Is it really a secret to anyone at this point that Berlin has been appointed, whether it likes it or not, the it city of Europe? Anytime you mention its name in conversation, even if the conversation has nothing to do with Berlin, somehow Berlin will take over. “Oh, Berlin, though? C’mon! I love that city!” How could you not?
For me, Berlin wins. Where else in Europe can I eat vegetarian curry wurst for €2? Pick up a big cup of coffee with milk and sugar…to go? Work on my laptop in a coffee shop filled with other entrepreneurs, bloggers, and young, creative startups? Learn about such dense and significant history, and then let it all go while I dance at an underground rave party that I just happened to stumble upon while exiting a random U-bahn station?
Berlin is a must to any backpacking trip – I think everyone knows that by now. For Jo and I, officially three weeks into our backpacking
trip marathon of nine countries in 25 days, we could feel ourselves slowing down. A city as spread out and livable as Berlin could be all we needed to rejuvenate us, or on the other hand, maybe we’d just have to push through our fatigue and let Berlin nightlife wake us up…or maybe we just needed to take our first nap of the entire trip?
Needless to say, we arrived in Ostbahnhof, slugging our luggage to our hostel for the next four nights: St. Christopher’s Inn Berlin.
Like most places in Berlin, you’re not cool if you’re flashy. You’re cool if you’re low-key, and bonus points if you’re an abandoned factory. It’s true that St. Christopher’s Inn Berlin isn’t in an underground warehouse with exotic plants and mismatched used furniture, but can we all agree that would be very hard to pull off logistically? This hostel, on the other hand, does a nice job of fitting right in with the rest of the surrounding buildings. The building itself is covered in vines, has bike storage out back (with bike rental available for the ultra wannabe-Berliner), as well as an outdoor terrace at the entrance – which is all great, but after our long train rides, what we really cared about was that we were literally, and I mean literally, twenty seconds from the nearest U-bahn station, Rosa-Luxembourg Platz.
Upon check-in, we overheard the front desk explaining to two Australians the rules of the hostel, the daily specials of the Belushi’s bar, how to access WiFi, and how to sneak into an abandoned theme park. Yes, you read that right. Jo and I, exhausted from our overnight train from Kraków, instantly felt our ears perk up. First, there’s an abandoned theme park in Berlin and secondly, the staff is giving us tips on how to sneak in?
Ok, now we’re pumped. Berlin, bring it on.
We headed upstairs to drop our bags off, to be surprised once again.
Yes we decided to go with an apartment upgrade this time, but we didn’t know it would be such an upgrade from our other hostel rooms. At St. Christopher’s, you don’t just have private rooms, but you can also book two-bedroom apartment suites. The size of the living room alone was bigger than my NYC studio apartment.
As tired as we were, we knew we couldn’t just allow ourselves to take a nap inside (even though that was probably the hardest decision we had to make all day). Instead, we decided to go with the abandoned Berlin theme and go check out a park where we could lie down, so we’d feel less guilty. This wasn’t just any park, though; this was a “new” park in the middle of an abandoned airport tarmac. Are you even surprised?
What’s interesting about Berlin is that instead of visiting the touristy “Must See” places that you’d find in a guidebook, most people are trying to do the exact opposite: find the unknown. What’s cool in Berlin is everything that tourists don’t know about; even things that other Berliners don’t know about – but as Berlin keeps growing more and more in the cool department, it’s inevitable that places that were cool months ago, are most likely now passé. But hey, who can keep up with what’s cool anymore? One Berliner will tell you Warschauer Straße is nothing but scheiße, while another will tell you it’s still worth visiting. We go with the latter.
As the sun went down, this meant it was time to get back to the hostel to have dinner and drink up. As usual, I had to stick to my vegetarianism, so I ordered a caesar salad and then another day, a veggie burger. When you stay at St. Christopher’s, you have a pretty standard bar food menu, but here and there, you’ll have culture-specific options like patatas bravas in Barcelona or in Berlin, pork schnitzel.
Do we really need to hide the fact that we felt the need to go out four nights of our…ahem, four night stay? Not that that decision was hard to make in a city like Berlin, but then you add in the fact that between 5 and 9pm, you can get two cocktails for the price of one, and it’s a done deal. The first night we sipped back some vodka sprites on the outdoor terrace and chatted it up with two Australians who had been staying at the hostel for the past four nights, and were thinking about extending a few more nights. They told us they had just come from visiting an abandoned children’s hospital and that the night before, they tried to get into Berghain but were rejected because one of them was innocently sucking a lollipop. See, the stories you tend to create in Berlin are, by default, more interesting than those in other cities.
In addition to the 2 for 1 daily cocktail special, they offer a unique special depending on the day. Mondays are Mojito Mondays, then you’ve got Beer Pong Wednesdays, and Sunday Sessions with 10€ cocktail jugs – basically a new deal for each day of the week. What’s also interesting to note is that, in typical Berlin low-key fashion, this is the first hostel I’ve been to that doesn’t offer a pub crawl…which, for this city, makes sense. How uncool would it be to crash what’s cool by bringing a huge group of us loud, international tourists?
What they do offer instead is a grunge bar upstairs. Picture this: you’ve got rock posters cover the walls, 90s music videos playing from the flat-screens, and a dim, orange-ish light. How…Berlin.
When thinking about hostels and tourists crammed in one place, it’s impressive how blended in this hostel was. It’s so “in the know” that even locals knew what we were talking about when we said we’d be getting our happy hour on at Belushi’s. And if a Berliner knows about this place, you know this hostel puts the “in” in Berlin.