AED 50 = 10.98 Euros
With only €10.98 in your pocket, you’ve found yourself in Berlin. We can work with this. You’re not in New York.
UBahn at Eberswalderstrasse
For breakfast, grab a classic brotchen or maybe even go a little crazy and get a Butter Schnittlauch Bretzel — a delicious classic pretzel or pretzel stick sliced and filled with butter and chives — if it suits your taste. They are top notch in the stand on the U6 platform at Stadtmitte (or at least I like and eat them often, whatever that’s worth — but what else do you have to go off of except my opinions in this article?) and only cost €1.20.
Berlin is very walkable, especially the stretch of Unter den Linden which leads you all the way from the Brandenburg Gate to Museum Island and then finally to Alexanderplatz where by that point it is called Karl-Liebknecht-Strasse. This route is a nice walk in either direction, and along the way you’ll pass the memorial in Bebelplatz in front of a Humboldt University Library that commemorates the book burnings that were organized by students and took place in 1933. The memorial is a glass square set into the ground through which one can view empty bookshelves, symbolizing the books lost in the fire. Museum Island is beautiful to walk through even if you don’t have time (or funds) to see the insides of its many museums.
Looking toward Alexanderplatz
While this walk along Unter den Linden is great and the central area ‘Mitte’ of Berlin is very walkable, you may still want to buy a Berlin AB public transport day pass for €6.70 since it will get you around faster than anything. With a day pass, you can use any bus, U-Bahn (train/metro) or S-Bahn (train that stops less, goes longer distances). Or, you could keep in mind that a single ticket is €2.60 and be careful with when you use your single trip. Alternatively you can rent a bike for around €5, but be sure to check return times. A metro pass, carefully planned single trip, or bike is useful in the evening (or just when it’s cold) for hopping around to free events.
When you’re finished walking around Mitte, hop on your chosen means of transportation and if the weather is good, head to Tempelhofer Feld. The old converted airfield is the perfect park for a picnic. Bring a friend and food. Walk around, make a few more friends among the field mice, and climb on the bales of hay.
Now for a meal. There are lots of options. I’ll list a few in different areas, and you can choose which to do for each meal depending on your location.
If you’re near Mitte or anywhere off the U6, Mehringdamm isn’t far. The Mehringdamm stop hosts the most famous döner stand — Mustafa’s Döner Kebab, as well as Curry 36, a famed currywurst vendor. Expect to spend around €3.00 at either place.
If you’re near Eberswalderstrasse in Prenzlauer Berg, Konnopke’s Imbiss is located under the tracks and is also known for its currywurst. Also around €3.
If you’re near Oranienstrasse or Görlitzer Bahnhof in Kreuzberg, Rissani is a Lebanese establishment with delicious falafel for only €2 It’s the best I’ve had in city so far. Maybe buy an extra.
If you’ve ventured down to Neukölln, Sahara Imbiss serves excellent tofu, falafel, or other meat sandwiches drizzled in delectable peanut sauce for around €3. They claim their cuisine is Sudanese, but they seem to have adapted aspects of Sudanese cuisine to the tastes and preferred or popular dishes of Berliners. Personally, I believe the peanut sauce is a welcome addition and improvement on any food item.
With your döner, wurst, or falafel in hand, venture to the East Side Gallery and see the famous graffiti for free. One can also freely stroll through the Tiergarten (Berlin’s Central Park) or Park am Gleisdreieck (Kreuzberg) in good weather.
Since we’re limited to the equivalent of 50 dirhams, in lieu of the (wonderful) large art museums and institutions, check out www.index.de for free gallery openings and events happening for the given night. Free events don’t always mean free refreshments, but you never know.
If by whatever combination you’ve concocted of the above recommendations you’ve managed to still have around €1 or 2 left on you, stop by a Spätkauf (convenience store) for a cold drink or snack and take it for a walk along the Spree or Landwehrkanal.
[Photo Credits: Diana Gluck]
If you are looking to take a break from the overwhelming daily pace of Abu Dhabi, commit to an afternoon exploring the city. You’ll be surprised how far 50 dirhams will get you.
