Only a few weeks before hopping on a plane, my sister and I decided to run away to Germany. The outcome? Our scrappiest backpacking experience yet! Join us as we adventure with little time, money, or access to real beds! We really went rogue on this one-
Day One | Hamburg, Germany
With backpacks in tow, sister and I took the train directly to Speicherstadt, the warehouse district (actually largest in the world). All around there’s water and boats docked to the pier, providing a nice breeze and view.
We made our way to Miniatur Wunderland, the city’s biggest attraction sources claim you can’t miss. With a crowd already forming outside, there was little room left to question. We purchased tickets for an afternoon time (I recommend doing this in the morning to ensure getting in) and made our way to the next stop.
We walked past the Rathaus subway station (flooded with tourists and tourist traps), and found our way to Planten un Blomen.
It was beautiful. The fresh scent in the air was intoxicating, although I could have done without the bees (I get it though, comes with the territory). Already at this point my backpack started feeling heavy, so we took it as an excuse to drink. Finding a cafe alongside Wasserlichtkonzerte (a pond with talents much like Vegas’ Bellagio), I tried my first Hugo.
Trying to stay on top of the trends here, this refreshing elderflower/mint/prosecco concoction hit all the marks. My feet were thankful for the break too!
In true vacation spirit, we mustered ourselves up to a second location for libation (priorities right?). Katze seems unassuming from the outside, but according to my sources/rushed research on the train, they have the best caipirinhas in Hamburg. After trying my first in Brazil (where it’s the national cocktail mind you), I was curious to see how Germany’s stacked up. **unfiltered opinion y’all, Katze’s was WAY better. I still have dreams about it.
The afternoon’s cocktail excursion was a perfect precursor to our journey through Miniatur Wunderland. To be honest, I was skeptical at first that a model railway attraction would be interesting… even if it was the ‘world’s largest!’ Boy was I proven wrong-
I mean WOW. That isn’t even a quarter of it. My favorite was the airport tarmac where model planes actually took off and touched down! It blew my mind, definitely worth the buzz.
As it started to get dark, we forced our tired bodies to Indra Club 64. YOU GUYS, this place is famous because it housed The Beatles early on in their career! They played shows for a only few euros a day and then actually slept next to the bathrooms… talk about humble beginnings! I have to mention here that to get in we totally crashed a party of carpenters (we stood out like sore thumbs, but who cares it was worth it!).
We had the BEST first day, but if I could change one thing, it would be to go out in the St. Pauli district. We just walked down the main street, but I would’ve given anything to throw off my pack to go dancing! Apparently Hamburg’s got some of the best nightlife in all of Europe. I’ve got to get back there.
Nevertheless, we pushed back to the airport, where we spent the night. (Forewarning: if you can’t handle the idea of us nuzzled together on cold airport floor, then this post isn’t one for you… because it definitely happens more than once).
Day Two | Berlin, Germany
Early the next morning, we hopped on a train to Berlin. Mind you, these late nights/early departures are how we justified not staying in hotels, because we never slept more than a few hours at a time!
On our way I found out WE COULD LEAVE OUR BACKPACKS IN LOCKERS AT THE TRAIN STATION. What a game changer, because my back was already about to give out. Eager to accomplish everything on our list, we first made our way to the Victory Column.
It was a beautiful starting point for our journey through Tiergarten, which was huge! We could have wandered there for days. I was so enchanted by the scenery and gorgeous flowers. It was so peaceful, I even napped under a shady tree. A few deep breaths then onward we went!
Rest was necessary that morning, because the next portion of our day took an emotional toll. Seeing the Memorial to the Murdered Jews of Europe hit harder than I expected. When you walk up to it, it seems a bit unassuming. However walking through, the grey slabs rise up high around and overwhelm, making you feel lost. What a purposeful reminder of the devastation our world faced at that time.
Next we went through the museum, which even crowded with tourists remained quiet in unsettled reverence. I won’t say much in detail here, because I have trouble finding the right words… But the way they were able to share individual stories while encapsulating a larger picture was indescribable. A hard stop, but a definite must.
Across the street we rented bikes for the rest of the day, making stops at Stiftung Berliner Mauer (Berlin Wall Memorial), Gendarmenmarkt (public square) and Checkpoint Charlie (landmark boundary between East and West Berlin). We then continued our journey to the East Side Gallery, which displays artwork by 118 artists on remaining pieces of the Berlin Wall. I shared a few of my favorites below-
Full of hope and transcendent messages, these pieces are as clear in my memory as if I saw them yesterday. What better way to use something so terrible as a canvas and reminder for what’s good.
After lingering for a bit, we finally made our way to Markthalle Neun, one of Berlin’s most popular markets. Sadly we arrived as shops were closing, but we were still able to snag a few items for our own tapas and rest for a while in a park nearby. (This type of picnic has become one of our favorite ways to snack/rest on our travels, it’s tradition!)
