48 hours in Cologne, Germany

Travel

Points worth a mention:

  1. The Sbahn from the airport is S13 towards Duren and is 4 stops to Koln HBF which is right beside the Cathedral (it’s unbelievable how tall it is in person).
  2. Barney Valley’s Irish Pub (Kleine Budengasse) is in Altermarkt and is minutes away from the Cathedral. It’s an amazing Irish Pub with a wide spirits selection (hard to find in Germany from what I’ve experienced) and the barmaid is lovely and even gave us her umbrella when it rained.
  3. Nudelhaus am Dom  (Am Hof 20) was where we spent lunch for both days we were in Cologne. We had both pizza and pasta which were around €10 each and were deliiicious; it’s also right beside the Cathedral so we sat outside with a gorgeous view.
  4. The Rheingarten is a gorgeous place to lounge around beside the river, me and Ashleigh fell asleep here on saturday after a hard night partying.
  5. Our hotel Alt Deutzer Eck was *ahem* bad….see my review here.
  6. The pub crawl we went on was INCREDIBLE and I couldn’t recommend it enough! We went to 5 clubs including Flora, Jameson’s Distillery and Crystal- Jameson’s (Friesenstrasse) and Crystal (Hohenzollernring) were by far the best stops on the crawl!!
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Hotel Alt Deutz ~ Cologne, Germany

Travel

Using booking.com, I booked our one night stay at Hotel Alt Deutz with the promise of the ‘best deal and value for money’- we were lied to. The hotel had a rating of 7/10 and we weren’t expecting 5* treatment yet we arrived at the hotel being told that we were being moved to the ‘guesthouses’ around the corner. The entrance to the guesthouse was difficult to open with the key which left us annoyed even before we got inside! We ventured up steep stairs and found our room…a double bed and a sink- we’d specifically asked for 2 single beds. Although we knew we’d be getting a shared bathroom, we weren’t sure where this was…we found the toilet but we only found the shower minutes before leaving.

On the other hand, the wifi here was free and had a good connection and the bed was comfortable. The night cost us €68, most of which was spent out on a pub crawl so we didn’t spend much of the night in the room at all, and was a complete rip off for what we received. Although the location was good, I wouldn’t come rushing back to this hotel- 4/10.

Booking Cologne (again!)

Travel

I feel like only I would book another getaway whilst on holiday…hey! I hate sitting still! I’ve booked a weekend away to Cologne before but things came up meaning that I couldn’t go, but this time it’s for real!

Due to the recent political changes in the UK regarding Brexit (ugh), I wasn’t sure how this would affect the cheap prices of air travel (especially to Germany as it is particularly cheap) so myself and Ashleigh booked our flights for a short break as soon as we could! I used booking.com again as it’s been so trustworthy before and found a cheap rate in the central Hotel Alt Deutz City-Messe-Arena; 20 minutes walk to the Cologne Cathedral and is minutes from the Rhine River.

If anyone has any recommendations for 48 hours in Cologne that’d be greatly appreciated!

Berlin Eats – a lot of Burgers…

Travel

Clockwise from the top left:

  1. Currywurst at Belushi’s Sportsbar, Rosa-Luxemburg-Straße, downstairs from our Hostel, cheap, delicious food with an AMAZING atmosphere at night.
  2. Bar-b-q-burger at Burgermeister, Oberbaumstraße, HANDS DOWN THE NICEST BURGER I’VE EVER HAD, and the cheese fries…don’t get me started:’), dirt cheap too, 2 burgers, 2 drinks and cheese fries came to 13€.
  3. Hangover burger at The Pub, Rochstraße, another fab burger (yeah we ate burgers alot, deal with it) in a gorgeous, quirky restaurant decorated with framed photos of pugs all over the walls- heaven. And it was very close to Alexanderplatz and our hostel.
  4. Surf’n’turf burger at Belushi’s Sportsbar, Rosa-Luxemburg-Straße, more amazing food from the amazing restaurant…and have you seen the portion size of those chips??? yeah that’s what I thought.
  5. Hickory Barbecue Bacon Cheeseburger at Hard Rock Cafe, Kurfürstendamm, easily the most expensive burger we’ve had at 14.50€ each and that souveneir pint glass set me back another 8€ but what can ya do…burger wasn’t too impressive either but it was all about the experience!

