Berlin City Guide

14 December 2017

Very bittersweet to be writing about my last trip of the year. Because I had to fly back to the states last weekend and miss my trip to Marrakech, I was more than ready to be in Berlin -- even though Berlin may as well be the antithesis of Marrakech. This was the longest trip planned, spanning four whole days, which meant we could sleep in and see as much as possible before Monday night rolled around.

Berlin was cold as fuck and got dark at 3:30, but it was an enjoyable time regardless. Even though the city is known for its outrageous club scene + drugs, I was promptly asleep by midnight each night. I did, however, make sure to watch the Travel Man Berlin episode to get a virtual tour from the icon that is Richard Ayoade (if you don’t already watch Travel Man/know who Richard Ayoade is, get on that RIGHT AWAY). If it weren’t for his episode, I wouldn’t have known to look out for the vintage photo booths and force my friends to take awkward pictures inside of them :’)

6 a.m. flights always seem like a terrible idea when you have to wake up at the crack of dawn, and feel even worse when the landing of the airplane wakes you up from a much needed nap. It was a good thing that the Berlin coffee scene is as good as it is because multiple cups of coffee were consumed a day. It started with a visit to The Barn’s Coffee Roasters for a late morning latte after grabbing a bite to eat at Daluma. The neighborhood of Mitte is chock-full of concept and coffee shops. Everything from the Soho House and their accompanying store, The Store, to the nicest stationary store, R.S.V.P, is 10-15 minutes of each other.

Just a stone's throw from this area is Mauerpark, which holds a Sunday flea market very similar to that of Brooklyn. And down the street from that is Bonanza Coffee Hero and the most organized vintage store I’ve ever been to, Paul’s.

Being in Berlin in the middle of December means two things: extreme cold but Christmas markets. The former is obviously less favorable than the latter, but copious amounts of gluhwein helped to keep our bodies the tiniest bit warm. Oh that and all the fries (strangely called “pommes” which is the French word for fries). Thank god Berlin was filled with cheap eats like the aforementioned foods as well as the glorious concoction that is donner. €3.50 for a pita filled with goodness is kinda the best thing ever when you’re drunk -- or even sober.

On top of cheap eats, Berlin also has some really good affordable places as well. Coming from Paris, every other European city seems ridiculously cheap (excluding London smh), so we all found it funny when a local friend described the drinks at the trendy penthouse bar, Monkey Bar, “expensive” when drinks were around €9-12 (a steal for Paris standards). Roamers was one of the best breakfast experiences I’ve had -- making me feel like a gd woodland creature --, and the warm ramen from Cocolo after a long day in the cold was well worth the wait. If you plan to go to either locations, make sure you show up early so that you don’t have to wait a long ass time. Even if you get to Cocolo right when it opens at 6, you’ll still find yourself at the back of a line.

The highlight of this trip -- and probably my whole time in Europe, if I’m being honest -- was Fontane Therme. I had read about it in a Berlin guide, and even though it was two hours via public transport outside the city (only one hour by car), it was the most worth it. At night, you can go for two hours and only pay €19 (towel and robe rental is an extra €2.50 and €5 respectively), and you have access to all four of their pools and the numerous steam rooms and saunas -- all immaculate, calming, and cleansing. If you don’t have a bathing suit, don’t worry. They sell some there, or you can do what I did and just sport a bralette and underwear ¯_(ツ)_/¯ Two of my friends, however, had to rush to the only store open on Sundays to buy swim bottoms: The Ampelmann gift store. If you aren’t familiar with the Ampelmann, he is the crosswalk icon of Berlin with multiple gift shops dedicated to selling various products with his likeness. If this sounds like the strangest concept to you, you’re not alone! The Ampelmann became a hardcore ongoing joke of the trip. Good thing is that you don’t have to wear anything for much of the time since clothes aren’t allowed in most of the saunas. I would have definitely spent another two hours laying nude in some pretty high heat, but I was so glad to have the time I did because my body was limp as a noodle afterwards...goddamn it was good.  

Our Monday afternoon was spent at the Memorial to the Murdered Jews of Europe. Although the accompanying museum was closed, it was still a very touching and moving experience. As I mentioned in my previous post, my grandmother passed away a few weeks ago. Even though I have been doing a fine job handling the grief, I knew visiting this memorial was going to be a very emotional and visceral experience. On a normal day, something like this would move me to tears, but with the added weight of grief and mourning, it was certainly a lot to handle. One thing that is very important to mention about this memorial in particular and any other memorial, monument, site, et. al. commemorating a tragic historical event is that it doesn’t exist for instagram photos and selfies. I cannot say that enough. At this memorial alone, I saw selfie sticks, a fashion blogger, and a man standing on top of one of the monuments taking a picture of his friend. While I already talked about how disrespectful this is on my IG story, it is vital that I mention it again. I would hope that people would have enough common sense to treat places like this with respect and hold space for those there paying their respects, but it seems like that isn’t the first train of thought for everyone.

Rant aside, Berlin was great. Seriously scheming about taking a journey back just to venture back out to the spa. It was THAT good. One thing to note about this city as a whole: BRING CASH. It’s a very cash-heavy city and you won’t find a card reader in very many places.

It’s been a whole lot of fun to create these city guides for so many different places. I’m glad that it gave me something creative to do and I held myself accountable to complete them all until the end. Of course, I’ll have a massive city guide for Paris once I leave next week, but for all intents and purposes, this is my last Europe guide for a while. Sad! If you’ve kept up with me for all this time, thank you for reading and indulging me and my ramblings.

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