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Wednesday, January 22, 2014

7 Alternative Things to do in Berlin

Berlin is one of my favourite European cities because its vibe. Where i, with my strange fashion and interests would fit in like fish in water. I don't know if its because of her poignant history that made her to be accepting of all cultures, interests and fetish.
You can join a free walking tour with Sandemans to cover all the historical landmarks including Checkpoint Charlie where for 2 euro you can pose with the guards, or pay 5 euro to get genuine passport stamps that don't exist anymore.
I joked with them, asking if they are full-time models.

Otherwise, here are some suggestions of alternative things to do when in Berlin!

1. Trace Mr. 6
The difference between graffiti and street art, both which Berlin has aplenty is that graffiti artists are punks who want to be famous (for getting away with it) while street artists have a message to convey about society. There are some 650,000 sixes scrawled in the city over 18 years but no one knows what is the message behind that 6. Find street art and graffiti in Mitte, Kreuzberg and Friedrichshain. If not, just keep your eyes peeled as you explore Berlin as you are bound to be able to find something!
Infamous Berlin wall
Building spotted while walking around aimlessly
2. Bearpit Karaoke
Every Sunday afternoon at 3pm, Joe rocks up to the stone circular amphitheater in Mauer Park with his makeshift outdoor karaoke set. This was my favourite thing to do in Berlin as i thought this was an ingenious entrepreneurial idea!
Brave members of the public can plan or spontaneously take up the microphone and unleash the inner star or banshee in them. The singers don't have to pay to sing, but Joe goes around every now and then with a can for donations. Everyone generously gave because they were all having such a good time. The atmosphere was contagious.
If everyone gave 1 euro, i reckon Joe makes at least 300 a Sunday without even performing!
People use bearpit karaoke as a wedding proposal ground,  a bachelor's dare or a hen's night out. There are the occasional eccentric characters who amped up the entertainment value. When i was there, there was a kid who dressed like an Undertaker complete with a flowing trench coat but had great showmanship. There was also a girl with blue pixie hair dressed like a cat, complete with whiskers drawn. The friendly crowd's roars and applause sometimes removes the inhibitions in people, like tearing open his shirt of gyrating sleazily. 
You have to be there seated among the wild crowd to feel emotions stirring inside you. Certainly inspiring.

Mauer Park also has a regular market selling wares, food and all sorts on Sundays. Highly recommended.

3. Party in Unexpected Spots
Berlin has such large empty spaces with an attitude that "anything goes" that allows many pop-up clubs or secret parties. I did not attend any when i was there, but i have heard stories with awe. Like the party which you enter via a real man-hole, and that party a friend discovered by chance because she found it odd that people were queuing for the toilet of a kebab shop. It was the entry point into a tunnel under the bridge. As a tourist, it may be hard to be in the know of such unexpected party spots, but you will fare well in the regular clubs. It is the only party city in the world where you can enter on Thursday and not leave till Sunday. You can literally party till you drop and they wouldn't throw you out. You can sleep inside the club, wake up get breakfast and party again. Stattbad Wedding is a permanent club in a defunct 100 year old swimming complex.

4. Eat Under a Railway
Burgermiester located under railway Schlesisches Tor is surely worth a hunt. So is the best kebab i've eaten (next point).
We arrived at night and a queue was snaking, club music was thumping and everyone was pumping mayo and ketchup on their fries. The buns were toaster to perfection with the beef patties succulent. The burger is about the size of a large man's fist. I had the chilli cheeseburger while my friend had the bbq. For a beer, 2 burgers and one serve of fries, it was 12 euros.

5. Eat the Best Kebab and Currywurst
I've never been quite a fan of kebabs but i've eaten kebabs in Singapore, Australia, Greece and Belgium. None of them tasted as good as Mustafa's Kebab at Mehringdamm 32. There was a 30 min queue wait but this is no deterrent for Singaporeans. They were so good that we thought of doing a takeaway for breakfast (kiasu) or even detour for kebab rerun the next day! It was THAT good. The secret is in the mint sauce, hummus, feta cheese and fried capsicum plus aubergines inside. All for only 3-4 euro!

Further down the same street is another famous stall Curry 36. Apparently a signature of Berlin, currywurst is deep fried sausages drenched in ketchup with a generous sprinkle of curry powder. I personally felt it is not a great miss if you didn't eat it, but you'll feel you haven't fully experienced Berlin if you didn't taste it. The secret is in the ketchup and curry powder. If the tomato sauce is home-made and if the curry is spicy enough. We ate 3 different stalls and Curry 36 is indeed the best. It felt like a recipe i could replicate at home though.
6. Take the smell of Berlin home with you
Frau Tonis Perfume is located near Charlie Checkpoint and i happened to walk past it. My scent was finishing and i thought maybe i would indulge and go for something uniquely me. In a store completely decked out in white, pale yellow and white liquids in laboratory bottles lined up in the middle for you to sniff. Push the bottles that you short list forward to make a selection that you can then blend to create an individualistic scent. It was pretty pricey and i didn't find the salesgirl very helpful although she is friendly. The clinical atmosphere was also intimidating. However, i know i will be walking the streets of Singapore smelling uniquely me.

7. Leave your Mark
While you take the scent of Berlin home with you, you should also leave your mark in Berlin to fully experience being a Berliner. Visit an abandoned building and bring a toolkit along!
In an abandoned ice factory

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