While I’ve been to Germany several times before, I’d never been to Berlin. Naturally, I was ecstatic, especially when I found out that my friend Tom would be there at the same time for a QT conference. I wasn’t thrilled about the QT part, but more so just about Tom, because he’s awesome.
In this blog post, I’ll write about what I did while in Berlin (spoiler: I mainly worked), and some pro-tips I have as a result of my time there. I hope to go back sometime soon, especially since it turns out that I think I really like Germans. 🙂
Pro Tips for Berlin
Lodging: If you want a quiet stay in a cute part of town, I recommend the Prenzlauer Berg. It’s walking distance to Alexanderplatz (where the big tower is), and has lots of nice coffee shops and restaurants. Note: I don’t love the grunge style that characterizes other parts of Berlin, so this part of town appeals to my scandinavian furniture / hipster preferences. I highly recommend the apartment I stayed in and you can see photos of that below.
Mexican food: As a Mexican American Californian, I know what Mexican food is. Sadly, most of Europe does not. EXCEPT BERLIN!! When someone suggested we try Mexican food in Berlin, I was really worried that I would find the fake stuff I’ve seen anywhere else in Europe (any place that does not know what carne asada is = fake). However, I was pleasantly surprised. The place we went to eat seemed pretty legit. Apparently, lots of Californians have moved to Berlin and have started burrito and Mexican food restaurants. Interesting, and great. So, if you’re in Berlin and have a craving for Mexican food, chances are you’ll be able to find some decent stuff.
Beware wasps: If you’re allergic, make sure you keep an eye out for them. A member of our party got stung while eating currywurst near Alexanderplatz.
Although I mainly had to work during this trip (first during the GNOME Foundation hackfest and then to prepare my keynote speech for GNOME.Asia), I did get a chance to see part of the city. Unfortunately, I didn’t see as much as I wanted to, but I got a general feel for Berlin, and am already looking forward to the next time I’m there.
My Airbnb & neighborhood
I stayed in a lovely Airbnb in Prenzlauer Berg, near Alexanderplatz (~15 min walk), and I would definitely love staying there again next time I’m in town. It was modern, newly renovated, had a beautiful garden, and was on the ground floor so I didn’t have to lug my huge suitcase up the stairs. The hosts went out of their way to make me feel comfortable and included many thoughtful details to make my stay great (like a map of places they recommended in the area, and slippers).
What I loved about that neighborhood is that it felt really quiet, clean, and safe. There were many young parents walking around with strollers, and older people out for leisurely strolls. I felt really comfortable walking around during the day and even in the evening. If you’re looking for more of a party scene, or place with lots of bars, this probably isn’t the right neighborhood for you.
I didn’t get to see much of Berlin, but I did venture over to Alexanderplatz and took some photos along the way.
Time with friends
As mentioned above, one of the reasons I was especially excited about being in Berlin is that my friend Tom was going to be there too. He claims that Berlin is the best city in the world, and I was hoping that he would help me see it in the magical light that he sees it.
Since Tom is so nice and awesome, it was easy to have fun. We went exploring one night, and found a Google Pixel exhibit there as part of the Festival of Lights. In typical Tom fashion, we befriended the people running the exhibit, and took many photos. You can see our group selfie below followed by our amazing gif dance.
I know, you’re now jealous of how cool Tom and I are. Sorry.
Cafes & restaurants
This restaurant was a couple of blocks away from my Airbnb and was very cozy. I had some vegetarian tikka masaala while siting on a coach and practicing my speech. The staff was really friendly, and the environment was pretty hipster (which we already established is something I love).
This became my basecamp. They have good food, espresso drinks, green juices, and lots of couches and outlets to plug in your computer. Their wifi is fast and reliable, too. I highly recommend this place if you’re in the area and need to study, work, or meet a friend for brunch or coffee. In fact, I met these Italian-in-Berlin friends over brunch here and it was excellent.
(btw thanks for meeting me there and letting me practice parts of my speech on you, Tobias and Julian!) <– and see how I use “btw,” Tobias? 🙂