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Published: June 29th 2008
So we decided that we had a couple of nights to kill and after hearing so many good things about the city, we took everyones advice and decided to go to Berlin. We were not dissapointed.
We left Vienna at the crack of dawn because it was going to be 9 hours from there via Nuremburg to Berlin. We did luck out though and we sat at the very front of the train so it felt a little bit like we were driving the thing! Also, the engineer was holding an ice cream cone as he was travelling at 180 km/h which, obviously takes quite a bit of skill.
We arrived in the massive brand new hauptbahnhof and we were instantly impressed. We bussed to our hostel, which was another great hostel in a fantastic location.
So we had a very short time in a very big city so our second day was jam packed so we decided to get the most we could done, but isn't this always the case with us? So we decided to do a free* walking tour at 1 pm so until then we went to museum island until then. If the name didn't give it away, museum is an island with museums on it! Peter wanted to go to 2 museums and Kif just wanted to go to 1 but they agreed upon the Pergamon museum so that's where they went first. The Pergammon museum is like many european museums are, it's what the respective country's loot from years of pillaging. Kidding! I mean the historical artifacts they have found in other countries and brought back. So the Pergammon has a giant hall and exhibit from the Greek and Roman era. Very beautiful with lots to see. It also including things from the near eastern (Syria, Iraq, Jordan, etc); however, that part was closed for renovations. Did I mention that this was the most significant part of the museum? Oh well, it was still a very interesting and factful museum. After the Pergamon, Peter went to the Altes museum and Kif wandered around.
They met back at the hostel in time to be picked up by Matt, the free* tour guide. Matt was a very knowledgable Englishman who took Kif and Peter and 10 others back to museum island to start the free* walking tour. At the old museum on museum island, a guy with a moustache, lets call him Hitler, liked to hold big important speeches where upwards of 80,000 people came and saw. We also saw the Berliner Dom which was a giant dome church that the allies used as a navigation point to bomb Berlin, until they bombed that as well. The tour continued to the Humboldt University which hosts a quiet large library as well. The famous book burnings occured in the square right in front of the library. After that we continued to what Matt called "Disneyland Berlin" or what us tourists know it as: Checkpoint Charlie. Everything is fake and it's a huge tourist hotspot ofcourse, but mandatory for anyone travelling to Berlin. Next was another mandatory thing, the Berlin wall. Right next to the part of the wall that we situated ourselves at was the old Luftwaffe headquarters which survived the bombings. It is now the Tax office. Who says the Germans don't know irony?
There was also an exhibit by the wall called 'the topography of terror' which outlined the autrocities that the Nazi's did; however, we would have to revisit that later. Next was an empty parking lot, literally. The importance of it though was that this was the location of Hitlers infamous bunker where he spent the last days of his life. The mood of the tour was set in to centre stage when lightning and thunder starting rolling in as we were told about the bunker. Down the street from that was the memorial to the murdered jews. It was a giant area that contained hundreds of coffin-like cement blocks varying in size and height which were all lined up in neat rows. It was very beautiful and interesting.
Our tour finished up by the Brandenberg which was the symbolic entrance to the city during the cold war between east and west. Very picturesque and big. Not to far from that was the Altona Hotel. Nobody in the tour group knew anything about this swanky hotel until someone asked:
"Isn't that the hotel where Micheal Jackson dangled his baby from?"
Group: "Aaaaaaahhhhh.....(multiple photos)"
That was it for the free* tour but why was it a free* tour? Well, it was by donation, but it was well worth it! It was quite the full day and by the time we got back to the hostel it was football watching time! we joined some football loving aussies and watched the two matches.
The next day was another busy one. We had to cover what we missed out on on the tour. So off we went walking after breakfast to Alexanderplatz which was a giant communist square which was really cool. It was surrounded by communist structures (ofcourse) and in the middle of it was a World Clock which was pretty interesting. We located Vancouver on the clock/map and sighed a patriotic sigh since we realized we're over 10,000 km away from you guys in Vancouver. Then we carried on to the Jewish Museum for a picture. We didn't go in (lack of time) but Daniel Liebeskind designed it and Peter found it quiet uniquely designed. So we snapped some photos and carried on to Potsdamer Platz which is located right on where the wall used to be but is now full of modern buildings, glass, steel, and many multinational companies. Peter was in heaven! After wandering around aimlessly craning our necks to the sky, we booked it back to the hostel (a bit of a tradition of ours by now) and joined up with another tour from the same company. We were expecting that this tour, called the "Third Reich Tour", would focus a lot on the rise of the Nazi party and where they did things during there 12 year Reich. Instead, the tour was more of a Jewish history tour of Berlin. Interesting: yes. What we were hoping for: no. We headed off to the Reichstag next with Eric and a random guy who we never actually learned the name of. The wait wasn't that bad to go up the dome, designed by Sir Norman Foster, and the views were well worth it. One could see all over Berlin and we got some great photos. The bonus to this was that it was all free (no asterisks here)!!! Afterwards, Kif and the other two guys headed off to the Topography of Terror and Peter headed back to the hostel. They all met up again later, after grabbing the Aussies (Chet, Rom and Darren) and went out with some more random Canadians. We headed to a bar, which was actually a squatters bar. It was in the back yard of a massive building, that artists and squatter has taken over. It was really cool because you could walk through several de-facto art galleries, and then head out back for a drink. It was probably one of the most random and interesting bars that any of us had been to. We could not stay out too late though because we were heading off to Poland early the next morning.
Things we learned in Berlin:
-Kebabs have replaced ice cream as Peter's kryptonite!
-Fact: David Hasselhoff (The Hoff) saved the world.
-If you jaywalk in Berlin, you are a "child killer"!
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