I’m going to try the concept of a travel diary. Let’s see if it resonates with people out there.
I had booked a midday flight to Berlin, thinking that a later flight would award me with plenty of time to drink my morning coffee and get to the airport. At first I thought I would take public transport but when I realized it takes 1,5 hours from my house versus the 30 minute ride by car, you can guess which option I chose. Alas, my thoughts of a relaxed morning were everything but, as I suddenly noticed that I had failed to finish my packing in the evening and had to rush around finding my travel essentials. Driving off, I suddenly remembered my passport sitting in a drawer at home and had to turn around to get it. I must admit, I was too chicken to attempt to travel without it. This caused me almost to miss bag-drop and in the end I had to run to make it!! Phew, what a (flying) start.
The flight was fairly quick, as it was just under two hours. I started listening to The Grace Year by Kim Liggett which turned out to be excellent. Definitely for fans of The Hunger Games and The Handmaid’s Tale.
Arriving at the airport in Berlin, I was dismayed to have to wait for my luggage for ages and ages. The Berlin Tegel Airport is definitely outdated even though it’s the city’s main international airport. So if you’re going there, don’t expect much. Once I finally got my bag, I decided to order a ride from the “Free NOW” app which one of my colleagues had recommended. The price to get from Tegel to Kreuzberg was five (!!!) euros plus tips, so I decided it would be the most hassle-free option. Finding the driver did turn out to be a challenge, as the app told me to go to the center of the roundabout in the middle of the airport when in fact the driver was expecting me to be standing at one of the numbered doorways.
There was some afternoon traffic but nevertheless, the ride was quick. Although the driver most certainly did not feel that way, as he was huffing and puffing in frustration the whole time. Does that make anyone but me feel nervous?
Pulling up to a homey Kreuzberg street, I immediately spotted my friend Päivi waving at me excitedly. The last time we met was four years ago when I visited her in Cambridge! We’ve been friends since high school, so needless to say, we easily picked up where we left last time. ❤
I was ravenously hungry and insisted we go to eat straight away after dropping my bags at the apartment. Lucky for me Kreuzberg is full of fun restaurants to choose from. We picked one at random, drawn in by their cute Fall decorations. It turned out to be Middle Eastern fair and really delicious – Knofi. Unfortunately, you could only pay in cash. This has turned out to be my pet peeve in Berlin, as I never use cash back home and don’t like to carry any around. In Finland you don’t need cash for anything!
After lunch, Päivi had to take a conference call and I decided to explore the area by myself. First, I went to get some ice cream from vanille & marille. Those of you who know me, know that I’m quite the ice cream enthusiast. How terribly convenient to have this kiosk right by our apartment! Btw, this was one of the few places that allowed payment by card.
Looking at the map, I decided I wanted to stroll to the nearby Viktoria Park. It turned out to be quite the tourist attraction, as there was a beautiful waterfall and a war memorial from 1821 worth seeing. I even saw some goats which felt so extremely random! There was another even stranger sighting as I was leaving the park. I noticed some curious onlookers, and when turning to have a look myself, I spotted a man passionately kissing one of the lady statues!!! Hmm…
I walked past our lunch restaurant again and made my way to the Marheineke Market Hall. Next time I might want to pick something to eat from there but at the time, I was simply too full. It’s a pity I didn’t continue my walk onwards from there, as there would have been an old cemetery nearby where I could have continued my walk. Well, there’s always a next time for Berlin!
Getting back to the apartment, Päivi was finishing up her conference call and I started looking up what we could do in the evening. I found out that it was the Festival of Lights! We agreed that we’d go catch some of the installations but first – KaDeWe, coffee and cake! In case you’re wondering, KaDeWe is like the Harrods of Berlin.
After a bout of shopping, we navigated to the Brandenburg Gate. The installations were amazing and we walked quite a bit to catch several of them. After a few hours navigating the crowd, we decided it was time for a nightcap and something small to eat, which we found at an Italian restaurant near our apartment. We had to admit to feeling quite old, as after a glass a wine, we were ready to call it a day!
Have you ever experienced the Festival of Lights in Berlin? There’s a similar festival in Helsinki in the beginning of January called Lux Helsinki. I have written about it here. It is quite a different experience as it tends to be extremely cold that time of year!