Berlin is one of those places that is constantly hyped up by pretty much anyone and everyone who has been there. It’s definitely one of the must see European cities according to most travel guides, and I didn’t think it would be particularly hard to see why. A city with so many sparkling recommendations cannot possibly be too much of a disappointment. If there is such a wealth of amazing things to see and do, then even the blindest of holiday makers would stumble across something to amaze and excite. Surely?
With the deepest of deep travel regrets, the answer to these statements is no. No it is not sure that the city comes alive to every visitor, and I just happened to be one of the people Berlin refused to sparkle for.
Weeks leading up to this trip, I was eagerly awaiting it. Excitedly anticipating getting on that flight from Amsterdam, arriving on German soil for the very first time and taking in the big B-E-R-L-I-N. The only thing that worried me was that a long weekend wouldn’t be enough time and I would leave frustrated at merely scraping the surface of the city.
Work finished on Friday, accommodation paid for, best friends already waiting for us and my Berlin Lonely Planet app all ready for the relatively short flight across. We were all set. The first holiday since living in the Netherlands, and it was somewhere where I had been itching to go for a long time. Arriving late evening, we made the best of the capital’s public transport and weaved our way through crowds and trains to our hostel. Quickly realising that the city is far too big to drunkenly stumble to the nearest bar or club, we had a few
too many drinks and went to bed.
The next day, heads slightly worse for wear, the collective decision of not wasting the weekend away in a state of alcohol induced misery and alternate merriment, we headed out. We walked. We ate. We drank. We walked. We ate some more. We walked some more. Berlin is not a beautiful city, especially emphasised when heading there straight from the crooked and canal-ed beauty of Amsterdam. Frustrated at doing a whole not of nothing and taking in the same grey, tall buildings, we cracked the map out and headed for the Berlin wall to salvage the unproductive day. An hour and a half of walking the streets later, and the beach bar on the side of the road we stumbled across was too much of a haven to resist. Another hour and a half later and the sun was setting and it was too late to embark on another trek across the city… so back we went.
To cut a decidedly long, boring and repetitious story short, we then tried to get into Berghain, failed, spent a lot of unnecessary money on unnecessary food and drink, saw the Berlin wall, was unimpressed, missed three separate tours due to the vast expanse of the city, and then went home. Oh, and spent half an hour taking pictures in Photoautomats, easily the highlight of our weekend.
So was this really the Berlin everyone talks about with such fervour? We must have missed something here; just what does everyone fall in love with again and again and again?!
Usually hindsight and conversations with others make you realise the answers to the above onslaught of confused self-doubt. Someone will tell you exactly what you missed out on, the areas that you should of been going to, the main tourist attractions you should have seen. But two weeks later and I’m still struggling to make sense of our, quite frankly, boring experience of what can only be concluded as an overrated city, confirming (just like my trip to the HIGHLY recommended Valle de Angeles in Honduras) that recommendations alone aren’t everything. Working in the opposite direction, this could give you a big fat surprise of a destination that you end up cherishing forever, but it’s s you and you alone who makes the decision. Bad or good, every experience of a country is an interesting one to some extent, and you’ll never know until you get there.