I’m a birthday person. I love everything about them from the cakes and the cards to the presents and the parties. However, I had never been away from home and my family for a birthday for the previous eighteen ones I’ve been around for so being in Berlin to celebrate turning nineteen was a different kettle of fish. There wouldn’t be the homemade birthday cake courtesy of my mum or all my mates gathered in my garden enjoying my dad’s honed BBQ skills but instead war memorials and cathedrals. There definitely wouldn’t be a Disney themed garden party where my school rugby coach would be dressed as a penguin chirpsing my dear old Gran and there would be no repeat of the group of guys I call my best friends dressed as princesses. Replacing the fond memories I have of previous years would be the grand architecture of Berlin and a hoard of tourist attractions, and the nightclubs of Germany’s capital to party in instead of the decking by my back door. My German birthday was different from the moment I rolled of my inflatable mattress onto the floor of our Airbnb. A full English breakfast had been substituted for a week’s supply of Pom Bears, a snack I had garnered a strange love for over the past few months on the road. Travelling often leads to odd cravings and newly adored foods and a pack of bear shaped potato snacks would be my go to fuel to have on my lap for the long drives around the continent. Charlie, Jake and Bani were keen to start the jokes rolling from the start and handed me the first of my hourly shots of vodka as well as a birthday card filled with more insults than love.
As we had visitors staying Berlin who were keen to join the celebrations of me surviving another loop of the sun we headed to the centre via a series of landmarks and parks. Statues and pillars remembering the World Wars and the Soviet occupation of East Berlin don’t inspire joy on a birthday and my normal euphoric mood on this day was exchanged for a humbler one. An incredible frisbee session in the park was a more uplifting part of the day as we ran around chasing the flying disc. We eventually made our lunch date with the other half of the party, where by burger was joined by yet another shot handed to me by the chaps, but at least I could take revenge on them by buying a round for everyone so I wasn’t alone in reinforcing the boozy British stereotype. After that the day’s itinerary was comprised off several other sites, beginning with the Jewish Memorial Museum. As fascinating as the monument and museum was, reading point of view accounts from Auschwitz prisoners and learning about what is widely regarded as the greatest of atrocity of modern world history wasn’t the way I would plan to spend a birthday. Obviously, it’s important to learn about the great evils of man and the disgraceful tragedy suffered by so many but it wasn’t the best timing as it just left me more depressed than I would ever want to be on a birthday. The walk past Berlin Wall testimonials didn’t counteract these feelings and the post war oppression in East Berlin wasn’t exactly a spirit raiser, and it was all nicely represented by the weather as it began to rain as soon as we got to the Berlin Cathedral. There were brief pauses in the precipitation to enjoy the lawn in front of the imposing dome before it was time to head back and get ready for the true celebrations out on the town.
In addition to the hourly shots which I had begun at 9am my friends had kindly bought me a bottle of Jägermeister to aid the other spirits go down, a bottle that was much appreciated but sadly over indulged in. The drinking games and peer pressure ensured the drink didn’t last long and before we headed out the contents had vanished- in to me. The pre-drinks were in direct competition with the frisbee for most enjoyable part of that day and from what I can recall they were successful in triumphing over the disc, but as always, the drinks were the best bit of the night. Even trying to find the club we had been recommended we began experiencing issues as half the group jumped off the tube at the wrong stop, separating us at an early stage. Once reunited, we made it to our destination and I was finally able to sample the electric nightlife of the big city. A sample I have no recollection of as the shots and jaeger had teamed up to eliminate any memory forming ability I had so I have to take the guys word for it that I actually did enjoy it. They certainly did enjoy the night and the fact they succeeded in turning me into a bumbling zombie of a drunk, with very little cognitive function and bodily control. They certainly enjoyed the kebab they bought on the way home as they still give it rave reviews. Reviews full of such wondrous nostalgia that I am genuinely annoyed I was too incapacitated to buy one, as tales of these awe inspiring Doners have haunted my dreams. Possibly being my biggest regret of Europe, missing out on the cheap, greasy night time treat compounded the sadness from the glum sites of the day. I love the food at the end of a night out, it’s one of the best bits and even during some of the later hours of clubbing I have been stood at the bar contemplating my McDonalds order, there’s something about fast food in the early hours of the morning that’s just so good, so to miss out on what is apparently the worlds best kebab according to my three peers was devastating. Any other aspect of that journey is even less enjoyable. Being the disgustingly vile, weak stomached shell of a man I was, the tram trip back to our accommodation was a legendarily messy one. Needing fresh air at every stop on the way, I was escorted out by the squad and looked after as I would dispense my drinks back out onto the pavement, before being rushed back onto the tram before it left without us. A trick nailed again and again. Other than once. One time there was no stop helpfully on hand and so the spewing had to be redirected, and for some reason the place I deemed best suited for this was down the inside of my shirt. I guess I was just very considerate of the other passengers and the cleaner. If perchance any Berlin tram employees stumble upon this confession- I can only apologise. Once the rollercoaster ride had finally finished and I was empty of any stomach contents, and any kebabs left had most likely been thrown away because of it, my birthday had finally come to an end. Despite the enjoyable parts, the stand out memories are ones of embarrassment, shame and a lot of sick as well as gloomy museum visits and depressing monuments. Hopefully the next one is more successful.