They were going to go to Germany in early December on the Nuremberg-Munich route to visit the famous Christmas markets.
As a result, a completely spontaneous decision was made to visit Berlin in early October for three and a half days.
There are too many iconic landmarks in Berlin for the Russian people: the Bundestag, the Brandenburg Gate, Treptower Park, and the Charlie checkpoint.
Any independent trip, in addition to choosing a travel date, always begins with the search for the cheapest and most convenient air tickets and accommodation, so avia.yandex.ru and booking.com help all independent travelers who do not want to entrust their fate to the hands of tour operators.
Reservation of apartments and air tickets in our case led to the hasty production of a Schengen visa. For me, this was generally the first time I did Schengen on my own, as it turned out, everything is quite simple: the documents were accepted the first time, they offered to additionally bring a birth certificate of the child and a certificate of registration of property rights.
Registration of a Schengen visa at the German Visa Application Center is very convenient, in which case they will prompt you what is necessary. The Schengen visa was issued for exactly 5 days.
It is better to print all the collected documents and bring them with you – when passing through passport control we were asked for return tickets, we had to show a printout from an e-mail with a return date of departure for October 7th.
The first day
We flew to Berlin with Aeroflot via Sheremetyevo, at least connection times, so upon arrival at Schönefeld airport we were left without luggage. Not in the sense that they lost him, but in the sense that they did not manage to transfer him from plane to plane.
Therefore, of all the things we had with us only a backpack with photographic equipment and bags with passports. It was five o’clock in the evening, and the luggage was promised to be brought only by tomorrow morning. We take a suburban train (for 3.90 € per person) and travel approximately 25 minutes before Friedrichstraße to the Mitte area, and there it is only 7 minutes walk to the apartments.
We get the key in the restaurant, open the door to the hall, go into the elevator … and feel like characters in the Fincher film “The Game” when the floor button is pressed, but the elevator does not move, and there are several more key holes in the panel. Five minutes of unsuccessful attempts to leave lead to the fact that we carefully read the paper issued with the keys, and notice that we still need to enter the correct code on the panel in order for the elevator to bring it to the desired floor, and this code is different for each floor. It turns out that without knowing the code, it is basically impossible to take the elevator.
We check into the apartment. Evening, time of the beginning of the eighth. Opposite the apartment there is a pharmacy, where we buy toothpaste and toothbrushes in order to feel at least to some extent involved in civilization.
We decided to have dinner in a restaurant (Friedrichstraße, 106), which is located right on the banks of the Spree River. We decided to dine outdoors since the weather allowed us to do so. It’s about 12 degrees outside, and infrared heaters under umbrellas make you feel very comfortable, despite the fresh river breeze.
They brought the order. Giant portions – the Germans, like other Europeans, are unoriginal in this. A short walk to the apartment in Berlin at night with a short stop at the grocery store, buying yoghurts and croissants for breakfast and deep sleep – time zones and flights greatly affect the desire to go to bed early.
The time difference again raises early in the morning, but what to do at 5 am on Saturday in Berlin, while waiting for the missing luggage? For me, as an introvert, this has its advantages. Saturday morning walk in the deserted center of Berlin in clear, dry, sunny weather? Yes, it’s about us.
Directly below us is the Balzac Coffee, where you can order a large cappuccino for a few euros (the mug, to be honest, looked like a bouillon dish) and make a route plan for the day.
Today, according to the plan, an overview of the sights: the Bundestag, the Brandenburg Gate and just walks around the city. After going around the neighborhood of the apartments, we buy a single day pass for all types of transport for only 6.70 €, we move to the Bundestag.
It turned out that today the day of German unity is also celebrated: the entry of the GDR into the FRG and the collapse of the Berlin Wall. They celebrate with folk festivities – they drink beer, eat sausages, attractions, everything is outside, the weather permits. Against the background of the Ural zero temperatures, it seems that it is still just summer here. As small as possible, lunch in a cafe near the Brandenburg Gate, after which we have to return to the apartment to catch the driver with our lost luggage. In this matter, the vaunted German punctuality somewhat pumped up.
A table was booked for the evening in the restaurant of authentic German cuisine “Last Instance”, but since the driver with his luggage was a little late, it was only possible to get to the restaurant by taxi.
Taxi is a topic for another conversation. In Germany, apparently, it is not customary to hail a taxi with a raised hand with a protruding thumb – they are waiting for customers in parking lots: several cream-colored Mercedes and Toyota Prius with hybrid engines (another characteristic German feature is practicality and economy where possible and necessary do).
We sit down in the nearest one and show the taxi driver a piece of paper with the address. In 15 minutes we are on the spot, the cost of the trip is exactly 8.80 €. It’s a little expensive by our standards, but here gasoline is more than 2 times more expensive. We agree to go back on foot. It’s good for your health, and a walk after dinner will come in handy.
