The good people of Maastricht, and Limburg in general, are big on Carnival, so much so that we got a whole ten days off, with almost no work, to celebrate.But since I’m not big on neither dressing up in funky costumes or drinking, when Lina suggested we journey to the German capital, I welcomed the idea with open arms.
And so on one particularly cold February afternoon- though the snow had finally melted- we met at the station, carry-ons in tow, ready to embark on this trip of all things history and fun.
Spoiler alert: I loved it! And almost wanted to move there, despite my lack of fluency in German. Also, I’m going to be writing a series of posts on it so be prepared.
We departed from what the relevant authorities are trying to pass off as an airport. I would call it a slightly larger, commercial airfield. In our attempt to find the departure hall, we were suddenly at the arrivals section. No kidding, that’s how small it is. Then again, I’m used to flying on big name carriers from big airports.
The whole time, in my head, I was too busy singing along to both the Madonna and The Scorpions variations of Holiday. I have to note here that this was my first break, including flight and hotel stay, since I went to Greece in 2009.
A girl deserves her holiday!
My first experience on a budget airline was surprisingly pleasant. There was enough legroom and no annoying passengers reclining all the way. And I could do without in flight entertainment and food on board because a- it was only an hour and 15 minutes, b- I had Lina with me, and c- airplane food is rarely ever good.
The only downside is that we had to fly at night, so I couldn’t enjoy the first glimpse of Berlin from the window as I often do when travelling to new places.
When we landed, there was no need to go through the hassle of security, passport checks, and baggage claim. Ah the joys of being a resident of Europe! But we did not leave the airport just yet, as Lina had heard about the Berlin Welcome Card which we could purchase at the newsstands and information centers, thus allowing us to use all the methods of public transport that the city offers (S-Bahn, U-Bahn, trams, and buses) in the zones of our choice (we chose all three as we wanted to go to Potsdam) for the length of our stay.
Purchasing the Welcome Card also meant that you could could show it in all the places indicated in the catalog to get discounts, but that would happen later. At that moment, we were more concerned with getting to our hostel as it was getting darker and colder in a city we knew nothing about nor spoke its main language.
Thankfully, when we had booked our rooms, the hostel had sent over detailed instructions on how to get there, so it was on to the S-Bahn for us. We quickly set out to counting the stops and stations, afraid that if we’d miss one, we’d miss our connection. But that didn’t happen, and we soon found ourselves at the Warschauer Strasse station in Friedrichshain, East of Berlin.
From there, it was only a few minutes walk to our hostel, but not before being greeted by the O2 World with a billboard announcing that none other than NKTOBSB would be preforming there in May. I laughed because there could be no better welcome to the city. At least for me.
There was also this sign, which remains a source of laughter until this day:
Now allow me to take a minute to describe our hostel: Plus Berlin. It was not at all what I expected a hostel to be, and that is not at all a wrong thing. From the very artsy entrance to the warmly colored interior, I knew we’d have a wonderful stay. The facility is also equipped with a pool and sauna which unfortunately, due to the cold weather and limited time, were not taken advantage of. They also had a gigantic display of leaflets and guides that I quickly took over- I collect these things.
Particularly, we chose to go for the Plus Girls room, as it offered the prospect of not having any unfamiliar males in our room during our stay, along with things like hairdryers and towels. Though the room was not big, and most of the space was taken up by the two bunk beds they had in there, it was still good considering it’s still budget accommodation.
As we got to resting, the two girls in our room were getting ready for the evening, and we left them to it, until I noticed I didn’t have a pillow on my bunk. Just as I was turning around to ask one of them if she could give it back, I heard unmistakable girlish giggles and screams coming from Lina and the second girl, Sofija, a friend of Lina’s from UM, who also knew me through mutual friends.
The giggling continued among the four of us while we decided to spend the evening in the hotel bar and restaurant, as we all had an early start the next day. We were later joined by a friend of the girls’, Fien from Belgium, who was spending a month in Berlin learning German, and who also happened to be taking the tour we planned to take in the morning.
We didn’t stay in the bar for long and headed for bed soon after, hearing the party goers getting ready for their evening through our window and the U-Bahn coming and going, but fully knowing that we’d have two whole days of exploring the wonders Berlin held ahead of us.