Berlin: An art fueled haven

Our first full day in Berlin consisted of an adventure into the unknown. After reading a little bit about the abandoned NSA Field Station of Teufelsberg on Abandoned Berlin, we decided to give it a visit. We didn’t really know what we were getting ourselves into other than the fact that it was a former Cold War spy/listening station, now turned into a Graffiti/Street Art haven in the middle of the forest.

After a 20 minute journey on the train from Alexanderplatz (where we were staying in the One80º hostel – not one that I would particularly recommend) to Grunewald, we commenced on our 40 minute walk through the forest. It wasn’t what I expected at all. As this place is on the tourist trail (albeit however small that may or may not be), I was expecting there to be signs of some sort pointing you in the right direction. This was not the case AT ALL. There was nothing. Thankfully, I had been thoughtful enough to download an offline map of the forest onto the Google Maps app on my phone, and that managed to point us roughly in the right direction with its compass. Without this god-send, I fear that we may never have found that place and certainly not as quickly we did. I seriously, SERIOUSLY recommend you do this if you plan on going on your own instead of a guided tour. The walk was a little bit traumatic, not sure if there were easier pathways you could take that we didn’t see, but my app pointed us in the direction where there were no paths, and obviously as its located on a ‘mountain’, the entire walk was uphill. Come prepared to walk. Despite this, the walk was nice and quiet and there were quite a few picturesque views along the way.

Eventually we came across the site, and after following the metal fence along we came across the entry, paid our small fee and we were in. It was so much larger than I expected, and so much cooler than I ever imagined! It was so quiet too, barely anyone was around – maybe 4 people maximum. This was place was crazy cool, eccentricity hit you from every angle. We spent ages looking around, going in the different buildings at the ground floor, taking in the walls covered in the street art, making our way up the domes, eventually reaching the very top and seeing the sights of Berlin.

We even went right to the top of the highest dome and were enclosed in complete darkness. It was probably one of the most dangerous places I have ever been, although the buildings seem pretty sturdy, there’s no railings along the gaps in the wall providing a pretty big space in which you could fall out of. Despite that, it was without a doubt one of the coolest, edgiest places I have ever been.There seem to be a little bit of a community that lived there too (when I say that, I only really saw 2 people), one man was in his tree house and had his own kitchen set up outside and everything. It was just a really cool place, the sort of place you just want to sit in and hang out for ages absorbing everything around you. But, eventually time came when we decided to make our way back to civilisation as we were getting pretty hungry and there was nowhere to pick food up in the middle of the forest.

Thankfully we made it back to the hostel alive and well, and had a whole evening to fill. We decided to be brave. We decided to partake on another pub crawl. With the memory of the last one so recent in our minds, we decided to ignore it and do it all over again because why not? This time, we decided to add a little edge and went on the 666 Anti-Pub Crawl (quite fitting really) – the Alternative Pub Crawl. It was so good. Putting aside the tour guide that was a splitting image of a movie star who I momentarily fell in love, the pub crawl was fun and actually very successful this time. We made it through all five pubs (some of which included a ping pong bar, an absinth bar and a reggae club). There we were, drinking (a little bit more sensibly this time after learning our lesson), socialising, joking around. We finally found out what a pub crawl was meant to be like. A true success for us was arriving back at our hostel at 5.30 am, instead of 10pm in the last one. What a difference!

Surviving on only 5 hours sleep, we were pretty drained. It took awhile to forced ourselves out of bed. We had tickets to the Berlin Biennale, so went around the town hitting up different art museums and seeing what was what. Most of it was strange, but very interesting as art tends to be. After going in a few, going back and forth on public transport, melting in the heat (it was about 30 degrees Celsius), we decided to just see some sights such as the Brandenburg Gate, the Memorial to the murdered Jews in the holocaust and others I couldn’t name as we just came across randomly on our journey. The memorial was quite something to see, just rows and rows of concrete blocks varying in heights. It was very interesting to see. The rest of the day went by idly, and we didn’t do anything in the evening except go out for dinner in Hascher Markt. Lazy buggers. On a side note, not sure if it’s just us but there seems to be barely anywhere to eat in Alexanderplatz? Where are all the restaurants hiding??

Getting into the spirit of Berlin, we decided to partake in a Street Art Workshop today with Alternative Berlin Tours. I’ve never done anything like this before, never even thought about doing anything like this either but I’m so glad I did. The workshop took about 5 hours to do, the first half consisted of walking around the town with our tour guide (who was a street artist himself), he showed us various pieces of Berlin’s most famous street art, explaining the stories behind them, and how they were created. It’s all illegal, except for the stuff that gets commissioned of course, so it was interesting to hear how they get around that and complete their massive murals without being caught. It was fascinating, I never really took into account of how dangerous it was too (apart from the element of being arrested), but so many of them risk their lives everyday whether they’re creating a piece by dangling off of a building, or running over train tracks that could electrocute them and what not. I always respected the really artistic ones before and had an awe for them but this just opened my eyes to all of it, even the ones that just look like ‘scribbles’ of graffiti – they all have their own meaning. For example there was just this word graffitied on the wall, and to anyone who doesn’t know about graffiti or street art it just looks like some pointless word scrawled out on the wall that anyone could have done, however it was really the tag of this massive street artist and it’s just unknown to everyone who isn’t in the community or has that knowledge. I find it amazing. Following that, we all went back to his studio/warehouse which looked just like an abandoned factory covered in art. We were shown how to create our own stencils, which we then completed and given the opportunity to spray paint it on our own canvas (after being shown different techniques and how to use them). It was so much fun, I got so inspired. I can see why people fall in love with it. Our tour guide even complimented my piece. I think I might just pack everything in and become a street artist. That would be a dream.

After our workshop, we ended up checking out the East Side Gallery on the Berlin Wall which was simply amazing, every piece was so phenomenal. I wish the streets in the London were covered in street art, of course some are but it’s not like Berlin where everywhere you look there’s something remarkable lurking… It’s just on a different scale.

In the evening we went back to Hascher Markt for dinner, then decided to partake in another pub crawl, but this time “Europe’s most famous pub crawl” – The Original Berlin Pub Crawl. It was crazy, there were so many people. They were so rowdy, and so annoying. Compared to our one the other night where there were bout 20 people maximum, who were all being respectful on the streets and talking at a normal level on public transport, this one was just the polar opposite. There were probably around 50-100 people, all shouting and singing along the streets, on the trains just disturbing every single person around who were going about their daily lives. I didn’t really rate it to be honest. I feel like the other pub crawls we’ve been on so far had better vibes and took us to decent, good value places but this one just took us to standard, expensive places. We made the best of it though, made it to the last pub so can tick off another successful pub crawl in that aspect!

With another night of minimum sleep, I woke up feeling tired. And it was just the day of bad things happening in our bad hostel, which just added to the bad mood. But today was leaving day, I’m happy to leave this hostel but pretty sad to be leaving Berlin. It’s the kind of place I can envisage staying, living in even. I loved it. It has definitely been one of my favourite places this trip, just the whole culture and the vibes are stunning. But Hamburg was our next destination of choice, so there we headed!

9 cities down, 2 more to go.

Previous stop: Prague, Czech Republic

Next stop: Hamburg, Germany

Top tips for Berlin:

  • Biggest Recommendation: Go to the NSA Field Station of Teufelsberg
  • Go on a Street Art Workshop
  • Download offline maps on the Google Map app
  • Go on the 666 Anti-Pub Crawl (if you’re into drinking)
  • Sight-see as much as you can
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