Frankfurt

We left Berlin on Tuesday afternoon and caught the ICE train to Frankfurt. The train trip was only a four hour ride which gave us an opportunity to see a bit of the countryside. Given our only method of transportation on this trip so far has been by plane, it was a refreshing change. We got on at Berlin Hbf and discovered we had a compartment to ourselves. The landscape on the way out of Berlin was very interesting, lots of abandoned buildings, small houses and farmers gardens which turned in to lush fields and the occasional small town.

Our ICE train compartment

We had booked a hotel close to the train station so there was no need for a cab. As it turns out, the hotel was fairly close to the city’s red light district. Good one, Maddie. We wandered around the city after we had arrived and found it pretty quiet. It seems that after the bankers in their skyscrapers go home for the night, the city is fairly empty. It was nice to see a city with a skyline after our time in Barcelona and Berlin! We walked along the Main river and across some of the city’s bridges. On Wednesday we visited some of Frankfurts other attractions such as the Romer (the city hall) and the Zeil Strasse (the central shopping plaza). We had dinner in the Sachsenhausen district which is famous for its traditional German dishes and wonderful Apple wine. I had Pork Knuckle and sauerkraut for the first time and loved it!!!!

Frankfurt Skyline from the river.

To finish off our time in Frankfurt, Jez and I took a river cruise of the city. The city had a lot of construction projects underway, as well as many new apartments along the river bank. Much to our surprise, we both enjoyed our brief stay in Frankfurt. We didn’t know what to expect from the city, but we’re definitely glad we stopped over. Our next stop will the Nature One festival, outside of Frankfurt.

Berlin Bike Tour

Berlin has been described as ‘poor, but sexy’ by none other than its own mayor. This poor, gritty city however, oozes character. In order to learn more about the city, we chose to do it in style – a bike tour! We spent the day riding around the city with our guide Francis. He was a cool Kiwi with a mind like Wikipedia! It was a fantastic way to get to know the city.

We stopped every 5-10 mins and Francis gave us a thorough explanation of the sights. It was a thousand times better than the bus tour! Berlin has been such an important part of modern history, the bike tour really did the city justice and was able to show us how much history it has seen. On the bike tour, we stopped at many of Berlins most famous places: Museum Island, the Tiergarden (nudist park included?) and the Holocaust memorial.

Holocaust Memorial

Part of the Berlin wall

The city still shows signs of the war. Obviously, there are still large parts of the Berlin wall standing, monuments affected by shrapnel and completely reconstructed buildings. Jez was amused/bewildered at how flat the city’s skyline was, until we visited the viewing deck of the TV tower and saw the sprawling city from above. Jez and I haven’t worked out if Berlin actually has a Graffiti problem, or if it is just an accepted part of the city. There are hardly any blank walls! The city is covered in graffiti, or what some may call street art.

Berghain

We’ve been away from home for four weeks now. We’ve done a lot and seen some incredible things but no experience comes even close to the one we had last night at the Berghain club in Berlin. Jez would be best to tell this story. . . . .

Let me give you a bit of background on the Berghain. It’s been voted the best nightclub in the world and is regarded as the official home of techno music. Its predecessor was a men’s only nightclub, so the Berghain has a strong gay scene. The club is known for its strict and discriminatory door policy. If they don’t like the look of you, you’ve got no chance. Similar to the clubs in Ibiza, there are no cameras allowed but at Berghain this is much stricter i.e., if you take a photo with your phone, they will take it off you.

The club is located in an old power plant. Yes, I know, it’s the perfect location for a nightclub. This would seem like an outrageous idea in any other city, but Berlin seems to be littered with old industrial buildings so it seems pretty logical.

Front view of the Berghain

I‘d been researching the club extensively in online forums because I knew it was going to be hard to get in. The door policy seems to be completely opposite to any of our big clubs in Sydney. In Sydney, a large group of good-looking, dressed up girls would be permitted without hesitation. At the Berghain, these girls would be turned away instantly. From my research, I knew that our best bet would be to act like a local – look underdressed, act disinterested and not socialise with people in the line and of course, speak German! Obviously the club wants a particular kind of clientele, one that’s serious about the music and not there ‘to be seen’.

