Tag Archives: Berlin

Ten Things to do in Berlin, Germany

For under €10!

You’re going to Berlin? That’s fantastic! Berlin is definitely one of the coolest capital cities in Europe. It’s also kind of like another world. Anything goes in Berlin and you can be anyone you want. There is so much to do in Berlin, I had trouble keeping the list down to just ten. Use this as your Berlin travel guide, here are ten things to do!

1) Free walking tour. Duh!

Berlin Travel Guide - Walking tour

I am not sick of writing it, I am not sick of doing it, free walking tours are the best things to do in Berlin and in any city! SANDEMAN’s New Europe free walking tours are some of the best free walking tours I have ever done (and I proudly say this with no compensation from the company). The tour guides are so well informed about the history of the city, and so clearly love this place, it is hard not to fall in love yourself. They work on tips, so you decide how much the tour was worth at the end.

Cost: €5-€10, but you tip whatever you feel!

 

2) Have a photoshoot by the East Side Gallery

Berlin Travel Guide - Eastside Gallery

When the Berlin wall came down in 1989, a lot of the wall was removed, but there are still a few places where the wall still stands. The East Side Gallery is a part of the wall that has become a huge gallery for street art. Each piece tells a story. Some are funny and use bright colours, others are more solemn and serious. Every piece is beautiful, and is really one of the most Instagrammable places in Berlin.

Cost: Free!

 

3) The Memorial to the Murdered Jews of Europe

Berlin Travel Guide - Memorial

As far as memorials go, this has to be one of the most incredible. Spanning an entire city block, the Memorial to the Murdered Jews of Europe in an immersive monument which encourages people to walk through it. The stones are different heights, the ground is uneven, and as you walk into the middle, the sounds of the city disappear. All of a sudden, you’re alone and it’s silent. It’s beautiful and solemn. It is a place of contemplation and warning. As an added bonus, check out the museum underneath and do the audio guided tour. It’s beautifully done.

Cost: Free! (The audioguide in the museum does cost a few euros)

 

4) Go to Teufelsberg for a picnic

Berlin Travel Guide - Teufelsberg

You may not find this in any other Berlin travel guide….. In the middle of Grünewald Forest, is a man-made hill called Teufelsberg, created from rubble and debris moved from Berlin after World War II. The Americans used the Radomes -weatherproof enclosures that protects a radar antenna –  atop the hill as listening stations during the Cold War. When the Berlin wall fell, the equipment was removed, but the Radomes and buildings remained. It’s now what I believe is a squatter’s paradise, and is open to the public! Read the full story about my day at Teufelsberg here!

Cost: €8 to enter and to wander about.

 

5) Mauerpark on a Sunday afternoon

Berlin Travel Guide - Bearpit Karaoke

If it’s a sunny day and a Sunday, Mauerpark is the perfect place to go. The flea market sells everything from jewellery to vintage clothes, antique furniture to beautiful art. Around every corner is someone playing music. We saw a group playing funky brass music, we found an African drum circle, a moody solo autoharp player, and even a DJ with a set up out of his van. Starting around 3pm, in the Bearpit, a huge amphitheatre, a man named Joe hosts Bearpit Karaoke! Here, people have the chance to volunteer to sing their fave song in front of the crowd. Read a story about when I did Bearpit Karaoke here!

Cost: €2-€5. Joe works by donation!

 

6) Check out a techno club!

Berlin Travel Guide - Berghain
A sticker is placed on every phone camera before entering Berghain. So this is the only photo I have from inside the club

Berlin is known for its clubbing and techno scene where the party doesn’t stop until Monday morning…and even then. If you’re looking for something to do on a Friday or Saturday night, head out on the town and prepare yourself for a wild night. Berlin is also home to one of the most exclusive clubs in the world, Berghain. Exclusive because not everyone gets in, and nobody knows why! Read a story about how Michael and I got into Berghain here!

Cost: It depends on the club and their cost of cover… Hopefully it’s under €10

 

7) Eat a Döner kebab.

