Berlin is the largest city in Germany and from what I’ve seen so far, it portrays a character far different from any other place I’ve been in this country. Thankfully, my friend Elisa was the perfect person to show me the ins and outs of everything Berlin.
Elisa has always been one of the wiser ones amongst my volunteer team in Vietnam. She would randomly blurt one-liners that made perfect sense. As we approached an underground station’s broken escalators, she would say “Escalators can never break. They just become stairs.” Or when we went to a vegan restaurant for breakfast, she told me, “Being gluten free without the allergy is like wearing glasses without needing to wear them.” Makes all the sense! Elisa is a vegan and thought it would be great for me to try it out for breakfast. I love meat but I gave it a whirl anyway and ordered a Lappland Cheese hamburger. It wasn’t meat and it wasn’t real cheese. I honestly don’t know what the heck I ate but it was pretty tasty! I also tried an energy drink called Club-Mate, a popular beverage here in Berlin and one of Elisa’s favorites. I’d say its like Red Bull with a swirl of honey in it. Not too shabby.
Speaking of food, holy crap the döners in Berlin were amazing! I’ve had them in a few places so far and these ones here were the absolute best. And they were fairly cheap too! But after we stuffed ourselves, Elisa wanted to show me a little more of Berlin outside of the touristy areas. She took me to a few spots she discovered on her own, like this old, abandoned gas station…
Just like Grundge City, the old gas station had a slightly eerie vibe to it as it was completely abandoned and empty, but kinda neat. Then she said to me…
“I know where to get the best ice cream.”
Elisa knew me well and remembered. my unconditional love for ice cream, especially after our all-you-can-eat ice cream buffet we had in Saigon last year. She took me to a place called Fräulein Frost. Since I was experiencing everything new, I tried flavors I’ve never had before that included cucumber infused ice cream and also a poppyseed flavored one. Both were great!!
After walking through a Turkish market and a river nearby, I asked Elisa if she could show me the touristy areas, just so I can compare it to everything else I’ve seen so far. At first she playfully gritted at the sound of the word “tourist”, but agreed that it would be good for me to compare. Plus she knew a few spots near the city center she could take me to.
The city center of Berlin was huge just like I imagined and just like Elisa warned there were tourists everywhere. It wasn’t too bad though. This area was a great contrast from the interurban areas in Berlin I walked through. Nearby I spotted an unusual bunch of large slate blocks poking out in the middle of the city.
Elisa informed me that this was a Holocaust Memorial. We walked through the blocks and instantly I thought how fun it would be to play around in here as a kid.
“Is there anyone buried here?” I asked Elisa.
“Nope. It’s just a memorial site.” she said.
I shimmied myself up some of the blocks because I just had to. My brain is hardwired to climb anything and everything.
After that unexpected burst of everything fun, we walked further into the city where we passed through buildings that resembled ones you’d see in Paris. And also, Berlin had it’s own “Hollywood” Walk of Fame. I walked along the stars and didn’t recognize a single name, until I came to one star that read ‘Hans Zimmer’. He’s known for composing some of the best scores for movies like The Lion King and one of my all-time favorite’s, Gladiator.
During our walk, we spotted bubbles. Just random bubbles floating randomly in the air. Where are they coming from? We found a guy with a homemade contraption, making hundreds of bubbles, both big and small, near a bridge along the canal. The kid in me was fascinated with all the bubbles flying everywhere. This guy was cool!
Elisa and I sat and watched this guy create bubbles for about a half an hour. He is from Argentina and he makes a living traveling the world performing bubble crafting tricks for the public. He drew large crowds and everyone who casually walked by, would stop and smile. The kids who came about were loving it also.
Elisa took me to the outskirts of the city center and into a place covered in graffiti. Every inch of every wall had drawings and graffiti all over it. We climbed the stairs as high as we could until we reached a dead end.
That same night, we went to the east of Berlin, near the center circle to visit Valentina. I also met Valentina in Vietnam last year. She came along with Elisa and the two are best friends. It was Valentina’s girlfriends birthday and so we went out to a bar nearby for the occasion. A lot of their friends were there, so when they decided to play Telephone, it always got screwed up when the message came to me because it was difficult to pronounce some of the German words they were saying. Still, it made for quite the laughs.
The next day, Elisa had to work so I went out to hang with Valentina for a bit a few stations away. She was in the process of sorting herself for her big move to Leipzig. She made time for me though! She took me to try some more authentic German food. She suggested I try Schwarzwälder Käsespätzle. It’s hard to describe, so here’s a picture:
It looks like an omelet, but replace the egg part with delicate pasta and presto! It was mighty good.
I hung out with Valentina for a bit before I headed out into the city and back to Elisa’s place. I had to reorganize my things because the next day I had a long bus ride to Munich, another of Germanys major cities. Elisa has been a tremendous host here in Berlin. Everything was perfect and couldn’t have gone any better. We went everywhere and thanks to her I was able to see multiple different lifestyles of the city. Berlin is a huge metropolis that has a different atmosphere in each area. It’s like a bunch of cities fused into one! Thanks for being master hosts Elisa and Valentina!
I’m off to Munich, home of the Oktoberfest!