and soon headed out to make the most of our day.
This was going to be an interesting trip for me. I come to Berlin quite a bit but this time I was with two vegans and a vegetarian, meaning I was the only meat eater. My visits to the city are usually meat filled but I was happy to try some new places. The vegans had already found some places to try so we wouldn’t be wandering the streets aimlessly looking for somewhere they could eat – which actually probably wouldn’t be a problem in Berlin. There are a lot of vegan options there.
Our first destination was a vegan kebab place in Friedrichshain called Voner. It looked relatively close to the East Side Gallery so I figured we could hit two birds with one stone. We caught a couple of trains to Ostkreuz station and from there we wandered a short while to the eatery. We each ordered a “voner” kebab and a couple of portions of chips to share. The kebabs were not bad at all but to be honest I’m not sure I’d go for one again. They reminded me of falafel which I generally love but on this occasion it didn’t quite hit the spot. However, what I would go back for was the chips. They were insanely good.
Fed and watered, we emerged onto the street in search of the East Side Gallery. I’d already had a look on a map and voner didn’t look too far away. I knew the gallery was close to Ostbahnhof so figured it must be close. Unfortunately, however, after we cracked out Citymapper, I realised we’d come to Ostkreuz station and not Ostbahnhof. I’d confused the two. We were still in the right area but it would be a 30 minute walk and we weren’t up for that. Instead we simply hopped on a bus and let that do the legwork.
The East Side Gallery is a stretch of the old Berlin wall which has been covered in murals. I had been several times during August 2013 when I spent a month in the city but I knew that new murals would have appeared since then and The Flatmate had never been. Sadly, however, whilst there had been some graffiti before, many of the murals were now covered in the stuff. And I don’t mean street art graffiti – I mean the vandalism stuff, to the extent that many of them murals could barely be seen underneath. Several murals had since been cleaned up but they were now protected behind metal fencing so the experience was not the same as before.
Afterwards we wandered in the direction of Görlitzer Park and found a nice coffee shop where we stopped for a hot drink. I was getting sleepy – I needed coffee. From there we walked towards Kreuzberg, on the hunt for the vegan doughnut shop, Brammibal’s, which I had also initially mistakenly thought was close to the East Side Gallery. By the time we arrived, at around 4/5pm, the shop was still open but the doughnuts were sold out. We left disappointed. Very disappointed.
On our way back to Schoneberg, we stopped off at Veganz, a vegan supermarket with a few branches in Berlin. The Vegans picked up stuff for their breakfasts and we grabbed a couple of pizzas to stick in the oven for our dinner that night. We later stopped off at Lidl so that the Vegetarian and I could get some cheaper stuff for our breakfasts and we grabbed some drinks for that night as well.
It took me a while to figure out how to use the Ikea oven in our flat. I found dozens of manuals in many different languages for every piece of the kitchen but didn’t manage to find the English instructions for the oven until both pizzas were cooked. They weren’t half bad. I then had to use the manual to figure out how to switch the oven off.
We spent a while googling places to go out in Berlin that would play something other than techno music. That might be what Berlin is known for but it’s not for us. Personally, I like something that everyone knows all the words to and I can bust some frankly embarrassing dance moves. We ended up heading to Kottbusser Tor. I can’t even remember the name of the place we initially headed to but we arrived to the sound of jazz music and a €7 door charge so instead we headed to a bar called Luzia for a few drinks. After spending a ridiculous €28 for four vodka and cokes (c’mon Berlin, this isn’t London), we switched to the €13 bottle of prosecco and asked the bartender for some suggestions on where to go next
He suggested the Prince Charles, which was a short walk away. He said the place played hip hop and R&B. It didn’t sound like I was going to get to hear Taylor Swift but I’d take that. However, after paying €10 (I think) to get in, we found a soundtrack of 80s pop music instead. Now I love a bit of 80s music on a night out but I prefer a mix that includes some current stuff as well. We did have a bit of a dance but didn’t end up staying for much more than an hour. That didn’t end up being the worst thing. It was already 2am-ish by this point and we didn’t want to be too exhausted for our next day in Berlin.