Berlin: Things to know before you go

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Getting in:

Flying into Berlin is a pain free, quick, and easy process that is truly reflective of that good old stereotypical German efficiency .

Shame about the train stations… The train stations that baffle and bewilder many a tourist ruin the efficiency illusion in an instant and, if you don’t speak German, will have you wishing that you had listened more in German class (if you even had the option to learn it).

Unless you have arranged a pickup, I strongly recommend that you research the route to your chosen destination BEFORE you get on the plane. If you are staying in Berlin then you will probably find that the S Bahn is your best option. Type your route into google maps and print it before you leave home. Google maps has a tendency to be rather incredible without shoving your stupidness in your face.

blue sky clouds Germany

 

When to go:

Berlin is a city that can be visited all year round with no real limitations to activities due to weather conditions. Just bare in mind that if you want to climb a tall building (because there are so many here) to get a great view, this is not going to happen when it’s poring with rain or foggy outside.

Remember that Sunday afternoons and public holidays can be quieter, with many museums and shops being closed.

Money:

The currency is Euro. Berlin can be expensive in and around popular tourist sites. Despite this, it is easy enough to find cheap food if you venture into the suburbs. Kebab shops, burger stops and chippies are never more than a five minute pace away.

Getting around:

The Sbhan is the easiest way around the city. If underground trains aren’t for you then grab a map and explore on foot. Many attractions are close to each other so you shouldn’t have to walk too far between sights. Typical to most European cities, Berlin’s inhabitants do fall prey to telling tourists that “it’s too far to walk” and that they should “take the train because it’s faster and easier”. At least once I challenge you to ignore the nice citizen and go on foot to see if it really is too far. And if come back and it was too far… Well, I’m sorry and I’m sure you made memories that made it worth it anyway right!?

Things to do:

Reichstag dome – Tickets must be purchased online in advance of your visit or you will be refused entry. Allow 15-20 minutes to get through the quick security checks before you enter. Upon entering through the mini airport security you will be transported by an elevator up into the huge dome that sits on top of the reichstag. Audio guides are free and automatically feed you information as you scale higher and higher into the sky. If you are scared of heights you may want to think twice as the majority of the dome is glass, so not looking down is not really an option! germany architecture berlij

Brandenburg Gate & Around – The gate is situated near some of Berlin’s other main sights and is usually tourist heavy. Before heading here have a walk through the Jewish Monument situated a ten minute walk away. Both the gate and the monument make a big impression at night when the lights come on.

History:

It is almost impossible to go to Berlin and not learn a little about the history it possesses. Going down to see the remaining wall is an interesting visit along with Checkpoint Charlie (be warned that it gets very crowded with tourists), and free museums such as the Topographie des Terror (a highlight of our trip).

Not so central – Venturing out of the centre is highly recommended. Just in the train and explore outer Berlin for some spectacular sights and entertaining things to do. Parks, museums, and more are easy to find.

olympic rings outside berlin stadium

A place to stay:

If you are looking for a decent place to stay then Plus Berlin Hostel is great. The hostel is by far the biggest hostel I’ve ever stayed in, and with a swimming pool, family friendly rooms, common rooms, restaurant, gardens and even its own art exhibition,it’s as though this hostel made love to a hotel and produced this huge beast. Staying in a dorm here was strange. The rooms were cleaned daily with cute chocolate pieces left on your pillow. Fresh towels were on the foot of the bed when you came back from a days adventures ( see! Just like a hotel right). The pool was a great addition. On one of the days when it was raining we opted for a swimming session which was totally worth it. The food was reasonable for dinner, and the all you can eat breakfast buffet was delicious. Every smart traveller knows – get up a little later and make the buffet a brunch instead of a breakfast for optimum money saving.

plus berlin hostel in central berlin

Extras:

 

Vibes- The general vibe in Berlin is a friendly yet equally standoffish vibe. Kind of like London but with less rushing and more chit chatting. An example of the humour and lightheartedness of Berlin was when I asked a guy if he would take a photo of us. He joked saying that he could not… I didn’t get the joke and stood apologising for even asking, embarrassed. My boyfriend, the comedian, and his friend found it hilarious and laughed at my expression.

