My girlfriend Ana and I went to Berlin many times.
Usually, the trips went like this: we rushed towards the bus station in Prague, sweated in our seats for four or five hours, hopped on the metro and went towards our hotel in Berlin Mitte. We liked those trips, but something was missing.
Let’s call it adventure… or personal touch.
So this time, we did something we’ve never done before.
We went on AirBnB and found a bright, nice, and cosy room in the heart of Neukölln, Berlin’s up and coming district in walking distance to the river and most nightlife. That, we figured, would add a personal touch to the trip and connect us with locals right away.
But we didn’t stop there.
We were tired of traveling by bus and wanted to go by car. However, we don’t own one and our last experience with conventional car rental companies was all but rosy (it took two weeks, countless Mails, calls and face-to-face talks to get my 800 Euro deposit back.)
Then, through a friend, we found out about carsharing.
“It’s like AirBNB for cars,” he said. “People who own a car and don’t need it can rent it out to people in need of a car. All rentals are insured and you can find some really cool cars with character for special occasions.”
Cars with character, hum?
I downloaded the HoppyGo App, created a profile within minutes and thumbed through available cars in Prague. And then I found exactly what I was looking for:
A golden Audi A4 Cabriolet for around 45 Euros per day. Bingo! That’s cheaper than a bus for 2 people. I sent a request and the owner responded immediately: he approved.
Let the adventure begin…
I hopped on the metro and went to Karlin to meet the owner. He waited outside his apartment with his rollerblades and keys in hand. I offered to help him carry his bags upstairs, and so we took our time and talked over a water.
He went to see his parents for the weekend. His car, he said, would only catch dust and pollen in front of his house. So he decided to rent it out.
Good for us…
We walked towards the car and the handover was smooth and simple; the HoppyGo App lead us through all the steps: take pictures from all sides, note down the kilometers, hand over the keys and documents and Voila!, you're good to go.
I jumped in, slapped sun screen on and dropped the top down.
My girlfriend didn't know which car I picked. She expected the usual white Chevrolet Spark or VW Polo. I felt happy and a bit proud seeing her face when she saw the car parked outside of her flat; she was excited and took a few pictures
Then we hit the road and, thanks to Google Maps, found the highway to Germany. It was the first time I rode with no top and felt on top of the world. We stopped for water and snacks. I found the owner’s CD collection: we loaded Pulp Fiction’s Soundtrack and then drove towards the evening sun.
I felt like on a proper road trip, free and happy and part of the road.
We took 3 hours and 25 minutes to get to Berlin, beating the bus by a good hour (excluding the half hour it takes to get from the bus station into the city) without breaking any German traffic rules.
Then we met our host for the weekend: Daniel, a British illustrator who lives in Berlin for seven years and calls the city his true home. He met us at a local community gardening project in Neukölln, where he baked free pizza with all-organic, local grown ingredients.
All filled up and dough and Berlin’s very own veggies, we loaded Daniel in the Audi and drove the five minutes to his apartment. He really lived in the heart of Neukölln. Parking in Neukölln is free and we found a spot right behind his building.
The Stay in Berlin
We stayed in Berlin for three days and Daniel showed us the best coffee shops, bakeries and thrift shops in the area. One of the most memorable activities was our trip to the famous Turkish Market at Maybachufer, where we found traditional Middle Eastern food for cheap and later watched the sunset from one of the many bridges.
Of course, we also plunged into Berlin’s famous nightlife and ended up at one of the best places that brings the 60’s vibe back to life with people wearing costumes and bright oversized shirts. It also fit in perfectly with the shared holiday.
On our last day, Ana said over dinner:
“This shared economy thing is great. People are opening up more and the world grows a little bit closer together. Also, it takes the power out of the hands of large companies and makes the economy more… personal.”
HoppyGo and AirBNB made our trip stand out!
Overall, this trip to Berlin was the best trip we ever went on. Riding other people’s cars and staying at private apartments is the best way I found to see the world through a fresh set of eyes and add a personal touch, a touch of adventure, to the trip.
The car return was absolutely easy and hassle-free and the owner even suggested to keep the car an extra day, without additional charges.
That’s the kind of world I want to live in:
One in which people share what they have and welcome others into their world.
Thanks HoppyGo for this amazing experience.