Sunny Lustgarten ~ Berlin Day 5

Travel

By our last day, we felt like we’d done everything that we wanted to do and we had a lay in then checked out of the hostel, stored our luggage then sat outside of Belushis (below our hostel) and ate until we could burst. Myself and Jack both had heavy hearts as the Liverpool vs Dortmund game was on the previous night (I’m a Liverpool supporter and Dortmund is a German team…bit of a frosty reception) and we’d both drunk too much…the surf’n’turf burger was definitely needed. Our flight departed at 10:00pm so we had a long afternoon of chilling, so we headed to the Lustgarten to lay around and listen to music. As it transpired, this was the hottest day whilst we were there and we just lazed about all afternoon (didn’t really make the most of the day but oh well, we were pooped).

It got to around 6:30 and we began to head back to the hostel, grab our luggage and navigate the U-Bahn back to the airport. We got on at Alexanderplatz and took the U6/U2 to Ostkreuz where we changed to the S9 and travelled overground to Flughafen Berlin Schönefeld; this took about an hour in total.

Turned out that our flight home only took an hour and a half, we were expected to be 2 hours and I’m not sure what made that time shorter..hmm. If you’re going to Berlin Schönefeld, please be aware that the departures lounge is TINY, most people were sitting on the floor but we managed to nab a seat. Also, please make sure that upon arrival to the airport, read the electronic screens outside to know which area of departures you must enter through- A, B or C (at least I think that’s what they were called)- security and check in was really quick and easy which left a sweet taste in our mouths from our beautiful week in the German capital, and I’d rush back to Germany since I loved it.

Kurfurstendamm ~ Berlin Day 4

Travel

Today we took what felt like the longest U-Bahn journey ever to the Zoologischer Garten Berlin (that’s the Zoo for the English speakers among us) where we got off of the tube and got lost for a bit since we walked out of the wrong exit and managed to wander through a magnet shop for a bit (-_-). Entrance to the zoo was €14.50 and combination zoo and aquarium tickets can be bought for €20 but we didn’t do this. We wandered aimlessly for AGES around the zoo and even managed to see the lions roaring at each other as it echoed through the building. Nevertheless, we managed to sneak in a cheeky stop at the restaurant for the most expensive currywurst we’d had so far- €9 eugh. Whilst watching the Gorillas being fed, it began to downpour with rain (the first we’d had all week) and we ran into Bikini Berlin (after we walked into a car park by accident and looked like absolute tits).

There’s nothing I wanted more than to visit the Monkey Bar which was on the highest floor of the mall and overlooked the monkey enclosure in the zoo, but we couldn’t figure out how to get up there:(. The inside of Bikini Berlin looked like something straight from tumblr, there were dozens of wooden crate pop-up shops with green scaffolding beams holding up the ceilings- we didn’t spend long in there since most shops were independent brands and were quite expensive. Across the road from the mall is the Kaiser Wilhelm Memorial Church, it was badly damaged in the 1943 bombings and it hasn’t been restored as a reminder of WWII, locals call it ‘the hollow tooth’.

It then chucked it down with rain again as we ventured onto Kurfurstendamm, the shopping district, and hid in THE FANCIEST MCDONALDS I’VE EVER SEEN. It was 3 floors and had its own Bakery inside and was decked out with chaise lounges and chandeliers…it was strange. After this, we had time to kill before our reservation at the Hard Rock Cafe so we went on a ‘Starbucks Crawl’ down the roads and spent way too much money on coffee, but hey, free wifi.

