2020 Berlin and around – summary
Berlin was my last resort after all other travel plans didn’t come through this year. I just searched what connections are still possible from Ljubljana. Berlin was the only one not visited yet. Two weeks before the flight my boss approved my absence, I bought tickets and that was it. Than planning started: what to do there, what are close locations to visit, who do I know there …? COVID-19 was a potential threat again, but I just pulled it off in the last moment.
Table of Contents
- Flying to Berlin
- Berlin day 1
- Berlin day 2
- To Copenhagen, Denmark
- Malmö & Kajo
- Back to Berlin over Dusseldorf
- Berlin relaxed
- Last day in Berlin
Weather – when to visit Berlin
Winters are cold and Springs are moody, Summers are hot and pricy with wasps annoying you. So the transition from Summer to Autumn is the only logical choice (September). The weather was more than satisfying. In Berlin was 30 degrees celsius first 2 days and the last two days were 5 degrees less. Copenhagen was a few degrees less and during the night and by the water one would need both, pullover and jacket.
Again I packed lightly, it was just carry-on for one week.
- ID – it was enough because I was inside the EU
- Cash for Germany (200 €), Credit-card for hostels and shops, Debit-card for ATM
- Tickets & Boarding pass – had them on phone and on backup on e-mail, I was without a hard copy this time
- Phone (Huawei P20 lite – charger & power bank) – now it is also GPS, camera, notebook, …
- Toiletries (shampoo&soap/tooth brush&past/deodorant/q-tips)
- Jeans (Levis 501 – versatile use) & shorts (for hot Berlin days)
- Hoddie (Levis – evenings first part of the week) & Jacket (soft shell – evenings second part of the week)
- T-shirt/underwear/socks (7 x days)
- Meds (aspirin, ulcer, plaster)
- Sneakers – Skechers with a memory foam (they are light and soft, but not for long walks)
- Backpack – Swiss Gear, 30 l
- Padlock – for a locker in hostels
On this trip I done more than 3.500 km in one week on different means of transport.
On airplane – 2.500+ km
The return flight from Ljubljana to Berlin Schoenefeld with Easyjet was 60 € (1:40 length of the flight). Flight from Copenhagen to Berlin Tegel with a layover in Dusseldorf with Eurowings was 70 € (1:25 and 1:10 length of the flight). As one can expect on low budget flights, no amenities, less leg space, expensive drinks on board, limited baggage. All airports were not busy, masks were on the entire time there or during flight. Interesting was the flight with Eurowings on an airplane from the Borussia Dortmund soccer team. There was some turbulence on a flight to Ljubljana. Otherwise, nothing special to report on these flights.
On rails – 850 km
I went from Berlin to Copenhagen with a train for 45 €. I had to change in Hamburg and in half-hour there I could go for a cigarette and stretch my legs a bit (1:45 ride to Hamburg and 4:40 to Copenhagen). Both trains were a bit late, the first 7 minutes and the second 30 minutes. On the train, there was enough leg space, no crowd, socket to charge the phone, wifi, nice views from the window. Border control Germany-Denmark was super fast. Border police checked from afar if we had IDs. Again masks were worn on stations and on the trains. Train stations were quite busy, in Copenhagen is the smallest and in a brick building, in Berlin, it is biggest and made from glass and steel, Hamburg would be something in between. Prices change depending on when you are buying tickets. One way there I bought it 5 days before the trip and it was 45 €. Return trip I tried to buy the day before and it was 150 €?! With train I also traveled to Malmo, the return ticket was 24.5€, the ride one way was less than 1h, trains were OK, no problems on the border. On return, the train was late few minutes.
On foot – 150+ km
Each day I would walk from 10 km to 30 km. I like walking around cities because I get to experience a place more intensely. The first day in Berlin I was walking around all the biggest attractions and done over 30 km. But that removed the pressure and I could take it easy for the rest of the stay there. Similar was with Copenhagen, but probably around 20 km. But even on a relaxed day, it would accumulate more than 10 km. I picked the wrong shoes for this kind of intense walking – Sketchers with memory foam. They were light and soft. But after a few hours of walking foam would get thin and it was like walking bare feet. After 5 days I got one small blister, but nothing critical.
