How I Spent Christmas In Berlin : Part I
My 2015 travel bucket list included “spend Christmas in Germany or Austria” and hell yes I just ticked it off. We flew to Berlin from Málaga on Christmas day, just after having a legit Spanish nochebuena the night before. We, auxiliares, get a the same vacation as the students and teachers so we had to take advantage of this two-week break to travel at least to two countries in Europe.
It was a trip of many firsts: first time to spend Christmas without my family, first time to go to another European country besides Spain, first time to go on a trip with my friends and my boyfriend, the list could go on. It goes without saying that this was one of my most unforgettable trips so far. But it wouldn’t have gone as smoothly and as fun if it weren’t for the pre-trip planning.
- Picking a destination – I mostly googled “Best European Countries To Visit on Christmas” and about 90% of the blogs I’ve seen had Germany and Austria in it. We wanted to go to Paris too so we decided to celebrate the New Year there because wouldn’t it be just darn fancy.
- Google Flights/Skyscanner – We scoured dozens of sites to get a sweet deal and I find these two the ones with the cheapest flights. Like seasoned travellers, we bought our flights almost 3 months ahead and in total, the multi-city flights only cost us 200 euros each. There are lots of low-budget airlines here in Europe, each country has at least one or two – Ryanair, Vueling, Iberia, Airberlin, easyJet, etc.
- City Research – We looked for must-sees, must-tries, all the must-dos. I even read the alternative or those off-the-beaten track lists of activities. Of course everything couldn’t fit into our itinerary so we just chose the ones everybody was game for.
- Booking accommodation – I’m an AirBnb and Booking.com patroness because they’ve mostly got the best deals for hostels and apartments. We booked a 6-person dormroom in One80 Hostels in Berlin and an apartment in Paris.
- Itinerary – My friend made our itinerary, booked the free tours and saved us a ton of hassle. All I had to do was save the places in GoogleMaps for future reference.
- Finishing touches – Brushed up on my French, checked the weather forecasts and bought a coat, gloves and thermal underwear.
DAY 1 | Arrival, Check-in & Christmas markets
We had an hour layover in Stuttgart from Málaga and we arrived in Berlin at about 5 PM in the afternoon. It was dark already because apparently, sun sets at 4PM in winter. Flying from one Schengen country to another doesn’t require immigration controls and passport checks so it was really hassle-free. I miss getting my passport stamped though.
Public transportation in Berlin is very chill. There are no ticket barriers in almost everything – trams, trains and buses. Passengers are expected to be honest enough to buy the appropriate ticket required and to always remember to do so. A 60€ fine should be paid on the spot if a Kontrolleur randomly checks and catches you without a ticket.
We took the TXL JetExpressBus bus from the Tegel airport to Alexanderplatz, where our hostel was. A single trip ticket costs 2,70 €. While we were buying tickets from the machine, a guy approached us and gave us 2 of his day tickets that he was not gonna use anymore. I suppose he’s just sincerely nice or he did out of pity because we looked clueless on which ticket to buy.
From the Alexanderplatz bus stop, our hostel One80 Hostels was just a few minutes’ walk away. We booked it through booking.com and we paid cash upon checking in. It was around 80€ each for four nights. We were five and we shared a 6-person room with 3 bunk beds, lockers and a shared bathroom with all of the guests on our floor. It’s not my first time to stay in a hostel but it was my first time to stay in a hostel with no private bathroom. I thought I was gonna go through the whole trip without doing a number 2 but there were a few ladies staying on our floor and the bathroom was clean enough. I had to take a bath in the communal showers and it was scary at first but it wasn’t that bad. Just try to beat the rush hour and bring a waterproof pouch for your toiletries and extra self-esteem.
We left our things in our hostel room and went to the Christmas markets Germany is famous for. There was one conveniently located in Alexanderplatz.
We tried those long and juicy bratwursts *wink*.
And glühwein, a traditional German warm wine perfect for the cold weather.
And classic brezels. I missed Auntie Anne’s.
More eye candy food stalls inside cute Bavarian-style wooden mini-houses.
I wanted to go ice skating but not everybody was up for it. We just watched people who suck at skating fall on their asses.
It was a great first night in Berlin, all of us soaking up the festive atmosphere as you can see in our sincerely candid photo below.