Two weeks into mine and Dan’s whirlwind month of European gallivants, it already feels like we’ve been gone for months. Paris, London, Helsinki and Berlin have all been sampled, and we’re currently on our way to a night in Brussels, speeding along in a 200km/h train.
Our weekend in Helsinki was lovely; we stayed in the inner-city apartment of Emily and Lauri, two of Dan’s friends living out an exchange student fairytale: she went to Finland as an exchange student in 2006, they fell in love at first sight, spent six months apart, then she moved back to Finland, they got married, and now they’re counting down the months until they move back to Australia. Seeing two people so unassumingly in love and simply perfect for each other was beautiful, and of course made me quite wistful – it’s impossible to witness such a perfect coupling and not get lost in hopes that you’ll one day be like that too.
Helsinki itself is a really pretty city; the highlight came on our last day, where we ferried out to the island of Suomelinna for a picnic in the sunshine, game of some weird-ass Finnish version of bocci with sticks (I rocked with a score of 0) and general exploring-fun-times.
But whilst London was cosmopolitan-cool and Helsinki was serenely pretty, Berlin has stolen my heart. Being blessed with the most vibrant, luxurious hostel I’ve ever encountered (The Cirus Hostel, for all you budding travellers) probably helped a lot. But the sun shone on mild spring days; the coffee was decent, the beer cheap; and culture was everywhere. My street-art obsessed self didn’t know where to look, there was so much incredible work all around. Plus, I got to geek out and visit the location of another Bloc Party song, as Dan and I wandered the streets of Kreuzeberg.
Some of my highlights:
The Real Berlin Experience
I’d originally hoped to take part in Alternative Tours‘ other offering, the Street Art Workshop/Tour, but as the only two peeps keen, Dan and I found ourselves in the effervescent hands of British tour guide Mark. Over the next four hours, he showed us an unmissable side of Berlin that we likely wouldn’t have discovered ourselves. We visited art haven Kunsthaus Tacheles, a cultural goldmine in danger of destruction at the hands of banks and mindless capitalism; traipsed the same streets as Bowie and Iggy Pop in the flamboyant Nollerndorfplatz; and met a man with a tree house and his furniture concreted to the floor. We also got to chill out and drink Mojito’s at YAAM beach, just up the road from East Side Gallery, where I would definitely waste away my hours if I lived in Berlin. I’m not one for tours or general touristy crap, but this was the most enjoyable thing I’ve done this whole trip. Mark was incredible, brimming with knowledge in a passionate but not arrogant or cheesy way; his obvious love for Berlin and understanding of it’s subcultural offerings have planted a seed inside me, and I now want to move there. Really friggin’ bad.
Chaos in Form
Nestled away by a train station in Kreuzeberg, this little den of style goodness has a jaw-dropping away of accessories, including these killer paint-splattered wristband watches. Everything is super-reasonably priced as well: I picked up a ‘LOVE’ knuckleduster for 14 euros.
Weird name, but super cute slogan tees, bags, even postcards, my favourite being ‘I am the Captain of your heart’ (‘heart’ being a picture of a love heart, fyi). You can find their wares at Bourbon Shop, Schlesische Str. 38b, Berlin.
Only a few more sleeps until Eurovision!
Note: this post has been back-dated to it’s intended publication date to preserve clarity of text. In other words, the internet sucked, I couldn’t post it when I wanted to, and I’m too lazy to re-write it.