Berlin Travel Guide - Döner kebab

You’ve heard “go to Berlin, eat a currywurst!” and yes, sure, eat a currywurst in Berlin. It’s really just a hot dog in ketchup with curry powder sprinkled on top. They’re ok, but not my fave. The REAL treat and best thing to do in Berlin is the döner kebab. Freshly sliced meat from the rotisserie stuffed into freshly warmed bread, layered with sauce and vegetables, and all for the very reasonable cost of €3-€4 (don’t pay more than that)!

Cost: €3-4

 

8) Drink a Wegbier

Berlin Travel Guide - Wegbier

On the top of the list of things to do in Berlin, is drink your beer anywhere: the parks, the sidewalk, even the train (although technically not on the S-Bahn). The word ‘wegbier’ literally translates to ‘away beer’. Basically, it’s a beer you take to go. You can drink anywhere and beer is cheaper than water! Head to the closest Späti (the store in which you buy a wegbier), find a Berliner or take a Gösser Radler, and grab a bottle from the back — it will be the coldest. Then, do as the Berliners do, and drink anywhere!

Cost: €1.80 for a Berliner

 

9) Take a photo in a Photoautomat!

Berlin Travel Guide -  Photoautomat

Scattered around the city are photo booths, known as Photoautomats. Here, for only €2, you and your friends can pose for four photos that are printed into a beautiful photo strip. Some of the cameras shoot in colour, some are B&W, some will be busier than others with lines leading up to them, some will smell like pee, and might even have someone sleeping inside! No matter what, you will get a series of four beautiful photos that will make you laugh every time.

Cost: €2 per four photos

 

10) No Berlin Travel Guide would be complete without a Biergarten!

Berlin Travel Guide - Biergarten

My fave is the Prater Biergarten. It’s in the middle of the city, and the whole place is just community-style seating. You can buy beers and classic German snacks like hotdogs and pretzels. How can you go wrong with a beer and a wurst on a sunny summer day?!

Cost: €2 for a beer, €2 for a dog!

 

Looking for more things to do in Germany? Why not go to Oktoberfest?!

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Singing at Bearpit Karaoke in Berlin

The Bearpit

A magical thing happens at 3pm on summer Sundays in Berlin, Germany. In Mauerpark, one of the many public parks in the city, in the amphitheatre aptly nicknamed “the Bearpit” a man named Joe puts on Bearpit Karaoke the most epic karaoke afternoon you’ll ever see. The Bearpit amphiteatre sits as many as 2000 people and there are always folks standing at the back, around the sides, and all the way around the platform at the front that acts as the stage. Joe provides the speakers, the computer, the microphone, and acts as the enthusiastic and incredibly supportive emcee.

I discovered Bearpit karaoke last year when we visited Berlin the first time. We sat and watched and laughed and sang-a-long for a few hours. I said to Michael, “I want to perform!” We agreed we would come back the following Sunday and I would try my hand in the Bearpit. Cut to the following Sunday (the day after the pride parade), and we were too hungover to get out of bed! I was so upset, but knew that the next time we were in Berlin, I would finally have my chance.

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“I want to sing”

That brings us to July 8, 2018. Michael and I squeezed into the seats of the Bearpit, and awaited Joe’s arrival. When he did arrive, he set up the stage, and sang Copa Cabana to get the crowd warmed up. He reminded the audience that this gig costs money, and he sent a pot around to collect donations. One at a time, people’s hands shot up in the air and he selected people from the crowd to come perform. There is no list here, no sign up sheet. To perform you just have to be chosen! Each time a singer finished, I threw my hand up in the air, hopeful he would see me. Michael suggested I just go over to him and tell him I want to sing. So, I did! I put €5 in his donation pot and said, “I want to sing.” He laughed and asked what I want to sing. I told him my song and where I was sitting, and he nodded.

