solo travel diaries: my time in berlin


photo: emma lammermeier

I have never been to a city like Berlin. I have never experienced a city like Berlin. Maybe it was the city itself, maybe it was because this was the first time I truly traveled on my own. I would like to think it’s a mix of the two. I had almost no plans, no end destination, just a start and an end date, a room to sleep in and a concert to go to.


Berlin was the first city I saw completely alone. I left Florence on a 6:10 a.m. flight on Friday and arrived in Berlin around noon. 

photo: finora reilly

The first thing I did in the city was find a place to eat, which ended up being a Currywurst restaurant. No city does Currywurst quite like Berlin, trust me. From there, I had a few hours to waste before I could check into my hostel, so I went to the Alte Nationalgalerie. This was the easiest destination to go to, considering I still had all my bags on me from the plane. 


Eventually, my hostel bed was ready and I could leave all my belongings in my room. I ended up choosing St. Christopher’s Inn Mitte (they have two locations in Berlin) because of the reviews and female-only dorm option. The Mitte location is in Friedrichstraße, which is the center of the city, whereas the Alexanderplatz location is a bit outside the center. 


My list of places to go and things to do were in the notebook I always carry and that was all I had to go off of for the weekend. I was off once again to look for food and do some shopping, which could all be done at the Mall of Berlin.

photo: finora reilly

Berlin was the complete opposite of what I had become used to in Florence. The history was different, the architecture was newer and the city was more metropolitan. All of this was welcomed to me, as I was months from having last seen a shopping mall. But even with all of the modern surroundings, you could feel the historic presence of the city. My hostel was down the street from the Brandenburg gate and I was constantly crossing back and forth across the River Spree.


The night came and went and eventually I woke up on Saturday, ready for my only full day in the city. Starting the day off, I got a coffee and a muffin from a German coffee chain, Coffee Fellows. This was at about the halfway mark of my walk to the Berlin Wall in East Berlin. In that 45 minute walk, you could see patterns in the architecture change, art styles shift and stores and restaurants being replaced by new names. You could see the history in front of you just in the walk itself. 

photo: finora reilly

The Berlin Wall is one of the most iconic attractions in the city, with painted murals dividing the streets from the River Spree. Artists began decorating the wall in 1984, towards the end of the Cold War. The art is predominantly on the West side of the wall, but some graffiti can be seen on the East side as well. 


Anyone visiting Berlin should make a stop at the Wall, but I don’t think that’s the first time someone has said that. If the weather is nice though, I would encourage walking, even if you don’t take the same steps I did, you’ll see the changing history along the way. 

photo: finora reilly

From the Wall, I headed back to Friedrichstraße, but made my way towards Checkpoint Charlie and Rocket Tower, which are right on the same block. Checkpoint Charlie is another iconic Cold War landmark, and was the point where people crossing from East to West in the city would be able to go through. Once again, this was a different story than Florence, as on one side of the street you had a piece of history and on the other it was a modern building with a pharmacy. I was able to try an infamous Doner Kebab, and I can confirm it was worth the try.

Berlin is also well known for its second-hand and vintage shopping. The city is becoming a new hub for sustainable textiles and fashion, and its shopping proves it. A large group of shops can be found in the city square of Kollwitzkiez, which is right by Friedrichstraße. You can find everything from Kilo Shops to second-hand luxury goods to unique punk pieces in this area.


photo: finora reilly

Eventually, Saturday evening came and I approached the reason I went to Berlin in the first place – to see Pavement perform live. This was the reason I chose the specific weekend, the reason I decided to travel alone and what brought me to Berlin. I got to the venue when doors opened and quickly learned I should have waited until half an hour before the show started, as I was one of maybe 10 people there for a bit. 


The nice thing about Berlin, and European cities in general, is the public transportation. I was able to take a five minute metro ride to the venue and the station was only a couple minutes away. 


The concert, once again, came and went, and that was the end of my full day in the city. The next morning I was up for my flight and returned to Florence before the sun set. 

photo: finora reilly

I have never experienced a city in the way I did Berlin. Yes I was alone, but it wasn’t lonely. It felt like everyone was living in their own isolation. It was an experience I haven’t been able to replicate since, even after solo-traveling to other cities. Berlin had something unique, and I wonder if and where I’ll find that again.


I have every intention of returning to Berlin, and hopefully that day will come soon. 48 hours was far from long enough to see and do everything I wanted to, but it left me wanting to come back. I can’t say that applies for every city, but I know I’ll be back to Berlin. 

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