In June of this year, I decided to kill two birds with one stone (a lovely way to refer to my friends) and head to Berlin with one year-abroader then visit another in Heidelberg. Both study German at university, so it was a perfect opportunity to catch up, ask their advice on moving abroad, practice my own German, and use all of these things as an excuse for a holiday!
H, who’d spent the last year in Valencia, and I chose Berlin purely because I’d never been there, she’d only seen it on a school trip, and we both thought it deserved a load of our time. We’d been to Hamburg the year before and a Berlin weekend-er was a must. Meanwhile, Livi had been studying in Heidelberg. And so a plan was formed. Being the idiot that I am, I didn’t think about the distance in between (‘they’re in the same country, after all’) and the absurdity of my decision only hit when I booked my 9 hour coach with meinfernbus. Only €25, but that’s a day in my favourite country wasted on a bus.
This wasn’t to be my first travel nightmare though. My easyjet flight to Berlin was delayed by eight hours and my flight home from Frankfurt was actually from Frankfurt Hahn (as opposed to Main), a ridiculously non-Frankfurt airport, an hour and a half out on a €15 coach. Thanks Ryanair. Saying that, we were blessed with beautiful weather and seeing my pals was well worth it.
We stayed in the well-known Pfefferbett hostel, which I can’t fault even if I try (okay, if I really try then I’d say it’s a little outside of the action, but that’s me being super critical). It wasn’t particularly cheap at €15-€20 a night dependent on day of the week, but it was great value for money; we stayed in a 6-bed dorm with a lovely en-suite, electronic lockers and a smart design. The breakfast, also, is well worth it if you want to treat yourself.
Here’s my suggested itinerary if you have only a short time in Berlin, based on what we got up to;
Hiring bikes from Fat Tire right under the Fernsehturm is a great shout, doesn’t cost too much either, and we headed West to explore the following; Brandenburg Gate, Memorial to the Murdered Jews, Tiergarten and the Reichstag. Then, coming back into the centre, we located Checkpoint Charlie and the Topography of Terror.
A packed morning, you could say, and all best explored on bike in lovely weather! I’d definitely recommend this little loop if you wanted to tick off the big sights in a hurry. Later in the afternoon, I’d recommend checking out the East Side Gallery (get the train to Warschauer Str.) – a really interesting walk along a section of the old wall. This part of town, with its cool ‘beach bars’ and, a little further along, the Badeschiff, may well be my favourite.
In the evening, head to Boxhagener Platz for dinner (or a little earlier if you want to shop in some pricey yet cool vintage boutiques). There’s a great atmosphere and plenty of window shopping to be done. The next morning, chill out on Museumsinsel, the museum island. There are some really lovely green areas and great architecture, but I didn’t feel any need to go into a museum. Maybe if the weather had been worse…
I discovered the KaDeWe Kaufhaus (department store) food court thanks to a tip-off from my guidebook, so I really didn’t need lunch at all. The man on the Lindt stand will keep you well stocked up with chocolate and you will almost definitely be tempted to buy a few other bits while you’re there. I can’t believe I’m recommending a department store, but this really is worth a visit if you, like me, love food!
A couple of other notes on Berlin;
– Know where to go if you want a night out, or ask locals; strolling around the town centre with a beer at midnight won’t lead you to the party.
– I haven’t been up the Fernsehturm, but I went to the TU’s sky cafe and it was free! Read my other blog for more.
– If anyone comes up to you and randomly asks ‘speek Eengleesh?’, say no. Just say no.
– The main coach station is a little out of the way at Kaiserdamm, so allow time to get there!
A cosy but beautiful historical university town that has more than just a bit in common with my new home Salzburg, Heidelberg is located on the River Neckar between Stuttgart and Frankfurt (so no where near Berlin at all.) My friend studied there as part of her year abroad and I visited, 6 years after we came here on a day trip during our German exchange in…um…2007 (eek).
The weather was absolutely beautiful, early 30s, so my Heidelberg experience was very warm and sunny. It was a far more chilled few days so I have very few comments to make, apart from GO THERE, it’s beautiful;
– The Cave club plays rock classics and it’s dark and smoky and underground and generally pretty cool. Not for the claustrophobes.
– Sahara for a kebab, before, during or after a night out.
– It’s rarely worth paying to enter historical tourist sights, I think, but Heidelberg Castle is lovely – a great walk up there and an amazing view. Do it.
Verdict! Not a very smart pairing, I’ll admit, but both cities are very much worth a visit. How about Berlin and Dresden or Heidelberg and Frankfurt for that party-in-the-metropolis vs. picture-postcard balance?