DAY 1: ARRIVAL
After several days of whirlwind adventures, we finally made it to the much anticipated part of our journey: Berlin. We arrived in the sunny city a little past 11am on Sunday morning. Driving into the city, knew we were right where we belonged.
Side street cafes, people on bikes, graffiti clad facades, and casual bohemian chic pedestrians welcomed our ever so eager eyes as we made our way from the airport to our hostel. Personally, I've never stayed inside a hostel. I've heard many positive experiences from friends who've said that it's a good way to travel and to meet people. We decided to stay at Lekkerurlaub Hostel after reading many reviews to help broaden our travel experience. You're only young once, right?
Upon arrival, we were greeted by our host, Elias, who was very kind and gracious. Our room was very clean and the entire hostel was quiet, clean, and well maintained. It had a nice country charm about it. I was pretty surprised at the level of cleanliness and organization of the entire place.
After settling in, we decided to head to House of Small Wonder, a Japanese "green" cafe located in the Mitte neighborhood of Berlin. Even though we arrived well after typical Sunday lunch hours, around 2:30pm, there was still a waiting list to get a table. We were told that it would take about an hour to get seated. After hanging out at the downstairs cafe/bar for a bit, which I must add, had a very nice underground bar type of feel to it, we were called upstairs to be seated.
The restaurant itself was well lit and nicely furnished with lots of greenery and hanging plants. The atmosphere was very warm and inviting, and I definitely felt like I was eating inside of a greenhouse. Having not eaten a substantial meal all morning, Sarah and I wasted no time delving into the menu for something to eat. As many of the popular breakfast/brunch items had run out, we were limited in what we could order.
We decided to split the Okinawan Taco Rice (a Tex-Mex favorite with a Japanese twist: ground all-natural pork, chopped vegetables, Parmesan and fried organic egg over rice) and the avocado and goat cheese sandwich. The meal itself was good. Nothing mind blowing, but substantial for what was available. The Onkinawan Taco Rice reminded me a lot of teryiaki beef on rice, and the avocado and goat cheese sandwich was pretty plain. Where the restaurant made up for the food was the dessert: the Earl Grey Chiffon Cake with whipped cream and seasonal fruits. It was a light cake topped with blackberries and fresh cranberries (my favorite) served with a side of lightly sweetened house-made whipped cream. It was a nice ending to an overall relaxing lunch.
Afterward, we walked around Mitte to discover beautiful doorways, tons of building graffiti art, and some historical storytelling art pieces throughout the city. It wasn't long before we arrived at our first local flea market. We arrived a little past 4pm, as everything was wrapping up. The environment felt very familiar, as if I was walking through the Long Beach Antique Market. It was a great feeling getting to walk through the maze of vintage curated goods and witness firsthand an actual European flea market. Not that I had expected anything too different, but it felt very surreal to pick things up and see how they curated their items from across the world.
Not too long after, we headed to a larger flea market a few more streets down. This one definitely caught our eyes a lot more than the first one. It was swarming with people browsing vintage, flea marketing goods, lining up for food and drinks, laying on the lawn, blowing bubbles...the list goes on. We had never seen so many people in the city before, and there was such a good vibe throughout the entire park grounds.
Sarah and I had the pleasure of browsing clothing, trying freshly made sugar cane juice, chowing down on a Korean pancake, and wandering around watching people enjoy their Sunday evening at the flea market/park.
That evening, we hit up a local vegan restaurant before heading off to Cassiopeia Club for what we believed would have hip hop music. Having arrived there shortly after 11pm, we realized that the club was supposed to open at 11:30pm but did not change their hours on Yelp. To our dismay, the music was not hip hop, but but reggae.
With that said, we decided to ditch the scene and head over to Fitcher's Vogel, a cool bar with 19th century vibes. Sarah found ourselves in a small alcove of the bar which made it easier to chat and relax. People would often pop their heads into our "cave" to see what was happening. We met some friendly new faces in the process. I really enjoyed their graffiti bathroom, which was more artful than it was defaced. After spending about two hours at Fitcher's, it was time to call it a night.
DAY 2: EXPLORATION
Monday started out a bit gloomy and cold. We began our day at Father Carpenter Coffee Brewers, a great local cafe that had an amazing roast of coffee and a tasty avocado and poached egg toast. It was nice to finally have a slow morning all to ourselves after days of non-stop scheduling.
After a very fulfilling breakfast, we headed to museum island to visit the Pergamon Museum, which featured both Middle East and Islamic art. It was the largest museum we had been to in Germany, and definitely architecturally very impressive. Have a look for yourself:
Once we wrapped up our time at the Pergamon, we decided to head over to the Reichstag dome to check things out. To our disappointment, there were no more reservations for the day and a lot of the streets were being closed off for the German unity celebrations. Not to mention, it started pouring rain which easily cut our day short. We did the next best thing...
