After Pol’and Rock festival and our day at the Beach, we headed from Szczecin to Berlin with Blablacar. We arrived around noon, checked in, stored our backpacks in the storage and headed towards the meeting point of the Alternative Free Walking tour. Today you can read more about this tour and why I recommend you to do this tour instead of the regular ones.
Sunday, 5th of August around 1 o’clock in the afternoon, we headed towards the center of Berlin (Mitte). The tour would start in front of the Starbucks at the Alexanderplatz. Quite an odd place to start an Alternative tour, is it not?
On our way there we, of course, saw the TV tower at the Alexanderplatz, we could still grab a sandwich and the tour started at 3 o’clock. The company – Alternative Berlin Free tour – organizing this tour offers these tours three times per day and last 3 hours. Our guide of the day was Ru and he was going to take us to two different parts of Berlin. The East and the West part of Berlin. He explained the principle of the Free walking tour: if you don’t like it you don’t pay, if you like it you give a tip and if you really like it you give a very generous tip. So basically, you can pay what you think the tour is worth.
From Alexanderplatz, we headed with the metro towards Friedrichshain, which was a part of East Berlin before the fall of the wall in 1990. The first stop was RAW – an old train depot. The buildings are still there, but it is an industrialized piece of ground – which means nobody is allowed to live there.
A lot of people moved from the East to the West when the wall came down, but some street artists decided to move into this depot and made it their studio. Nowadays, they still use it as art studios, there is a climbing wall – which is also situated on the outside of an old bunker. Yes, I learned that bunkers above ground as well exist – simply because they cannot build these underground in Berlin. Berlin is basically built on a swamp.
At RAW are also multiple clubs, an indoor skate hall – on which the first level of the first Tony Hawk game was based. And every Sunday of the month there is a Flea market. The people working there do not really appreciate it when you take pictures with them on it, but there were a lot of amazing street art pieces. Of which one saying that Wild Carp is enlisted as endangered species – on which I made the joke to Szymon that it is because of the Polish Christmas traditions (they eat carp for Christmas).
We had a short break here, to grab something to drink and to explore the grounds and I did not have eyes enough to see all the amazing pieces and to absorb the really great and relaxed atmosphere.
From RAW we headed with the metro to the West side of Berlin – Kreuzberg. On our way there we saw some nice murals and some graffiti – from the Berlin Kidz that is breaking the rules of graffiti. We got off and headed to the old Hospital – which is now used as an art gallery and restaurant. They have built a new hospital further in the district, simply because it was cheaper to build a new one than to modernize the old one. We walked around and headed towards The Engeldamm. Here at the Engeldamm and Bethaniendamm was where the old Wall was going through and the green part in between was the dead zone.
The Berlin Wall was built within 30h and they had to build a 150km long wall. So instead of following the official border between East and West, the East decided to build the wall as much straight as possible – this is less time consuming as you can imagine.
But why was the East of Berlin building the wall? A lot of educated and young people were moving to the West and they wanted to stop this migration. But why were these young educated people moving? Simply because the West of Germany had a better life. They had financial support from the Marshall plan (USA) while East Germany was suppressed by a communistic party. The way to migrate from East Germany to West Germany was only possible after the border closure via Berlin. That is why only a wall was built in Berlin and not over the whole of Germany.
The East build the wall, as fast as possible but because they tried to do it as fast as possible with the least amount of corners a small piece of East Germany was left on the other side of the wall. Since the East could not really use it, the West used it as a garbage place. A couple of years when there was a huge mountain of garbage an older Turkish man – Osman Kalin, was a bit bored and wanted something to do. He took it upon himself to clean up the land but came across during the years with some troubles with the West, the East and in the end with Germany. If you would like to know the full story, which is amazing and the problems he encountered I would recommend to go on the tour with Ru. Unfortunately, he passed away earlier in 2018 and is no longer maintaining the land.
From the West, we walked back to the East side, back to Friedrichshain, but we ended in a different place- YAAM. YAAM is an abbreviation for Youth African Art Market. Here you can find good African food and parties without any Techno music. Berlin is the place were Techno originated from, but here at YAAM none of that. They organize Reggae, Twerk, and Dancehall parties. To enter this place you have to pay a small fee between 2-10 euros, but with the tour, it was for free. Here the tour ended and we could explore the place ourselves. If you like to chill at the beach this is also the place to be, since they have their own beach. Here again a lot of street art, which looks truly amazing. Szymon and I ended up having some nice African dishes before we headed on our way for our evening plans. The tour we did with Ru lasted around 3,5hours.
Why would I recommend the Alternative Free Walking tour?
– You see something else than the regular highlights, which you can always see by yourself.
– The good anecdotes.
– You get to see the difference between East and West Berlin.
– To experience the city from a different kind of view, then as a tourist. You see more suburbs and how the people live, work and relax here.
– It is tip based.
Szymon and I already did some free walking tours in the past and we really enjoyed this one as well. We choose this Alternative tour over all the other tours, simply because we can visit the regular highlights by ourselves and would always like to do this on our own pace. We wanted to experience Berlin in a different kind of way and get a bit closer to how life was here during the time of the wall.
Have you ever been on a free walking tour? And does this Alternative Free walking tour sounds like something you would do?
P.S. we left a tip for the tour guide at the end, this is not sponsored or a collaboration. We really enjoyed the tour and I wanted to share this free tip with you.