Donars, pastries, and more burgers oh my

So our first day of taking it easy, ended up being a pretty full day even though we didn’t go into anywhere, we just wandered and saw the sites. We saw a lot and didn’t spend a penny. We discovered that the Donar was supposedly invented in Berlin as well as the Curry Wurst. So naturally we had to try them here. We grabbed some Donars and some pastries on the way to see the Berlin Wall Memorial. Our hostel is only about a 20 minutes away so we walked. After we grabbed the train back down to Brandenburg Gate and walked the 2 blocks down to the Holocaust Memorial, or The Memorial for Murdered Jews in Europe. This is a beautifully eyrie monument; a couple thousand concrete blocks on a sloping field in the center of the city.

At this point we were torn, explore the abandoned amusement park, or the abandoned spy station. 🙂 Hmm, decisions decisions. The amusement park is on the east side of the city and the spy station is on the west. The monument we were at was directly in the middle. Apparently there are a lot of things you can explore in Berlin that are abandoned 🙂 We chose the amusement park, but when we got there, it was all fenced off, there were dogs and a guard. So that was a fail. Either way, I would come back and explore Berlin again. There are too many things to do here.

After that we decided it was time for more burgers :). This time we went to a place called The Bird. When we got there, the entire place was completely full. On our way in Kristin overheard the hostess talking to someone about reservations. The earliest they had were over a month out! This was not something we expected from a burger joint. If you ever find yourself in a similar situation, my recommendation would be to try the bar. Never apart of the reservations issue nor do you usually have to wait to be seated. It is usually first come first serve. In this case, nothing special, we elbowed past the indecisive couple in front of us and grabbled two seats at the bar before they were gone. Ok, Burgermeister was good, but greasy spoon, hole in the wall, made by a very large man on the verge of cardiac arrest sort of good. The bird was equally delicious, but on the completely other end of the spectrum. Gourmet hand formed beef imported from the states, and served with homemade fries. You could choose between a flat top grill or an open grill. And holy schnikey, I was in hot sauce heaven also. They carried a number of brands, but one line that I absolutely loved was called Suicide Sauces. The company that does the distribution of sauces for The Bird started making their own. If your a hot sauce nut, I believe you can buy them from their site. The company is called Pfeffer Haus. I particularly loved the Mango Fire and the Habanero BBQ.

After Dinner it was still a little early and on a friends recommendation we should go check out a bar called Salon Wilde Renate. It has its own labyrinth, need I say more. I thought it was a lot of fun and very fascinating. It forces you to explore with your ears and touch instead of sight. Kristin walked straight through and didn’t particularly care for it. They didn’t let us go in together, unfortunately, and we never found each other inside. I would recommend checking this out. The beers were cheap and the music was interesting too. This place is stuck somewhere between creepy and fascinating. They also have a large outdoor area, but that was closed when we were there. I bet the parties here would be absolutely amazing. Walking down the street you could see piles of confetti that built up from the wind blowing them together.

We walked back to the hostel in the rain and hung out for the evening. We planned to camp near some old spy satellites, but it was raining all night so we just hung out with some people in the commons area for the rest of the night. I am really sad I missed those. They are a cold war relic that were built on top of a nazi college that couldn’t be destroyed after WWII. Apparently the building was so strongly built it was impossible to destroy, so instead they buried it under the rubble of all the buildings that were destroyed during the war. After which during the cold war the US built a spy station on top of the rubble. It is abandoned now. Damn, that would have been cool to explore.

The hostel we stayed at was called The Heart of Gold Hostel, for the most part it was fine. The dorm was comfortable and quite, all the normal amenities were just fine, but it had one major downfall that would make me never stay here again. The entry to the hostel is down a long covered walkway to a courtyard. This is where all the smokers hung out. Every time you leave the building you have to walk through it. Every time you go to the dorms, you have to walk through it. It was a gauntlet of disgusting. I feel like everyone here smokes.

We didn’t need to catch our ride out of Berlin until 6 pm, so we spent the day exploring Sanssouci gardens in a neighboring town called Potsdam. This was the summer palace for Frederick the Great. It was disgustingly beautiful. I felt like I walked into the set of Pride and Prejudice. Unfortunately we only had about 1.5 hours to spend there, but it is definitely a place I would like to come back to. Seems like everywhere we have gone has something amazing we missed out on or need to come back and check out again. We caught the train back into Berlin to get our stuff from the hostel and headed down to meet our ride out of town.

We needed to catch a flight early on sunday morning out of Frankfurt, but we still had a few days before then so we chose to spend one of them in a Kassel, a city between Frankfurt and Berlin. We didn’t intend to go to the city, but just to the west of it is a park called Bergpark Wilhelmshoehe. It is the largest park in Europe and the second largest mountain park in the world. It is home to a palace, an aqueduct, a castle and and a cascading falls that runs the entire length of the park naturally powering a large fountain in the pond at the bottom near the palace. We got to the park around 10 pm and hiked to the north side where we set up tent and camped in a forested area. It was cold, but quiet and comfortable. We felt like we didn’t get enough time to explore Sanssouci, so we got up early that next morning to have more time. We didn’t have our a place to stash our packs and didn’t want to leave them where they were since we were so far north, so we decided to just haul them around with us the entire day. We spent the entire day hiking the grounds exploring. At 6pm we made our way back into town and met up with another person to get our ride down to Frankfurt. I learned something new about how you can offer a service on Blablacar. The person we met had a 5 person regional pass and had that for us to take. So instead of driving we took the train. I swear I love this site. And since we were traveling beyond Frankfurt on to Mainz we got to keep the pass afterwards and continue on with it. 

