Growing up, my dad always told me he wasn't made of money, and sadly, I seem to have received that gene (I have a feeling it's dominant). Fortunately, I have discovered Ryanair's "fare finder tool," which allows you to plug in your dates and find the cheapest place available to fly to. Sure, I could just not go places — that doesn't cost any money – but what's the fun in that?
Luckily, I had been dying to go to Berlin ever since I saw Bree from designlovefest write about it, and $40 round-trip plane tickets, a wealth of history my husband, Tyler, would not shut up about, and a 10-day vacation sealed the deal for us to finally go. We spent the first part of Tyler's break from work in Bavaria for Oktoberfest, and decided to close it off with 3 nights in Berlin. Luckily, we love orderly lines and efficiency as much as we love beer and doner kebab.
I'm not going to lie, Berlin wasn't my favorite city, but it was very hip and so, so cheap. I don't think we spent more than 30€ on a dinner for the two of us the entire time we were there, and we ate really, really well. If you like food, you'll get your fill; if you like history, there's plenty of it for you in Berlin, between WWII and the Cold War; and if you like art, it's literally all around you.
The city does have a kind of grunge-y vibe. Some people dig that — and though I love street art and run-down things, it was much different than the types I'm used to in Italy or or eclectic parts of my hometown, Kansas City. But the story behind the grunge — like the fact that the city's only been reunified for 25 years — is fascinating. The Cold War leaves footprints all around the city in unexpected places like brand new contemporary architecture in Potsdam Plaza, or the bohemian feel of Kreuzberg, which was once surrounded by the Berlin Wall on three sides.
For us, Berlin was the perfect marriage of history and hipster for our marriage. I got to eat obnoxious fusion foods, shop and look at murals while Tyler went on about Checkpoint Charlie and debated whether or not the Cold War was a real war (feel free to share your thoughts on this matter).
THINGS WE DID:
- Went back in time with Underground Berlin: You do crazy things for love sometimes, and if you're married to my husband, that means learning things on your vacation. Luckily, it makes me a more well-rounded and intelligent person, and sometimes you're lucky enough to find a really cool way to learn things. I was recommended the Underground Berlin tours by another friend of mine who loves history (seriously, I have too many of those) and we had the hardest time picking out which tour to do — they all sounded fascinating. The organization has 5 tours that explore Berlin from the underground from the many eras of the city's history, such as a look at the "bomb-proof" bunkers protecting citizens from two very different wars or looking at how one may have tunneled under the Berlin Wall. We chose the Cold War bunker tour, because we spent a lot of our trip learning about the Cold War, and got to tour an actual bunker underneath the city to see how the city was prepared for a nuclear attack (spoiler alert: it wasn't). Though the Cold War tour may leave you a bit depressed (it's just not an upbeat part of history), it's definitely a unique way to see the city and definitely not something you can do in any other city.
- Ate a stellar American breakfast at CABSlam: Don't get me wrong — food in Italy is amazing. It's local, it's fresh, and it's paired with wine. But we really miss some diversity with our food, and though I love a good croissant and espresso in the morning, no breakfast on earth beats a hearty American breakfast. There were a few different places in Berlin that supposedly did an American breakfast, but I'm so happy we went with CABSlam — it was hipster enough for me, and hearty enough for Tyler. I got a fried goat cheese sandwich with fig jam, eggs and bacon on a fresh biscuit with home fries, and Tyler got the chorizo and eggs. They even had biscuits and gravy on the menu. Go if you want American breakfast — go if you just want a damn good breakfast. Innstraße 47, 12045 Berlin
- Explored a marriage of art + history at the East Side Gallery: Berlin has some beautiful street art (and, okay, some not-so beautiful street art, aka graffiti). I like to think that it is all an homage to the street art on the Berlin Wall, some of which you can now see at the East Side Gallery. The gallery is an open-air museum of sorts that features leftover pieces from the Berlin wall adorned with murals. Some of the murals were painted while the wall was up, and then repainted when the gallery was moved. Unfortunately, many of the pieces have been covered in tags and graffiti, which is sort of disappointing, but if you think about it, that's kind of the way of street art in the first place. It's a great place for a stroll, and definitely a great way to spend your afternoon without spending money.
MORE THINGS WE DID:
- Spent street food night at Markthalle Neun: I read about this place on designlovefest and was super excited for some street food. Every Thursday is street food night, but they also have some other great weekly markets, like a breakfast market on Sundays. Though it was super crowded for the street food night (my husband got a little grumpy at first), we squeezed our way through in search of amazing food, and were not disappointed. I about fell out over the kässpatzen at the Heisser Hobel truck — which is so good, it's all they make. It's basically Bavarian mac & cheese, with fried onions, chives and fresh pepper on top. I got some, and then my husband thought it was so good, he did, too. He also sucked down some chicken laksa and san choy bau at the Laksa truck, which specializes in Malaysian street food. We finished the night off with Princess Cheesecake's signature dessert and left full and happy. Eisenbahnstrasse 42/43 10997 Berlin
- Went craft crazy at Modular: Y'all know we're craft lovers at Freckle & Fair, but sadly, my medium-sized city has a sad collection of DIY stores — which is why I dragged my husband to the gargantuan craft store that is Modular in Berlin. Seriously, this thing is two floors of supplies and literally swallows 4 other stories inside it. I don't think there's a thing that you could dream of making that you wouldn't be able to find there (3D printing included), and it was even amazing enough to keep my husband entertained while I rifled through paper samples. Prinzenstr. 85 10969 Berlin
- Went Cold War crazy at the DDR Museum: Because I am a product of the American public education system, my knowledge of the Cold War is non-existant at best — I basically learned while we were in Berlin that the wall fell the year before I was born, and what that meant. Luckily, the DDR Museum is interactive and interesting, and will teach you all about what it was like to be a citizen of communist eastern Germany in the mid-century. Tyler and I got a kick out of testing out the POS communist car, the Trabi, sitting in a standard DDR living room (that you could secretly spy on from another room) and flipping through plenty of communism propaganda. The museum is thought-provoking withing being dry, and makes a point without being pushy. Definitely a good stop for people interested in Cold War-era Berlin. Karl-Liebknecht-Str. 1 10178 Berlin
- Downed some doner kebab: When I asked my friends on Facebook about what to do in Berlin, almost everyone said "eat kebab." Though this isn't a revolutionary idea, it's definitely not one to dismiss. I don't even think there's a kebab place to recommend — just eat it somewhere, preferrably somewhere weird and late at night and after a few too many beers. Get some fries with curry ketchup on the side. You won't be disappointed.
Photos and text © Katie Currid, 2015. All rights reserved.