We sat in our apartment one night making a list of countries and cities we knew we wanted to visit during our time in Europe. Berlin, Germany made the top of our list, but little did we know how cheap of a flight we would find to Deutschland over our Christmas break. To our surprise, 40EUR got us from Valencia to Berlin on the first official day of Christmas holidays! We decided we would book a one way flight to Germany and find inexpensive routes to other countries we wanted to visit during our three weeks off. December 22nd creeped up quickly on us and before we knew it, winter jackets and gloves were bought, our bags were packed, and we were en route to Berlin! In traditional Spanish style, we were late to the airport. Our bus from Murcia to Valencia took a hell of a lot longer than anticipated, resulting in running to yet another boarding gate. Thankfully, we made it with minutes to spare and managed to avoid ruining our entire Christmas travel plan.
Our arrival to Berlin was slightly smoother than our departure from Spain. We only went three metro stops too far before we realized we’d missed our intended stop to reach our hostel. By the time we reached One80 Hostel in the Alexanderplatz area of Berlin (after a pit-stop at McDonald’s), it was nearly 2:00am. We quietly checked into our shared dorm, hopped into our bunk beds and were off to sleep before our early morning guided city tour. It didn’t take long to realize that shared accommodations as a couple was just not ideal. There was no secure place for our giant, shared suitcase and you never know when you’re going to end up in a room with a female nudist. I was the lucky winner of the top bunk and was graced by a naked set of boobs in the bed across from me. Let’s just say I was thankful I took the top bunk and Joey took the bottom. Immediately after our city tour we decided it was Christmas time and we were going to upgrade to a private room as a Christmas gift to ourselves. We still got stuck with bunk beds, but it was a step up from the first option.
Our guided tour of Berlin took up the majority of our first day there. We didn’t realize a three hour walking tour was an option before arriving, but for anyone visiting the city, I highly suggest meeting at Berlin’s One80 Hostel for their free daily tour. It covered almost everything we hoped to see that day, entirely free of charge. The tour took us through historical moments and monuments within the city including, the Berlin TV Tower, the Berliner Dom, the Guardhouse, Humboldt-Universität, Checkpoint Charlie, The Memorial to the Murdered Jews of Europe, and a final stop at the famous Brandenburg Gate.
Naturally, being Christmas time in Berlin, we crossed paths with a number of traditional Christmas markets. Wintertraum am Alexa, at Alexanderplatz, one of the largest in the city was outside of our hostel doors, along with The Berliner Weihnachtszeit a short walk away. The Berliner hosted an enormous ferris wheel and a public ice skating rink, making our first Christmas experience abroad a festive one. We enjoyed Nutella crepes, Glühwein – a warm and spiced red wine, Currywurst, and Krapfen (fried dough balls), to name some of our favourites.
Our second day in Berlin was Christmas Eve, which is celebrated in Germany like Christmas Day in Canada. Most businesses are closed and family gatherings are hosted, which leaves outdoor attractions for us tourists to enjoy for the day. We headed off to the Berlin Wall, a key marker in the history of Berlin that was not covered on our walking tour. We also visited the Reichstag – the most enormous and impressive political building I have ever seen. Of course, we wanted a little taste of home on Christmas Eve, so we joined some of Joey’s family for Christmas Eve dinner via Skype after a non-traditional, but delicious dinner at Alex – one of the only open restaurants in the city. It was great to see the family, meet baby Jax, and enjoy our usual Christmas get together, despite the distance.
Christmas Day was also fairly laid back. Much like Christmas Eve, not much was open. We found ourselves at the Topography of Terror – a WW2 museum – which had to be the most morbid way we’ve ever spent Christmas Day. Nevertheless, a rainy day when businesses are closed didn’t give us much choice! We were lucky enough to meet Lexie from home on Christmas evening. We met for Glühwein and giant turkey meatballs at one of the Christmas Markets and grabbed (cheaper) drinks at a nearby restaurant before heading back to our hostel for an early night in. It was a short but sweet visit and made each of us feel a little more at home. We had an early morning ahead of us, as we had to pack up and head for Prague. Our Christmas was anything but ordinary, but it certainly was one that will never be forgotten!