With all this in mind, Mads dressed it down – wore jeans, t-shirt and no jewellery – and me, I just wear what I always wear – black pants, grey top. The club opens at 12am Sunday morning and closes some time Sunday night. Getting there before 4am is considered early. We left the hotel at 1am and caught the U-bahn to Alexanderplatz so we could change trains to Ostbahnof, near where the Berghain is located. Riding the U-bahn at that hour is an experience in itself. We were out of place without a bottle of drink in hand! To cut a long story short, our U-Bahn attempt failed and we caught a cab to the club.

When we arrived, the line was massive and didn’t seem to be moving at all. It’s meant to be summer here, but it felt like a winter’s night in Sydney. The wind was freezing! As we edged ever so slowly on the dirt track towards the entrance, the power plant became bigger and bigger. It was a huge, grey and imposing building. We waited and waited and waited in this massive queue of people from absolutely everywhere. From listening to conversations around us, there were loads of people from overseas and many first-timers to the club. As I mentioned before, it was important to be able to speak German to the bouncers. So for the few days beforehand, I’d been practicing one German word that I was sure would get us in, a password if you will, the word ‘zwei’. German for ‘two’. I was confident the bouncer would ask me ‘How many?’.

There were some loud American frat boys in front of us. I didn’t think they would have a chance of getting in, but I knew if they did get in, we wouldn’t have a problem. After two hours of waiting in the freezing cold, we could now see the entrance to the club. We watched in horror as the bouncers ruined people’s nights and turned them away. It looked like at least half of the line was being refused entry. The bouncers took delight in having people plead with them to get in. I heard one person plead with the bouncer, saying he’d waited for two hours. They just laughed.

On the final stretch of the queue, we were herded through metal barriers towards the doors. This entry would break every law in the book back in Australia. There was a constant weight of people pressing on our backs. Now metres away from the entrance, we could see that the frat boys hadn’t made the cut.

Denied entry. Sent home. Dismissed. Our turn was fast approaching.

The three groups in front of us were denied. There was no pleading with the bouncers; after waiting three hours in the line, they were ready to go home defeated. Our turn had come and the bouncer looked us up and down and said something in German. I had no idea what he said, but I uttered our password. He nodded. There was an awkward moment where we didn’t know whether to walk in, wait or leave. He nodded again and gestured for us to move inside.

Once inside the doorway, I had no idea which direction to go. I didn’t know if we should continue down the hall or go to the room to the left. We hesitated and we could hear someone shouting something from behind, over and over. It clicked just in time that they were telling us to go left in German. At that point, the bouncer shouted ‘left’ in English. I thought we were gonners. He’d discovered that we weren’t German after all. We quickly moved in to the room on the left and were patted down by security. My phone was scrutinised and the security guy said ‘No photos’ to me in English. I moved along to pay the cover charge and said ‘zwei’ to the guy behind the desk. I paid and he stamped our arms.

I’m not exaggerating the entry. This place is hardcore. We waited three hours in the freezing cold with a very slim chance of making it past the doors. I felt like I’d pulled off a bank robbery!

Once inside, the sheer size of this place hits me. It has a very minimal and industrial feel, lots of steel and bare concrete. The ground level had couches and beds, with people draped across them. The main dance floor is one level up. We walked up the steel stairs and found the dance floor packed with people. Funnily enough, the DJ that was playing was Deepchild, an Aussie guy. We danced for a bit and I decided I needed a drink. As it was 5am, I didn’t particularly feel like a beer so I ordered a rum and coke. The drink was quite literally two thirds alcohol; the coke just gave it a bit of colour. Surprisingly, just like the entry fee, it wasn’t expensive.

Inside the Berghain. Steel stairs leading to the main dance floor.

For the next two hours, we explored the club. It was like a maze, with many passages and dark rooms. We visited the Panorama Bar, which was on another level of the club and continued to dance for a bit. With our sore legs and tired bodies we left the club just before 7am. When we walked out in to the daylight, we saw the line to get in was still huge. It would have still been at least a two hour wait to get in. We jumped in a cab and headed for home.

Mads and I were left speechless after experiencing Berghain. The club is like no other I’ve ever experienced. Even the clubs in Ibiza cannot compare. The club could have held more people, clearly the line to get in and the strict door is done purposely to give the club its exclusive feel and keep it true to its reputation. It certainly worked on us, and it certainly worked on the people that were rejected.

