After planning to spend the first half of spring break in Rome, I debated what to do for the second half of the week. Before joining the Peace Corps, I hadn’t traveled around Europe much. Looking at the prices of flights from Rome left me feeling dizzy and giddy. I could go anywhere, for less than 100 Euro!
I thought about doing some city-hopping, but that just seemed overwhelming, given the little time I had. I finally settled on Berlin, because:
- I had always wanted to go there.
- I knew some other volunteer friends would be there, so I wouldn’t be totally alone.
- There was a cheap flight directly back to Pristina (rather than having to fly to Skopje or Tirana).
Again, I like to travel with only a loose itinerary. Here’s what I ended up doing in Berlin:
- Wednesday: Arrive in Berlin at night
- Thursday: Free walking tour through SANDEMAN’S. Best thing I did in Berlin! We hit some big tourist spots: Brandenburg Gate, Memorial to the Murdered Jews of Europe, and Checkpoint Charlie. Dinner with friends at a German restaurant (cannot recall name)
- Friday: (only day with okay weather) Walk through Tiergarten Park (behind the Brandenburg Gate), and visit the Berlin Wall. Dinner with friends at an Indian restaurant.
- Saturday: Visit Deutsches Historisches Museum. Dinner with friends at Leander.
- Sunday: 6 a.m. flight back to Pristina!
Trying beer in Germany, just to say I did it:
At the Berlin Wall:
One interesting new thing I learned:
Sierra and Chelsea arrived on Saturday. It was nice to catch up with them and hear about their travel adventures.
Tips and Observations about Berlin:
- I’m going to be honest — Berlin is one of my least favorite places I have visited. To be fair, I had just come from a beautiful, Roman spring to cold, rainy Germany. Every day, I would put on as many layers as possible and go out into the wind. I tried to like the city, but I just couldn’t. I had pictured Berlin as this young, hip, vibrant, grungy city. But it is quiet and empty. I learned from our tour guide that Berlin is the only city in Western Europe that has declined in population, from 4 million residents to 3.5 million. Walking its wide streets and long blocks, I got an eerie feeling. Where were all the people?
- I know Berlin has a reputation as a big party city. It’s the city of Cabaret! It’s the city of Hedwig and the Angry Inch! I cannot remember the last time I went to a club, so maybe if I had participated in the nightlife scene, I’d have a different opinion of Berlin.
- Berlin is a very clean city. (As a friend pointed out, there are no people to mess it up.)
- The subway system was extremely easy to navigate. I was able to get around with no problems.
- My favorite part of my trip was the free walking tour. I’d definitely recommend it if you plan to visit.
Oh, well. I’m glad I was able to see Berlin, and check it off my list. I am also glad I visited while I am living in Europe. Had I paid a lot of money to fly over from the U.S., I probably would have been more disappointed.
(Thanks to Rachel for allowing me to post some of her photos here.)