Shortly after 5pm, we found ourselves at a highly recommended place, Umami, thanks to a huge recommendation from our intern, Dino. Sarah ordered the curry chicken bowl, while I ordered the ever so popular, Bao Burger. We also ordered a Vietnamese papaya salad to share which was also equally delicious. It was nice being able to communicate to the host in my native language. I think the rain in Berlin was probably the best thing that could have happened to us that day. We had an incredible hot meal at Umami and I had an amazing hot tea to warm my insides.
Day two in Berlin went by quite quickly. We eventually made it back home to our hostel for a little bit of R&R before heading to Das Hotel Bar for a relaxing evening of cards and whiskey. Sarah taught me how to play rummy, which was a lot of fun. We ended up also battling it out over a game of speed before calling it a night.
DAY 3: ONE LAST HURRAH
On our last day in Berlin, we decided to visit a few more museums before wrapping up our journey. First thing on the itinerary: the Jewish Museum.
Wow. One of the most memorable experiences I had in Germany. It was both architecturally impressive and educational. They did an incredible job of tying in history with interactive art installations to help visitors understand the impact of the Holocaust. From a room full of steel faces to a dark room with a faint sight of outside light, this museum was an unforgettable experience.There was also a very interesting special exhibit upstairs about Christianity, Judaism, and Muslim religions and the impact that religion has on our world. I would highly recommend that you add this to your list if you're planning on visiting Berlin.
Next up: The East Side Gallery. This artful strip of Berlin is home to the remaining remnants of the Berlin Wall. I can't begin to describe how surreal it felt to witness and touch the Berlin Wall. The powerful art along the wall conveyed themes of struggle, hope, and freedom. It was another very powerful visit that I enjoyed very much.
Of course, all of this travel caused us to develop quite an appetite, so we decided to head over to Bäckerei und Konditorei Balzer for some tasty plum and apple strudels. The verdict: I was a huge fan of the plum strudel while Sarah preferred a more traditional apple strudel.
On the last leg of our museum journey, we decided to hit up the much anticipated Alte Nationalgalerie, a very popular 19th Century art museum in Berlin. It was a large and beautiful art gallery, which featured 1500 sculptures and 1800 paintings. While we both enjoyed looking at the masterpieces, I do feel that both Sarah and I were pretty exhausted by the time we got to the art gallery. This probably caused us to have a more accelerated experience of the museum to be able to get through the entire collection. I think had we gone to the museum much earlier in the day, we probably would have had more energy and a longer attention span to enjoy everything a lot more.
As you could probably tell by now, we were pretty exhausted by traveling in entire week on a packed schedule and little sleep. As a reward to ourselves, we decided to Mustafas Gemüse Kebap, the most MAGNIFICENT food in Berlin. It was probably the cheapest meal we ate, but the most delicious. It was a little food stand located near our hostel in the neighborhood of Kreuzberg. The line wasn't too bad either. We came around 2:30pm and the line was maybe about 15 minutes long.
There was only three items on the menu which made ordering super easy for an indecisive person like me. Both Sarah and I each got the chicken kebap, and we finished the entire meal. The flat bread was nicely toasted, with a crispy outer layer and a nice soft inner layer. There was a great balance of carbs, veggies, and protein. Of course, they threw on what looked like potato wedges into the kebap, which to be be honest, I didn't mind at all. I was mentally at the end of my trip and pretty much had a YOLO (you only live once) mentality. I still think about this sinfully delicious piece of goodness to this very day...take me back to Berlin!
After finishing our kebaps under an awning of a hostel in the midst of a light drizzle, we made our way back to our hostel where we relaxed until it was time to head out to the airport. As always, our host, Catherine, treated us with such kindness and hospitality. She even brought us Farmers Market grapes while we waited for our departure time. I will say that leaving Berlin was quite sad. It was such a whirlwind of an experience, and I would definitely like to come back and experience it more fully someday.
We headed to the Berlin Tegel airport that evening where we boarded our flight back to Munich to spend the night before our flight back home to Los Angeles. At last, our journey came to an end. What an unforgettable experience. Germany, you were so good to us! We hope to come back some day.
There you have it, our entire eight day journey to Germany and Austria. I hope you enjoyed this blog series, and will check out some of these places if you decide to go visit! Let me know if you have any questions or future travel recommendations via Instagram or Twitter: @Tran_gerine. Thanks for joining me on this incredible journey.
Until next time,