By Jessica Fishman
Last summer I visited Berlin for the first time on a four week long backpacking trip through Europe. We were on a tight budget and reducing the costs of lodging turned out to be essential for saving money. In Berlin, we discovered the beauty and benefit of staying with locals. The most fantastic parts of our trip were found through tips from locals in Berlin.
A couple from Washington (Tim and Susan), who’d become accustomed to the culture and heavily explored Berlin in just 3 months, hosted us. While, of course we visited some of the essentials like the Holocaust Memorial, the Brandenburg Gate, the Tiergarten etc. what I found most interesting was the city itself; the things that made Berlin, Berlin. Nervous about imposing on our hosts with our stay, I was delighted to find the contrary. They were more than happy to have us, and even still, happier to show us around a city that they loved.
Tim and Susan introduced us to great beer gardens like Prater, a well-known establishment with an extensive outdoor seating area and delicious bratwursts and pretzels.
On the advice of Tim and Susan, we decided to see the remains of the Berlin wall. Large rusted poles are all that’s left of the once massive wall, which lines a stretch of Bernauer strasse, the famous street that once represented the divide between East and West Berlin. Our hosts pointed out to us that the cement wall had been disassembled and converted into art and placed throughout the city. Later as we walked through Berlin, we noticed these art installations everywhere.
Our last night was spent at a traditional German restaurant with Tim and Susan and their golden retriever Kona. We ate outside and feasted on slabs of pork smothered in beer sauce with large potato dumplings. And of course, accompanied by lots of German beer. We talked and reminisced about the last five days, sad that we would soon depart.
Berlin is brimming with historical monuments and sites, and many of them are worth exploring. Visiting a city so full of history and culture sometimes makes it difficult to decide what to do and easy to miss out on some of the best hidden spots. I recommend trying to stay with locals on any of your future travels. Whether that means couch surfing or finding connections that you may already have, staying with locals isn’t just about the inexpensive price tag, but creating enriching cultural experiences.
If you want more tips from locals in Berlin on the less-advertised and cheap attractions of the city, check out our Alternative Culture in Berlin or Poor but Sexy in Berlin Featured Trips