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Published: October 16th 2006
After a pretty subdued night, I got up in the morning and grabbed some food at the supermarket before beginning a long day of walking. Adjacent to where I was staying is Berlin's large city park (Tiergarten) which I walked through to Brandenburg gate on the far side. I was hoping to follow the course of the Berlin wall, so I was happy to see that it's path was marked by two stone cobbles in the street. I followed it past the haunting memorial to the murdered Jews, and then on to Potsdamerplatz, where there is a short section still standing.
It's really hard to imagine how different things would have been in places like Potsdamerplatz with the wall running through the middle of it. Today its a bustling square with high rise buildings and shops. 20 years ago it was a no-mans land. From the plaza, I walked south to the river, but lost track of the wall, so I doubled back and ended up at the Topography of Terror memorial. The memorial has a stretch of the wall running along one side, and next to it is the actual memorial which chronicals the war crime trials after WW2.
I moved on to Checkpoint Charlie next. There isn't really anything left of the former checkpoint between east and west, but they have a replica of the american guardhouse as well as a number of informational diagrams. There is a tour company in Berlin that lets you drive these old east german cars around the city seeing specific sights. One of the stops is at the checkpoint, where they have a couple of guys in Soviet uniforms who
the cars and travel documents. It's really a funny sight to see.
Eventually I made my way back to the hostel after walking maybe 10 miles over the day. I really do enjoy seeing cities on foot. You see people driving around on tour buses and it's just not the same. Yes, they see more, but they don't get the same experience at all.
That evening I was sitting in the room talking to some people when this dodgy guy came in. He went to take a shower and after about 15 minutes he still hadn't turned on the shower, so I was beginning to wonder what he was doing in there. He opened the door and started
No wonder so many people smoke here. Not only can children buy cigarrettes from vending machines, but this one also sells toys!
speaking German to Silvia who was sitting near the door. I have no idea what he was asking her, but she didn't look happy. After he closed the door she started gesturing with her hands that he was using a syringe in the bathroom. I didn't think too much of it, and a couple of us went downstairs and got some beer. We were sitting at a table talking when an Australian girl came down and joined us. She asked if we had seen the syringe and we said that Silvia had. She told us that the guy was walking around the room with it, and there was some blood in the bathroom. Plus, he kept asking the Aussie girl if she was alone. So, we decided to talk to the guys at reception to see what they'd do.
As soon as we told them that the guy had a syringe he called security. The security guy arrived and he was short guy, but totally jacked. Plus he was missing half his teeth, so he looked a bit menacing. They receptionist and him talked for a bit before they decided that someone needed to go upstairs to id the
guy. The Aussie girl said hell no, so I got stuck with it. As we went up the stairs, the security guy pulled on a pair of black leather gloves and told me to just point at the guy when we got to the room. This guy was totally badass, although was dumb as a post. I opened the door, and pointed him out and the security guy launched into rapid fire german. It wasn't hard to figure out the gist of the conversation, because he started showing his arms and trying to say there weren't any needle marks, which of course there were. He was told to uncover his bed, but he walked to someone elses so I had to point out that he was showing the wrong bed. Finally, the guard turns to me and out of the blue says that everything is ok, he is diabetic. I was a bit surprised, but I couldn't really argue about it. So we go downstairs. When we get down, the receptionist explains the same thing to me. I pointed out that he had gone to someone else's bed, plus if he was diabetic why wouldn't he just show his insulin.
They thought that over for a bit and the security guy went back upstairs to confront him again. He came back down a couple minutes later and said he wasn't there. It turns out the guy snuck out right after we left.
Silvia and the Aussie girl both switched rooms because they were worried he'd come back. I was a bit worried too because I had been the one to point him out. They assured us that they would stop him at the door, but I wasn't convinced so I was pretty happy that everything worked out fine in the end. So, on the one hand I hated being the one to turn the guy in, but we didn't need someone shooting up in our bathroom. I mean who knows what else he might have done. At the very least I was worried about him jacking my stuff while we weren't there. This is the first time I've seen this kind of thing too. Every hostel has felt really safe, and so I think this was just a fluke. Oh well.
The next day I went to the Pergamon museum with Silvia because the LP said it was
With the Soviet memorial in the distance
free on the first sunday of the month. The LP is wrong, though because we shelled out 7€ a piece to get in. Oh well, the museum was amazing so it was worth the price. They have a huge collection of greek and roman artifacts, along with Bablylonian and islamic relics. It was a rainy day anyway, so it was perfect for hanging out in a museum.
By the time we had seen the whole thing (four hours later) the sun had come out and we walked over to the Haus Am Checkpoint Charlie, which is the museum that is dedicated to the history of the wall and checkpoint charlie. It's packed with documents and other depictions of life with the wall. All in all, it was a really interesting to see.
That night, Paul, Silvia and I sat around drinking (again). The beer in germany is so cheap and good that it would be a crime to not drink it. In Berlin we were able to get half liter (pint) bottles at the supermarket for about 0.60€. That's tough to beat anywhere. I also got myself a can of Faxe, which was pretty vile stuff, but it
came in a 1L can which I tought was awesome. They also sell 5L mini kegs here, which are a really cool idea. They have a little spout in the bottom, and you open an air hole at the top. Great for a couple of people, or one really ambitious college student.
The next day I went to Sachsenhausen, which was a concentration camp near Berlin. It was considered to be a model camp for the others, mostly because of its proximity to Berlin. Walking through the gates into the former camp as the prisoners did was chilling. The inscription on the gate reads
work sets you free
, which is abolsutely fucked up. Unfortunately, most of the camp's buildings were razed by the Soviets after the war, so there aren't many left, but they've restored a couple barracks and its horrifying to see the conditions the prisoners were subjected to. I spent about 2 hours exploring the camp before it started raining and I decided to leave. I'm glad I saw it on a dreary day, though. I don't think the experience would have been nearly as poweful if it had been sunny.
I spent my last day in Berlin in
Potsdam exploring the large park filled with royal palaces. It is shocking how elaborate some of them are. They must have cost an astronomical amount to build. It was a really nice day though, and the park is heavily forested, so I had a good time just enjoying the scenery.
That night, as it was the anniversary of the reunification, Silvia and I decided to go and see the fireworks at Brandenburg Gate. Of course, when we got there at 9 everyone was leaving so it was pretty obvious we missed them. Oops. We ended up walking around for a bit before deciding to try to go to the top of the Bundestag (again). We were in the last group of people they let in just before 10 and we spent the next 2 hours enjoying the fantastic view of Berlin at night from the glass dome on top. It was a great way to end my time in Berlin.
Stay tuned for Dresden.
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