Following the instructions from our half-Pinay, half-German CouchSurfing host Analie, we took the “Messe/ICC” Ringbahn (loop train) to Gesundbrunnen (one of the main stations for the Ringbahn, S-bahn (railway train like MRT), U-bahn (metro/subway) and regional/international trains) and took the S-Bahn to where she lives. (So much “bahn” right? And we’re not talking about the buses and trams yet. While the transport system is quite efficient, one of the first few lessons in Berlin is that Bahn = train and going to one station using the right S-Bahn or U-Bahn requires tourists (and locals) to never underestimate the travel time necessary. haha)
But, actually, once you kind of get the hang of it, commuting in Berlin is quite easy and fast. I’m not sure how affordable it is since we got a Berlin Welcome Card — a 19-euro 48-hour tourist pass (can be 72 hours too) which we can use for any form of public/government-ran transportation within Berlin. The card also entitles us to discounts to some tourist attractions (like the museums and the TV Tower) and restaurants (there’s a listing) as well as activities (bike rental, sightseeing bus, guided tours). What I loved most about the Welcome to Berlin Card were the convenience (no need to buy and validate train/bus tickets each time) and the suggested itineraries with maps and walking route for first-timers (like us), experts (like other people), for families, and for nature-lovers.
Of course, we didn’t do any tours anymore on the day we arrived in Berlin but, as we needed to step out of the house as our host attended a lecture, we found our way to the Berlin Wall, or what remained of it. Despite my liking of old things and places, I am not much a reader of history. I think Niklas enjoyed telling historical stories he’s read in this or that book or article so he was my pseudo-guide as we walked through the reminder of Berlin’s sad and grim history. Be that as it may, I think that the Berlin Wall, as it stands today, can also be a reminder not just to the people of Berlin or to the citizens of Germany but more so to the global populace that nothing lasts forever — not tyranny, or power, or suffering, or discrimination, or poverty. I believe several people had done several extraordinary accounts of the Berlin Wall and what it meant to live in those times.
But looking at the images of the wall (at least the East Side that we saw) was to me more moving than any word written. The struggle of people to live in complete submission while enduring poverty, knowing (or dreaming) that at the other side of the wall lies deliverance and freedom, not just from the physical pain of hunger and abuse, but the psychological detriment they had to live with while fearing for one’s life as they hang on to the last strands of hope.
Of course, as I said, I am not a reader of history nor am I a writer of one. I am but a speculator and spectator and I wish, deep in my heart, that the worst we have all imagined wasn’t what was real, and that what was real, was not worse than what we have imagined. Anyway, on to the lighter side of things — seeing a fellow Filipino couchsurfer wandering the streets of Berlin!
After some walking, and a series of misfortunes (early closing cafe with wifi, dead phones, sleeping watchwoman), we finally saw Tim walking past the restaurant we are in! Tim is from the Philippines, member of CS Manila! I didn’t know that Tim was out of the country or actually, in Europe! We both agreed it’s nice though to meet another Filipino traveling — especially after days without speaking proper Tagalog! Hehehe 🙂 After Niklas finished his meal, and us three getting lost with the U-Bahn and S-Bahn options, we set off to meet Analie. We ended up in a really smokey bar with the barwoman not paying attention (she enjyos her darts too much) and had our first taste of German beer, in Germany!
The next day, Niklas and I set off on the actual “Berlin for the First Time” tour, on foot and on sausage! Hahaha 🙂 From this point forward, through a series of photos, I’ll try my very best to take you through the streets of Berlin, specifically the Mitte or central area, to see the sights, and to have your impression of the city. We did not strictly follow the suggestions on the map (we missed the Nikolai Quarter and we were already too tired to visit Postdamer Platz (and the Victory Statue) and we weren’t planning on watching any performances). So, are you ready for your Berlin for beginners tour?!
We capped the night off with a tea party and meet-up with Anja, my friend Elizabeth’s friend whom she met in India. 🙂 The world truly is small. 🙂 After the meet-up, Analie, Niklas and I went to a bar (no smoking inside!) that had a relaxed vibe eventhough there’s a lot of people and action (I couldn’t help it, it just happened in front of me!). And after that, it was time to go home and prepare for our departure to Prague the next day!
So, there you have it. How did you find Berlin? Do you think our Berlin for first-timers itinerary was a good one? Or maybe you wanna share yours? Let us know and help out others who wish to explore Berlin for the first-time as well!