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Mar 18 2013

A Really Alternative Walking Tour in Berlin

When I was in Berlin recently, I decided to do something different and go on a tour.  I wouldn’t normally do this but the fact that it was an ‘alternative’ tour appealed.  In addition to that, a travel blogger from Berlin said it was good, it was a walking tour, and it just sounded interesting.

The travel blogger said it was a free tour but you give a tip at the end.  However, the information on the leaflet I got from the Tourist Information Office clearly stated 12€ or a reduced rate of 10€ for students and people with the Berlin Welcome Card.  As it turns out, there are two alternative walking tours but I didn’t realise that at the time.  The cost of the tour seemed pretty steep to me and isn’t something I would normally do, let alone pay so much money for, but I thought it would be worth it to get a different perspective on Berlin.  Also, sometimes it’s good to do things differently sometimes and I’m always up for trying new things so I thought, ‘What the heck!’.

As there were two tours per day, I chose the afternoon one, which started at 2pm from the post office at Oranienburger Straße Station.  When I arrived, there were a few people with cameras hanging around so I guessed I was in the correct place and more people congregated as it got closer to the start time.

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The guide checked everyone had paid before beginning the tour. To my surprise, our guide was English. ‘Was that the alternative part of the tour?’, I wondered.  It wasn’t.  He explained a bit about how he became a Berlin tour guide before we took a short walk to the first of many stops en route.

I listened, made some notes, and took photographs as the tour progressed.  There was a lot to fit in so we moved very quickly, which meant there wasn’t time to absorb the information and I was struggling for an angle.  I didn’t want to regurgitate the tour information because that would spoil it for anyone wanting to do the tour and it wouldn’t be very interesting for me as I like to try to find a different way of writing about something.  I just wasn’t sure how I to do it.  That was until we stopped for a 15 minute break.

I wasn’t expecting to have a break but welcomed the opportunity to have a hot drink because the tour was due to last 3 1/2 hours, it was very cold that day and we were standing around a lot listening to the guide.

Berlin, walk tour, walking tour, about berlin, berlin berlinStreet art is illegal in Berlin because it is classed as graffiti but our guide took us to a courtyard, which is accessed by an archway next to Cinema Cafe on Rosenthaler Straße.  This is where artists are allowed to get creative and exhibit their work legally.  The guide recommended Cinema Cafe but, as it was full, three of us went with him to a bar at the end of the courtyard for coffee.  Our guide managed to get served quite quickly but we had to wait ages.  Hence, the guide finished his coffee way before us.  I had been chatting to the guide and, before he left, he said to me to finish our coffees and meet the group at the meeting point when we were ready.  So, that is exactly what we did.  We finished our coffees and walked to the meeting point. However, there was no one there – not one person from the group.  We thought it was strange but guessed the guide must have been rounding up the other members.  It was just really strange that not one of the many people on our tour was there.  We had a look in Cinema Cafe… nothing.  We went back to the meeting point… nothing.  I kept saying to the other two that he couldn’t have forgotten about us because I was talking to him during the break and he told me to meet outside when we were ready.  Surely his memory can’t be that bad and surely I’m not that unmemorable, am I?  Well, whatever the reason… he and the group weren’t there.  We waited for a few minutes and then realised that was it: our alternative walking tour had come to an abrupt end.  Our tour guide had basically dumped us!  So, that was the alternative part of the alternative walking tour.  We said goodbye and went our separate ways.  It just seemed so weird to end like that and I was really shocked.  I just couldn’t understand it, especially as he knew I was a travel blogger.  I even gave him my business card during the break.

Would I recommend that tour?

It was enlightening and I definitely learnt some things that I wouldn’t have otherwise known.  We saw some amazing street art, metal art and I began to understand Berlin better and the importance of creativity.  However, I wouldn’t recommend it for the following reasons:

  • In my opinion, it was expensive.
  • We missed the last 1 1/4 of the tour.
  • There is a free alternative walking tour and, although I don’t know how it compares to the one I was on, the guide has to wait to the end of the tour to get any money so he/she wouldn’t want to lose anyone.
  • Our guide had no idea how many people he actually left behind.

What happened?

Since the guide had my business card, he was able to get in touch with me and he did.  He sent me an email later that day to say he was the guide that we lost. ‘What? We didn’t lose you, you dumped us!’, I shouted at my netbook when I read it.  He offered to buy me a coffee and show those he left behind the bits we missed. The thing is, I didn’t have their contact details and he thought he left just me and an Australian guy.  That Australian guy was actually from New Zealand and there were three of us, not two.  I explained all this in my email reply and said not to worry about showing me around because I could see the funny side and I thanked him for giving me something to write about.  He actually gave me the angle I was searching for.

Have your say

Have you ever been on a tour that came to an abrupt end?  I’d love to hear about it if you have so please share your experiences below.

About the author

Teresa Keane

Teresa has been to almost 60 countries. She started travelling independently at the age of 38 when she gave up her job, rented out her house, put her possessions in storage and spent a year travelling the world. It changed her life. She now creates, publishes, & promotes online travel content and is an experienced freelance trainer & EFL teacher.

2 comments

2 pings

  1. Jeanette

    Hi Teresa! Doesn’t sound like it was a great experience, especially considering how cold it’s been in Berlin. I wonder why you didn’t name the tour company though, it would be useful for others to know what to expect from this alternative tour company ….

    Anyway, it was nice to see you in Berlin! Take care!
    jeanette

  2. independenttravelhelp.com

    Hi Jeanette.

    Yes, it wasn’t a great experience. I was going to name them but decided it would be easy enough to work it out from the meeting point and the price of the tour.

    It was lovely to see you in Berlin as well.

    Thanks for taking the time to comment!

    Teresa.

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