Berlin: Where to Stay and What to Do in This Weird Paradox of a City

Berlin: Home to currywurst, spacious sidewalks, tons of graffiti art, a stellar metro system, and grunge fashion.

I spent four nights in Berlin and, at first, I was not a fan.

The city felt cold, dreary, and unwelcoming.

I thought the Berlin Wall had been knocked down…but Berliners still seem to have walls up of their own… especially to block out Americans like myself. 😌

Of course, first impressions can be rather misleading. My first night in Berlin, I stayed at the Singer109 Hostel. It sucked. Do not stay there.

The folks at reception made me feel as though every question I asked was the biggest hassle ever and there was absolutely zero atmosphere. Though, I must say the rooms were rather nice…mine had an ensuite bathroom which is a rare find for most hostels. But still…not worth staying there!

So, where to stay instead?

I followed the advice of The Hostel Girl and checked into The Circus Hostel for my last three nights in Berlin. The atmosphere was night and day. I immediately felt better about Berlin and was excited to see what the city had to offer!

Ok, what should I DO in Berlin?

As I usually suggest…go on a walking tour! Similarly to the hostel in Copenhagen that I stayed at, The Circus offers free walking tours TWICE daily! So, if you sleep in and miss the 9:45 tour, you can always join the one at 1:15.

Our tour guide, Kyle, offered up tons of history about Berlin. For me, the highlight was seeing the hotel balcony (Hotel Adlon) where Michael Jackson dangled baby Blanket from all those years ago. πŸ˜‚ I had no idea that was in Berlin…RIP MJ. πŸ’™

Pop culture aside, Berlin is home to a lot of dark times in European history. The tour included a stop by the Memorial to the Murdered Jews of Europe, also known as the Holocaust Memorial. Selfies are not allowed (for obvious reasons) and, while you can sit on any of the 2,711 stones, folks should refrain from standing on them.

So, why is Berlin a “paradox”?

Well, Berliners like to think they’re super progressive and forward-thinking…but here are some weird things I learned about Berlin while visiting:

Most of the city is cash-only.

In fact, cash is still the means of payment in some 80 percent of point-of-sale transactions in Berlin! According to Bloomberg, “the use of cash has, to a surprising extent, become a proxy for profound concerns about trust, privacy, and the role of the state.” So, be sure to carry euros ALL the time!

Clubs will reject folks who dress nicely.

Heels, suits, colorful dresses…not cool in Berlin. Even locals suggest wearing all black, sneakers, and anything “grungy.”

If you don’t know your DJs, GTFO.

Again, according to locals and other tourists I chatted with, music is a BFD in Berlin. Bouncers will ask you what DJ you’ve come to see and, if you don’t have an answer, you can hit the road. Apparently, they do this to weed out tourists from the true house-music loving locals…but I think it’s rather unwelcoming. πŸ€”

For a city that claims to be so accepting and open, the folks here seem to follow an odd set of rules. Someone I met recently said Berlin reminded them of NYC and, being the native New Yorker that I am, I don’t agree. In all my travels, there is no city more open and welcoming to ALL then good ol’ NYC. 😍

Disclaimer: I didn’t hit the clubs while in Berlin…folks in the city START partying at 6AM and also drugs are a big thing (not surprising with the hours they keep), so… not really my scene.

HOWEVER, there was plenty I eventually learned to love about Berlin and I’ll write all about it in my next post!

Have you been to Berlin?! What’d you think? Let me know!

P.s. If you’re not already following me on Instagram, do it now! I’ve been posting plenty of entertaining stories…including a rather claustrophobic experience in Berlin — more on that in the next post!

Will you run away with me?

Spread kindness and cheer, xo

Jackie

48 Hours in Edinburgh: A Solo Traveler’s Guide

Greetings, y’all! I’m currently writing from the Downtown Hostel in Copenhagen, but I wanted to share more about my time in Scotland!

Why Scotland?

Well, my main goal for this trip was GETTING to Europe for as cheaply as possible…the best flight out of NYC that I found was a WOWair flight to Edinburgh with a 20-hour layover in Iceland – check out my post about the Blue Lagoon if you haven’t already!

I didn’t know much about Scotland prior to visiting, but I knew it’d be beautiful. Whether you’re traveling alone or going with a friend or two, here’s some advice for ya!

What money do I need?

Scotland is part of the UK and the country uses the pound sterling.

Where should I stay?

Stay at the Budget Backpackers Hostel (also known as the Kickass Hostel)! It’s easily accessible if you’re flying into Edinburgh. Just hop on the Airlink bus ($7.50 for a round-trip ticket) and take it to the last stop (Waverly Bridge). From there, the hostel is a ten-minute walk away… however, you will have to trudge uphill a bit! If you have a ton of luggage, you may wanna take a cab!

What should I do?!

I arrived in mid-afternoon on a Saturday in Edinburgh…after a 6:30AM flight from Iceland. After checking into my hostel, I decided to wander around on my own to see the area. From the Royal Mile to the Scott Monument, everything was within walking distance.

For solo travelers, I also highly recommend going on a tour of the Scottish Highlands and Loch Ness with a company called Rabbie’s. Not to be confused with RABIES.

πŸ˜…

I went on a tour that left on a Sunday morning at 8AM and lasted ALLLL day…it was tiring because I’d stayed out till 3AM with some newfound hostel friends the night before… but it was well worth the early wake-up call!

The tour included several stops, including the Commando Memorial, Glencoe Park, Three Sisters Mountains, Loch Ness and more! We even went on an hour-long boat tour in an attempt to find NESSIE!!

Things I learned…

  • The Scottish Highlands are gorgeous and only two million folks live here.
  • “Loch” means “lake” in Scottish Gaelic.
  • The folks in Scotland believe in tons of mystical creatures and superstitions.
  • Much of the landscape in Scotland was formed from giant glaciers passing through millions of years ago, as well as earthquakes and volcanic eruptions!

My final day in Edinburgh was spent wandering the streets after having a less-than-wonderful dining experience at The Elephant House (more on that here).

Have you visited Scotland? Are you planning a trip? Let me know!

Will you run away with me?

Spread kindness and cheer, xo

Jackie