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Published: September 17th 2012
As children growing up in the mid-western part of the U.S. in the 1960s, we heard of the Cold War and the Iron Curtain. There were fallout shelters and we practiced drills at school in case of a nuclear attack. We grew up with spy stories, neighbors and parents considering building shelters, and of course the evil empire of the U.S.S.R. and its puppet states.
Fast forward to 2012 and there we were, right in the middle of a now free Berlin, once the home of the Third Reich, the DDR and of course, the infamous Wall. Berlin is now a vibrant, free-spirited city that is quickly establishing its new identity in today’s world.
Both of us admit that we never imagined ourselves in Berlin anytime soon as it wasn’t on the travel radar. Not that there is anything wrong with the city, but it just was not on our list.
But we had to come here. The reason……we needed a visa to Myanmar. Sounds strange, but it’s a real reason. It is really a math thing. Our good friends in the Myanmar government only issue tourist visas for 90 days after they have been granted. Find yourselves
The Berliner Fernsehturm
The iconic East German television tower.
in a position where you are leaving your home country and traveling for an extended time before you even reach Myanmar and you can also find yourself trying to get a visa for this wonderful country while you are on the road……in Germany.
We have planned some two weeks in Germany and our initial strategy was to spend most of our time in the southern part of the country. But the importance of gaining the visa to Myanmar changed all that. And so, on to Plan B. A few days ago in Copenhagen, we mapped out our big plan. As soon as the plane landed in Berlin we would take a cab straight to the Myanmar embassy and apply for our visa. The web site says it can take up to two weeks but we are hopeful it will be less time. (lob the old sob story on the embassy officials and hope for the best) We wanted to spend one week in Berlin and the rest of our time in Munich and Bavaria. We felt we could not waste a minute getting the application submitted.
We had rented an apartment via airbnb and needed to stop and
pick up the keys to the apartment first. Dave had been on the website and had been unable to find the hours of operation for the Myanmar Embassy. Our logic told us it would be open until 4pm at the very least.
HA! First mistake. As we flew from Copenhagen to Berlin we decided we would call the embassy before going over there….just to make sure because it was about 14 km from where we were staying. We picked up the apartment keys and headed out to the embassy without calling first. We splurged on a taxi out to the embassy, arrive at the embassy at 1415 only to find it closed…. at 1400. (insert cussing and major disappointment here) The hours posted on the gate are 1000 to 1200 and 1300 to 1400….
Guess who was first in line the next morning?
Long story short after 3 trips to the embassy we have our visas now and if you want to hear the entire story you will need to buy us a beer when we return. The tale is too twisted to go into at this point.
Good news though, we are very
now that looks like fun
happy with our Berlin apartment. If you need housing in Berlin send us a private message and we can give you the address of the apartment.
It is much nicer than the one we rented in Copenhagen. We are located less than a mile from checkpoint Charlie and very close to bus and subway. We will be using airbnb again.
We found ourselves in a major city with time on our hands and a plethora of choices. When you have a week in a city, you can move at a relaxed pace, talk to many people and get a feel for the town. In our case, the metro and bus system is fantastic, one of the best we have ever experienced. Timely and clean. One of the best we’ve experienced.
The neighborhood we are staying in Mitte, can best be described as quite close to the wall (when it was around) and one of those that was once old and in disrepair but now is quickly becoming re-gentrified and a hub of activity for young families. Everywhere you walk there are young parents with children in tow or in strollers.
Berlin offers many parks and green
If you have the scaffolding concession, you can’t help but make money as there is so much restoration taking place. And they are doing a very nice job of it as well. In consideration of how things were as little as 23 years ago, things are definitely looking up.
One observation is that there is a great deal of graffiti……everywhere. Not to be confused with wall art, which is something altogether different. There is some excellent artistic expression around, but also a fair share of the run-of-the-mill (I’ve got a can of spray paint and I want to use it) graffiti. The East Wall Gallery by the River Spree has some great wall art and shouldn’t be missed. Another is that the Converse tennis shoe company must be doing well with sales here. “Chuck Taylor” high top shoes are worn by lots and lots of men and women.
We’ve enjoyed better weather here as we slowly make our way south in this hemisphere (remember we started out in Iceland and Greenland) as the vernal equinox approaches. Very little rain, a bit windy, but hey….fall is approaching along with the mix of sun and clouds.
East Side Gallery
The remaining wall contains some very nice artwork
Our stay has also included the usual places to take in when visiting here. We went to the top of the TV Tower for a look around (at over 200 meter up), saw the Brandenburg Gate, the Reichstag, and of course, The Wall.
The history of The Wall is fascinating in that it most probably is the only fortified structure put in place to keep people of a given city……… from freedom.
Most walls in history provide security from invaders. This one kept fellow Germans from seeking freedom in a country they once shared. This of course was after the fall of the Third Reich, which was a strange odyssey in the annals of history. But the Germans have not ignored their past, but rather have put in on display. They have museums of the Holocaust, life in the DDR (East German Republic), and others. Maybe this is the German’s way of heeding the words of Irish statesman Edmund Burke, who once said, “Those who don’t know history are destined to repeat it.”
Our time in Berlin was perhaps forced upon us, but we relished the chance to observe a city and a citizenry determined to
Berlin Train Station
Sleek and modern....lots of shopping
move forward from the past and take their place among the great cities of the world. Berlin has seen tremendous change in the past 100 years, and was nearly destroyed less than 70 years ago, but has rebounded and grown to be extremely eclectic, free and prosperous. We consider ourselves fortunate to have had the chance to witness a small part. Berlin is a great city and we are glad we had time here! Travel tip # 111
- If you are in Berlin looking for a good restaurant please consider eating at der Platzhirsch located on the corner of Granseer Str. & Swinemunder Str. We love it and ate there twice for dinner and once for breakfast.
We took the train to Potsdamn for a few hours. There is more to do there than we realized and our time there did not do it justice. Interesting history and architecture. Maybe another time.
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