The night ended at dusk with a bike ride and return to the train station. We were able to shower (for only a few Euros!) and sleep there alongside a sports team before our early departure to Prague the next morning.
Day Three | Prague, Czech Republic
We were thrilled when we arrived, in part because we had heard so many wonderful things about Prague, but mostly because there was a bed waiting for us! Airbnb, you always pull through. Our morning was spent catching up on sleep and listening to birds chirp outside the window.
After recharging we went to Old Town Square, took peeks at the Astronomical Clock (sadly under construction at the time), and settled down for a bite. This was when I tried Czech goulash for the first time. A classic mix of beef, vegetables and garlic may seem simple, but it changed my life. Pretty sure I ordered it every time I had a chance after that.
The afternoon was spent wandering happily, and mostly gaping at the incredible architecture. It didn’t take us long to develop an appetite again, so we found our way to Restaurant Konvikt for dinner. The pork belly dinner was a friend of mine’s favorite meal when she lived in Prague, and yet again, Czech food did all but disappoint. Definitely recommend this dish!
The evening ended at Municipal House, where we saw the ballet Swan Lake. For a night cap, we retired to the infamous Hemingway Bar. While it may be a bit overrun with tourists, there is no doubting the drinks are phenomenal. We started out with these two absinthe concoctions (yes, they came traditionally with their own dispensers)-
We returned fat and happy to our bed, and had a wonderful night of sleep (considering we were actually in a real bed that night).
Day Four | Prague, Czech Republic
Ahhhh, waking up and remembering what it feels like to be refreshed, nothing’s better! We started the day with an early lunch at Kofein, which offered a reasonably priced pre-fix menu. The atmosphere was warm and the family running the restaurant so kind. It was the perfect start to our day.
Continuing to follow our friend’s guidance, we made our way up a hill to Beer Garden Riegrovy Sady. With a couple spritzes in tow (I love the open carry rules in Europe!), we walked through the neighboring park to take in this perfect view.
Next we hopped in an Uber headed somewhere, and our driver thankfully intervened to drop us off instead at the Royal Garden. It was there we took in the breeze and beautiful landscaping, then made our way down to Prague Castle and St. Vitus Cathedral.
Continuing through our city sites tour, we stopped at Church of Our Lady Victorious, which is famously home to the Infant Jesus of Prague. I’ve made a habit of checking out famous churches and cathedrals like these all over, because I’m fascinated by adaptation of religion, but the elaborate decor here really was stand out among the rest.
We then continued to one of my favorites, the Lennon Wall. Having been raised by a father notorious for singing Beatles tunes, I’ve always had a connection with their music that’s only grown as I’ve gotten older. Just like you can often find next to the Strawberry Fields memorial in Central Park, it wasn’t too long before a man came along with his guitar and we were all singing Let it Be. These men really did touch all corners of the world.
I still can’t believe what we did next. Saying yes to new things is a habit of mine, so when we had a chance to go Zorbing (for cheap!) on the Vltava River… well, we jumped right in. And we were TERRIBLE at it.
Later on that evening we went back to our tried and true Hemingway Bar. Now I’m the first to oppose a repeat in the itinerary, but I mean LOOK AT THESE DRINKS. If it’s any consolation, we never ordered the same thing twice!
In a short amount of time, Prague became one of our favorite cities. But it was time to trudge onward-
Day Five | Dresden, Germany
If I’m being honest, our fifth day was built mostly out of convenience. A several hour layover in Dresden however proved to be perfect for our last full day. One last early morning train ride out of the Czech Republic, and we were there.
Before noon we had wandered through the Zwinger gardens, saw Semperoper opera house, Dresden Castle, and even sipped wine on Brühl’s Terrace. We were completely depleted after our travels, and the cool weathered calmness of the city soothed our spirits.
We were able to gather ourselves enough to walk up to Kunsthofpassage. Nestled in between buildings is a little gold mine of art and shops. Totally unassuming from the outside, it houses some of the cutest and unique stores we had seen. I loved discovering this little gem, even if it was a bit longer of a walk than our bodies were prepared for.
Before running back to our train, we found the trendiest cafe for a bite. The best part? Sister (who’s gluten intolerant) had plenty of options to choose from on the menu! It had been a difficulty throughout our trip, and there’s only so many McDonald’s fries one can eat. If passing through, you must give Elbsalon a try!
A quick bus ride back to the station, and we were off to Frankfurt’s airport for one last unconventional slumber before jetting back to the States. If you aren’t more exhausted returning than when you came, did you even go backpacking?
WOAH- spelling it all out made me realize how much we jam packed into 5 short days. Now I’m curious, what did we miss?! There’s no telling what other things we could have seen if we weren’t traveling at the speed of light. I feel like we just dipped our toes in the water, now we just need excuses to go back. 😉
Thanks for coming along, and as always, check out more of Miss All Over the Place’s adventures here!