Wednesday, May 9, 2018

How to Live in Berlin For (almost) Free

After bimbling around Belgium and Holland for a couple of weeks and stopping in places for one or two nights, we reached Berlin, where we planned to stay for two weeks. After struggling to find anywhere to park in London, and encountering various degrees of hostility in people in almost every place we’ve stayed in England, we weren't sure how being in a city would work, especially for this long. It turns out that Berlin is perfect for van dwellers, freedom seekers and people on the tightest of budgets. 

We spent the first week parked at Tempelhofer Feld, a huge abandoned airfield in the south-east of the city, near Hermanplatz. It's been reopened as a public space, with areas for BBQ-ing, community gardens and a bike repair workshop, amongst many other projects. We parked on Oderstrasse, one of the streets lining the park, and we were not alone; there were so many campervans and caravans parked up, some just for a few days and some that looked like they'd been there for years. So we didn't stand out, and it didn't seem to matter that we weren't moving either. 

Tempelhofer Feld 

Parking at Tempelhof had a few other perks, besides being right by an amazing park. There are public toilets that you can use when the park is open (6am until 8.30pm when we were there, but it's open until 10pm in the summer), and they are plumbed into the mains water supply, so we could refill our water as well. We tried to only do it early in the morning, so no one would see us, but although we got a few funny looks pushing a 25l water container back on a bike, no one seemed bothered at all. 

In fact, as long as you're in a free parking area, no seems bothered about you anywhere. We did get one ticket while we were here, but after getting a friend to translate it, it turns out it was because we were parked the wrong way round, which seemed very German; it's totally fine for you to park here indefinitely and live in your campervan, you just need to be facing the same way as everyone else. As opposed to the trouble we had in Brighton: “We don't care which way round you park, just fuck off.” 

Our second week we parked in Ostkreuz, which is a Mecca for anarchy, squat culture and vegan food - once we got here we didn't really leave again! The facilities are not as good (there was no convenient water or toilet), but that just means you have to get creative. There were roadworks happening near where we parked, and they had an unlocked porta-loo that we used a fair bit, and luckily we had friends living in the area who hooked us up with water. Porta-loos are everywhere in Berlin, so keep your eyes peeled - it's always good to know where to go in an emergency.  

Our spot on Buchbergerstrasse - and Bob isn't even the most conspicuous vehicle 

If all else fails there are a lot of cheap cafes and places to get epic amounts of delicious vegan food (and use the toilet) for a very reasonable price. Our favourites are: 

Vonner, Boxhagnerstrasser - two wagenburgers mit pommes special will set you back €13, and is enough to completely stuff two hungry people. (At least the first time, they started going down way too easily after that!) 
Yoyos, Gartnerstrasser - a huge vegan fast food menu, with pizzas, burgers and wraps. Everything is around €5-7, and portions are generous and delicious. 

All this goodness for €7!

Supamolly, Jessnerstrasser - on Sundays this venue turns into a cafe, where you can get massive slices of cake, including lots of vegan options, for €1. There's also a free shop on in the week where you can take up to 5 items for free! 
€3 falafel, almost everywhere - there are a lot of places to get really cheap and tasty falafel, the perfect treat for people on a budget. 

If you're hard up for cash, you can always collect and recycle glass bottles. Beer bottles are 8c, club-mate bottles are 15c, so you won't make a fortune (unless you're dedicated and do it all day, like some). But if you want a guilt-free way to indulge in some supermarket snacks, keep hold of your bottles, and pick up any you see on a stroll round the city - they're everywhere and it soon adds up. We took our collection of club-mate empties to the supermarket, and got enough for two bags of crisps, a bag of peanuts and a bar of chocolate! 

Berlin is a city of possibilities - almost anything can (and usually does) happen. Now that summer is here, the many parks around the city are full of people hanging out and enjoying the sunshine, and there's always something random going on, like a spontaneous swing dancing display, or a dance party around a beat-boxing busker. We’ve had a great (and free) time just wandering the streets, sitting in the parks and watching the varied life of Berlin go by. 

A cafe down by the river we found when we were wandering - you'd never know it was there from the street. 
There's so much more to the city than its top tourist spots - we didn't do any of them, except the East Side gallery on The Wall (it's free!). Instead we immersed ourselves in the sights and sounds (and flavours!), rode our bikes down side streets and explored the weird and wonderful places we found. Two weeks is definitely not long enough, but we have to leave before we eat another wagenburger! 

One of the murals on the Wall

-the FREEDOM junkies

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