Berlin

We arrived in Berlin on Thursday night to grey skies and rain. We haven’t seen rain since we left Australia, so it was a bit of a shock to our sunburnt and tanned bodies… hehe!

Berlin is flat. There are no hills or slopes of any kind! We’ve been lucky enough to have visited the extremes of terrain on this trip – San Francisco immediately springs to mind! Berlin is not a very colourful city, its colour palate is best described as various shades of concrete. There is graffiti everywhere, as well as posters and stickers of every kind. We’re staying at The Circus Hotel, just opposite Rosenthaler Platz u-bahn station. Its a pretty good location, we were able to walk to the heart of the city in about 10 minutes. On Friday, our first day here, we had breakfast at the hotel and walked to the museum island. We visited the Pergammon Museum and saw some incredible things! We both really enjoyed seeing the reconstructed buildings from Ancient Rome and Greece.

Jez hasn’t been feeling 100% the past couple of days! We thought it would be best to see a doctor for some antibiotics. The hotel told us that doctors are really only available mon-fri and that a hospital would be our best bet. Needless to say, our trip to the hospital was a bit of a fiasco with our nonexistant German and a very stubborn Nurse. We’re planning to see a doctor on Monday…

So after our visit to the Hospital, we made our way to Potzdamer Platz to check out the Sony Centre. I had thought it was part of a large shopping complex but it wasnt, so we didn’t stay for very long. We then got a tour bus around the city, seeing Brandenburger Tor, the Kulturforum and the Holocaust memorial. We got off the bus a few times but we left the tour at Checkpoint Charlie. We then visited the Topography of Terror museum, which was the site of the Gestapo and SS headquarters during WWII. It was a fascinating and detailed museum.

We have another three days to explore some other parts of the city, we’re sure that we’ll come across more of Berlin’s hidden gems!

Barcelona Sightseeing

As I mentioned in my last post, Jez and I went up to Montjuic to wander and take some photos. We caught the bus up the mountain and walked back towards the city so that we could ride the sky gondolas that we had seen. We got off the bus at the Olympic stadium used for the 1992 summer games. It was small and unimposing which seemed very appropriate considering its surrounds. We passed many beautiful gardens and look outs, we even came across the olympic diving pool with the incredible view of the city (which was also used in a Kylie Minogue flim clip…)

Olympic Diving Pool

We rode a total of two sky gondolas that day – one looked like it was built this century and the other looked like it was built two centuries ago… The oldest one, by far the most harrowing experience ever, went from Montjuic mountain, over the marina to the Barceloneta beaches. The lady conductor shut the door and bolted it with a giant padlock – the ones they use to lock the gates at school. We were suspended high above a cliff face and then water on a very very skinny cable. We agreed that if anything, we’d be better off being killed on impact because there was nothing getting past that padlock!!! We walked off the near death experience along the beaches but I’m sunburnt on my shoulders and neck so I’m feeling a little sorry for myself!

Panic-inducing Sky Gondola

Other Sky Gondola, which took us up to the Montjuic Castle

Barceloneta Beaches

We went strolling along the Ramblas to work up an appetite for dinner before finding a restaurant to eat at in Placa Reial. Jez had lamb and I had a paella! It wasn’t an amazing paella but it was lovely having dinner in such a pretty place. I was fascinated by the lamp-posts in Barcelona. Placa Reial, amongst other places in the city, is home to lamp-posts designed by Gaudi.

On our last day in Barcelona we visited the Picasso Muesum which wasn’t far from our hotel. The museum opened at 10am and there was already a huge line to get in to the place at 9am! We spent a couple of hours there before packing our bags and checking out of the hotel. We enjoyed our time in Barcelona but we are looking forward to Germany!

Highlight of Barcelona: “Montjuic and not being mugged” – Jez

Lowlight of Barcelona: “Very questionable hotel club sandwich” – Jez

Barcelona

We arrived in Barcelona in one piece! Hurrah! At first we were a little overwhelmed by the city – the hustle and bustle, the language barrier and constant watch for pick-pockets. Now, we’ve got our bearings and we’re going to make the most of the next two days before we head to Berlin. Today we took a sightseeing bus all around the city, Barcelona is huge! I loved seeing Gaudi’s work all over the city, the Sagrada Familia blew me away! Tomorrow we’re going to go back to Montjuic, overlooking Barcelona, to take some photos.