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My sixth-month placement in Stuttgart may have ended, but I wasn’t about to head directly back to England. Instead, I set off on a two-week trip Interrailing around Europe with my girlfriend. Starting from Stuttgart and travelling north, it was a fairly elongated way home but something which I couldn’t wait for.
The first of five travel days took us from Stuttgart to the German capital, Berlin. We left at 8:50 on a very chilly Thursday morning, ready for our six-hour journey. The main concern once we were on the train was finding the space for luggage onboard. Does it get more exciting than this, I hear you ask? Of course, but we did have a fair bit of luggage. Luckily, we fretted for nothing. As it turns out, German trains are pretty spacious. This was appreciated for such a long journey.
We arrived in Berlin station in the mid-afternoon, the tiredness from the train cabin temporarily subsided as we headed across the huge central station to the S Bahn platforms. A nice empty train is what we were hoping for, this was incredibly optimistic given our location but we hoped nevertheless. Luck was on our side and we were at our stop in no time. The ten-minute walk to the hotel, however, wasn’t quite as straightforward. Pulling three cases and two backpacks between us, the walk felt much longer. I can tell you, the paths of central Berlin are not suitcase friendly.
We reached the hotel and it was a relief to drop the bags off and freshen up, it was easy to see that the days of travel weren’t going to be too enjoyable. However, this was only one day in two/three so it was bearable. The manoeuvring of luggage felt like a minor task when we made a nighttime venture to the Brandenburg Gate. A statement of neoclassical 18th-century architecture, it stands proudly in the west of the city centre. In the daytime, it’s impressive; at night it is something else entirely.
Alarms were set for nice and early for our first full day and after grabbing breakfast in a cool, out of the way brunch place it was down to the U Bahn for the first of many train journeys. Berlin’s vast public transport network isn’t expensive at all. A day pass can be purchased for 7.70 Euros which can get you to pretty much anywhere in the city. It is a very handy ticket for those like us visiting for an intense two-day period.
Our first destination was to Potsdamer Platz, a bubbling epicentre within Berlin. Within walking distance was Checkpoint Charlie, a symbol of the years Germany spent as a divided nation. It may be small in size, but the gatehouse has a significance which will be recognized for many years to come. A perhaps even more prominent symbol of Germany’s past is located metres away, remnants of the Berlin Wall make for a fascinating exploration. The fact that families and friends were torn apart within the same city is an incredible thought and something which must be remembered. Hence a visit to the wall and Checkpoint Charlie is a must.
The afternoon consisted of a walk back over to an area close to our hotel. Hackescher Market S Bahn station is just a few minutes walk from Berlin's famous ‘Museum Island’. As well as various museums, the island is home to the breathtaking cathedral. We were lucky enough to have headed up onto the rooftop walk just in time for sunset, this sight was probably the only aspect of the cathedral which could beat a look around its historical aisles and alter. The building is a real statement of Germanys post-war and post-division resilience as well as being a not so gentle reminder of its current economic power in Europe.
Day two in Berlin took us back to Museum Island and to the Neues Museum. Student entry is fairly reasonable at six Euros, after seeing the exhibition you’ll feel that paying more would not be unreasonable. There is a vast ancient Egyptian collection which contains an astounding bust of Nefertiti which has its very own room, fitting to someone who had enormous power in her prime. It took over five hours to explore the three floors which also covered European history throughout the Stone and Iron Ages. You need all this time and probably more, if you want to check out more museums then you can pick up a three day pass for 29 Euros and half price for those students out there.
A late evening walk to the Reichstag to see the German parliament illuminated brought to an end the stay in our first Interrail stop. The glass dome dominates the building and it’s actually pretty intimidating when approached in the night time.
Berlin is undoubtedly one of my favorite cities and it was a pleasure to return to the German capital. An early, six-hour train to Amsterdam was on the agenda for the following day and it was time to say Auf Wiedersehen to Germany after the best part of half a year.