Berlin Beach Bars and Balaclavas

I’m on the move again, bright and early this morning.  I’m catching the train to Brussels Airport for my flight to Berlin.  Brussels airport is incredible.  Check in is automated, there are cars on display, PS4 stations, bicycles where you can charge your phone by cycling, the staff are friendly and the food tastes good!  It’s huge and clean – I’ve never seen anything like it!

But I can’t hang around here all day, so I board the plane and am very soon arriving in Berlin.

I haven’t actually planned how I am going to get from the airport to my hotel – something I have never done in the past.  I’ve at least always researched all the options.  I guess travelling is starting to pay off.  Well, almost.  I reckon I’ll try getting a bus, but the instructions are not really that clear and I’m not 100% sure which of the suggested routes is the best for me.  In the end, I throw caution to the wind and just get on one as it turns up.  I’m hoping it will get me close enough to my hotel, that I’ll be able to grab a taxi the rest of the way.  As it winds through the streets I try to locate where I could be on the map in my lap, but have real trouble until the bus alert calls out ‘Tiergarten’.  Finally my eyes land on the word on my map and I know where I am.  I follow my eyes to the next stop, just to make sure I’m going in the right direction.  The bus alert calls out ‘next stop Hauptbanhof’.  OK, definitely going in the right direction.  Now my hotel appears to be in between two metro stations – the next and Friedrichstr.  I have no idea which one to get off at, but as we pull into Hauptbanhof, I get the feeling this is not the one, so I sit tight for the next stop.  I guess I have to get off here, because I don’t want to get further away from my hotel than necessary, so I hold my breath, hoist my bags onto my back and disembark with trepidation.  I get out my map to check the street names and wouldn’t you know it, the bus has stopped right around the corner from my hotel.  I kid you not.  Amazing!

Not only that, but when I arrive, my room is ready AND I’ve been upgraded!  No time to check it out now, except to note that it does have a bath (whoo hoo!), because I’m due at Alexanderplatz to join an Alternative Berlin free walking tour.

A typical three hour tour apparently looks like this:

  • Artist squats and multi cultural neighborhoods
  • Cultural icons including The Bethanien house & YAAM beach
  • One of Europe´s largest indoor skateparks & alternative entertainment facilities in a bombed out train depot
  • Urban art projects & autonomous initiatives
  • Abandoned sites, Urban farms, Street art, graffiti , mural art
  • Daytime raves, flea markets (summer) and bizarre shops
  • All the stories & legends of the neighbourhoods, nightlife tips, local recommendations and much much more…

It’s not really what you get (it sounds far more gritty than it actually is), but hey it’s free (plus your tip), it gave me a good introduction to parts of the city I otherwise wouldn’t have made it to and it was pretty interesting in any case.  What we did see was plenty of street art, including a fair bit in Mitte in the surrounds of the Anne Frank Museum,

a YAAM (Young African Art Market) beach bar, which had a cool Jamaican vibe, reggae playing in the background and a couple of little half naked babies playing in the sand.  It kind of feels like we are intruding on something, so I end up not taking too many photos here.  I do buy a beer though and sit with a couple of the girls on the walking tour to have a chat.  Next stop,

Osmin Kalin’s ‘Baumhaus an der Mauer’.   Osman, a Turkish immigrant, saw an unused piece of land which the former East Germany left when they had constructed the Berlin Wall.  It was avoided in an effort to keep the wall straight, and the land was generally then used as a bit of a tipping ground.  This was 1983 (while the wall was still erected) and Kalin decided to turn it into a garden, growing vegetables.  He then built a tree house out of scrap – Baumhaus an der Mauer translates to ‘treehouse on the wall’.

When the wall came down, the existence of Kalin’s treehouse was threatened, but locals got behind him and with their support they were able to save the tree house.

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And then around the corner, a bunch of, ah, balaclava’s!

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Unfortunately I can’t find any information on what the installation represents, as the gallery is closing and there’s not time on this tour, but it’s an interesting statement nonetheless.

We do also walk by some communes and a lot of derelict buildings and before long the tour is at an end.  We are directed to the nearest train station so we can find our own ways back to Alexanderplatz.

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