I watched an amazing moment during the trip: approaching a regulated pedestrian intersection, where a red light was on for pedestrians and a pedestrian crossed, the taxi driver silently stopped, waited for the pedestrian to cross the road, and then just clicked his tongue: “Ay-ay, they say, it’s a mess! “.
We are there (on time), sit down at a table, order, of course, beer and boiled pork knuckle. Before that, I thought the portions were big. So, they are not just big, they are gigantic. They brought a knuckle weighing about a kilogram. Only a native burgher can eat this whole. A German couple was sitting at the next table. And the German, under three tablespoons of mustard, finished this shank in 10 minutes, leaving only a bone on the plate. The price for this masterpiece of German cuisine is only 17 €. Beer in a restaurant is in the region of 4-5 €, although in stores a bottle of almost any beer costs less than one euro. You need to book a table here in advance, just come from the street and sit in an empty seat is almost unrealistic.
We leave the restaurant, it’s already dark. We move towards the apartments through the Alexander Platz, on which the Berlin part of the Oktoberfest passes. Saturday. A lot of people are sitting in cafes right on the streets and drinking beer. In this regard, it seems to me that German Saturday is very similar to Saturday in any other country in the world – people relax after a week of work.
We return to the apartments and draw up an itinerary for the next day, so as not to waste time on this in the morning. In general, it is better to draw up routes before the trip in order to know exactly where to go, just in our case, fate in the form of forgotten baggage has made its own adjustments.
Shopping centers are closed in Berlin on Sunday, so all that remains is the zoo and outdoor walks.
We are going to the zoo right to the opening, there are not many visitors yet. Adult ticket 13 euros. Berlin Zoo is unique in its way: where you can do without cages and nets, they are not placed, creating the most comfortable conditions for both visitors and zoo inhabitants. Several (!) Elephants, giraffes, hippos, penguins – you can take pictures directly without nets and glass – a real paradise for a naturalist photographer.
The pride and beauty of the Berlin Zoo, the long-lived panda Bao-Bao died in 2012, which is sadly reported on a separate memorial plaque of the zoo.
At about noon, we drive into the interior of Berlin, away from the main tourist routes, to see authentic Berlin in all its glory. In particular, we are interested in the Kreuzberg district, which is also famous for its numerous graffiti. Graffiti also needs to be mentioned separately. Here in Berlin, they are not just like drawings on the walls, graffiti with installations are very common, such as, for example, a voluminous spider crawling out of the wall of a house.
The Roman Empire failed to keep the whole of Europe under itself, so Italy is slowly but surely conquering it gastromically – many cafes and restaurants with Italian cuisine literally permeate Berlin. In the Kreuzberg area, we go to one Italian pizzeria, the menu of which has more than 30 types of pizza on thin crust, in general, everything is as it should be.
We walk along the river under rustling leaves, look at the swans that swim in one of the tributaries of the Shreya, look at houses, soak up Berlin in order to understand what kind of city it is and how it lives. We are thinking that it would be nice to live here, but by Russian standards, it will most likely be boring here.
Berlin is a real paradise for cyclists. All conditions have been created for them here: specially designated paths, parking lots, parking lots. Anyone in Berlin can rent a two-wheeled “friend” for only 10 € for one day. There are many cyclists. About half of them are motorists, which, of course, has a positive effect on the absence of traffic jams.
We sit down on the metro, go back towards the apartments in the center. The next stop is Checkpoint Charlie. Here there is a piece of the Berlin Wall and an exposition with a bunch of souvenirs and symbols of the USSR, which well illustrates those times. There are always a lot of people here, and those who want to take pictures with the remnants of the Berlin Wall even form a live queue.
Moving further along Friedrichstraße to the apartment, we have dinner in a small cafe (Italian cuisine again!) and go to the Aleksander Platz to the TV tower, where people still celebrate Oktoberfest: attractions, souvenir shops, beer and sausages – the whole set for those wishing to join the German culture.
We sit down on the tram and go towards the house, as it is almost dark, and it gets dark in October in Berlin quite early.
Day four. Shopping in Berlin
For those wishing to shop, there are a lot of opportunities concentrated practically in one place – Kurfürstendamm, or, in short, Kudam – one of the most famous streets in Berlin, with numerous shops, restaurants, cafes and other entertainments of shopping and entertainment life. One of the most famous is the KaDeWe department store, where you can find almost everything for any wallet thickness.
Walking around Friedrichstraße, stumbled upon an interesting bookstore by chance Langer-Blomqvist, where you can buy good photography and film books for very funny money. Here we do not have this, and if there is, it is guaranteed to be several times more expensive.
When shopping in Berlin, you need to remember about a tax-free refund (on average 10%) of any purchase price, although you may be asked to present this item for inspection. It should be with receipts and in the package. If you plan to get some of the money back, you must arrive at the airport in advance.
Travel on your own! It is much more educational than the standard guided tours.
Until next time!