On our last day in Berlin, it was finally warm enough to bust out, my much loved, denim dungarees. Throwing them on with, my equally much loved, baby blue toile blouse, we packed up our bags & said a sad farewell to Hüttenpalast.
Taking a final look around, I thought how much I would miss its eccentricity. The globes, the books, the collection of walking sticks & the pastel pink waffle dispenser, which actually worked & was free! People mock me for my obsessional reading of the Mail Online, but I actually found Hüttenpalast, after reading an article about the place on their website! So it just goes to show...
To end our trip as it began, Charlotte & I headed to Dunkin' Donuts, for a sweet breakfast treat.
Filled up with sugar, we headed for the Bauhaus Archiv Museum, for an afternoon of cultured entertainment.
We once again tried to pull the student card, in a bid to save pennies, but alas, they were having none of it without an actual student card. So we ended up paying the €6 entry fee, instead of the €3 reduced fee. Which, once I'd looked around, I heavily begrudged paying, considering the size of the museum. One large room. That was it & there weren't even other exhibitions on offer!
Feeling grumbly & disappointed, Charlotte & I headed off in search of bockwurst. Unfortunately, this seemed to be the only thing we couldn't find! Getting grumpy & hungry, we stopped for some much needed frozen yoghurt.
Refueled by out sweet treat, we continued our search for sausage & much to our delight, a few streets later we found some! I can't tell you how obsessional we had become & how relieved & elated we were to find some bockwurst. So ridiculous!
Finally full, Charlotte & I continued our day & headed off in search of R.S.V.P.. A tiny minimalist, store, selling, what can only be described as, luxury stationary. Everything from washi tape, to cards, to notebooks, all displayed in neat piles on bare shelves. Charlotte & I couldn't resist buying a few items to bring back.
After stopping for a much needed Afri Cola, we headed back to our favourite district, Kreuzberg, to seek out the Museum Der Dinge. A small museum, hidden up, what felt like, a million flights of stairs, that housed an eclectic collection of, well, everything.
Phones, toys, kitchen equipment, even food, still in its original packaging, all from every era,
grouped together in glass fronted cabinets. There was so much to look at, I could hardly take it all in!
An adult price ticket is usually €5 & reduced is €3. As the museum was holding an event, all tickets that day were charged at the reduced price. Which obviously went down well with us.
Leaving the organised chaos of Der Dinge, Charlotte & I headed out for dinner. We'd read about a Korean fried chicken place, in Charlotte's cool Berlin map, so we figured, as it had been so right about Burgermeister, we should give it a go.
On our way there, we stopped off for a few farewell cocktails, at a bar across the road. We sat in the sun, sipping our fruity concoctions & reminisced about the past few days. We were sad to be leaving.
Angry Chicken was like an upmarket KFC. There were different levels of spice & the chicken came, simple, fried & in a basket. The sweet potato fries were a let down, as they were essentially crisps & Charlotte wasn't so keen on the whole affair. Perhaps one to go to in aid of a snack, rather than for dinner.
After our chicken, we headed back to Hüttenpalast to collect our bags. I picked up some last minute cake & then we were off to the U-Bahn. We took the train to Rudow, where we then took a bus, straight to the airport. Then that was it, we were through security, after a grope down, running to our gate, as usual & on a plane home.
Quite possibly the best few days spent abroad. I don't think either of us can wait to head back to Berlin!
Awakening after a good night's sleep, Charlotte & I made our way to the communal shower room & attempted not to die of embarrassment, as we stripped off in our frosted glass showers. Having made it through the experience, we got dressed & ready for the day & headed to the cafe for some breakfast.
The cafe is mostly vegetarian, with the menu being very European. Lots of bread, egg & yoghurt. I ended up opting for a lunchtime offering of homemade quiche, with an egg custard tart for afterwards & a Fritz-Kola (German Coca Cola, actually very nice) to wash it all down.
Over breakfast, Charlotte & I planned our day's itinerary. Initially, we booked our mini adventure, because we had scored some heavily sought after HAIM gig tickets. The girls were set to perform at the Lido that evening, however, those Californian cool kids, went & cancelled on us, but we decided to go anyway & make the most of Berlin.
