berlin, germany

Whenever I travel, I make a promise to myself that I will write, I will keep track, I will remember. But as soon as I step foot off the plane I totally lose myself in wanderlust and just want to enjoy every moment as they come.

Four days in Berlin, and no idea where to start. Since we flew into Berlin Tegal Airport (TXL), and it's a bit outside of the center of town, we took the S-Bahn train to Friedrichstraße Station and walked to our hostel from there. This moment is what sparked my love affair with train stations. Prior to this, I can't ever remember being on a train, aside from the one that loops around Disneyland, but definitely not as a form of transportation. These real, giant, train stations, with arched glass ceilings and never-ending platforms, seemed like a dream.

We stayed at the Baxpax Downtown Hostel, chosen due to it's proximity to the only few landmarks I knew I wanted to see, and it's location in Mitte - a friends recommendation as the best burrough to stay in. We spent our first day, on foot, walking down the canal, to Museuminsel or Museum Island (a unique ensemble of five museums) including the Pergamon Museum - built in the small island in Berlin's Spree River. We stumbled upon the first of 3 remaining pieces of the Berlin wall, this one near a large cemetery/rose garden and with a large plot of grass where we enjoyed our lunch. Next, we followed the largest landmark we could see, the Fernsehturm or Berlin TV Tower, which led us straight into Alexanderplatz for a much needed beer and schnitzel.

Now, we have arrived. We're feeling settled and almost like locals. The Fernsehturm, constructed between 1965 and 1969, was intended as a symbol of Berlin and remains so today, since it's easily visible throughout the central and suburban districts of Berlin. It's also extremely helpful when you get lost, aim for the tower and you'll be sure to find some blue or pink pipes to lead you back home.

It didn't take us long to find out that the best way to see a city was by free walking tour, so the next day we did the same loop over again, without guessing the names of all the sites along the way. Another great asset to finding your way around, are the paper maps provided by the hostels. In almost every city I found these to be so helpful, so colorful and well designed. We walked through Brandenburg Gate, past the Berliner Dome and even saw the 2nd, and longest remaining portion of the Berlin wall, Sachsenhausen Concentration Camp Memorial. What an emotional and moving experience. Although it started raining we still made it to the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier and Reichstag Parliament building before finishing at the Memorial to the Murdered Jews of Europe.

What an incredible city, full of life and full of history.