Recently my boyfriend and I decided on a whim to take a weekend trip to Berlin. That is not the norm for us, as we normally plan our trips weeks in advance and save money specifically for the event. The whole idea for this getaway came about because Silas, afore-mentioned boyfriend, saw an advertisement for a ZSK concert in Berlin for that weekend, two days away.
We had seen ZSK only a few months prior (See post: Partying with German Punk Rockers: Less Scary than it Sounds), but this time including another artist we like, Mal Élevé, the concert sounded promisingly epic. Silas gave me puppy eyes and that was it. Our planning began immediately as we attempted to get to Berlin on Friday, see a concert, find vegan food, go to all of our shops we wanted see, visit attractions that interested us, and get back home on Sunday night without spending all of our money or passing out from exhaustion. Surprise! We made it back home and had possibly the best weekend of my entire student exchange. Here are ten reasons why.
1. Berlin is cheap, if you want it to be
We needed it to be. Probably the most expensive thing you’ll spend in Berlin is getting there. Taking the train from Husum would have cost us a few hundred Euros. The bus would be cheaper for sure, but could be upwards of 8 hours. We eventually found an app called Bla Bla Car, where people privately driving to a city can advertise their ride on the app and you can drive with them for a relatively small fee. We found a man driving to Berlin on Friday and back on Sunday for 50 euros per person. 😮 Of course this option is better for safety reasons if you have other people traveling with you, as is usually the case. If not, Flixbus offers trips to Berlin for sometimes just 15 euros (Differs with location).
Hostels are also a cost-friendly option for traveling that I feel is an opportunity far overlooked in the U.S. Hostels in Germany are just as clean, safe, and modern as hotels and are far cheaper (if you don’t mind sharing your room, of course). Although we stayed with a friend during this weekend, I’ve stayed in Berlin hostels before and had only great experiences.
2. Berlin has the BEST vegan food scene (and food scene in general)
Silas and I are both vegan, something that can make travel difficult in some areas. Usually we just buy food at a grocery store and eat that when restaurants don’t offer vegan options, but everywhere we looked in Berlin, there was another vegan restaurant or store (that’s right, an entirely. vegan. grocery. store.) that enticed us. To be honest, food took up the most of our travel money but it’s ok, I agree with treating yourself to something special. The best vegan options we tried and loved were: -Viasko (specializes in brunch), a vegan food truck whose name escapes us, 1990 Vegan Living (Pictures below), and the Tadshikische Teahouse (also pictured from my solo trip to Berlin last week).
3. The punk scene is thriving
The goal of this trip was really to see and experience Berlin’s Punk scene, as we were going to a Punk concert, after all. Punk culture runs deep in Berlin, from fashion to the underground concerts and culture that penetrated the city in the Cold War days. We found several alternative shops with patches for jackets, CDs, and stickers all promoting the liberal, “FCK AFD” and “FCK NZS” message that you can see written all over Berlin, literally. We saw no posters promoting the AFD or their ideas while we were in the city, a hugely welcome sign of acceptance and modern ideas. The ZSK+Mal Élevé concert itself had an enormously positive energy, and ZSK really brought our their personalities as they were in the comfort of their hometown. There was a beer garden outside the location with at least four bars (Some dedicated solely to beer!) and a huge variety of people to fill it up even when the concert hall was also full. We even got to meet some of the band members!
4. It is eco-friendly friendly
If you are like me and like to reduce your carbon and plastic footprint, you’ll find Berlin to be a city of your liking. From the grocery stores to food trucks, it seems like everyone is offering and opting for plastic free alternatives such as canvas bags, wooden silverware, and paper straws. If you are a zero-waster, you can definitely fit your lifestyle into Berlin. Not to mention the plethora of sustainable public transport (which has been the most straightforward rail and bus system I’ve ever used, btw).
5. The public transportation system is both clean and efficient
During our time in Berlin, we used the public transportation A LOT. All day, everyday actually. We were not disappointed. We were allowed to borrow a travel pass from the people we were staying with, and that essentially allowed us to travel on the train and subway for free. Of all the travel we did in the city, not one train or bus was late. They were clean to boot, and got us through the city much faster than on foot, bike, or in a car. The subway is also decorated with decals of the Brandenburg Gate, too, which I thought was quite charming. (Also, scroll down to see the AFS ad I saw in one of the subways!).
6. It is culturally and historically significant
I could research forever about the cultural significance of Berlin, which is reflected in the architecture, monuments, and many museums that are scattered across the city, but I won’t as I am no historian. You most certainly have heard of or seen the Brandenburg Gate, the Bundestag, and The Wall (represented now by the East Side Gallery), but the historical sites in Berlin far exceed those few. On this trip, Silas took me to the Stasi Gefängnis, or Stasi Prison in English, which was a prison in East Berlin once controlled by the Stasi to hold resistors of their communistic, spying regime.
Our guide was actually held in this prison during the Stasi’s rule because of his escape attempts to West Berlin. His insight was invaluable, as his insider knowledge of the prison and the torture that went on there was incredibly impactful. His website is here: http://www.berlin-excursion.de and I highly recommend reading it. Also, there are a ton of holocaust memorials in Berlin, such as the “Memorial to the Murdered Jews of Europe” pictured below. The remainder of the Berlin Wall, “East Side Gallery” is also an absolute must.
7. There are things to do for every interest
As we were looking up activities to do during our time in Berlin, we found lists upon lists of activities, tours, concerts, historical sites, shops, and restaurants. There is truly something for everyone in Berlin. One thing we decided to do was visit the “Gardens of the World”, which showcases small gardens taking inspiration from architecture, culture, and, of course, gardens around the world.
Something fun I saw during my last trip to Berlin was this beer car, where you bike and drink beer while getting a tour of the city.
8. It is a political hub
Holding the Bundestag, Germany’s chancellor’s headquarters, and the center of politics in Germany, it is no wonder Berlin is a menagerie of protests, demonstrations, and political discussion.
9. You can always find a protest for your cause
Every time I’ve been to Berlin, I’ve seen at least one, sometimes up to two or three, protests. I love this, as it sparks discussion and open-mindedness between individuals who would have normally never spoken.
10. Berlin is Beautiful
Whether you have an Instagram, Youtube channel, blog like me, or even if you just want photos for your own viewing purposes, Berlin is truly the place to do it.