So to fill what would have been our awesome gig day, we decided to head back to Kreuzberg & go see The Berlin Wall. I'd brought with me my Diana camera, which Sir Fleming had given me for my birthday last year. I'd not yet used it, as I didn't know how & didn't want to waste the film. But, Berlin seemed like as good a place as any to start using it. A YouTube video later, we were up & running & on our way to Kreuzberg.
The Berlin Wall is incredibly long, with an eclectic mix of art all the way along it. It was mesmerizing, seeing the images I'd seen in books & online, finally in front of me.
After spending several hours snapping up every inch of the wall, we headed in the direction of Burgermeister, to finally see if the burgers were worth the effort we'd gone to, to find them.
Burgermeister is so subtle in its surroundings, it is easy to see why it can be so hard to find. Tucked away under the U-Bahn tracks, in a converted public toilet, it doesn't really shout eatery. However, it is never without customers, to such a degree, that once you've ordered, you are given a ticket with a number on it & told to go wait, until your number flashes up on the sign above the counter.
Seating options are small plastic crates, converted into tiny childlike chairs or old metal bike rails, set aside wooden bar tops to rest your food upon. Charlotte & I opted for the bike rails. Ten numbers later, our burgers were finally ready. I opted for a BBQ version & I have to say, it was definitely worth the wait. Plus, with a burger & fries coming in at just €5, it was exceptionally
good value for money.
With our bellies full, we decided to go for a stroll around the Botanischer Garten Und Botanisches Museum. As it was too far to walk, we hopped on the nearest U-Bahn. At one stop, a very good looking guy got on & sat opposite us. Tussled blonde hair, lightly tanned skin, generally pretty dreamy. We caught each others eye & smiled at each other. It was looking promising.
As I glanced away, I spotted another guy further down the carriage. He was dressed in a suit & scribbling into an A4 sized diary. I thought this was quite funny & whispered to Charlotte to have a look. We giggled to ourselves & then had to look away embarrassed, when the guy caught us staring at him.
Not two minutes later, the train stopped at a station & a brash message boomed out of the train's speakers & everyone proceeded to leave the train. Oblivious, as the message was in German, which neither of us know a word of, we got off with everyone else.
Before I knew it, the A4 diary guy appeared in front of us, asking if we wanted to share a cab! We declined his invitation & he then proceeded to tell me he had just graduated from Harvard, was setting up his own business & wanted my phone number. I couldn't help but nervously chuckle.
Unfortunately, whilst this exchange was occurring, the ever so good looking blonde guy walked off, out of the station, never to be seen again. Lesson learnt, don't mock people on trains!
Having finally shaken my admirer, Charlotte & I left the U-Bahn station & walked the long stretch to the Botanischer Garten. Once there, we were automatically given reduced price tickets. Clearly our childlike faces speak for themselves! Adult tickets are normally €6 & reduced tickets are €3.
We headed straight for the giant conservatory, which was incredible & just brimming with colourful & fragrant blooms.
I think in order to fully get the most of your time at the Botanischer Garten, you really need to devote an entire day to it. The conservatory took a couple of hours & by the time we were done, it was already quite late & our energy level had dropped below the power of sugar. We therefore didn't go around the outside gardens, which are huge, but I would definitely go again to see them.
We left the Botanischer Garten in search of food. Walking the long walk back to the U-Bahn, we headed back to Kreuzberg to try out Markthalle. A large indoor food market, open daily until midnight.
Markthalle was probably my favourite place in Berlin. It was enthralling. There was a plethora of food options available, from pork belly rolls, to Jamaican rice & peas, to cheese & wine. I gazed around attempting to take everything in & then, the indecisiveness set in. Suddenly, I couldn't commit to anything, I wanted everything!
Charlotte & I wandered round & round, taking in the sights & smells. There were two different live bands playing & people laughing, eating & drinking everywhere. I also have to say, that the one thing Berlin does very well is, exceptionally good looking men. All bearded, brown eyed, often bespectacled, although, always with terribly bad shoes. These specimens were everywhere I looked! I was in heaven, good food & gorgeous guys.
