By Brianna 07/August/16 Germany
Guten tag amigos! Another blog post, another couple of countries under our belt, starting with Berlin. That's right, we went from Paris to Berlin, just like the song. Only unlike the song, we did not stop off at any discos. Instead, we took a 16 hour bus via Belgium. Yeah, we know how to live.
Our long slog on the 'peasant wagon', as Cheddar so fondly refers to the bus, wasn't nearly half as bad as we anticipated and we arrived in Germany ready to get to know another city. Post coffee stop in a cheery cafe, we fumbled hopelessly around the suburbs looking for our AirBnB (note to self: always ask for house numbers, stop attempting to find accommodation without them). Eventually, we got to dump our ridiculously sized bags and head out in search of the most stereotypically German food we could think of; bratwurst. And it did not disappoint. A bit of googling sent us in the direction of Curry36, a fast-food street-food crossover famous for its currywurst; bratwurst lathered in tomatoey curry powdery goodness. It was exactly what we needed. Being in Germany, we thought it'd be rude not to wash our dinner down with some local beers and we did so gladly, taking in our chilled surroundings. The Reichstag building (German houses of Parliament) looked particularly stunning that evening and inspired us to reserve some free tickets for later on in our visit.
The day that followed marked a monumentous occasion - our first attempt at camping. Cheddar was definitely not keen on this idea so we bribed him with his choice of breakfast to soften the blow. The food got our camping cogs whirring and with full stomachs we checked into 'City Camping', a campsite sufficiently far enough away from the centre to get a feel for camping life, but close enough to civilisation that we had an escape plan if everything went wrong. The tent went up surprisingly well and we were pretty proud of our efforts. For about a minute. And then it poured down. We were drenched before we could even attempt to take shelter, too wet even to retrieve our belongings from the inside of the tent. There was no alternative but to take refuge in the reception area until it passed and a good few hours later we were relieved to find out that our plucky little tent had stood up to the elements better than we could have hoped.
A day off sight seeing meant that we were rearing to jump back on the tourist bandwagon the next morning, starting our new walking tour at Check-point Charlie, the old gateway between East and West Germany. Throughout the day we saw and learnt a lot, from the Brandenburg gate to the holocaust memorial. Although we were under no illusions of Berlin's troubled and harrowing past, it was still a sobering reminder of how recently the city had been through trauma. We'd been really excited all day to get to see inside the Reichstag, especially after realising how popular it was as a tourist attraction. Unfortunately, a combination of bad timing and security meant that we didn't really get to see much. There was no entry inside the building at all and the iconic beehive dome was shut for cleaning. We basically just got a lift to the roof. A birds eye view of Berlin could never be a bad thing, of course, but it wasn't exactly what we were expecting.
Berlin had been friendly, fun and fascinating, but it was time to keep moving on east. Or maybe not. Despite Chedder's nagging, we had a very leisurely morning, which still left us a whole two hours to get to the bus station. You'd think that'd be plenty of time to get from one side of Berlin to the other. Not today. Today buses, Subways and Ubahns all seemed to be conspiring against us and after three days of being nothing but complimentary of the German transport system we were cursing it for all it was worth. There was a lot of tension, blind panic and frantic running with limbs and backpacks akimbo, but we made it just as the last person had put their bags in the luggage compartment. We rewarded our exhausted selves by listening to the bus' eclectic mix of music, including a bit of Gareth Gates and Chinese Adele, as we battled the traffic into the Czech Republic and onto the capital.
Naturally, we went in search of food the second we stepped off the bus. In our minds, Prague had always been more of a stepping stone than a place we really wanted to immerse ourselves in. We'd been put off a bit by the stag/hen 'Brits Abroad' reputation the city had unfairly been lumbered with back home. We were proven wrong just 100m outside the bus station in Pivovarsky Klub. A bar that boasted the largest collection of beer in the Czech Republic seemed fun, but a bit rowdy, sticky and crowded. Not the place to pitch up to with mammoth backpacks. Pivovarsky Klub indeed turned out to be fun, but nothing like how we imagined. We parked ourselves down on a table perched on a pillar of kegs and marvelled at the wallpaper of empty bottles from all over the country. Alex had his eye on a pint of Weiss (wheat) beer and got in the first round. Over the course of two visits (yep, two visits in less than 24 hrs), we sampled all four Czech beers on draft: a standard lager, a sweet honey-tasting one, an unfiltered beer, and, of course, Alex's favourite, the illusive wheat, each contained in their own unique design of pint glass. We accompanied our drinks with some amazing sauerkraut pancakes and mashed potatoes to prepare for our night in a 16 bed dorm room. We weren't sure what to expect from a hostel in Prague, but within moments of entering we realised the place had great energy; all the hostel nostalgia from previous adventures flooded back and we regretted only having one night booked. We'd missed hostel way of life. However, this feeling subsided slightly when 12 smashed men (one bleached pink and wearing a tutu) rocked up just as we were leaving the next day.
We had a small window before our next bus to wander around the centre of town. Prague was incredibly pretty, with ornate, brightly coloured buildings and quaint, higgledy-piggledy cobbled streets. It was also incredibly touristy, much more so than Paris or Berlin, most likely due to the compact locations of all the tourist attractions. Even by detouring a few streets away from the crowds you could sense that the city was starting to be reclaimed by local people (and local prices). At 12 o'clock, the masses converged around the famous clock and we happily joined in, enjoying the bells pulled by puppet-esque figurines and the trumpet sounding over the tower. We just had time to navigate our way through the caricaturists on the Charles Bridge, soaking up the scenes of rolling hills and (randomly) a triathlon, before we had to journey back to the bus station. But not without another trip to our new favourite eatery. We dined on sauerkruat soup, goulash and more pancakes (omg the pancakes), and washed it down with a few more pints - the perfect way to finish up our Czech experience. It'd been a brief stay but we'd enjoyed every minute of it.
Berlin, Prague, it's been an absolute pleasure and we hope to come back some day. But for now, the only way is East!