I used a great German rideshare website, Mitfahrgelegenheit, to go from outside Amsterdam to Berlin. I practice what I preach on my website! We haggled to 33 euros ($41) for the 6-7 hour trip, but with rideshare you never know what you are getting to get. My driver was a nice-enough guy, but he chain-smoked, had a dog, and blasted horrible techno “music”—wait, that was redundant—he blasted techno the entire time. My head was throbbing to the point that I yearned for a Michael Learns to Rock CD. It was a hot drive, and it seemed the whole time I sat in a swirl of sweat, smoke, dog hair and pulsing techno, ready to hang myself.
How I stayed cheaply in Berlin is going to be a part of one of my next blog posts, “Advanced CouchSurfing Tips,” because of the way a CouchSurfer found me and told me about it. I stayed in a guest room for student housing at a university, 20 euros ($25) for 3 nights. The downside was that the toilet wasn’t in the room. It wasn’t even in the building. It was 50 meters away in another dorm building that is sometimes locked and you have to wait for someone to come. (I should really stop traveling.)
It’s fun to be around the energy of universities and the student scene.
YOUNG TRAVELER ADVICE ALERT! YOUNG TRAVELER ADVICE ALERT!
Probably no one in their 20s needs or wants to hear my advice, but being in Berlin reminds me I could have used some guidance back in the day. I was in East Berlin on May 1, 1988 and terribly regret not watching the spectacular Workers Day parade, the penultimate one for East Germany, if I’m not mistaken. Instead, I stumbled around the distant suburbs where everything was closed because all the smart people were in town watching the parade.
Anyway, my advice for you young punks is to visit provincial university towns in Eastern Europe and to visit them on Thursdays. Try to CouchSurf with the students who live in university housing. Thursdays are when students blow off steam because everyone goes home on Fridays. My experience was mostly in Hungary, where every Friday was a mass wildebeest migration to the train stations.
The rejoinder to this is to hope you get invited home with your host. It is very special in the small towns and villages where you get a totally different, unforgetably rich experience, not to mention the great home-cooked food you won’t have anywhere else or the other events/parties where there are new friends to make. Go now. Thank me later.
END OF YOUNG TRAVELER ADVICE ALERT! END OF YOUNG TRAVELER ADVICE ALERT!
I prefer Berlin on a weekend mostly because it might be the best place in Europe for flea markets—can you think of any other contenders?—but I could only manage a visit in the middle of the week. I stumbled around the distant suburbs, undoubtedly missing a parade somewhere, never learning life’s lessons.