As it was getting late & Charlotte & I had spent so much time trying to decide what to have, that a few stalls were actually packing up, we ended up with an Italian rice ball each. It wasn't the best thing I'd ever eaten & it was incredibly messy! Another lesson learnt, don't hesitate!
To console ourselves we had a cocktail & a waffle, which went down better than the rice ball.
Full & tired, we left the Markthalle & headed back to Hüttenpalast, back to our cabins & passed out.
Nearly twenty six years have passed & the one life lesson that has stuck with me throughout is:
To remind me of this, I got it permanently etched onto my ribs, in Charlotte Wall's beautiful handwriting, so that she too may be with me forever.
Life not only doesn't come with a map, but it doesn't come with a planner either. Because, you can make plans, but ultimately, shit's just gonna happen & you're gonna need to adapt around the obstacles, rather than simply making an excuse not to do something because of them.
I remember there was once a time, when life to me, had meaning. I felt positive & truly believed I had a purpose. When things went wrong, I had faith that there was a reason, that it was all for the greater good & better things would come.
Slowly over time, that hopefulness, that strong held belief, weakened & eroded. By the time, the most special & important person in my life, passed away, I had lost all belief entirely.
For starters, I could never imagine that his death was even possible. Death was like something you read about in the newspaper, you saw on TV. I honestly felt like it would never happen to me, not in reality. But it did & it jaded me.
It made me feel helpless & afraid to truly love anyone or anything, because the pain of losing something you love is so overwhelming, so all encompassing, that quite frankly, I'm not convinced you could recover from it the first time, let alone again.
I felt my moral curtain drop. The world suddenly seemed empty, like I'd been drifting in an illusion & here I was, facing a stark & empty reality. Nothing had meaning. Nothing made sense. What was right & wrong became jumbled, because, at the end of it, we'd all die & what would truly be left behind?
Over three years were spent trying to find meaning, whilst achingly longing for someone I could never have back. This wasn't trial separation, this was a full blown divorce, with my mind lost in a custody battle which seemed to rage on for eternity.
I lost how to love others. How to trust. How to live. I looked up & I was standing there, alone & empty. When did this happen & how had I let it? I realised there & then that grief wasn't something you washed down with a pill or poured out in counseling. It was a life long battle, one that I felt I was facing alone.
You can sympathise when someone loses someone, but you'll never truly understand. Even if it has happened to you, because love & grief are so individual, that no one person can every truly know what it feels like.
I've pushed a lot of people away. I've done things morally incomprehensible. I've lost sight of myself & my dreams. I've stopped living & have simply been existing. Worst of all, I've reached the end of my own self denial. I've woken up & seen the destruction. I'm broken, I'm afraid & I need to mend myself & my life. To put the pieces back together. To form something new & attempt to find the positive.
To have faith that all this, everything, up 'til now, had a purpose.
Two months home alone, looking after one very disobedient dog & two demanding cats, I was definitely in need of a little break, when mère returned home from her cruise. My favourite travel companion, Miss Charlotte Wall & I, packed our bags & hopped onto the earliest flight, destination; Berlin.
I have previously visited Berlin with another friend, Lady Rawlinson, last January. However, the -10° weather conditions, rather prevented my full enjoyment of the trip & I felt that we did not fully make the most of our time there. To prevent this happening again, Charlotte & I made sure to create a full & extensive itinerary, whilst still naturally leaving ourselves with room to maneuver, should an avenue arise, we felt needed exploration.
We started our first day by heading to Huttenpalast, our accommodation for the duration, to drop off our bags. A stone's throw from Hermanplatz U-Bahn station, along Hobrechtstraße street, this unique hotel experience is definitely something I'd recommend.
Fronted by a vegetarian cafe, Huttenpalast offers guests the indoor camping experience. Vintage 1950's caravans restored & rejuvenated, along with quaint wooden huts, all in one open indoor space. All came with seating areas alongside, to create a communal living area, whilst in addition, offering a garden outdoors.
Granted, the frosted glass doors on the communal showers (men's & woman's were separate) did bring blushes to our faint English cheeks, but the facilities were clean & modern & I really couldn't complain.
