Travel Journal

Berlin - Ich Bin Ein Beliner

(Wednesday 20 October 2010) by Mike and Julie's sort of round the world trip
Day 58-60 – 10/1-10/3/10 Berlin
As soon as we entered Germany we stopped and got Bratwurst. I couldn’t wait! We arrived without reservations but Julie got some potential places from the Garmin. The first hostel was fully booked, the second had one room rather expensive for what we were getting and the third hostel was also fully booked so we went back to the second. This ended up being a poor choice as Julie got bed-bug bites from the room and they showed up the next day something fierce! Fortunately the alcohol level in my bloodstream warded off the critters as I escaped without any visible bites. However, the walk in the cold rain in Amsterdam did me in as I caught a bad cold that would stay with me for a week. The weather in Berlin wasn’t much better being bitterly cold in the morning and perhaps warming up in the afternoon.
We took a free walking tour the next day which took in the major sites in Berlin. We had an Irish girl leading us through the Brandenburg Gate
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, Holocaust Memorial
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, the parking lot above Hitler’s Bunker, the old Luftwaffe Building which was the only surviving military building in Berlin
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, the Berlin Wall
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, Checkpoint Charlie
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, the memorial where the books were burned at Bebelplatz. The tour ending discussing how the Berlin Wall came down and the events leading up to the unification of East and West Germany. I think Julie was surprised at how the East Germany citizens had to live in a police state where 1 out of 10 people worked for the secret police or acted as informers. The free tour is just that, free, but the guides work for tips so you give them money at the end for whatever you think the tour is worth. I think we gave 10 Euros.
Since we ended the tour on Museum Island, where four of Berlin’s major museums are located, we went to the Pergamonmuseum which is on my bucket list. Incredible. The sheer size of the reconstructions of Pergamon Altar, Gates of Ishtar and the Market Gate of Miletus are breathtaking but they are so beautiful as well. I strongly suggest you visit this place if you are in Berlin.
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They also had a model of what the Tower of Babel
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looked like which is nothing like the old artist interpretation I saw growing up and I also learned that most of the sculptures which we now see in marble were mostly painted with bright colors . . . I think I prefer them sans paint.
We tried to get into the Reichstag, the Parliament building, but there was a long line so we decided to go in the morning as the guide book suggested. Tomorrow was the twentieth anniversary of the German reunitification, a significant event for Berlin especially; there were stages set up and concerts ongoing through the weekend so we spent some time walking through the events and the carnival booths set up before Julie’s bites really began to bother her. We went back to the hostel and checked into a new room which looked clean of bugs while Julie put some medicine on them.
The next day was Sunday which means free parking so we used the car rather than transportation. We did go back to the Reichstag and took the free tour of the glass dome which sits atop the building.
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It fits into German’s green position of natural lighting to save energy but also the view down into the legislative meeting is symbolic of the transparency of the government to the people which is perhaps corny but extremely important for the people of Berlin and perhaps not appreciated by other people in free countries. Afterwards we stopped at a Flohmarket (flea market) and Julie began to collect tea cups for a collection.
Next we drove to Sachsenhausen Konzentrationslager which first served as a prison for political opponents of the Nazis and then as a concentration and extermination camp for Jews. It was very chilling seeing the Arbeit Macht Frei on the fence.
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We spent a few hours there looking at the exhibits. It’s sad to see that Neo-Nazis recently tried to burn down the reconstructed Jewish barracks. Of course it was restored but a section of the fire gutted interior was left as a reminder that anti-Semitism still exists.
Another thing on my bucket list was to see and hear the Berlin Philharmonic but I could not work out a time to see a performance. As a balance to the Flohmarket
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, we cruised through KaDeWe, Berlin’s famed department store and got some cheesecake in their gourmet food hall. We did try a donner sandwich at a place the guidebook recommended. It was kind of like a gyro sandwich but with crispy cabbage, yogurt, pastor cooked beef or chicken.
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It was really, really good. So good, that we stopped again at the same shop when we were leaving Berlin for two more to go.
Right down the street from our hostel which was just outside of West Berlin, there was the Berlin Wall Murals which we stopped and walked along. Some of the paintings were very good and I got a chuckle out of the section representing Pink Floyd’s “The Wall” album.
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We were heading to Potsdam which was only about an hour drive from Berlin so we did laundry the next day and took our time leaving.

 


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