(Couch) Surfing Berlin



(image by Jonannes Andersson)

3 weeks ago we left our base in Trento, Italy and drove to Berlin, Germany. With no accommodation booked, the challenge was to stay off the streets and out of trouble for 21 days. No hotels/hostels allowed. 

At the end we managed to surf through 5 flats, slept in a car 1 night, were offered to sleep in an office, spent a night at a hackathon and got offered money to pay for our hotel by a Kenyan entrepreneur. Here’s how.

Friends of friends

The first thing that comes to one’s mind. Since we had practically 0 direct contacts in Berlin, we started leveraging our networks through facebook and email as well as last minute arrangements with people we met in Berlin. With every stay, we tried to keep it to the minimum, with 3 nights being a sensitive threshold. A great side effect of such intense flat rotation was that we ended up living in 5 various neighborhoods (Kreuzberg, Prenzlauer Berg, Wedding, Neukölln and Friedrichshain) which gave us a good feel for what different parts of Berlin have to offer.    


Overnight hackathons are great sources of shelter and food. On the downside (assuming you are serious about hacking - which we are), one does not get to sleep a lot (or at all). Disrupt Berlin Hackathon was extremely well organized and we were glad to spend a night at Arena Berlin surrounded by other hackers and designers.


(getting food at Disrupt Berlin Hackathon)


While interviewing Nils from Howdo for the upcoming launch of Citybeat Berlin, we were offered to stay at their office - an offer we politely declined having another potential lead. Generally speaking, a lot of the modern startup offices provide a pretty good level of comfort and home feel.


(we almost ended up sleeping in this lovely cabin/sauna at Howdo’s/Etsy’s office)


With no solid leads and a decreasing number of untapped contacts, we decided to power through the night and stay up till the morning. Berlin’s nightlife is generally well suited for these sorts of things. Unfortunately, the night in question was Monday and after a few long hours in a bar and subsequent roaming around empty Kreuzberg, we were forced to admit a partial defeat and retired to our Ford Focus which proved to be an ok sleeping solution. We were awaken by bright sunlight and curious looks from the locals.

Broadcasting (#thankstwitter)

On the last day of Disrupt Berlin we found ourselves with another uncertainty moment (aka Ford Focus bed moment). Around 8pm we blasted out a tweet, asked for some retweets from friends and family and sat down sipping on our schwarzbier waiting for a couch to manifest itself.      

Within a few minutes we got a message from Sam, CEO of Nailab (who was visiting Berlin around the same time) offering to help us pay for a hostel. The offer was shortly followed by a text from Johannes (whom we had met in Berlin a few days before) inviting us to crash at his flat in Neukölln. We accepted Johannes’ invite and thanked Sam for his extreme generosity.

Hugs and Kisses

Last but not least, hugs and kisses go to the people who hosted us: Carina and Samuel in Kreuzberg, Ági and Andras in Prenzlauer Berg, Monica in Wedding, Johannes in Neukölln, Chris and Fidel in Friedrichshain.  

Before you leave

If you want to follow our adventures, you should subscribe to our newsletter and follow us on Twitter. We are also working on a startup guide to Berlin which you might be interested in.  

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