Introductions…

After the guy who sang “Hit the Road Jack” by Ray Charles, it was my turn! Joe pointed at me and I made my way down to the stage. While he queued up the song he asked me a few questions: What’s your name? Where are you from? How long are you in Berlin? I answered each one and then told him I was here last year and didn’t get a chance to sing, so now I’m back. He asked if I went to Canada and then came back. I answered, “No, I’ve been traveling around Europe in a van for the year!” “You’ve been living in a van for a year?! By yourself?!” he asked. I shook my head, no, and said, “no, with my lover.” The crowd burst out laughing. I pointed to Michael in the crowd. Joe told him to stand up! He did, then he waved and the crowd erupted with applause!

Bearpit Karaoke

My song

The song was ready. Joe said, “Ok, Beth from Canada, ready?” and handed me the microphone. I remember when I was a kid, nervous to perform, my singing teacher would say, “butterflies in your stomach are good, as long as they are flying in formation.” I smiled. My song began, “Somebody to Love” by Queen. Of course, my voice shook the first few lines! I was standing on a stage, just me, a microphone, and 2000 people! I looked over at Michael, who was smiling bigger than I’ve ever seen. I forced those butterflies to fly in formation, and I channeled the only person who could possibly help me get through this song: Freddie Mercury.

It’s all a bit blurry.

I remember belting out, “I get down on my knees, and I start to pray, ‘till the tears run down from my EYES!!!!” I remember when the instrumental began, I grabbed my air guitar and played it like I’ve never played it before. I remember during the chant, “find me somebody to love” I got the audience to join in! I killed that final note, and the audience stood up and broke into thunderous applause. I somehow managed to stay standing on my gelatine legs, my heart pounded in my chest, tears stung my eyes. I just stood and looked at the people in front of me. Then I curtseyed…weird choice.

Today I learned…

Today I learned what people mean when they say, “I can’t even” because I just can’t. It was such a rush to be up there, to finally have the chance to sing my favourite song in front of this incredible crowd. I stood watching the people at the end, and filed it away into my memories. I never want to forget the feeling of all those shiny, happy faces, beaming down at me, cheering and hollering.

Bearpit Karaoke

Wow.

Check out the Bearpit karaoke facebook page here!

Looking for more things to do in Berlin? Look no further, check this out!

Seeing the Graffiti at Teufelsberg in Berlin, Germany

Berlin is just so cool. You know how a hipster is someone who is trying to be cool, but trying to make it seem like they don’t care how cool they are? I feel like Berlin is the original hip. Like, Berliners are what hipsters are fashioned from and aspire to. The city just keeps getting cooler and cooler the more things I discover. Here’s one of those cool things:

In the middle of Grünewald Forest, is a man-made hill called Teufelsberg, created from rubble and debris moved from Berlin after World War II. The Americans used the Radomes -weatherproof enclosures that protects a radar antenna –  atop the hill as listening stations during the Cold War. When the Berlin wall fell, the equipment was removed, but the Radomes and buildings remained. It’s now what I believe is a squatter’s paradise, and is open to the public! Michael and I decided that today we would do what we do best: hike to the top of something and have a picnic.

After a quick grocery shop for the perfect picnic (sandwich ingredients, cherries, and a litre of wine) we took a train then a bus to the edge of Grunewald Forest, and began the 30 minute (according to Google Maps) walk to the top of the hill.

We were rudely greeted by swarms of mosquitoes. Swarms I tell you. Swarms!! Oh my gosh, they were everywhere. A cloud of mosquitoes followed us as we walked, so we ran. We ran through those woods as fast as we could, constantly swatting ourselves and each other when a mosquito would land. I laughed, I cried, I itched, I swatted, and I ran. The mosquitos had the time of their lives.

We ran all the way up the hill, passing other swatters like us running the other way. We finally arrived to an opening in a chain link fence. Still swatting at the ravenous mosquitoes, we met some men at the Teufelsberg “ticket booth.” We gave them our €8 each and signed in to the guest book. We continued to climb up the hill and the mosquitoes thinned. Thank goodness.

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Ok, so this place is so cool. We walked towards the buildings and found graffiti and spray paint tags everywhere. We climbed the stairs up and up and up into the towers. The art surrounding us was beautiful. This is absolutely the kind of thing I’ll pay €8 to see. We reached the roof of the building, where we could see everything from Berlin city centre and the TV tower, to the rolling hills covered in wind turbines, majestically spinning on the horizon. Wow, it was quite the view.

