I'm sure Berlin is a great city, full of exciting and fun times, but somehow it just didn't work out for me.
The first inklings of problems started when I worked out meeting times with my Airbnb host and finished by saying that I'd message him if anything went wrong. He told me I'd have to phone him because he didn't have a phone with internet. That struck me as strange for someone who works with travellers.
I arrived in Berlin, only to discover that escalators at train stations are a rare thing indeed. While I've packed pretty light, I still had my laptop and other shit with me. Probably about 15kg of stuff all up. That's fine to lug up one flight of stairs, maybe two but you don't want to be making a habit of it.
I followed the host's instructions to the nearest station and realised there were like eight exits. He'd not told me which one to take. After living in Tokyo, taking the wrong exit becomes a real issue because if you do it there, you can end up kms from your destination. He'd said nothing though and, in the end, I took the ones with the working escalator.
Once outside, I located the street I needed to be on but had no idea which way to walk. Called the guy and the phone number he'd given me didn't work. Finally, a nice stranger on the street helped me out.
Seriously, as much as I love Airbnb, this is one of the things that really shits me about it. If you are renting an apartment to someone who is not from your country, let alone your city, give them decent instructions on how to get there. Not just head up XXX street, not just turn right when you come out of the station (because how do you know where you have to be before you turn?).
I don't know the language, I don't know the landmarks and I don't have wifi unless I go into a cafe. Some of the people I've rented from make a handy manual with maps and photos and clear instructions and they are wonderful. I'm sure it saves them time in the long run as well as making it easier for their guests.
Anyway, I found the place. I wasn't so sure about the neighbourhood as I walked there though. I was expecting something a bit gritty but that kind of up and coming type area. The reality was a bunch of kebab shops with sleazy old men sitting outside.
I got to the place, which had looked really funky in the pictures. It was in parts too. Still, it was nice and comfortable. The host went through everything with me. He seemed like a nice enough guy. I double checked his phone number since I'd got an error calling him and he said maybe it was because he didn't have credit on his phone.
He asked me if I could come back in 30 minutes because he hadn't finished cleaning (note: this was at 6.30 pm). I asked about places to eat or get a coffee in the area and he said he wasn't sure if there were any, apart from the kebab shops. You know, I have nothing against kebabs. They can be quite tasty and all but there are places I don't like going. You know the kinds of places where the people make you feel really uncomfortable if you aren't local. The kind that have that real 'fuck off' vibe. Those kinds of places.
I ended up going to a shop down the street and getting a Coke then sat on the street drinking it.wondering what the hell I'd gotten into. Even with alarm bells ringing, I figured I'd stick it out. It's not like I needed to spend too much time in the neighbourhood and the flat wasn't that paid. Plus, I'd already paid for it.
I headed out to explore more and get dinner. I consulted google maps (there was no wifi in the apartment) and headed to an area that looked promising. Still more kebab shops. Still the creepy old men with their misogyny and hate radiating. I finally found one place with a woman sitting outside. I went in and ordered a currywurst -- a very popular food in Berlin, who knows why? It's a sausage with tomato sauce and curry powder!
Day one in Berlin had not gone well.
Then it got worst!
In the middle of the night, I was woken by a noise like a banshee screaming. I thought someone in the house was being murdered (which, quite frankly, would not have surprised me). Then realised the screeching and accompanying banging was coming from the weirdarsed heating system.
It finally stopped and I got back to sleep.
I woke up the next morning with crazy stomach cramps. Maybe from the currywurst. I'd planned a day of doing shit but crawled back in bed.
A while later, I thought I was strong enough to make it to the cafe around the corner (the one place the host recommended). I figured I'd get a coffee and go to the supermarket for supplies then try to get more sleep. The screaming banshee heater had started up again a few times again.
I emailed the host to let him know. He'd told me to email with any problems, he always checked his email. The coffee shop was closed to I went to the city to get coffee and have wifi access.
Pretty much all of day 2 in Berlin was spent trying to get wifi access so I could check if he'd replied. At first, I thought it might be one of those quirky things like you have to bash it in a certain spot and it stopped. One of those old building things.
By 5pm, I'd not heard back from the guy. Maybe he'd been working or been busy. I had the options of returning to the apartment and dealing with shit or moving on. I got online and booked a hotel for the night. That way I could get a decent night's sleep and hopefully he'd reply with a solution. I went back to the apartment and packed an overnight bag. I also contacted Airbnb to let them know about the issue.
The next morning, still no word from him. I had breakfast and decided, screw him. I'd extend my booking at the hotel.
I'd booked my room online and it'd cost $117 (Australian). When I asked about extending, they suddenly wanted 120 Euro a night (around $180 Australian). WTF. I told them I'd not pay that. It was a nice room but tiny and definitely not worth $180 a night. Especially when I'd already paid for my apartment.
With no word from my host after 24 hours (I'd messaged him a few times and had told him I was moving elsewhere), I went back online and booked a place for the final three nights.
That meant going back to the apartment and getting my stuff then getting to the new hotel. That pretty much wiped out most of day three. I did stop off to see the Berlin Wall because I was in Berlin and fuck it, I was going to see something.
I checked into my new hotel, hoping this one would work out and I'd not have to move again. My entire body was shattered from having to lug all my shit around the city, on top of the pains of flying and other travel woes.
Meanwhile, the host emailed saying he'd been out of town with no internet access (nice work when you are renting out an apartment). He apologised and told me I could return to the apartment for the rest of my stay, free of charge. Free of charge apart from money I'd already paid to stay there, that is!
That night, I went on a pub crawl. Not the sort of thing I normally do but it was an alternative type pub crawl and I figured it'd be not so annoying...
So, the next day I had a killer hangover. I'd planned on taking it easy, more wanting to see some of the hidden bars of Berlin than getting pissed. Then we went to the absinthe bar. I didn't even drink that much more just one drink at each of the last few bars. Then I went to a nightclub! Okay, I spend most of the time there hanging out in the back room watching this sudden death around the world ping pong game and talking shit at hipsters.
I even remembered where I had to go to catch the night bus home. Then I feel asleep on the night bus and woke up in the middle of nowhere with this big guy yelling at me in German to get off the bus. I think that's what he said. I had absolutely no idea where I was. For some reason, I thought the bus had taken me back to Kuala Lumpur and I was really distressed before I wasn't in Germany any more. Seriously, people, do not drink absinthe.
Luckily, the bus going back in the other direction turned up minutes later and, after a mini meltdown, saw my station and hopped off the bus.
It took a while for my befuddled brain to work the next morning. Then I worked out Airbnb had contacted me, refunding my money for the last three days for the apartment (I'd officially gone on the site and cancelled my reservation when I booked the second hotel). They also gave me a credit with them as compensation. That meant I wasn't out of pocket for my troubles at least.
I threw down some painkillers and headed out. I hit the Natural History museum and spent much more time there than intended. I might post about that later so this doesn't turn into a novel but it was one of the best museums I'd ever been to.
My last full day in Berlin, I had lost all interest. Then I went to the Eastside Gallery. Again, amazing. I might also put that up separately.
Anyway, the Airbnb host emailed me and told me he'd pay back all my money for my stay if I left him a positive review! OMG, I couldn't believe that although I had wondered how he'd gotten 60 mostly positive reviews and wondered if it was just me that had an issue.
So, I feel like I failed at Berlin. Too many issues to deal with and not enough energy to play after dealing.
I'm in Prague now. I'm here for a month. I think Prague will be a lot easier.