Monday, December 25, 2017


on day 3, i spent the morning packing, checking out, and checking into my new hostel. the hotel room was a splurge and therefore i returned to hostel living (more on that later). 

the first stop was the semi-long train ride to gedenkstatte plotzensee, a berlin prison from the 1800's but known for being an execution site during the nazi era. in total, about 3,000 prisoners were executed. most were germans that were seen as threats to the nazi ideology. i got lost along my way (took a wrong turn out of the station and could not believe i had to go down a cobblestone alley to get there), but i was glad i went.

the execution chamber. inside prisoners were killed by guillotine. 

after, i took a bus to the reichstag building. this area is the most touristy and has most of the popular memorials that you may have seen pics of.

the reichstag

memorial to the members of the reichstag persecutions. also known as the 'bike rack.'

the sinti and roma (gypsy) memorial

brandenburg gate

memorial to the murdered jews (i could not believe all the rude people standing on top. who would think that is ok?!)

in the tiergarten there is a memorial to goethe. you can see where the statue was patched up after it was damaged during the bombing in 1945.

i was very hungry and decided to stop at my first restaurant. i was a little nervous. going to a sit-down requires more communication and i did not want to make a fool of myself. also i would be faced with the ettiquette (customs are different than in the us). overall, i really liked this place. i actually came here a second time when i returned to the city,

schnitzel, potato salad (with pickles!), and a cappachino with itty bitty chewy cookies.

the view outside the restaurant

next stop was the museum on everyday life in the gdr. it focused on culture in east berlin and shared stories about east berliners. it was interesting to learn the creative ways germans expressed themselves and made extra money with limited resources. on a side note, i used a paid toilet for the first time. what a newfangled concept for this american!

surprisingly i had extra time, so i stopped at the berlin wall memorial. this is the only part of the berlin wall that still has both walls (west & east) and the death strip inbetween (including a death tower). there is also a little museum about the wall and an outside museum that includes remnants and memorials.

the death strip.

memorial to those who died while attempting to cross the border (they were either killed by officers, accidentally in their attempt, or committed suicide when they knew they would be caught).

a little garden nearby

i then made my walk to the hostel.

and saw a cute little flower stand (there are so many in germany!)

 i stayed at the eastseven hostel and i highly recommend it! they have the absolute friendliest workers (i would say the friendliest workers i have ever met at an hostel, especially max). the dorm rooms are also pretty large and the bathrooms are split up by gender with multiple showers (both things i prefer). the one con is that they do not have female only dorms, but this is a minor detail that is more of a preference. the hostel is known for being a bit of a party hostel, but everything was pretty quiet during my stay except for the one night american frat boys were drunk and sang the national anthem (another californian and i just laid our head down in shame).

the common area.

a reference to hey arnold!

such large rooms for 4 people.

that night i had some ramen from down the street. i went there 2 other times.

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the next day, my first stop was the coffee shop down the street. the cafe was filled with antiques and to even get to the restroom you had to use an old lever key.

this day was a museum day, but before they opened up i went to the 'old town' (which is not very much because the city was bombed) to see the old buildings. unlike many other cities, after the bombings the city decided to not so much preserve, but build new and modern structures.

next i headed to the mitte. the first museum was the deutsches historisches museum (german historical museum). it is very thorough and large! i thought i was done by the time i reached the 1930s, but no i had another half to go. i highly recommend it, but don't bog yourself down.

the german historical museum

walking around the mitte, i did not expect to see so many old buildings. as somebody who has never been to greece, i felt like i was in greece. the buildings were just so old and grand. i really did love this area: pretty greenery, pretty buildings, and live music.

the berlin dom

 next was the alte nationalgalerie old national gallery (an art gallery). this was my favorite museum of the day. i have said this before, but i really enjoy art museum and this is a more recent development. it is super corny, but i feel moved. i am becoming so crunchy granola.

my favorite pieces inside.

the gals.

the next museum was the ddr museum, which is not really worth mentioning. down the street here were some more memorials, souvenir shops, and a coffee place i visited.

a random church i found.

fernsehturm berlin, the tv tower.

neptunes fountain. this is the only place where i saw someone attempt to pick pocket others.

ruine der franziskaner-klosterkirche. the church was bombed in 1945 and today is used for art exhibits. i came at the perfect time when the sun was setting.

i then ate some dumplings and called it a night.

now for a song. at work i have been listening to lorde's new album and i have really enjoyed it. my favorite song keeps changing, but i thought i would choose 'liability.' corny, but i think these lines relate to solo travel and self care:

'so i guess i'll go home
into the arms of the girl that i love.
the only love i haven't screwed up.
she's so hard to please,
but she's a forest fire.
i do my best to meet her demands
play at romance, we slow dance
in the living room, but all that a stranger would see
is one girl swaying alone.'