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Burgers in Berlin

Ok, So as promised, If your interested in looking at pictures now, you can check them out on my flickr page here. I will link photos in to the rest of the blog when it is complete. Until then, pictures can be viewed through the link.

Our first day in Berlin was on a beautiful rainy Tuesday. Seems like the crappy weather followed up pretty much the entire trip. Although we did get some fairly decent weather in Munich, we were inside the entire time. So that was a fail. For the most part we wanted to take the day relatively easy. For one, the city is way to big to explore and get the whole thing into 3 days and be able to get all of it, and two, we didn’t want to cram too much in and feel like we were working. Were on holiday, we don’t have to do anything really. Some people miss that premise.

We had spent the first few hours of the day in the commons area of the hostel flipping through their giant brochure wall figuring out what to do and how much we did want to see. I had said the first thing I wanted to do was do the walking tours in the city, but here, their tours were 6 hours long! Can you believe that! They advertised, shorter tours for those that were in a hurry that ran for 3.5 hours. Seriously, I barely have the attention span to take a standard 2 hour tour, I couldn’t imagine a 6 hour one. So that was out. We grabbed a map from the front desk. On it was the layout of the majority of the downtown area of the city along with all its major monuments pointed out. It also offered walking routes of the city as well as metro and bus lines. This eventually became our lifeline to the city.

Our last day at Oktoberfest, we spoke to a guy at a neighboring table and his recommendation was to check out the burgers in Berlin. I did not expect Berlin to be known for their burgers, but who doesn’t like a good burger. So naturally the first thing we decided to do was get that. This brings me to 2 recommendation. If you have a smart phone, download trip advisor and trip advisor city guides. While you have wifi trip advisor is an amazing app giving you reviews by listing, a map view search closest to you, pricing comparisons, etc. Any what trip advisor lacked for each city, the city guide made up for it. Your able to download each city to your phone and use it off-line. that is a huge factor!

So based on the reviews and the top # of places to go and see we chose what to see and what to avoid. First stop, Burgermeister, a tiny little spot nestled underneath the metro line and crammed practically in the middle of an intersection. If this was America, it would be a food truck. It was smaller than most of them we have here. They had table set up outside, half of them were standing only, the others were the same, but the seats were bike locks with padding taped around them. Anything else was either a milk crate, or a soap box, or anything they could put together to sit on really.

Either way it doesn’t matter. These burgers were bomb. Literally and metaphorically, amazing grease bombs. They also had chili cheese fries. One thing that I have noticed while eating all throughout Europe so far is that no matter how much I eat here, I never get full like I would have gotten in the states. The food here really is much better in some aspects. The eggs especially. And this burger.

Oh yeah, About the metro here. It is fairly reliable, there aren’t any turn styles or people checking to make sure you have paid your fair. When we first arrived we bought a 3 day pass for about 24 euro. This allowed us to use any form of public transit for 72 hours. There are two passes you can choose from, the City Tour Card and the Berlin Welcome Card. Here is a link to the Berlin Metro site if your interested in learning more. They both have their benefits, discounts to museums, restaurants, etc. And they both cost about the exact same. So determine which one you want to use.

The city is also broken up in to 3 zones, A, B, and C. A is the majority of the downtown area, B being outlying city area and C, the outskirts and neighboring towns. You can get a pass for 24, 48 and 72 hours for either zones A and B or pay an extra 2 or 3 euro and get C thrown in as well. We wanted to explore outside of the city as well, so we paid the little extra. In the end, I don’t think a single person check our tickets the whole time we were there, so you could easily get away with not having any passes and use the metro at your own risk. If you get caught, I think the ticket is about 40 euro or so. Munich is pretty much the same way. 

After burgers we took the metro down to Berlin Flughafen Tempelhof Airport. The originally terminal and grounds were built in the 20’s and is one of the only pre WWII airports in the world. It is also one of the largest buildings ever built (I saw that it was huge, but I didn’t realize it was that big).The main terminal and surrounding buildings were rebuilt by the National Socialist party in the thirties and was, in their eyes, to be the gateway to the center of the world Germania (Wikipedia). Walking around you can see the nazi era architecture throughout the building. Now the airport is a huge park. You can actually go out and walk around on the old runways. It is HUGE. We would have spent more time out relaxing in the park, but it was raining, so we walked to the next station and headed back north.

Next we walked by Checkpoint Charlie, a checkpoint gate in the wall between east and west berlin to the Topography of Terror, a memorial for political prisoners taken and tortured by the Gestapo and the SS. The grounds of the memorial and museum are the former grounds of the SS and Reich security office buildings. Along side the entire length of the Topography of Terror Museum is a section of the original Berlin Wall. From there we walked to Brandenburg Gate and the Reichstag building. We didn’t go inside though, to do this you need to set up an invitation online for a specific date and time. It is free to do, but you should do it a few days in advanced.

After that we went back to the hostel for a few hours to decide if we wanted to go out to the clubs for the night. We sat and chatted with some guys from Vancouver who also had the same idea. So we partied up with them and headed out to a place called the Q-club. There were all of 4 people in the entire place so we grabbed a cab with some german guys that in the same boat and went to another club called Matrix. This place was packed! They played all of the top 40 hits from the 90’s; like flashback to high school. The only downside to the entire place was the glass. I have never seen so much glass on the floor of any club, it’s like people smashed their drinks on the floor after they were finished with them. Around 3am we were pretty tired and wanted to head home but we had to wait until 4 for the trains start running again. On the way out some kids were hanging out in a pedestrian underpass jamming out. I took a video, but for some reason the sound didn’t come out. Im pretty sad about this. It was pretty cool.