On boat – 2km
I event went on a boat ride in Copenhagen on the Harbour bus, 24 DKK – a bit more than 3€. These boats zigzag across the harbor, giving you the opportunity to view the city from the waterfront, almost like a tour boat. It lasted a bit less than an hour and we get off at the last stop in Reffen.
Public transport in cities
Public transport in those places is working great. Berlin with almost 4 million inhabitants doesn’t have traffic jams, because public transport is doing their job well. You can cross from one side to another with a train, S-Bahn, U-Bahn, tram, or bus. You can buy different types of tickets depending on the area you want to cover (AB, BC, ABC) and time you want to use it (one ride, day, week) that is for all means of transport. Prices range from 1.4 € for reduced short-ride tickets up to 41 € for ABC weekly tickets. You can buy them on a wending machine or with a phone. All vehicles were clean and on time. Fun fact is that U-Bahn (aka metro) is very shallow under surface because of swampy ground and you can feel the metro riding under your feet in the street.
Copenhagen is similar, public transport is well organized. The difference is they have boat buses instead of trams. Prices are also dependant on area and time to use it (for zones 1-4 one ride 24 DKK – 3 €, daily 75 DKK – 10 €, 3 days 190 DKK – 27 €). You can buy single tickets, buy cards with the amount of credit, buy tickets on the phone app or via SMS.
Bikes and scooters
But in recent years in both cities, bikes and electric scooters are on the rise. In Berlin, around 15% of people are commuting with bikes to work. And in Copenhagen, this number is staggering 65%. They have special roads, bridges, and other infrastructure for bikes. Cycling is generally perceived as a healthier, more environmentally friendly, cheaper, and often quicker way to get around town than by public transport or car. A very popular alternative is also electric scooter, mostly by provider Lime.
Food and drinks
The food was not what I expected. It was mostly international cuisine or fast food. The price range for things I tried from 3.5 € up to 15 €.
In Berlin, one must try kebab and they can be found on each corner. Nowadays burgers are in so try one of those as well. As for international cuisine, I enjoy Asian food and tried two Vietnamese places (Đistrict Một, Monsieur Vuong). For familiar taste I went to Sofra for ćevapi. For local food try Currywurst (sausage with ketchup seasoned with curry) and Berliner (doughnut).
Copenhagen has a similar situation. I would suggest trying hotdog with local toppings and visiting food court Reffen with a variety of choices.
As for drinks, beer is number one. In Berlin, you will pay in a restaurant from 3.5 € for small beer to 8 € for craft beer. In a store, it will be less than 1 €. In Spätkauf (store opened long hours) it would be around 2€.
In Denmark, they like their beer as well as spirits. Prices are here even higher. The cheapest beer I paid 5 € and on another side would be 10 €. In a store you could buy a small can for 1 €.
Berlin is the capital of Germany, the strongest economy in Europe. Even it has a long history this is a young city, the average age is 6 years less than in the rest of the country and in city center is additional 5 years less. So it is the party and the cultural center. With more than 20% of the population consisting of foreigners, it is very metropolitan. It is San Francisco of Europe in an LGBT sense. All these can be a reason to visit this city.
But if you would like more tangible reasons I’ll try to enumerate a few. 1/3 of the area is covered with nature (parks, rivers, lakes, …). If you are into architecture here you can find buildings from different times and in different styles. Most of it from the last 100 years, from Bauhaus to socialist buildings. I missed the medieval part. If you are into the culture here you can find one of the greatest museums in the world.