Catch the number 5 bus to the Al Mina Port. Get off at the Electra Street stop, which is about thirty minutes from Marina Mall.
Walk facing Electra, with your back to the park. Pay no mind to your fellow pedestrians’ hasty rhythm. Relax as you leisurely make your way down the street, watching people go by, and take note of all the little shops and restaurants that tickle your senses. Stop at any of them that strike your fancy, but I recommend you go on.
Keep going until you find yourself face to face with the majestic El Dorado Cinema. There’s no way to miss the vibrant lights on its facade. The city’s first-ever movie theater, the El Dorado stands as a proud memento from another era, completely out of place between the modern structures that surround it. A small number of dirhams will get you into a showing of one of the South Indian films they feature, from afternoon matinees to evening screenings.
The entrance to the theater is on the other side of its Electra St façade. Across from the El Dorado there is a restaurant of the same name. Complement your movie with a delicious Southern Indian traditional meal for no more 15 dirhams. Be sure to try their delicious masala tea and chat with the owner, Omer. He tells interesting stories about the theater if you ask!
Hang around the shops in this superblock until at least 6pm, when the sun has set and the monumental “El Dorado” neon sign of the theater is turned on. The radiance of its raw lightbulbs is awe-inspiring. The whole area gleams in shades of bright blue and pink, with the light reflecting off all kinds of surfaces under the splendor of the sign. With the flick of a lightswitch, the street is saturated in the glamor of the 80s. Only the sweet syrupy scent of kanafeh from neighboring street vendors will remind you that you’re on Electra Street.
AED 50 = $13.61
New York is so beautiful in the morning that it’s worth losing a little sleep to watch the sunrise spill over the building tops. If you need added incentive, this city flows with coffee.
Begin your day in Union Square, watch the city come alive, and partake in some free entertainment — there’s always something going on at Union. Watch out for the ‘bad luck’ circles drawn in white chalk on the concrete: it’s like a giant game of hopscotch across the pavement.
From Union, walk down 3rd Avenue to 13th street and find Everyman Espresso. This white-tiled industrial-style cafe makes exceptional,coffee; their tea is also worth trying. Both cost around $3, assuming you don’t tip anyone.
After you’ve had your caffeine fix, walk across 13th Street until you hit Fifth Avenue. Wander the street, admiring items you will probably never own. When you get sick of the acute contrast between reality and dreams, grab a $1.50 bagel from a street cart and munch with vehemence. Your stomach can be satisfied, even if your capitalist instincts aren’t.
One of the best free things to do in New York is museum hop. As an NYU student, admission is free to some of the city’s top museums—the Rubin Museum, on 17th and 7th, is within walking-distance and currently exhibiting Francesco Clemente: Inspired by India. If you spend $2.50 (a bagel and a half!) on a subway ride to 86th Street, you can enjoy the roof of the Metropolitan Museum of Art (donation-based entry), which affords stunning views over midtown Manhattan.
Despite the bagel, you might want more to eat. Wince as you spend another $2.50 on a subway ride back to Astor Place, from which you can walk to St. Mark’s Place (8th street) and grab a falafel sandwich from Mamoun‘s. This is the realest deal in NYC: the falafel delivers crunch without grease, and the tahini is as piquant and smooth as the lettuce is crisp. The culinary experience is well-worth $3.50, especially if you have been craving a taste of Abu Dhabi.
From Mamoun’s, head down 2nd Ave until you hit East Houston Street, and then follow it down to the harbor. Try to make it to the water before sunset. Then you can follow the main road to the Williamsburg Bridge and admire the scene suspended above the water.
Enjoy the way that time passes, and let go of a few minutes while you confront the myth of New York City: every image feels like an iteration but also a completely new experience, from brick buildings to steaming street grates.
P.S You have $.61 in change. You should have tipped the barista at Everyman.
Lower Manhattan as seen from Brooklyn, with the Freedom Tower at left and the Brooklyn Bridge at right.
Photo by Tessa Ayson.