FullSizeRender 10

We climbed up and up and up again, to the top of the tallest Radome. Here, we discovered more art, and some of the craziest echoes I’ve ever heard. If we stood next to the walls of the sphere and even just whispered, our own whispers came back to us three or four times from around the walls. We started whispering words like, “secrets,” and singing, in the creepiest tune we could create, “I’ll never tell”. Back down in the open air, we found a picnic table in the shade of one of the domes and enjoyed our perfect sandwiches and sipped our perfect wine.

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After our picnic, it was time to leave. We finished our litre of wine (I know, we are rock stars), and were just drunk enough to feel brave enough to run back through the swarms of mosquitoes. We wandered around the complex a little more to make sure we didn’t miss any art, and then walked towards the entrance. We waved goodbye to the men at the “ticket booth” and then began our run down. And run we did. All the way to the train.

How to get into Berghain in Berlin, Germany

There are a few things I would say Berlin is known for: the currywurst, a pork sausage served with curry ketchup; the wegbier, like a beer ‘to go’, directly translated to “away beer”; and of course, the extreme techno scene. I love sausages and I love beer, but I have never really given techno a chance. So, when I heard about Berghain, a techno club in Berlin, I desperately wanted to go and “do” techno right.

Berghain is an institution in the Berlin techno scene that opens its doors on Friday evening and doesn’t close until Monday morning. People say stepping into Berghain is like stepping into another world, and if you believe all the rumours, at Berghain, anything goes. There is no guest list, no bottle service, no VIP area. The other thing you should know about Berghain is that it’s said to be near impossible to get in! People recount evenings they stood in the line outside for 2 hours, just to be politely told that no, in fact, they would not get in. With one flick of the wrist, the doorman decides your fate, right means yes, left means no. There seem to be no rules, no dress code, no reasoning! So how do you get in?!

This is how we did it:

We woke up on Sunday morning and started our day with a lovely breakfast. I had a tomato, mozzarella, and pesto panini and a chai latte. The chai latte was so frothy and creamy, it was actually really good. We sat outside and watched as the clouds prepared to drop some rain. We took the S-bahn through the city, past the TV tower, and arrived at Ostbahnhof station.

We ended up walking behind some kids that looked like they might be going to Berghain too. They were all dressed in black, and one of them had his phone in his hand, playing techno music. “To get in the mood,” I thought to myself. They looked pretty cool, like they knew and understood the techno scene.

We turned a corner on the path and could hear the booming bass from the club. I began shaking in my boots. Oh man, I just knew we weren’t going to get in. I just don’t think I am cool enough for this place! Everyone talks about how exclusive this place is, and here I am, little Where the F is Beth going to try to get in? Ha!

The cool looking kids were in front of us in line. The doorman knew as soon as he looked at people whether or not they were Berghain material, so the line moved quite quickly. Out of the four or so groups of people I saw at the door, two people got in, and their friends were told to leave. Phew! I was really shaking now. The cool looking kids got to the front of the line. The doorman looked at all four of them and shook his head no, wrist flick to the left. Then, one of the kids opened his wallet and offered the man a bribe. It, of course, didn’t work. We stepped up. The doorman looked straight into my soul through his blacked out sunglasses.

And then we got in.

 

For more things to do in Germany, read stories of other adventures here!

How to get a Youth Mobility Visa while in Germany

I began traveling around Europe with big dreams and plans of where to go and how long I wanted to stay. Italy, Switzerland, the Netherlands, Germany, Austria, Spain, Portugal… I had plans to stay for at least a year and just travel around to my hearts content! I would be hopping countries every 30 days or so, so I didn’t even think it was a possibility I would need a visa. Then someone mentioned the Schengen area.

The what?!

The Schengen Area is made up of the following 26 countries:

Austria, Belgium, Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Iceland, Italy, Latvia, Liechtenstein, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Malta, The Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland.

