Aside from the techno, the street art and the wall, Berlin has an 'abandoned' feel to it, manifested in a number of disused sites across the capital, some of which you can visit (and some of which you can but aren't supposed to).
Of course, the same 'secret spots' are going to be shared among all who stay at the hostel, and probably even in every hostel, but that's still fewer tourists than come to the area as a whole, so you still stand a good chance of getting the lowdown on something relatively unknown.
One such site is the abandoned Spreepark in East Berlin. An entertainment park, it was opened in 1969, but Spreepark struggled with mounting debts throughout the 90s, until finally announcing insolvency in 2001. Some six park attractions were shipped to Lima. The rest of the park was closed, reopening only for limited guided tours from 2011 until earlier this year when it was bought back by the government. Guided tours have ceased, and a large part of the park was recently destroyed by fire, so security is said to have been stepped up to support the 'No trespassing' signage that lines the tall fence around the site.
But that wasn't going to stop us...
Garth and I had heard from Enrico that "small Oriental girls come back with pictures of themselves [inside the park boundaries]", so we were encouraged to give breaking in a go. We later heard from the bouncer at a hidden bar by the railway line on the river that there were dogs patrolling the site, so we felt a pang of nervousness that was quickly rationalised away by assuming that a local bouncer was bound to want to spook 2 young foreign girls invading his capital.
After walking the perimeter fence for about 20 minutes or so, debating at what point and how we could get ourselves inside, some girls and guys in their early 20s emerged from the bush. We chatted for a while through the fence and, handily for us, they began enlarging a hole in the earth underneath the barrier to get out, so we simply waited for them to finish labouring before using it to squeeze our way in.
It was not quite, as Garth had imagined, "like Angkor Wat". But it was a landscape of ruins that was slowly being reclaimed by the 'jungle'. We were about half an hour away from sunset and the dark light accentuated the eeriness of the site and the unnerving feeling that once there was life here and then it had up-sticks-ed and went, without even closing the door on its way out.
A garish, toothy mouth of a rollercoaster tunnel; empty bellied train carriages; a wheely big big wheel; signs pointing pointlessly; headless, prostrate dinosaurs and ghostly railway tracks. We never found the teacups but, after shouting over to my buddy as she wandered down a winding path, "Hey, look at this!" we agreed that it was best if we started making tracks lest the light faded, we couldn't find our way out and the zombie apocalypse began.
We discovered later at dinner, while getting directions off 2 German guys eating at the table next to us, that the site was patrolled by security after all. In fact, they'd broken in relatively recently, had been collared and actually escorted off the premises. So, a win for us!
For me, this adventure, along with hunting down the anarchists and cycling the disused airfield, made Berlin so much better. As Enrico - who I'm remembering somewhat now as a German Sage, only wearing more Asics - wisely counselled, "The centre will stay the same, you can see it any time", whereas there's only a small window of opportunity to enjoy the derelict delights of Berlin.
The next time I go, who knows what we'll find there instead.