What to do for 36 hours in Berlin
First some background information
Transportation: The city has a public transportation system, subway and bus, which again I didn’t use. Because I only spent 36 hours in each city, I chose to spend money getting places quick and easy, instead of wasting my time getting lost on public transportation. Uber is also available. I heard that locals use the app, MyTaxi, more than Uber.
Full disclosure, I did not do Berlin right. I was so tired from all of the travel. It was rainy when my bus from Prague arrived at midnight. But mostly, I got off to a rough start when my Airbnb host did not show up! I messaged him weeks before my arrival, telling him my bus got in at midnight and I didn’t hear anything from him, which isn’t that odd. But when I arrived to his apartment around midnight he was not answering back via the app. I tried calling him and his phone was off. I hung out at the grocery store for a half hour waiting for him. I finally called Airbnb, after 20+ minutes they told me to go to a hotel and the would reimburse me up to $200. I had trouble finding one at first but I finally figured out that there was a small, old, beautiful hotel around the corner, Hotel Riehmers. Just a 4 minute walk. Miraculously, they had one room available. But only for one night. I spent a good portion of the next day finding another hotel to stay in. it was hard to find a room for less than $200 that wasn’t in a budget hotel. I finally found a room at the Crowne Plaza – Postdamer Platz. It was nice, geared towards business folk, and in a quiet neighborhood.
With all of that, I was extra tired and not the most adventurous I’ve ever been. The first morning, I rented a bike using the app, Donkey Republic. It wasn’t like bike rentals here in Cleveland or I’ve seen around the US. One reason I never think to use those services while traveling is not being able to lock it, if I wanted to stop in a coffee shop or go to a museum. But the Donkey Republic App allows you to lock, unlock your bike using the app. IT IS SO COOL! You rent in 24 hour periods, for 10 euros, and you’re able to lock and unlock as much as you want. Unlike the rentals here, the bikes were not stored in a few stations in groups of 10 or 20. It seemed like there were one or two bikes on every other block, locked on a normal bike rack open to the public. You can rent it from anywhere and return it anywhere.
I got the idea to bike around because I saw hundreds of bikers in the first few hours I was there. So many bikers in Berlin. It’s a huge part of the culture, which makes sense because I saw that in the Flemish part of Belgium and Amsterdam, of course. Bike lanes are everywhere. Half the lanes are up on the sidewalk, or a lane adjacent to the sidewalk, which made it a lot safer and easier. Biking around was a fun way to see the city.
That night I went to a bar, Café Luzia, when I finally got my shit together at 2:30am. The bar is small and quiet. Lowkey and not fancy at all. The bartender was from India and it seemed like he knew everyone there, but I found out he didn’t that was just his style. After an hour or two, I felt like I was a regular of his. There were roughly a half dozen of us at the bar, mostly strangers to each other. No one was German but everyone ws staying for extended or undetermined amount of time. One guy from Boston had been in Berlin for about a month. There was another American, who had an EU passport and had bene living in Berlin three of four years. The other folks I met were from other countries in Europe. We easily all became friends.
When the bar closed at 5:00am, one of my new friends took me and the Boston guy to a bar he promised was still open. It was Tuesday and I did not believe that a bar would be open much later than 5:00am. He took us to a small, but packed, bar. It seemed like it was a gay bar, at least unofficialy. The whole bar defied the gender binary. It was beautiful. I met women who identified as butch, with short haircuts and wearing men’s clothing. I met men with blue eyeshadow, on their eyelids and eyebrows (I loved this look). Almost everyone at the bar presented themselves in a way that told me they did not identify with our society’s gender norms and identities. Most people weren’t from Berlin or even Germany. I got the feeling that they all chose Berlin as their home for this very reason. We sat around a table, drinking and smoking cigarettes. Someone asked if I wanted to move to Berlin now. I told him that I loved Berlin but no, I wasn’t going to move here; I did not think I was cool enough to live in Berlin. While everyone had been really nice to me, they all seemed so cool. I was wearing my Patagonia vest with my hair in a ponytail. I felt boring compared to this interesting, smart, diverse group of folks. But everyone chimed in, telling me, “Nooooo, no, no. Everyone’s cool enough for Berlin. Berlin is for everyone!”
I was told some bars are open until 11:00am in Berlin. I left around 8:00 or 9:00am and the bar was still packed.
Berlin is wild. It’s beautiful, not in architecture or aesthetic like Budapest or Lisbon, but in its people and personality.