The Schengen countries have a border-free agreement that allows the residents to move and work freely throughout the entire area. Great, right? Except for citizens who are not from the Schengen. We are allowed entry into the Area for 90 days within any 180-day period. The days don’t need to be consecutive, the clock begins the day you arrive and doesn’t reset until day 181.

For example, if I enter the Schengen for 30 days in May, then come back for 30 days in July, it is 60 days in 180 days.

If you’re like me and have big dreams of plans of where to go and how long you want to stay, how do you stay in Europe longer???

1) You can sort your trip out to move in and out of the Schengen while you are traveling.
You could begin your trip in Spain, Portugal, and Italy, for 90 days, and then move over to the Balkans and take another 90 days to see Croatia, Bosnia, Montenegro, Albania, and up through Serbia. Then back into the Schengen for 90 days, then out (maybe to Morocco?), etc. It is totally possible, it just requires a bit of planning and counting days on a calendar.

2) You can get a visa for a country in the Schengen. If you take a language course in a country, for example Spain, you can apply for a student visa in that country, and with that visa, you can travel freely within the Schengen. Many countries have agreements between them to allow citizens to apply for working holiday visas. A working holiday visa allows visitors to live and work in the country, and again, travel freely within the Schengen. Every country has a different agreement, the best place to look is on your country’s government website.

I am Canadian, I am under the age of 35, and I decided to apply for a Youth Mobility Visa in Germany. This would allow me to work in Germany, if I want to, and to travel freely in all the Schengen countries.

This blog post is about how I registered, got my residence permit, and received my Youth Mobility Visa in Germany.

What the Canadian government website tells you is that you have to apply for your Youth Mobility Visa while in Canada, BEFORE you arrive in Germany. This is not the case anymore. You CAN apply for this visa while in Germany. I repeat, you CAN apply for the Youth Mobility Visa while already in Germany. Apparently some of the aliens authorities are not familiar with the process, as it is new, but the one in Berlin knows about it.

This is how you can get your visa in Berlin, Germany:

Step 1)
You must register at a Bürgeramt
You can make an appointment three weeks in advance, at this website (Make an appointment here). You can also walk in, take a number, and wait. (Some of the Bürgeramts are by appointment only, so make sure if you are going to test your luck with a number, you don’t go to these ones. Check out the list here).
To register, you can bring a rental agreement and written confirmation of occupancy from the landlord
Some hotels and hostels will allow you to register as a resident there.
This step is mostly so they see you aren’t going to sleep on a park bench.

Once you have the certificate of registration, make a photocopy of it!

If you plan to drive in Germany, you will need to get a German driver’s license at the Bürgeramt also. But you will need a second appointment for that. (Read a bit about driving in Germany, and around Europe in general, here).

 

Step 2)
Go to the Ausländerbehörde a few hours before it opens (the hours are Monday and Tuesday at 7am, and Thursday at 10am). Straight up, we arrived on Monday morning at 6am, and there were already 60 people ahead of us in the queue. We took our number and waited about an hour and a half until we were seen.

What you need to bring with you:

  1. A valid passport
  2. 1 current biometric photo
    35mm x 45mm, frontal shot with neutral facial expression and closed mouth, looking straight into the camera, light background
    You can have this taken at a photography studio OR go to one of the PassPhoto booths in any main train station in Germany and take them there.
  3. Foreign travellers’ health insurance that is valid for one year
  4. Proof of funds in the amount of at least 2000 Euros
    you can print off a bank statement
  5. The Application for Issuance of a Residence Permit (The form in English, German, French, and Italian: download it here)
  6. The photocopy of the certificate of registration from the Bürgeramt

This is how I did it! It took just one day. They granted my visa in the moment. It was a bit of paperwork and running around to different offices, but now, I can stay in the Schengen for the entire year, move freely around, and even work in Germany if I so choose!

 

And once you’re in Germany, here are some things to do!

 

If you have any questions or comments about the process, please send me a message or comment below! Do you have a different experience? Or tips for visas in another country? Let me know!