Berlin: cheap food, street art, & trendy districts
Picture this: Spring Term finally ends, and before you know it you’re on the S-Bahn in Berlin. The friend you’re staying with is busy, so you meet one of her many international friends (Berlin is super multi-cultural), and he takes you on a quick whistle-stop tour of all the classic tourist-sights of Berlin.
Day 1: First up, Alexanderplatz for the TV Tower (see photo above), followed by Museum Island for a look at the impressive baroque Berlin Cathedral and Bode Museum. We then walked along to the famous and beautiful Humboldt University before ending up at the neoclassical Brandenburg Gate. There, we rambled through a small part of the Tiergarten (less stunning when not in full bloom) and had a glimpse at the impressive Reichstag Building. The day’s tour ended on a sombre note with a visit to the Memorial to the Murdered Jews of Europe. This is a truly abstract monument, consisting solely of various sized concrete bricks, clearly designed in that way to force each visitor to think. Think about the War and its horrors, think about the many lives lost because of one man’s views, think about how the world hasn’t learnt from the mistakes made only a few decades ago.
All of the above in about 3 hours. This walking tour allowed me to appreciate the huge variety Berlin has to offer. Time could obviously be spent exploring these attractions in more depth – especially by actually entering the many museums – but my purpose in Berlin was to relax and enjoy a bustling city, so exteriors were enough (for my first visit at least!). To top off a great day, we headed to the area I would be staying in – Prenzlauer Berg – for the first of many cheap and delicious meals: €3.50 for any pizza at Pane e Vino!
Day 2: It’s a rainy day, so we spend most of our time in cafés and restaurants with more international friends eating butter pretzels for breakfast, falafel for lunch (Esra on Kastanienallee), and currywurst and apple strudel for dinner (Bavarian in the Europa Centre). To top off this day of spending, we shopped at Humana, a massive second hand and vintage shop chain. The only cultural attraction of the day was walking past the Kaiser Wilhelm Memorial Church, which has been left destroyed by the Second World War bombing. The day ended with a beautiful view of the sunset over Berlin from the Park Inn Hotel (only €4 and you can actually see the TV Tower, which you obviously can’t when you go up it).
Day 3: The two meals of today both happened to be Asian: €10 sushi at Sumo Sushi back on Kastanienallee and South Korean food at YamYam Berlin (watch out as this isn’t for those who can’t handle spicy food). The day’s activities included the must see East Side Gallery and Hackesher Markt. A day of street art basically! Hackescher Markt is a classic example of the mass gentrification that Berlin is experiencing, what with all the classic western shops and clean streets. Yet, hidden away down a side alley is a street art haven. Old brick walls are plastered with political statements; some vibrant, some fading. There was one in contrasting primary colours with the German version of Trump’s name ‘Drumpf’ and one with a 1960s peace movement aesthetic asking to ‘Remember Fukushima’. And then a staircase of around five stories, plastered with stickers, messages and art. You couldn’t really take each in separately, and instead being forced to appreciate the entirety as an overwhelming mass of colour. We finished the sunny spring day in Kreuzberg, where we rambled around the district and along its canal. We had coffee in an old pharmacy-turned-café called ORA, whose aesthetic was rustic and cosy with everything served in old pharmaceutical apparatus. As it was a Friday, everyone was sitting on the banks, drinking beer and there was a different street performer every few metres. The atmosphere was completely chilled out.
Day 4: After a relaxed day at home, we eventually made our way to Friedrichshain, where we had cheap pasta at a place called Hot & Spicy. The waiters were extremely kind, and our meal was made even better by a group of chatty Germans. Berlin was full of friendly faces such as these, which made it all the more enjoyable. Finally, my trip ended with a concert at Musik & Frieden. Palace and ISLAND were playing (indie-pop with blues vibes). The music was wonderful, the atmosphere was relaxed, and the venue was really cool, exuding the run-down vibe which I have come to regard as Berlin’s trademark.
I would highly recommend Berlin for a student escape if good, cheap food and funky places are up your street. Due to illness, I didn’t even experience the renowned nightlife that the city has to offer, and there is undoubtedly more to see and do. I look forward to visiting the city again soon!