Memories of Munich

20th – 23rd July

Arriving:
The train from Berlin Hauptbahnhoff to Munich Hauptbahnhoff is direct and takes 6hrs 15mins.

Staying:
We stayed at a Wombats Hostel, which is a chain with hostels in various European cities. We stayed at three Wombats hostels in total and were very impressed with them. It cost us £27.03 per person per night in an 6 bed mixed dorm (which we thought was all female until Emily woke up to see a naked guy standing on the other side of the room). The hostel was near to the centre, just across the road from the main station.

It was a large room with three sets of bunk beds, a bench with seats and an ensuite bathroom. There were lockers which could be locked and unlocked with your key-card. There was no air con, but there were fans in the room. The view was just down onto the street, nothing special. Downstairs there was a large lounge area, a bar which served some basic food for dinner and a cheap breakfast.

Day 1:
When we arrived and ate some very basic pizza at the hostel – I wouldn’t recommend it for evening eating – there are plenty of lovely places to eat in Munich centre. We then went out for a walk into the centre, which wasn’t far down the road. Munich is a very nice city, with some lovely buildings such as the Cathedral and the Town Hall.

As it was Becky’s birthday we decided to head to a Biergarten and have a drink. I had a beer, Emily had a coke, Becky had shandy and Hayley had a Spezi (which is like fanta and pepsi mixed together – it’s really quite nice). The place we went to was called Augustiner Klosterwirt which served a tasty light beer. It was also right next to the cathedral and a lovely fountain – the Mushroom Fountain. We paddled in the fountain, soaking up the summer evening atmosphere and took lots of photos before heading back to the hostel to get some sleep.

Day 2:
We got up suitably late after a good sleep and went down for breakfast. Hayley used to live near Munich for two years and so had planned the next couple of days for us. We caught the train out to Starnberg, where Hayley used to live, where there is a lovely big lake that you can swim in. We planned to have a lazy time swimming in the lake and lounging on the grass next to it.

Tips for Munich:
– Go for at least three full days.
– Try to get out of the city – the surrounding countryside is amazing – especially Starnberg.
– Skinny dip! If you feel inclined it is one of the best places to do it, either at Starnberg or in the Englischer Garten.
– Try the beer! Even if you’re not a massive beer fan, at least have a shandy to get you in the Bavarian spirit.
– Wander round the city centre at night. It is so serene and lovely, especially by the mushroom fountain and in Marienplatz.

Briefly Berlin

18th-20th July

Arriving:
The train from Amsterdam Centraal to Berlin Hauptbahnhoff is direct and takes 6hrs 20mins.

Staying:
We stayed at a place called Generator Hostel (we stayed at Prenzlauer Berg instead of Mitte as it was much cheaper). It cost us £12.22 per person per night in an 8 bed mixed dorm. The hostel was well out of the centre, but as the rail system is so good in Berlin, it wasn’t a problem – especially as it is right next to Landsberger Allee station.

It was a basic room with simple bed frames. Under the bed were storage cages which you could lock your stuff into. The toilets and showers were along the corridor from the room and were also very basic. There wasn’t much of a view and at the time we stayed there, there was building work happening next door which was quite noisy. Downstairs there was a bar area with a large outdoor space, but no kitchen. There was a cafeteria area, but it closed quite early. Round the corner were a few fast food places, like Burger King.

Day 1:
When we arrived it was late and the hostel had stopped serving food, so we got Burger King, then went to the bar and had a few drinks, before it closed, again quite early.

Day 2:
We decided to do a free walking tour on the second day – which is a great way to see a city on a low budget! We met at the Brandenburg Gate. Our tour was with Sandeman’s new Europe Tours and our guide was a Mancunian called Rob Shaw, who kept making jokes about the UK. He was really knowledgeable and  enthusiastic and did an amazing job of getting us excited about Berlin.

He showed us the statue of Goethe in Tierpark, the Holocaust memorial, where Hitler’s bunker was, parts of the Berlin wall, checkpoint Charlie as well as some of the older history of Berlin – the musical, artistic, cultural and educational aspects, such as the opera house and Humboldt University (where Einstein taught). By Humboldt was a memorial to the books burnt by the Nazis called the Empty Library. We finished the tour by Berlin Cathedral, which looks very old, but was actually built in the nineteenth century.

After the wonderful tour, we found lunch by the cathedral – currywurst! It is a Berlin fast food favourite – Bratwurst with curry ketchup and chips – yum!

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We walked back through Alexander Platz where the TV tower stands, now a panorama point and restaurant. We then headed east to visit the east-side gallery – a wonderful collection of art on a very long section of still-standing Berlin wall. This was excellent, the highlight of the day, definitely worth the train ride to get there.

We went back to our hostel to change, then headed to the Reichstag building where we had booked in to climb the dome. We received an audio guide, but found it a little long-winded. The views from up there are spectacular – especially as we went when the sun was going down. This is definitely worth doing.

We then went out on a pub crawl, also organised by Sandemans. You got a wristband for entry into four bars plus the club Matrix with a free drink in each of the bars. It was fun, but a LOT of walking – wear sensible shoes if you attempt this! Personally I would recommend just going to Matrix, but don’t arrive too early – Berliner’s don’t like to go out until around midnight!

Day 3:
We got up very early and staggered to the train station to go to the Hauptbahnhoff. Some work was being done, so the trains were not running as normal and it was not obvious what was happening, this meant we missed the train we intended to get to Munich. We had to sit around, tired and hungover, waiting for the next train – so much for German transport efficiency!

Tips for Berlin:
– Go for at least three full days.
– See the East Side Gallery.
– Climb the dome of the Reichstag at sunset, the views are stunning.
– If you go clubbing anywhere in Europe, do it here – Matrix is a really good club.
– The history of Berlin is part of what makes the city what it is – acquaint yourself with Berlin’s past, walking tours are a great place to start!