Wacken 2019: Day two in Berlin

A Mexican couple moved into my dorm last night and the hostel hadn’t changed the sheets on the beds of the people who’d moved out. So they gave us free breakfasts to make up – and I didn’t even have a problem with my sheets! Sweet.

Suitably stuffed I decided to just go for a wander and catch a few of the things I didn’t see the day before. First thing, through the Tiergarten towards the Victory Monument. On the way there I had a bit of a surprise. Crawling across the pathway was a huge insect… only on closer inspection it wasn’t an insect at all – it was a flipping crayfish! About 4″ long from head to tail and with a large pair of pincers, it ambled from one patch of trees to another.

I made sure it got across safely and a group on their bikes who stopped assured me that, no, this was definitely not normal for Berlin. We have no idea where it could have come from. Perhaps fallen out of a delivery truck on the nearby main road? Whatever, a very bizarre thing to see on a Tuesday morning!

The Victory Monument was, well, monumental, and I then headed south and east for an hour or so to get to the “alternative” area, Kreuzberg. Apparently this is where all the arty types ended up but, frankly, it just looked a bit run down in places. It was obviously hugely different to the areas around the Hauptbanhof where I was staying. The buildings were covered in graffiti, the shops had extra security and the streets were nowhere near as clean. However, there were many individual and interesting looking cafés and even a Ramones museum.

Crossing the river at the end of this neighbourhood takes you the a large section of the Berlin Wall that’s now being used as an art gallery with long sections covered in unique paintings. There were some really good ones, some weird ones and a couple you may have seen on postcards.

A long walk further up the road and I finally reached the old TV Tower at Alexanderplatz which I’d actually meant to walk to when I arrived. It’s pretty huge, and you can go up for a look around or to eat in the restaurant while ignoring your acrophobia.

I grabbed lunch at the KFC there (it’s a tradition, sue me) and walked back down towards the Reichstag stopping only for a mango ice cream on the way. Somehow I found myself walking past Curry-One where I’d eaten on Sunday night, so the city is definitely starting to come together in my head geography-wise.

Courtesy of a bit of a dodgy tummy, I just picked up a few silly things from the supermarket for dinner (cherries, crisps, raspberry Jaffa Cake knock-offs) and sorted my stuff out so I could leave quickly and quietly in the morning. Alarm set for 6am, next stop Wacken…

Wacken 2019: First day in Berlin

Breakfast at the hostel was €7.50 so I looked elsewhere, eventually settling on a McDs for €3.50. Probably not as good, but as filling as I needed it to be. After that, I headed back to the hostel to queue for the 9:30 walking tour. The only other person waiting was a chap from India, Ankit, so we headed to the start point at the Brandenberg Gate together, in time to join the main group.

It was another scorcher in Berlin today, but our tour guide Max was superb and held our attention throughout the 2 1/2 hours we were out with him. Not a huge amount of ground covered, but a wealth of information about subjects he obviously both knew and cared about. He left us at the end not just knowing more than we did at the start, but wanting to learn even more. Yes, Berlin may well end up on my “I have to come back” list.

Ankit and I decided to keep plodding around and ended up finding a Lidl for lunch. I attempted to eat a sandwich I’d kept from London but, despite being in date, it tasted a little odd. Probably down to the mayo and the fact that it had been in my bag in direct sunlight for two days. Still, the €0.69 beer we bought wasn’t bad at all, and a slightly scruffy gentleman who sat next to us for ages was quite glad to take the empty cans off our hands. Deposit systems are great.

The heavens opened in the early evening and it absolutely hoyed it down as we hit next to one of the government buildings by the river. It did clear the air, to be fair, but I worry that it’s going to warm up and just get more humid again tomorrow.

Dinner was a very tasty €1.99 pizza from the supermarket in the station. And more beer.

Ankit was heading west to catch up with his girlfriend, and then back home to Delhi. We kicked around for a bit and then I saw him onto his train. Safe travels, my friend!

Wacken 2019: To Germany!

While Wacken is off to the west of the country, near Hamburg, I’ve never been to Berlin despite hearing many great things about it. Time to fix that.

I’d checked flights, but worked out that train was about the same price, about the same time, far more comfortable and dropped me off 50m from a hostel. So after waving bye-bye to Joy, I headed to the international terminal at St Pancras and jumped on a Eurostar to Brussels. Then promptly fell asleep. I woke up briefly and the cars we were zooming past were on the wrong side so I assumed we were in France (or the police in Kent were in for a bad day). I nodded off again and my phone told me I was now in Belgium.

After a minor panic getting my 4G to work even though I thought I’d set it all up before leaving, we pulled into Brussels and I located the first of my German trains. A short while later I made a final change onto the one which would take me to Berlin.

I got talking to a nice German lady (who’s near-opening shot was “What on earth is that Boris Johnson doing?”) for most of the trip, and she helped me decipher the conductor’s instructions that we change carriage as, due to an electrical fault, the aircon was borked. Sadly this meant being moved to first class.

We pulled into Berlin Hauptbahnhopf a shade over 7 minutes late which isn’t bad for an interrupted journey (they had to make an unscheduled stop to get everyone to move carriage) and my hostel was ridiculously easy to find. I’m currently ensconced in the Meininger by the train station and it’s pretty much like a budget hotel only with two bunks in each dorm room.

Berlin is like the UK a while ago – it’s hit and miss if people will take card payments and everywhere closes around 9-10pm, but after some hiking I managed to find a place called Curry-One which sold me a “Berlin Menu”: currywurst, chips, mayo, ketchup and beer for €6.50. Very nice it was, too!

Job done, back to the hostel and asleep on top of the covers in the top bunk as it was so bloody warm!