5 days in Berlin

I landed in Berlin on a Friday evening and though it was pitch back like the dead of night I looked at my watch to discover it was only 6:30pm. I made my way from the airport onto a bus and then walked the longest half block of my life to the train station. During that time several wild dogs raced past me as if they were being chased by even wilder dogs. On my train ride, I observed several unassuming commuters holding half filled bottles of beers with no hint of shame or disgrace to be drinking alcohol while riding public transportation.  Over the next 5 days I was able to understand and appreciate the meanings behind what seemed very bizarre place at first and discovered once again that things are not always how they seem.

Here are a few of my discoveries:

  1. Don’t be alarmed by the public drinking. In Berlin, in the evenings and on the weekend, people walk around drinking beer with the same nonchalance as people everywhere else walk around drinking bottled water. When I got onto the train during my journey from the airport, I was shocked to see a young woman siting opposite me holding a half full bottle of beer. I immediately thought ‘Wow she couldn’t wait?’ And then wondered if she was going through some rough times. Several stops later more people embarked, also clutching and sipping their own brews. I quickly realized it was a cultural difference and regretted my hasty judgement.

  2. Berlin is full of beautiful cobblestone streets. This gives the the city a real ancient and romantic feel about it, it made me think of couple waking hand in hand and sweethearts buying each other bouquets of flowers. But after walking an average of 7 miles everyday, alone might I add, it began to take a toll on my feet. As it turns out, walking on uneven surfaces isn’t the best for shoes with hard leather soles. I think next time I’ll pack some comfortable walking shoes. Plan accordingly!

  3. Don’t be surprised if you see dogs running wild on the sidewalk. They aren’t actually wild! It’s been years since i’ve seen a stray dog. I though that was a phenomenon of the ‘developing world’ and so when during first few days in Berlin I noticed dogs running wild on the sidewalks I thought perhaps Europe wasn’t as keen about animal welfare after all! I would soon discovered that these dogs were not in fact running wild, but were under the watchful eyes of their owners who walked several paces behind them and as it turns out, could get them to stop with a simple shouted order.

  4. Do you want to be able to pay for restaurant food after you’ve eaten it?  Carry cash*! Most cafes, restaurants and stores – especially small boutique types do not take credit cards. I found this out the hard way when one night I ate dinner and then tried to pay for it only to have the waiter kindly inform me that I would need to go to the ATM and get cash and he would escort me there. Most places do not take credit cards no matter how many times you ask. Just bring cash and do as the Romans do.  

  5. Don’t speak German? Entspannen Sie Sich! Unlike other countries/cities where people take personal offense to visitors not speaking their language (America & Paris I’m looking at you both), in Berlin almost everyone speaks English with as much willingness as they speak German. Only once I was lost and asked a bus driver for directions but he only spoke German. Despite this he was able to, with a combination of hand gestures and a well placed ‘Okay?’ point me in the direction I needed to go, and he did so without contempt for my linguistic handicap. 

  6. Be prepared to rethink your concept of sleeping ‘When night time come’. In the autumn it gets dark EARLY! The first day I was out exploring and then noticed it was getting dark and thought I would soon return to my lodging, call it a day and soon get ready for bed. Then I checked my watch and saw it was only 4:30pm!

I have 3 more days in this beautiful and interesting city and I’m quite looking forward to what is in store!

*Even movie theaters in Berlin only take ‘German debit cards and cash’. To be on the safe side withdraw enough cash to last the duration of your trip to avoid repeat ATM fees.

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