Monday, December 4, 2017


so this took forever and a year to put together. you know, life gets in the way. over one month ago my big trip came to an end. bitter sweet (bitter for having to go back to adulting and the adventures ending, sweet for retiring the nomad life and going back to a schedule). i travelled for over 3 weeks, visited 3 countries (5, if you include airports but i don't), and visited 8 cities. if you are new, the countries i visited were germany, czechia, and poland.

i left on a friday night from LAX to iceland. i had an almost 17 hour layover and before my trip couldn't decide if i wanted to actually go to reykjavik (an hour bus trip outside the airport). of course, 17 hours is enough to visit, but the problem was most of that layover was the middle of the night. the weekend before my trip i decided against it. i did not want to worry about taking a bus trip before nightfall. instead, i spent the layover in the airport. it was an experience.

my 'bed' for the first night.

it ended up working out well because i was sick during my flight. i don't know if i had some sort of virus or if my body reacted weird to the high altitude (i have never been on a flight this long). i was nauseous & had body chills. at the airport, i also got a fever. for being in the airport so long, it went by pretty quick. it is quite small and even though it never actually closes, security and the stores will shut down when their is a gap between flights. My second flight was at 5 in the morning, which was miserable (a fever while lugging a 20 lb pack for 30 minutes is no fun), but i felt better by the end of my second flight.

now for the real beginning of my trip, i arrived around noon in berlin. things started off rocky. i had a really bad interaction with the first person i talked to, the tourism center lady. i had to pick up my transportation pass and she had a stick up her butt. anyhoo, i took an easy rail ride to my accommodation and checked in. i was exhausted but did not want to waste my afternoon. i went to the stasi museum, not too far from my hostel. the stasi were the secret police in east germany. they were very invasive and paranoid with german society. this is where i found out that germany is a cash country. do not listen to the guidebooks! very few places take card. i really did not have much patience (the lack of sleep, sickness, and lack of food caught up with me), so i did not spend much time at the museum but i was glad i went.

the old headquarters

i then went to scavenge for food and chose a random hole-in-the-wall place (which also had slot machines?), ate, headed back to the hostel, and crashed. i did not realize just how much i needed sleep. i snoozed for a good 10 hours.

now for the hostel. for the first 2 nights i stayed in ostel, a GDR furnished hostel & hotel. i went because of the experience and they offered private rooms for a reasonable price. i really enjoyed my stay. the room was nice, the bed was comfortable, it was easily accessible (right next to ostbahnhof station, the old main station), and the people were very nice. there were a few downs (wifi was only in the lobby, my room was on the 6th floor with no elevator), but these are just minor complaints. i can't vouch for their hostel rooms, but i highly recommend anyone to stay.

my room!

my garb.

the lobby.

another angle of the lobby.

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the next day, i first stopped at the east side gallery. well, i actually hopped on a train and realized i forgot to stop here first so backtracked. every section has a mural on it from either when the wall was still in use or after the fact. a few years ago, some of the original artists returned to restore their own murals.

my favorite part.

i thought this was the most impressive section.

next, i went to the story of berlin museum (not to be confused with berlin story museum). this museum tells the history of the city not with artifacts but by creating an interactive environment. i thought it was a really engaging way to teach history. for example in the room explaining hitler's rise to power you walk over books, and in the room about east and west berlin you see a living room from each side. 

a random motor bike you can sit on.

due to perfect timing, i decided to go on the bunker tour offered by the museum. i'm glad i did it, but i almost had a panic attack. it was a pretty large bunker, but the idea that 3,000 people could live here for 2 weeks after a nuclear attack was ludicrous and overwhelming. also, i have a fear if being underground (not heights), so that did not help. i was glad when the 30 minute tour was over.

next i took a stroll to the kaiser wilhelm memorial church, it was built in the 1890s but bombed during WWII. much of the church is left how it was bombed, including the missing spire and holdes in the wall.

inside the memorial church.

inside the new church across the memorial hall.

a short bus ride was gedenkstatte deutscher widerstand (memorial of the german resistance), a museum that tells the story of those who defied hitler and the nazi party. it is housed in a section of the benderblock, where the firing squad executions of those invlolved in 'operation valkyrie,' the failed assassination attempt on hitler in his 'wolf's lair.' these were individuals from the german government and military who tried to remove hitler and the party from within.

where the executions happened

the memorial


a statue with no head. maybe a remnant from the bombing?

next was topographie des terrors, a museum on the grounds of the old schutzstaffel (ss) main security office, one of the major nazi paramilitary groups. it focuses on the atrocities by the nazi party and includes an outdoor museum with remains of the berlin wall.

the rest of my time was spent walking around aimlessly before crashing at the hostel. 

the tourist trap known as checkpoint charlie.

p.s. i heard a woman having a conversation in the airport and saying that the uk is no longer in europe because of brexit. what???? it's not like voting can make you leave a continent.

anyhoo, now for a song. i really did not listen to music in europe (thanks to pandora not working in europe). the week before, i watched the movie 'holding the man.' i highly recommend it. the soundtrack is fun, the dialogue and delivery is hilarious, and the ending is sad. this is my favorite song from the movie, 'forever and a year' by rufus wainright. enjoy!