Now it was time for the Hard Rock Cafe…I’d been waiting all week for this…and it was…meh. I’m not sure if it was because it was still sunny outside, the music wasn’t loud enough (I was expecting blaring out Pearl Jam), or if it was this specific branch of the restaurant but it really wasn’t anything to write home about. The burger was around €14.50 and although it was nice, it wasn’t incredible for the price and we each bought a Berliner Pilsner (eventhough I don’t like beer) in a souvenir glass for ‘a little extra’ (as the menu said). This ‘little extra’ turned out to be €8 extra and this wasn’t stated on the menu, since coming home (it is August as I’m writing this) the logo has all rubbed off and it really wasn’t worth ANY extra money, so pleaase don’t fall for it if you go.

 

 

 

Fernsehturm, Friedrichshain & Museumsinsel ~ Berlin Day 3

Travel

My third day in Berlin saw us launching 368m up the Fernsehturm (TV Tower) which is the tallest building in Germany and enjoying its 360 degrees views over the capital. This attraction was €13 each as we got the ‘early bird’ tickets which means we had to enter the tower at 9am, but it’s a great way to start off the day!

We then decided on walking down to the Eastside gallery instead of taking the U-Bahn which made for a very interesting walk as we kept getting lost, the actual walk should’ve taken like half an hour but we were at least an hour- people kept asking us for directions and we had no bloody clue. The gallery is a 1.3km stretch of the Berlin wall located in Friedrichshain that has been painted on by over 108 artists from around the world declaring freedom. Arguably the most famous painting on the wall is Dmitri Vrubel‘s rendition of Honecker & Brezhnev kissing– it was amazing to see this in person.

After walking the gallery, we wandered over the Oberbaum bridge into Friedrichshain where we stumbled upon the infamous Burgermeister. This tiny burger cafe is underneath a bridge just by the Schlesisches Tor U-Bahn stop and is EXTREMELY cheap and EXTREMELY yummy. Myself and Jack had a bar-b-q burger each (it doesn’t state prices online but I think they were €4 each) and shared cheese-fries (€3 I seem to remember) beneath the bridge as we sat on the cushioned bar stools. We sat with this friendly man from the Netherlands who told us he’d been living in Berlin for a year and pointed us to the lesser-known shops and cheaper places to go; the people here are very open and almost anyone will point you in the right direction.

As an Ancient History student, visiting the Altes Museum on Museumsinsel was a must. Entry set us back €10 each (you can purchase a ticket for €18 for all of the museums on the island) but it was a hilariously spent hour as I was studying the statues and Jack was running around pissing about (you can see him beneath the woman’s elbow in the picture below). The pediment from the Temple of Aphaia was on a travelling exhibition while I was there so I was lucky enough to see my favourite structure from my course in person (such a nerd).

For tea, we found ourselves settling in to ‘The Pub‘ which is a stones throw from Alexanderplatz and was down the road from our hostel. As you can kinda see from the photo, each table had its own keg in the middle where you could tap your own Berliner Pilsner, but neither me nor Jack did this as theres no way of really knowing how much it’s going to cost you! You had to order from these electronic screens on your table which was a new thing for me but it worked very efficiently! The Hangover burgers were deliiiiicious and I highly rated the coleslaw mmm, eating in a rustic, quirky, wooden barn conversion decorated in framed pictures of pugs was incredible and I’d recommend it to anyone!

 

 

 

Mitte Wandering ~ Berlin Day 2

Travel

Today we wandered into central Berlin and had a tourist-y day. It wasn’t far at all to walk from our hostel (near Alexanderplatz) down Karl Liebknecht Strasse, over Museumsinsel, and onto Unter Den Linden. The above left picture is of the Humbolt University which stands in the former Bebelplabtz square; this is famously where the Nazi’s had a mass burning of the Jewish books. There is a glass panel on the floor which shows an underground bookcase as a memorial to this event. Round the corner from Bebelplabtz is Gendarmenmarkt square which is home to the Konzerthaus (Concert Hall – bottom right). The French and German cathedrals stand at either end of the square and have been fully restored after the damage dealt by WWII.