Breakfast was included in the price of the stay (€65.00 a night for two), which consisted of fresh fruit & croissants, served along with tea & coffee. It wasn't quite enough to fill our hungry tummies though, so we mostly opted for a sweet treat from Dunkin' Donuts afterwards.
Once we'd set ourselves up on the hotel's free WIFI & familiarised ourselves with, all three of, our maps, we headed back to the U-Bahn station. If you really want to cover a lot of Berlin in a small period of time, taking the U-Bahn is a really quick & convenient option, which cuts down a lot of walking.
The lines are broken up in zones, much the same as the London underground. A, B & C. You'll mostly only use C if you're heading to the airport. Tickets come in bands AB, BC or ABC. Charlotte & I opted for an all day AB ticket on days one & two, which cost €6.50 & lasted the entire day & up until 3am!
You need to validate your ticket at one of the machines before you get on the train. This only needs to be done once. There are, supposedly, plain-clothed ticket inspectors on the trains, who will fine you if you don't have a ticket, or if your ticket is not validated. However, we never came across one, which made me regret spending the money. Better safe than sorry one supposes.
On our way to the Holocaust Memorial, we came across a street market, that ran alongside the river. Charlotte & I decided to have our first Bockwurst of the trip & spend a few euros on some postcards & magnets.
The Holocaust Memorial & the Brandenburg Gate, were followed by a stroll along the food stalls set up in the Großer Tiergarten opposite, where we indulged in midday fruity cocktails & overpriced sweets.
Full on sugar, Charlotte & I left the bustle of Großer Tiergarten in search of Checkpoint Charlie & managed to get our passports stamped on the way!
There are a few little posts that will do this for you, some cost more than others. Considering I rarely travel outside of Europe, it was quite exciting to finally get some stamps in my passport!
As the skies were darkening & a chill was setting in, we decided to make our way to the Jewish Museum, which thankfully is open until 8pm most days & even later on others. Upon entering, you have to go through security akin to the airport. Your bag goes through for an x-ray & you have to go through a metal detector. Seemingly over the top for a museum.
Museum entrance tickets are €7 for adults & €3.50 for students. I decided to try & put my youthful looks to good use & pretend I was a student. Attempting to keep a straight face, I told the man at the desk I was nineteen. When he asked for my student ID, I told him I had left it in the UK. He then proceeded to tell me off, stating that English students are always forgetting everything. I tried not to laugh. Charlotte told the man she too was a student & he gave us both reduced tickets. I picked up a museum guide & we ran off giggling.
I really enjoyed the museum, but I felt it asked more questions than it answered. It also seemed quite small, although, we managed to spend a few hours there, soaking everything in. Once our stomachs began to grumble we decided it was time to leave.
Charlotte brought to Berlin, a very cool map, which listed fun & quirky places to visit on the back. One place in particular, was Burgermeister. A burger joint, housed in a former public toilet, situated under the arches of Schlesisches Tor U-Bahn stop, in the ridiculously cool district of Kreuzberg. Extremely popular & apparently quite hard to find!
Charlotte & I headed in the direction of Burgermeister, passing a worrying amount of police on the way. Shortly followed by sporadic bursts of people, plastic cups of beer in hand. I sensed we were missing out on something.
We persevered & continued to walk along, what seemed like, a never ending road, only to come to an abrupt stop, when faced with a wall of people. Turns out May 1st is Labour Day in Berlin & boy do they celebrate! This was in no way a street party we'd entered, this was a district party!
We soon became trapped amongst a plethora of drunken revelers, who, it has to be said, were disgustingly cool & made me feel distinctly like an awkward tourist!
It took time, but we escaped through the crowds, taking in a mix of sounds from the many live music acts & growing hungry with the mixed aromas coming from the array of food stalls & got back on with our Burgermeister search.
The skies darkened, our feet grew weary & quite frankly we were clueless. Feeling deflated, defeated & hungry, we settled for a schnitzel & frites from some cool kid hangout under the arches. Hopping on the nearest U-Bahn, we headed back to Huttenpalast, to our little cabin in the woods & passed out exhausted & happy.