A Travel Disaster: Berlin

Rebecca Herman

Interrailing was just going too well. My five friends and I had finally finished our A-levels and were off for a well-deserved break around Europe. We sung our hearts out at a festival in Croatia and we felt at one with nature in Slovenia. It was not until we reached the city of Berlin that things took a turn.

Not to say we are all princesses, but my friend group and I do prefer an Airbnb over a hostel most of time, making our travelling holiday rather bouji. We had really enjoyed all our previous stays all over the world, so it came as quite a shock when we rocked up to our new abode in Berlin to find out that it did not exist.

The Berlin Hauptbahnhof station is very grand, offering a wide variety of shops and restaurants. We were a little early to check into our apartment (or so we thought), and so made ourselves at home in the Dunkin’ Doughnuts on the second floor, next to some huge windows perfect for people watching. We watched couples re-unite and families fight, we even waved and conversed with fellow travellers, with no idea that in a couple of hours it would be us galivanting around the Hauptbahnhof floor trying to find a bed for the night.

We had arrived in an area where not many tourists reside or spend holidays

The six of us split into two groups and raced from the station to the apartment, excited to drop our bags off and start exploring. The sights on the way to the Airbnb were delightful, rich in history and culture – we were bursting with enthusiasm. But shortly after our cab journey started, we began to see Berlin’s famous sights behind us, and the views from the taxi windows became a lot bleaker and more run down. But hey, who are we to judge? We’d never been to Germany before, maybe this is beautiful to the locals? So we didn’t panic until the lovely driver turned around to inform us that we had arrived in an area where not many tourists reside or spend holidays, and then continued to explain how we would be spending our hot girl summer in the ‘dodgy corners’ of the city.

So, with no choice but to power through, we stepped out the taxi with our many suitcases and reunited as a group. We looked down as our University of Prague t-shirts, yearning to go back in time. My friend took out her phone as she looked around the grey buildings and crumbling brick, to tell the host we were outside. But no one answered. Not to worry, we all miss a call from time to time. We called again. No answer. Okay that’s fine, maybe he’s busy, let’s text him, wait 10 minutes and call again. 10 minutes go past, and nothing. Okay, this is weird but there must be some explanation, lets message the host on Airbnb and call again.

The host finally responded from a random city in South America with the news our booking had been cancelled in January

The only thing to do in the local area was to attend a ‘gentleman’s’ club or pop into a corner shop, neither of which we saw on the top 10 things to do in Berlin. When the host finally responded from a random city in South America with the news that our booking had been cancelled in January, I’m pretty sure they heard out cries of joy and celebrations all the way back in Zagreb. We were thrilled! We couldn’t believe our luck – what are the chances that the one place we really didn’t want to stay, we didn’t have to!

We had our little street party to celebrate our freedom before it sunk in that maybe we were a little too free – we didn’t have a place to stay. So back on the Uber app we went and back to station we drove. We thought the station would act as a good base. There were outlets to charge our phones, plenty of cafes to refuel and lots of kiosks to book a new hotel. Our spirits were still high on the journey back, but we must admit that when the manager of the hotel kiosk wished us luck in finding a spare bed in Berlin, our mood dropped a little.

After many snacks and Starbucks frappuccinos, we finally managed to find a hostel on Our mood rose again as for the third time that afternoon, we stumbled into a cab. It was déjà vu – the sights, the scenery and culture. In fact, it was a little too familiar. Yes, that right, back to the dodgy ends we went but this time we were in deep.

We are clearly the only people not native to the area

‘We here’ says the taxi driver in a low German accent. We look up at the alleyway around us. We get out and search for the other group, schlepping our bags up and down trying to follow their voices and getting strange looks from passers-by, as we are clearly the only people not native to the area. Call me naive, but I didn’t realise youth hostels were normally located behind huge metal, heavily graffitied doors, but that’s where the shouts of our friends came from.

We rang on the rusty doorbell and were let into a courtyard where our three friends stood with an Australian man and about 12 non-alcoholic beers. Again, call me naive, I knew hostels were known for the underlying drug use but I did not expect to get a formal warning about the local dealers – ‘so, near the park you may see some guys dealing, but don’t worry, they are just doing their job’.

The room was basic. Three bunkbeds and a table. We shared a modest bathroom with a man that lived there and so we tried our hardest to keep toilet trips to a minimum. My friend took to the courtyard to shout at Airbnb for leaving us homeless and you could hear her faint yelling as we unpacked. With nothing to do in the immediate area, we got ready to hit the town (the town located miles away, of course). We partied the night away, exhausted from our traumatic and dramatic day. Oh, and by the way, we did manage to get a new Airbnb for the next three nights – on a street famous for prostitution – but that’s a story for another day.

Rebecca Herman

Featured image courtesy of Rebecca Herman. No changes were made to the image.

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