We got the early train out of Amsterdam on the DB Bahn to Berlin (it cost €49 each), which turned out to be quite an unpleasant ride. Our seats were not indicated on the ticket, so we just plonked ourselves down anywhere we pleased. In the subsequent stops, we had to move because new passengers got on, and we happened to be sitting at their reserved seats. It’s a silly system because the carriage was a mess as new passengers had to jostle on the narrow aisle with those who have already settled down in their seats.
Then we had to change trains at Hannover, and the next one we hopped on was overcrowded. We learnt that an earlier train was faulty, and our train had to take on passengers from that train. So Ade and I ended up sitting on the floor, in between carriages, for more than two hours before we managed to grab an empty seat. After 5 hours, a few rounds of musical chairs, and passing through beautiful countryside, we finally got off at Berlin Hauptbahnhof station.
To get to our Airbnb stay in Kruezberg area, we had to take the public train — which I didn’t realise had no gantries until Ade pointed it out. A purely nationalised public transport! The walk up to their apartment was a little dark and dodgy, so we were quite pleased to see that the apartment was sun-drenched, clean, and cosy. The couple was there to greet us, and we figured the lady was a textile or fashion designer as there were art supplies everywhere. I love the array of nice and pleasant colours that she bathed her home in too. This small studio apartment cost us £60 each for 3 nights.
So here we are at Berlin, the city that I’ve heard great things about. But I was still apprehensive. I consider myself a visual traveller, and things like beautiful sceneries are at the top of my to-do list. So when people tell me that the “vibe” in Berlin is great, I felt like this place has a lot to prove because while I was researching for things to do in Berlin, I found that this city looked pretty unspectacular in pictures.
After settling down and snacking some more, we headed out and explored the city on our £10/day rental bicycles. Rode passed cafe-dotted Neukölln, and through a Middle Eastern-influenced part of town. So far, Berlin is already looking a lot livelier than Amsterdam. There were more people were out and about, and most of them were either having coffee or ice cream at the cafes. I also found cycling in Berlin a lot less confusing than Amsterdam. There were less bicycle lanes and heavier traffic, but the roads were more organised, and it was easy to follow the flow of traffic.
Some views of Berlin’s gritty streets and a lake we passed.
Dinner was booked at Sauvage, apparently the first paleo restaurant in the world. I had no idea what a paleo diet (caveman diet) was until this meal, and I was very surprised that our dishes turned out to have a very distinct Asian flavour.
We had a mediocre salad to start, and for my main course, I had dory fish wrapped otak-otak style in banana leaf with a side of Yuca root purée with nutmeg, which tasted very much like orh nee. It wasn’t bad, but nothing to rave about. It was an underwhelming £70 meal.
Cycled back home, showered, and skanked up for a night out at Watergate. We passed some more graffiti on the way there — almost every public surface in Berlin is covered in graffiti. Many would associate graffiti with undesirable neighbourhoods, but aside from its pervasive vandalism (I believe I saw more lowbrow graffiti than artistic ones), Berlin was clean, safe, and friendly. It was a strange but interesting contrast.
There was a £10 cover charge for Watergate, but it was the most cost-effective ticket into a club I’ve ever paid because we left at 8am. Oh yes, it was one of the best club nights I’ve had. They had minimal techno on, which was deep, dark, and lulled your soul into a beautiful bliss inside your head. The crowd was partly made up of tourists, as it was still a Thursday night. But we were so glad that there were no pub crawler-type of tourists. After Tomorrowland, the last thing we needed was to party with a rowdy bunch of idiotic people who cared more about getting drunk or laid than enjoying the music. At Watergate, everyone was clearly there to savour the music, and we had such a great time with this bunch of awesomely polite and cool partygoers.
Watergate sat on the bank of the river Spree, and offered a lovely view of the waters through its full-height windows. When day broke, I found it a wonderful experience to carry on clubbing like it’s still 3am, but with sunlight creeping into the club.
We left at 8am together with a Berliner, who told us of another party that was still going strong. So we had a light breakfast and took a cab over. The entrance to the club looked dodgily awesome, much like a run down kampung house. But too bad it was by guest list only. Quite a bummer because I was so enticed by this glimpse of the local underground party scene.
That night, I finally understood the draw of Berlin — it is an absolutely cool and unpretentious city. The Berliners really know how to party, and they didn’t feel the need to shout about it. It’s a scene I really appreciate, and I’m glad I can finally say that I’ve partied in Berlin and absolutely loved it.
