2nd time around in Berlin

I visited Berlin earlier in the year for the first time, and came away from the city feeling like I hadn’t seen nearly enough as what I would have liked. Today marks the last day of my 2nd visit, and yet again I feel like there is so much more that I would like to see and do… although I am happy to be moving on to somewhere completely new tomorrow in Warsaw. I’ve only been here a few days this time around in Berlin, as it was really just a stop over to break up the journey a bit on my way to Moscow, but I managed to squeeze in a few things I didn’t get the chance to do last time. Also, Berlin is just a cool city!

The Free Alternative Tour

New Europe currently offer an Alternative Tour of Berlin, which takes in the sub-culture, graffiti art, squats, and underground culture that the city is famous for. It costs 12 Euros (10 for students). Just before I went to book it however I noticed a flyer for a free alternative tour of Berlin, run by Alternative Berlin Tours. Faced with paying 12 Euros or doing it for free, my decision was pretty much made there and then. The Free Alternative Tour was  different to any other city tour I’ve ever been on. They took you to places and districts that were clearly not tourist areas, old abandoned warehouses, the cool little Turkish district of Kreuzberg, as well lots of squats, and of course to see some graffiti art. They take you by the East Side Gallery too (which I had already seen on my previous trip personally), and show you some really cool places to check out at night. All in all it was a really good tour, and other than having to invest in a AB metro ticket, you didn’t have to pay anything other than any tip you were willing to give.

I can’t compare it with New Europe’s tour as I didn’t go on it (I have been on their traditional Free Tour of Berlin however and can highly recommend it), but the tour guide from Alternative Berlin Tours was able to pass on a lot of info about the underground scene in Berlin, and it didn’t cost a penny! I’m therefore very much swaying towards them as a tour company when it comes to seeing an alternative side to Berlin.

Pub Crawl

I’d been on the pub crawl in Prague previously, and although a bit cheesy, it was a good way to meet other people. I therefore decided on my first night in Berlin to head for New Europe’s Pub Crawl, and unfortunately I do not come back with good reviews. For a start, the 45 minutes of free beer that you are supposed to get is already depleted by the fact that they make you meet them a 10 minute walk from the pub. You pay at the meeting point, and then you have to make your own way down to the pub from the meeting place, where apparently someone will meet you at a sign, and take you in.

When we arrived where the sign was, nobody was there. It pointed into the direction of  park, which we followed and took us along and under a bridge to a river… there was no other signs from that point on. We decided to go back to the sign to wait as we couldn’t find the pub. By this point there was 20 minutes gone of our supposed free beer time. We waited at the sign with other people who had arrived and been unable to locate the pub too for a further 10 minutes until someone eventually arrived. In the meantime, a girl had went back to the original meeting place to ask the New Europe rep what was happening, and they told us to just leave her or let it run into more of our free drinking time (which I thought was really bad considering it was them not being present which caused her to go back!)

In the end we got 5 – 10 minutes of free drinking time at their bar. I downed one beer just so I could make the most of the little time we had, and then drunk another. After that they proceeded to take us to two other private bars, which as a result had zero atmosphere (there was only 9 people on the tour originally). They do give you a free shot of jagermeister with every drink, but you have to buy each drink yourself from that point on. Considering we’d paid 12 Euros for the crawl in the beginning, I didn’t really think this was worth it. I effectively paid 12 Euros for 2 half pints of crap beer. Also, the free jager shots were half the size of normal shots. After the 2nd private bar, they took us back to the 1st pub we went to, only to charge us 5 Euros for a half pint of beer! We did get free entry into a club at the end (Matrix), but it’s not somewhere I would ever choose to go. The music was cheesy, and considering Berlin has so many cool underground clubs it would have been much better if they’d took us to one of them instead. Even the tour guides said it wasn’t a great club. In the end I left the club early and found a party, which was by far the best part of the night. At least an hour before I left, the group of 4 left, followed by another 2 of the guys. I would have left sooner too but I was determined to try get my moneys worth after being what I now feel was ripped off.

Cheap local fast food

One thing I have done on this short venture to Berlin is engorge myself in cheap, local, fast food. When you’re only in a destination a few days, I sometimes don’t see the point in buying food from the supermarket, because I’d always make one bag of pasta etc last longer than that, so I usually eat out. There are so many cheap restaurants in Berlin anyway that you may as well take advantage of it. One thing Berliners do well is kebabs! My tour guide today on the free alternative tour told me that kebabs were invented in Berlin? I have no idea whether that’s true or not, maybe somebody can verify it, but it wouldn’t be hard to believe considering how good they are, and so much better than the floppy ones you get back home that you only ever eat at 4am drunk. What I love is they also give you lots of veggies with it. I know it will never be a healthy dish, but I like to kid myself on that I’m cancelling out the badness with some goodness in the vegetables! Local fast food is so convenient and cheap in Berlin, that it could be very easy to fall into a bad (but yummy) diet here. I’m just glad I’m leaving before it begins to affect my waistline!

I’m not sure when I’ll be back in Berlin. There is still a lot I would like to do here. Only having a few days, plus also having to split time between work and travel has meant that I’ve yet again not been able to do as much as I would have liked, although pleased to do a few things I missed out on last time. I am however, looking forward to going somewhere completely new tomorrow! I really like Berlin, but I came on this trip to challenge myself, and discover new places. I’ll be in Warsaw tomorrow, staying for 4 nights. I’ve decided not to drink for next few weeks of my trip (at least). Hangovers take up valuable day time which could be spent discovering a new city, and I don’t want to miss out!

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