Published on May 21st, 2015 | by Lindsay0
A Free Day in Berlin
A couple of weeks ago I was lucky enough to jet off to Berlin for the Polyglot Gathering 2015. What’s that? What’s a polyglot? Ahh yes, that’s my other blog. I like languages a little bit and write about it all and teach over here. Come and say hey. Or bonjour. Or hola. Anyway. A polyglot? A polyglot is a fancy word for someone who speaks many languages, or likes languages and studies them for no reason. The definition is unclear so let’s not get into that here. You’re here for the travel bit right? Let’s talk about Berlin.
Before the Gathering began, I had a day to roam Berlin. And not a lot of Euros. The Gathering and accommodation had been paid for in advance, and so instead of getting an unknown number of Euros out, I decided to try and live on the €15 or so that I had left over from our visit to Novi Sad last October. With the exception of lunch and a couple of cables I needed, and which I purchased on debit card, I spent absolutely nothing and had a great day! Here’s the story of my free day in Berlin.
So I wasn’t going to be having much of a splurge on my day in Berlin. And I like to think I did pretty well on my minimal budget. I was staying at a brilliant Airbnb not far from Hauptbahnhof, so from there I headed down the city with the Brandenburg Gate in mind. After an unexpected meander through the rather swanky parliament district, I was expecting to find myself under the Brandenburg Gate ready to start my day exploring Central Berlin. Did that happen? Did it heck! I had a lovely walk but it wasn’t until what turned out to be a kilometre in the wrong direction that I discovered I’d been walking parallel to Unter den Linden, the street with Brandenburg Gate at the end. How had I missed it? I don’t know. But I had. So I set off in the direction I came from but this time on Unter den Linden hoping to finally see Brandenburg Gate. The funny thing is I’d seen it before! I didn’t even care that much, it just seemed like a good starting point. And the more I couldn’t find it, the more determined I became to find it and begin playing tourist for the day. Of course, I did eventually spot it at the end of the road. It’s a little hard to miss.
From there I headed down towards the Memorial to the Murdered Jews of Europe. At first glance, the memorial seems overly simple. However, the seemingly bland concrete blocks soon become very intense, and intimate, and intimidating once you begin to make your way through them. They get deeper and straighter, and at points it feels like you’ll never escape what should be a very simple maze. It’s a disturbing experience, but an essential one nonetheless. However, that isn’t it. Worth the wait is the free museum beneath the monument. The museum tells the haunting stories of various Jewish families across Europe. It’s an incredibly moving experience and the Primo Levi quote at the entrance sticks with you throughout. “It happened, therefore it can happen again: this is the core of what we have to say. It can happen, and it can happen everywhere.” I’m pretty sure that was the quote. This is a must-see in Berlin that I wasn’t expecting.
From there, I soon saw the Mall Of Berlin glistening ahead of me. I was beginning to get hungry, and also in search of some tech replacements for bits that had failed me, so I headed in. Food courts. When will the UK catch up and do it right? I do love a good food court. Asia did that to me. Fed, watered, and reconnected with my new gadgets, I set off again and found myself in Potsdamer Platz, where I saw my first remnant of the Wall. It’s a colourful one, with stone cobbles marking out where the rest of it once stood. I walked the cobbles like a tightrope and pensively made my way to the Sony Centre via a big Lego giraffe. As you do. The Sony Centre is essentially a big cinema and restaurant area with a fancy roof. It’s pretty jazzy looking, and I remembered it from my first visit so wanted to take another look five years on.
Next on my list was Checkpoint Charlie, which again proved harder to find than it should be with no map and a lot of rain. I followed signs to the Topography of Terror which turned out to be very close to Checkpoint Charlie, and also another interesting look at the city’s history. As well as a long section of the wall, the free to visit Topography of Terror museum houses more info on the past. It’s another must-see.
By the time I got to Checkpoint Charlie, the rain was setting in, it was beginning to get to dinner time, and I had a long walk back and a film to edit, so I casually began to make my way back in the direction of my accommodation.
Via a little detour to Alexanderplatz. As you’ll see in the video, the TV tower was getting torturously closer and closer all day, until finally I somehow ended up right beneath it. And the sun came out. I felt like I’d been playing Fort Boyard and I’d got all the keys and got out before the door locked and it was a sunny day on the fort to celebrate. Until instead of Melinda Messenger telling me it was time to go into an area with dangerous tigers ready to pounce, a drunk man asked me if he could have my apple. I politely declined, claiming not to have understood his German. I definitely deserved that apple. It had been a good day in Berlin.
Check out my video of the day below.
Have you been to Berlin? What do you think? Share in the comments!