One of the biggest advantages of living in Prague is undoubtedly its location, and therefore its connection to other European cities. I never run out of options for day trips or weekends away. Vienna, Brno, Krakow, Leipzig, Dresden and many other stunning destinations are just a few hours away from Prague. I had a few days off from teaching, so I got a chance to travel around and this time my eyes were set on Berlin.
I have been to this giant of a city a few times before and it never ceases to amaze me. If anyone asks me what their next trip should be, I always recommend Berlin. The simple reason being is that you will never be bored or in search of things to do here.
So, my weekend actually started on a Monday. Florenc Prague bus station welcomed me with its bright lights at 6 in the morning. And ten minutes later I was on a huge comfy bus on my way to the capital of Germany. If you are new to traveling around Europe, buses are probably the best way to get around – they are cheap, efficient and relatively quick. The Flixbus to Berlin only took about 5 hours with barely any stops along the way. However, the one stop that it made was a welcome one, because it was the beautiful Dresden – the views from my windows were stunning.
By 11 am I was at the Berlin central bus station. Not the most memorable or pleasant place, to be honest, but it doesn’t matter as soon as you step out onto the Berlin streets. Next came the task of getting to my Airbnb (which in Berlin can be very reasonably priced, and most of the time very quirky). The Berlin transport system may seem confusing and terrifying at first glance, but oh boy do you get some incredible views from the trains sometimes. One of my favorite things in the city are the metro bridges running above the streets along the buildings. The Ringbahn (the circle line) at night provides the most spectacular view of the city.
But I digress. Having found my Airbnb and checked in, it was time to explore. I stayed in the neighborhood of Kreuzberg which is usually deemed the trendiest and most “hip” one in Berlin. And it certainly is quite an experience. Small shops, vibrant cafes, markets, and cool bars are on every corner, and if you are a fan of vintage thrift stores – this is the place to be.
As I have mentioned before, Berlin is quite massive, sprawling out for miles and miles. But the center is actually quite small, and one can get around it on foot. And that was exactly my plan. The walk started at Warschauer Strasse metro station, on the East Side. Here starts the famous East Side Gallery – a collection of politically-charged art on the remains of the Berlin Wall. It is definitely one of the most touristic places in the center but is still worth a visit. Here you can touch the turbulent history of Berlin, feel the spirit of rebellion and freedom.
As you walk from the wall towards the center you are smacked in the face by one the most impressive architectural monuments I have ever seen – the Fernsehturm (the TV tower). The massive, spaceship-looking tower can be seen from miles away, calling for you to come closer and admire it. After a little bit of walking, I ended up at Alexanderplatz – the busiest spot in the Berlin center. Here you definitely feel that you are on the East Side – the imposing communist architecture doesn’t let you forget. There is something about the size of buildings and the width of the streets in Berlin that grabs you and doesn’t let go.
Here is where utopian and postapocalyptic worlds collide. On one side of a Berlin street you might see a huge modern building, the rush of cars and trains, multiple bridges going in different directions, businesses and people thriving. But then you might turn a corner and see an abandoned gas station or dilapidated house. And yet, the people of Berlin turn them into art with graffiti and slogans of freedom and justice. To me, Berlin looks and feels like what techno and old punk rock sound. If that even makes sense. This is a city where everyone can breathe freely and not be afraid of judgment.
My Monday night was spent back in Kreuzberg, in a small restaurant called Morgenland – they serve 3 euro cocktails every day after 8 pm, is there anything better? Later, after being rained on, ensued a long walk around the neighborhood discovering cozy bars, record stores, and bookshops.
Tuesday started early; I can sleep back home in Prague J. Quick breakfast and off on adventures again. The agenda for today – museums. Berlin has a whole island just for them in the very center. On the Museuminsel is where you find Pergamon, a museum that contains huge structures from the Roman empire, Babylon and the Eastern civilizations. I have never felt so tiny as I did among the ancient columns in this beast of a museum.
Next came the art gallery. Multiple floors of incredible art from different time periods, from the most recognized artists from all over Europe await right here among the plush carpets. The Museum of Prussian history was an interesting experience too. It mostly showcases furniture, centuries-old statues, pottery, paintings and more. There are many more museums and galleries on the island, and I could probably spend a whole week in them. If you are interested in visiting multiple museums, it is possible to buy a day pass to all of the ones located on the island for around 20 euro.
From the Museuminsel starts a famous Berlin street called Unter den Linden – more impressive structures, university buildings and fancy hotels greet you on both sides of the imposing street. At the end of it resides probably the most famous structure in the whole of Berlin – the Brandenburger Tor. In the columns of the arch, you can still find bullet holes dating back to the 1945 taking of Berlin. Seeing them was a surreal moment for me, as my great-grandfather took part in the operation, so to say I got emotional is an understatement. When I say you can literally touch and feel history passing through you, I am not overexaggerating.
After a short walk under the grey twilight sky, I ended up at the Leipzig Square. And here is where the Spy Museum drew me in even with the steep entrance fee of 12 euros. If you are a fan of the Bond franchise or anything to with the Cold War – this is the place for you. Room after room of real spy equipment, interactive displays and tons of fascinating information make it worth a visit.
It is not a trip to Berlin if you don’t get a bit lost in the U-Bahn, which I did coming out of the Spy Museum J A long metro ride over the city and I was back at the Airbnb, finishing my weekend by looking through the postcards I collected over the two days. Berlin will always be the place I come to be transported to a different world, that doesn’t even feel real sometimes, where there is art and music in the air, where you can be whoever you want to be. Living in Europe can truly show you so many sides of the same continent, where no corner is similar to the next one. And if you are in Prague, don’t miss out on the opportunity to treat yourself to a dip into a different culture.
By: Anastasiia Yuziuk (@ana_yuziuk)