After a morning of drama in Stansted airport (I thought I lost my phone and we nearly missed our flight…turns out, Jack had it in his pocket the whole time), we landed in Berlin Schönefeld airport. We had to get from the airport to the city center of Berlin which meant navigating the S-Bahn (subway train system). The machines are easy to use and can be translated into common languages which made it even simpler since we could read it in English. A single ticket from the airport in Zone C to Alexanderplatz in Zone A was €3.30 and involved a change of trains halfway at Ostkreuz; this was where we found out how friendly and helpful German people were as they pointed us in the right direction at the train station. Overall, the Berlin train system is similar to the London Underground (which I was familiar with) and just takes some getting used to when finding out which line you’re after but it is very easy after that.
After arriving in Alexanderplatz, it was a 10 minute walk to our hostel (St Christophers Inn; which turned out to be INCREDIBLE). We had an amazing view of the Fernsehturm (TV Tower) from our hostel which proved to be very helpful if we got lost as we would just follow the direction of the tower to get home! Our hostel was one of the best rated on Booking.com and I can see why! The competitive prices combined with the excellent privacy that you get in a dorm is very practical. Myself and Jack were in a 16 bed dorm and our bunks were secluded in the corner where we had our own private corner, this was enhanced by the curtains that we had on our bunks. I’ll most likely upload a review entirely based on the hostel so I shan’t delve into the details too much. After settling, we headed down Karl Leibknecht Strasse, the main road in East Berlin, and went sight seeing.
Neptunbrunnen is just a stone’s throw from Alexanderplatz and was truly stunning. This 18m wide and 10m high fountain is huge and always attracted a crowd whichever day that we walked past it. The four green tinted women represent the four main rivers of Prussia at the time that the fountain was constructed: Rhine, Elbe, Oder and Vistula; Neptune towers over these women hence the name of the fountain.
As a Sociology student, I was eager to visit the Marx-Engels Forum which is situated on the corner of Karl Leibknecht Strabe and the Museumsinsel. The close proximity of the attractive sights proved to be exceedingly useful as it is so easy to have a casual wander and bump into all of these attractions that you’ve seen online. Also, the preservation of these sculptures amazed me, there was no litter or any vandalism to the statues which I found incredible since if these were in my home town for example, I’m sure there would be some damage yet they are well respected- this was a common thread that I found during my time in Berlin. You can see I got very excited about these statues! The statues were constructed by the authorities of the German Democratic Republic and caused political controversy after the German Reunification yet they prevailed and are now a popular tourist attraction; Marx sits whilst Engels stands beside him.
The very short walk to the Berliner Dom was just a hop over the River Spree where we found ourselves marvelling at the STUNNING architecture. This Neo-Renaissance Cathedral was erected in 1451 and is 115m high, a ticket can be bought for €8 to venture inside the Cathedral and the Dome where you can see over the city.
We didn’t have much time to explore on our first day after checking in at 2pm so we wandered back to our hostel for our evening meal. Downstairs from our hostel was Belushi’s Sportsbar which was AMAZING. I can’t say enough good things about this place and we spent every evening in there- partly because of the free wifi…but mostly because of the affordable food and drink. It was here where we had our first taste of the Berlin specialty- Currywurst. This dish is a steamed Bratwurst sausage topped with curry ketchup and sprinkled with curry powder, it is often served with chips and has been estimated to be consumed 70 million times in Berlin in a year! I can confirm that it is deliiiicious and can be found anywhere cheaply in the city and I recommend it to anyone visiting the capital.