Cheap Ryanair flights and a severe phobia of boredom coaxed myself and my best friend to spend four nights living it up in in the German capital during the Easter break. The trip has left me impressed beyond words with the stunning city, which by day three had me dreading the flight back to Shannon.
1.Relaxation: One of the first things that struck me about Berlin was how relaxed it is. Surprising in it itself, considering it is the capital of a major European city. However the pace is quite slow in Berlin. Having adventured around the city at all hours of the day, we never found the city to be exceedingly busy. There was always space to sit on the U-Bahn (Berlin’s underground service), room to stretch your legs on the streets and stunning views unobstructed by the usual hoards of tourists. There is no doubt that UL library in the middle of study week presents a more frazzled appearance than this huge city.
2. Food: A deciding factor on whether I enjoy anything in life is how good the food is. Berlin exceeds all expectations when it comes to food. As a student my budget for holiday spending wasn’t huge and yet I was able to enjoy top cuisine all week. The capital spoils you for choice, offering it’s own German dishes along side Turkish, American and Asian food. The cost of eating out was significantly less than eating out here. Even the McDonalds Euro-saver menu was cheaper. Berlin is also big on ‘Happy Hours’ deal, which cut the cost of meals by up to a fiver for a few hours a day, usually around lunchtime. Food stalls were huge in the city with noodle huts and curry wurst (native German sausage dish) stalls found at every corner of the city, leaving it impossible for you to go hungry. Bakeries are also prominent and full of never seen before pastries at surprisingly low prices, the perfect place for breakfast or a snack.
3. Concentration Camp: Sachsenhausen Concentration Camp involves about a 45 minute’s trek outside the city but is so extremely worth it. Whether you’re a history buff or not, a few hours spent in this camp will leave you so much wiser but, be warned, its also traumatising. This Nazi Concentration Camp held mainly political prisoners from 1936 until the end of the war and was the site of the extermination of thousands. Today the concentration is left almost exactly as it was in it’s days of use. The tiny buildings where thousands of people endured unimaginable cruelty are still intact, showing you their toilet, bathing and sleeping facilities. The watch towers where Nazi officers surveyed the camp are still in good condition. You also have the opportunity to see the execution trenches and post-mortem building which are startling vivid. The only building destroyed is the crematorium or gas chambers, which were bombed by the government in the 50s for unknown reasons. The foundations however are still there and contain a lot of history. Entrance to the camp is surprisingly free without a guide and a must-see for all, not just students.
4. Zoo: Berlin is home to the biggest zoo in Europe and promises a great day out for all. Students are also in luck here as student tickets are only €15 for entrance to the zoo and aquarium. OK, so maybe I’m a 12 year old stuck in the body of a nineteen year old but I had a great day at the zoo. Every animal imaginable can be seen here from Lions to Jellyfish and all in big natural looking enclosures. Although centrally located just one U-Bahn stop from the main city stop, the Berlin Zoo takes you far from city life and lets you be a child again for a day.
5. Tiergarten:‘Central Park has 25,000 trees, Tiergarten has 250,000′ This fact is commonly seen written in Berlin, showing the pride German people have for their Tiergarten. And it’s a pride that they are right to have. The huge park consists of 23km of paths making it popular for those looking for leisurely exercise. The Tiergarten is truly stunning, comprising of numerous lakes, statues, flowers and of course, a playground. It is the perfect place the while away the hours on a sunny day. All you need is a 99 and sunglasses so get going!
6. Alcohol: Alcohol holds a prominent position is the lives of a lot of students, as does money and so the availability cheap alcohol in Berlin is another reason why it’s a must see for all students. Having been told that Berlin was a relevantly expensive city I was shocked to see bottles of beer for 30c and 70cl of vodka for €5. These prices also left me exceedingly bitter with Irish prices, which seem intent on screwing us all over. Along with the alcohol being next to free in supermarkets, the prices were also significantly lower in bars with ‘Happy Hours’ again playing a roll. Cocktails were about €3.50 at this time, less than half the price we pay for them here.
7.Sights: Everywhere you turn in Berlin, you’re more than likely going to see something beautiful and steeped in history. And I’m not just talking about the Berlin Wall. The Dome, National Art Museum, TV tower, Brandenburg Gate and the Reichstag are just a few on the long list of sights the city boasts. Along with the historical sights the city is also beautifully laid out with stunning buildings for every business and foundations and squares all over the landscape. A day spent strolling through Berlin is one you’ll definitely need your camera for.
8. Accommodation: Again, as students budgeting is of the utmost importance and the need of cheap, stable, relatively nice accommodation is one Berlin covers for you. We stayed in the ‘Heart of Gold Hostel’. We had a private twin room which was clean, warm and secure and at €35 euro a night you couldn’t go wrong! The staff were kind and helpful and the reception/bar area was always buzzing with craic but safe. It was also so central that it was a walk to most sights and beside an U-Bahn for the further out stops. I’d definitely recommend this hostel to anyone travelling to Berlin.