Now, at this point, Hannah’s ‘walking tour of Berlin’ kicked in…much to Jack’s demise. To put it into context, it was about 20 degrees and we were walking around all day (to an English person, 15 degrees is considered hot let alone 20- you get the drift) and I was eager to do as much as possible, as quick as possible. Map in hand, we traipsed from Gendarmenmarkt to Checkpoint Charlie which was arguably the biggest let down I’ve seen. Yes, it’s a must-see in Berlin and the history behind it is astonishing yet the site itself is really just a toll-booth in the middle of a road with some actors posing as guards for pictures…really selling it aren’t I!

Brandenburg Gate was incredible to see in real life and was packed full of tourists with their selfie-sticks. As an Ancient History student, it was amazing to see the artistic sculpture on the gate and to see the Quadriga in all its glory (eventhough I cut it off in my picture…oops). A little information: the gate was isolated during the time of the Berlin Wall and no one could access it, it marked the gateway to the Reichstag and the monuments of Prussia, since WWII it had been seriously damaged and has undergone restoration in 2002 to the amazing state it is in today!

From there, it was a short walk to the Topography of Terror– a free museum built on the SS and Gestapo Headquarters from Nazi rule. The best thing, for me, at this sight was walking alongside the longest segment remaining of the outer Berlin Wall. Unfortunately, we didn’t stay here long since it was way too hot to stay outside so we ‘wandered’ (got lost) to Potsdamer Platz, the modern area of West Berlin. After a starbucks or two, we left Potsdamer Platz and its glass towers and found ourselves at the Holocaust Memorial to the Murdered Jews of Europe– the most sobering place I’ve ever visited. The combination of the uneven ground and towering concrete blocks makes you feel VERY disorientated and discombobulated- to generate empathy for those who lost their lives. Admittedly, it isn’t the sort of attraction that requires a lot of time, but it is most definitely a must-do.

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The Berlin Wall segment at the Topography of Terror

As mentioned by my aunt and one of my friends who’d previously visited Berlin, a visit to the Reichstag is a MUST! Make sure you reserve your place online beforehand and in advance to your trip- the online process is very easy to navigate and shows you the available tours for your timeslot. There were no available slots left for just a ‘Visit to the Dome’ so I booked myself and Jack into a ‘Guided Tour’ which was given in English and is available in other languages too; it is also worth noting that the entrance to the Bundestag is FREE and well worth it when seeing a slice of German History as well as current affairs as the building is still used in Parliament.

If you do come on this tour, PLEASE MAKE SURE YOU BRING YOUR PASSPORT as security is very tight here- it’s like passing through airport security, there are bag and passport checks. Once we were through security, after Jack’s ‘disagreement’ with security about whether he could bring his hairspray in (-_-), we were taken through the building and shown its offices, where the communication tunnels used to be, and most amazingly- the seats in Parliament which are currently being used in office (top right picture). Our guide was very knowledgeable and answered any questions from the group. After, she guided us to a lift (also heavily guarded) to the glass dome above the building where we walked the height of the spiral  staircases up to the top; you can see right across Berlin and is well worth the trek (especially as it’s FREE). All in all, the tour took us around an hour and a half and was an evening well spent!

Also, I’m taking this opportunity to complain about the service of one of the restaurants we found in Berlin – Vapianos. We were starving this night and remembered walking past an Italian restaurant earlier in the day and decided to go back. Unknowingly, this restaurant was self serve and your orders were scanned onto your own card – handy system, or so I thought. You had to go up to the kitchen counters yourself and each meal was made to order, so I, the ‘adult of the situation’ went up first whilst Jack reserved us a table with our drinks. After waiting in line for an HOUR, I got my Carbonara (my fave pasta dish…which turned out to not taste like Carbonara at all and was overpriced) and ate it infront of Jack while he sat wriggling getting jiffly about wanting to leave- I couldn’t blame him, it’d be another hour before he got his food. We left. It may have been the time of day we went, it may have been that specific place. But I wouldn’t run back in a hurry. Jack ended up having a Currywurst at the hostel- the best ones we found!

Karl Liebknecht Straße ~ Berlin Day 1

Travel

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.