Of course, we were wrecked by the all-nighter. We woke up only in the late afternoon, and we were all dreading the unbearable heat outside. Then again, this is better than being rained on like in Amsterdam. We braved the sun, and proceeded to tick off sights on our tourist checklist.
The Jewish Museum is a must for fans of architecture…
Are we even supposed to smile while taking pictures here?
After this we went to a cheap and hearty Italian restaurant called Pizza Bella near our apartment. I had the best lagsane — it came in a big bowl filled with generous amounts of cheese and fresh tomatoes, and it only cost £4. Cheap eats are definitely one of Berlin’s big plus points.
We were so beat when we got back after dinner, that our “nap” stretched out passed midnight, and we only got ready for our big Friday night in Berlin at 3am. It’s going to be club Berghain tonight, a spot that’s been quoted as the best club in Berlin by both locals and tourist. It had a “strict” door policy, where bouncers randomly decide who’s allowed inside. The club is a massive warehouse located in a convenient yet isolated-looking area, and it appeared to be exactly the kind of place where you’d expect to have a secret underground party.
It was pretty nerve wrecking, queueing up and watching groups of decent looking people get rejected, and people wearing sandals allowed inside. It was also the strangest and most amusing experience, to be queueing up to get into a club at 5am in broad daylight. Thankfully, we got the bouncers’ approval. It was only when we were inside that we realised that the main room was not opened on Fridays. But the small Panorama Bar (it’s a clubbing space) was still impressive — albeit very stuffy.
As a design and interiors journalist, I’ve seen countless interpretation of the industrial look. So I was absolutely blown away to see a place that was truly industrial. Panorama Bar was grimey, rusty, and sleazy in a mysterious and seductive way. It was stripped down and unpretentious as well, as if 300 people just decided to turn up at an abandoned factory to party. Again, the crowd — very local this time around — was very cool. There was no shouting or silly dance moves, just polite murmurings in between the minimal beats. Berlin is really a place where you must experience to understand its appeal, but I hope I managed to do a decent job trying to describe my growing love for Berlin’s party scene without pictures.
Anyway, we decided not to stay late into the morning to avoid sleeping away our last day in Berlin sleeping, and left at around 7am.
I really think that all clubs should stay open overnight. Berlin is really made to party — the trains run 24 hours on weekends. Tickets cost around £2.80 for an hour’s worth of rides, but we cheated a bit because there are no barriers at all the train stations.
Our city exploration began in the late afternoon again, and the first stop was the East Side Gallery.
And since it was so damn hot, we decided to take a dip at Badeschiff, which was just a short cycle from the East Side Gallery. It was £5 to enter, and it was a curious sight, to see so many people sunbathing on a man-made beach right by some old cargo containers. But damn, there were beautiful people with fit bodies all around, and you could smell the hormones in the air. And taking a dip in the cold sunken pool felt heavenly. Weather like that is made only for lounging around the pool and people watching. I also remember thinking how relaxed and happy I was to be in Berlin at that moment in time, enjoying the summer with everyone, and loving my life.
For dinner, we had Mustafa’s famous kebab.
We had the currywurst from a neighbouring store too, but I wasn’t a fan of it as the sausage tasted very fake. But here’s some Girls Gone Fat moments to remember the meal…
We then met our friend Scarlet, who’s a dancer and was rehearsing in Berlin.
That night, we decided to head back to Berghain because I really wanted to see the main room it in its full galore. Bad choice. We queued up immediately after the doors were open, and because of the long line, they rejected half of the people — including us! It was so shit because we queued for about 40 minutes.
Then we took a cab to Tresor, a well-reviewed club that had a more conventional way of letting people in. The cab diver took us to the wrong club, and we ended up walking 800m to Tresor, only to find an epic queue in front of it. We admitted defeat then, and took the train home. HAHAHA! What a wild Saturday night in Berlin!
Thankfully, we have already had such a wonderful time in Berlin in the past couple of days. I was only upset that I can’t return sooner. Berlin was wonderful both in the night and day. It showed me how clubs should be, and I’ve been spoilt by its standards. It also showed me how enjoyable summer in Europe can be, and I’ll always look back at my time here as one of the best parts of this trip.
The next morning, we had to drag ourselves out of bed for our 6:30am train to Munich.