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Published: October 18th 2014
Part of the original Berlin Wall
one of the only stretches still standing
From Amsterdam we hopped on a train and headed into Germany. The next stop on the strip - Berlin!
After a 6 hour train journey we disembarked into Berlin's immense train station. Yes, 'immense'. More like a shopping mall with trains really. We wandered up and down with our bags trying to find a metro train to Potsdamer Platz for quite a while before we relented and went to a woman in the information office.. ..who told us to get a bus instead. Which we did from outside. Once there, we took a short walk to our hotel - the Ibis Budget, not far from the main sites.
Ich bin ein Berliner
Our hotel was a short walk from remnants of the Berlin Wall and also Checkpoint Charlie which we went and visited as soon as we'd dropped off our bags. Checkpoint Charlie, or at least the site of it, is pretty much a tourist circus with fake soldiers posing for photographs with tourists and people selling military hats as souvenirs. There's a load of snack food stalls and even an artificial beach where you can sit in a deckchair and drink beer. It's hard to imagine
Or, a mock up of it, where it was. You can have you photo taken with 'real' US soldiers (actors)
that not so long ago this was a genuine military checkpoint guarded by troops with guns. It's even harder to imagine that David Hasselhoff did a concert there too....
SO the next day we took part in yet another walking tour! We met next to the Brandenburg Gate and were taken by our guide around the sites of Berlin including The Holocaust Memorial, the old Berlin wall and the site of Hilter's former bunker. It was a really long and comprehensive tour and a great way to see the city and also learn some history.
These free tours are available in many cities in Europe, run by different companies but with the same idea. You turn up at the designated meeting place and meet the guide. With New Sandemans tours, there were loads and loads of people there, but they quickly and efficiently divided people into groups of 30. Your guide then takes you around the sights and gives you lots of information and stories. I'm guessing each guide is slightly different. They all work freelance and the tour company just acts as a marketing arm. At the end of the tour, you give the guide
The Holocaust Memorial
It's up to those who see it to decide what it means. You can walk through, and the ground undulates, so some blocks tower above you, and others are low down.
a 'tip' of whatever you can afford/feel it was worth. They give you an idea of the 'average' tip during the tour. It means that the tour guide has to work hard to impress you so you give a big tip, as this is how they earn their money. They get nothing from the tour company. The tour company often runs paid-for tours as well, so the free tour acts as a promotion for these. The ones in Berlin did sound really interesting and had we been staying longer, we would have done some, so that obviously works. We did them in almost all the places we visited on this trip, and they were all great, so Id really recommend finding out about them.
Beer and sausages
These are the things that sprung to mind when I thought of Berlin - and indeed, these two things would feature quite highly in the next few days. I had currywurst and a beer near Checkpoint Charlie. Basically because when I did German at school I would always order currywurst in role plays. So I was well practised in this skill....then the currywurst man went and spoke fluent English to
On the Beer and Currywurst tour. This one was in a shopping centre.
me. Tut. I almost said 'Givuz a break mate, I've been practising this sentence since 1991!!'. I considered forcing him to do the conversation again. But there was a queue. So I just took the sausage...
Anyway, the second night in Berlin was particularly sausagey and beery because we had a food and drink tour! As a birthday present Kate's parents had booked us places on the 'beer and currywurst' food tou
r! (this one was paid and we can't recommend it highly enough. It was brilliant). As the name suggests, it involved drinking beer and eating currywurst. Woo! And also walking from place to place in order to find more beer and wurst. Exciting stuff. So we met up with our guide - a bloke called Bastion, in a spicey sauce shop called The Pfefferhaus. The tour started here as one of the focuses of the food side was spicy hot sauces. While there we met up with the rest of the tour group too and sampled some of the proprietors spiciest concoctions. Then it was time to sample our first currywurst - in the foodcourt of the shopping mall opposite. Allegedly some of the best currywurst in town according to Bastion.
After all this spice it was time for the beer part - so we headed off to some cool bars with Bastion as our guide. It was cool! Not only was it a chance to sample German beers and food, but also an opportunity to get a guided tour of the city and a look at things you wouldn't normally notice - like the city's street art, for example (see pics!). We kicked off by visiting a craft beer place and trying out the beer tasting set and then moved on to a bar where you could serve yourself beer poured from a big tap in the middle of each table. This place also had a pug-theme. Yeah, as in the type of dog. It's called 'Mopse Trinken Bier
' and is well worth a visit. Anyway, a tour that was meant to end around 8.30 continued well into the night and by midnight we were sitting by a canal drinking in an outside bar. It was only the fact that we had to get an early train in the morning that took us back to our hotel. But Poland was awaiting us....
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