For 1 day itinerary I would suggest
- Start early in the morning with Berlin Television Tower, a great view of what you going to visit
- Museum Island, choose a museum and stop at Berlin Cathedral
- pass Brandenburg Gate,
- visit dome at Reichstag building,
- rest a bit in Tiergarten with Berlin Victory Column
- remember the horrors of WWII at Memorial to the Murdered Jews of Europe,
- for Cold War reminder visit Potsdamer Platz and Checkpoint Charlie,
- at Gendarmenmarkt square, you will see some great buildings from 18 century
- you finish at East Side Gallery with remains of the Wall, painted. And here you can now search for party
Copenhagen is the capital of the Kingdom of Denmark. It has one of the highest standards of living in the world. The city is located on the shore Øresund strait. Historically it was the capital of all Nordic countries for 120 years. Today you can find here historical sites and a multicultural vibe. It resembles Amsterdam with its language, architecture, canals, food, Christiania, mixed ethnicity, food, …
For 1 day itenerary I would suggest
- City Hall Square, starting from the main train station, may visit Tivoli amusement park with children
- walk Strøget street to Østergade, a shopping street in the old part of town
- then turn to Slotsholmen, castle island with government buildings, museum, library, …
- onward to Christiania, a controversial commune
- cross back to Nyhavn, colorful canal
- walk around Kastellet, military fort
- stop at the iconic statue of The Little Mermaid,
- cross with the boat to Reffen food court for dinner and craft beer
Dusseldorf and Malmo
On my layover, I went into Dusseldorf on the short visit. I enjoyed Altstad with is historic buildings and riverbank.
I also visited Malmo from Sweden but I must say I didn’t like it. Maybe on next occasion if I spend there more time …
I slept in a hostel dorm or at a friend’s place. In Berlin, it was St Christopher’s Inn Berlin Alexanderplatz, 16 € per night in a 4-bed dorm. But I had just one roommate. In Copenhagen at the Copenhagen Downtown Hostel, it was the same setting and 18 €. But the room was smaller and all beds were taken. Friends place in Kollwitzkiez was 1.5 km north from Alexanderplatz so the cost of accommodation together was not was a big expense. All of the people complained about my snoring.
As Slovenia Germany, Denmark and Sweden are part of the EU, roaming phone calls and data usage were included in my subscription. During this week I didn’t spend my limit of 2 GB for the EU. Also, wifi is available in most public places or restaurants.
My budget for this trip was around 850 €. I didn’t hold back. It was my only vacation this year. Biggest chunk would be party and beer, a bit less than 40%. Next would be transport with almost 30%. Food was more than 15%. Sleeping was just 10%. And misc was 5%.
But if you wanted extremely low budget it could be done with just 200 €. That would mean flight, cheapest hostel, walking, eating junk food, and no beer or entrance fees.
There was one big difference between Germany and Denmark about money. Germans preferred cash and in Denmark, it is only plastic. A friend that lives in Copenhagen didn’t see coin for 3 years.
COVID-19 left a big mark on this trip. First of all, if there was no COVID-19, I would be in Vietnam and not Europe. I escaped border closing by one week. Otherwise, I would miss Berlin and stay at home or on return stayed in quarantine. So while planning I was constantly worrying will I pull this through. When I packed, I packed masks. When I started the trip, entering the airport meant the mask is on. So on public transport or closed spaces in Slovenia, Germany, and Denmark masks were used. Sweden doesn’t care about masks.
In Germany, there were two occasions when one traveler would remind another one about wearing a mask in a proper way or to put it on to start with. One of those incidents developed into a fierce argument. I didn’t see how it ended because I left the train at the next station. Also, this meant no parties in clubs and Berlin is famous for it. Some of the museums where closed. Other allowed to buy tickets for specific time slots. The border crossing was different between countries. Entering Germany was without any specific questions, in Denmark, they just checked ID from far, Swedes didn’t even bother with that. In Slovenia police asked me where I was and for he many days. After checking the list of countries on a red list they let me home. Still, you have some exceptions. For example, on a plane, you order a beer and didn’t need to wear a mask while drinking.
So shortly COVID-19 affected traveling and hopefully, next year the situation will be better. I saw different countries with a different approach. Also, there will be always loopholes.