Bears, green men, and red women-

If you really pay attention to your surroundings you will notice things that people often miss. Sadly for the unobservant (and I’ve asked around) many people return from Berlin having not seen a single bear statue. Considering its significance here it is sad that they have not one photo or memory of seeing one. Sadly, these same people also have no idea what I’m taking about when I ask them what they thought of the traffic light people. They stare at me blankly… “There are entire shops dedicated to the little people inside the traffic lights! How could you miss them?!” It turns out they just weren’t looking hard enough. Therefore, my recommendation is to pay close attention.

Overall thoughts:

Berlin for me is a standard city of art, culture, history, business and pleasure. Personal preference sways me to feel no real urge to return. A controversial feeling I am aware. Personally, having seen Potsdam, Dresden and Bonn I find that I prefer these smaller jewels for reasons of which I’m not quite sure. But why does it matter? Make up your own mind and get to travelling! berlin map on the berlin wall british and german

Reverse Culture Shock: Dealing with it

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Reverse Culture Shock is an issue that affects us all at some point, and yet most people don’t even know it exists. Experienced differently by everyone, it can take many forms.

How it affects me:

One hour after disembarking the plane and I’m being horrible to everyone, even my boyfriend whom has so kindly picked me up from the airport. Before I left the hostel I text him… “Miss you, can’t wait to see you xxxx” and I really had missed him. So why am I being so miserable? This is more than holiday blues.

This reaction is one that I am not only becoming increasingly aware of, but one that I am constantly working towards rectifying. No matter where I go, no matter how far, or for how long I get this feeling. Reverse Culture Shock sucks.

What is it?

Returning from a place where the culture and way of life is different puts your normal every day life under the microscope. Even if your travel destination wasn’t actually that different from your home town, the change of scenery, food, style, living etc. can have an impact on your positive thoughts towards home.  Some will react with sadness, others will close themselves off to others around them, you may become returned traveller that tells everyone that “they’re doing everything wrong” or that they’re “using too much water”. All of these reactions are normal, and they don’t all occur as soon as the plane hits home soil.

When does it happen?

You may never experience these feelings, you might feel them straight away. You could even be sat watching Fashion Week 5 months after your return when you suddenly realise it’s just not as important to you as it used to be.

How I get over it:

For me I have a clear plan of action.

  1. Unpack my bags as soon as I get home – No matter how tired I am it is necessary for me to put it all away. This way, it means I don’t need to be bogged down with unpacking, washing, sorting and everything else wind-down related over the next few days. Instead I can focus on the fun stuff , like giving souvenirs.

2. Travel Journals – Collect all the receipts, postcards, tokens and, spare leaflets that I have from my trip and putting it in my travel journal. Each place I visit has it’s own section. Within each section are all the items I need to remember my travels in a fun and interesting way.

3. Make sure that all of my photos have already been shared before I get home – For me,sharing my photos is important. This is because I would rather show people than tell people about what I saw and what I got up to. I’m not sure why or if this is even an important part of my returning home experience, but it is definitely something that I try and stick to.

4. Contact – For me contact is important. If I’ve been somewhere on my own then I find that staying connected with the people I met on my travels is important. Where I’ve travelled with another person I find it important to recollect on our shared experience. (This can be particularly difficult if the other person deals with returning home by shutting down.)

5. Plan my next trip – Whenever I get back from somewhere you can guarantee that within the week I will have mentally planned my next destination. During our annual April bonding venture my mum turned to me and asked “Where are we off to next April then?”. I guess I know where the coping mechanism comes from!

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Reverse Culture Shock is important to recognise, both for you as a returning traveller and for those around you. The last thing you need is to return home and get everyone riled up with your judgement or miserable attitude.

Look after yourself and always remember the good times!

J.