Today was Barry’s birthday and after a restless night’s sleep, we were eager to get out and explore Berlin. The hotel was great, conveniently located, friendly staff and a fab buffet breakfast, but there were two big cons. One was the white curtains, which let in all the sunlight as soon as the sun started to come up at 5am and the second was the most useless pillows. They were stuffed with feathers, so soft that your head just sank to the bottom and they weren’t even pillow shaped so folding them in half was all the more difficult. The pillows we got used to over the course of the week, but I can’t cope with being hit with daylight at the crack of dawn, so I spent the rest of the nights with a headband tied round my eyes as a makeshift eye mask – it did the trick though and I had some great night’s sleep!
Being that it was Barry’s birthday, I thought we’d do something a bit different to just the normal touristy, sightseeing things, so we hopped on the underground and headed for Mauerpark. It was just 7 euros for an all-day travel ticket. Before we ventured to the park, we stopped off at Schwedter Strasse. It’s a street where the Berlin Wall used to stand, and now homes a sort of open air museum with plaques telling you all about the history of the famous wall. It was here that the unthinkable happened – as Barry went to zoom in using the pride and joy that is his camera, the lens broke and wouldn’t zoom at all. He tried desperately to fix it, but nothing he did worked. He was so upset – Happy Birthday!! For the remainder of the holiday, he begrudgingly had to use his phone to take all the photos (The Samsung S7 Edge takes amazing photos, but it had no zoom – Bal).
After getting educated about the history behind the wall in what felt like a slightly eerie atmosphere, we headed to Mauerpark. Being a Sunday, the park holds a huge flea market. They sell all kinds of vintage furniture and clothes as well as dozens of food stalls with cuisine from all over the world. Being that we were in Germany, we decided to stick with the German food and went for some more sausages. I stuck with the currywurst and Barry went for a bratwurst, finished off with a German pint of beer. The currywurst wasn’t anywhere near as nice as the one I’d had the day before, so needless to say I decided that would be the last one I would be having on this trip.
We took our sausages and beer and went to sit in the field. Mauerpark is pretty famous for its karaoke and live bands that just pitch up and jam. So we sat, ate our food, drank our beer, listened to the live bands and watched crazy white men thinking they could dance!
Just north of Mauerpark was another smaller park called Falkplatz. We had a walk round and came across some funky animal sculptures and a walrus fountain, but with the weather taking a turn for the worst with some light rain hitting down, we decided it was time to leave the park and head onto somewhere else. We walked back through the market, picking up some of Mr Pink’s Famous Chocolate Balls (which were delicious!) along the way and then came across an old photobooth.
Restoring old photobooths was the brainchild of Asger Doenst and Ole Kretschmann who are two photo-loving guys, responsible for restoring the old photoautomats and scattering them all across Berlin. We queued up to have a vintage selfie of ourselves, but unlike the machines of these days there was no countdown, and no warning of when the photo would be taken. For the first of four snaps we were caught totally off guard but by the third flash we’d found the rhythm and managed to strike a pose. For just 2 euros, we bagged ourselves 4 vintage black and white passport photos.
After being papped, we made our way back to the station and headed for the only museum we were interested in seeing. Given that Berlin has so many museums that it even has a whole island dedicated to them, we were spoilt for choice. However, we’re much more about exploring the outdoors when we travel as opposed to reading and educating ourselves with history, so this museum was perfect for us. It was the East Side Gallery, which is the largest open-air gallery in the world and is a 1.3km long section of the Berlin Wall. The wall is covered in 105 different paintings by artists all over the world. We did walk a large section of it, taking in the different artwork and imagining what life would’ve been like had we have had to live knowing there was another half of the city we’d grown up in on the other side. When we were at the Schwedter Strasse earlier in the day we read about a boy who had fallen over the wall whilst peering over looking for his friends and despite only being about 6 years old, it took about a month before he could be returned to his family due to the politics of East and West Germany! Imagine just not knowing what was going on over the other side and never being able to see your friends and family that you were separated from?
Feeling quite grateful that we didn’t have to experience what life was like with the wall, we walked down back along the river and jumped on a train to return to our hotel.
That evening we went to a traditional German restaurant called “Restaurant Cafe Bleibtreu” and enjoyed a typical German dinner. Not sure if our starter of snails was typical but given that Barry had never tried these before, I felt we couldn’t pass it up. They weren’t the best snails I’ve ever eaten, nothings beats the ones I’ve had in Paris, but he said they were ok, just not something he’d eat again. For our mains we went for Calf’s Liver Berlin style and I had a Jagerschnitzel, all washed down with some yummy German beer!