Berlin. Poor but Sexy!

Trip Start Jun 13, 2009
Trip End Apr 30, 2010

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Flag of Germany  ,
Saturday, October 10, 2009

That's their slogan apparently, and I think it fits.

Berlin was freezing, grey and smelt like cigarettes. My favorite! We arrived in the evening to find our hostel was out in the suburbs – great. But we were worn out from traveling all day from Cesky Krumlov so just went to bed.

Next day we met up with Lach (from Prague) and he was staying in a way better hostel in a way better location than us so we organized to move there the next day and have the weekend in the city! We walked around Berlin, got some gourmet chocolate and visited Checkpoint Charlie and the 'Haus am Checkpoint Charlie' museum which was full of people’s amazing escape stories from East Berlin. We were cold and the weather was really crappy so we headed to the movies to see ‘Inglorious Basterds’ – a WW2 Quentin Tarentino movie. Not 100% factual, or even 10%, but at least it was in the Deutschy theme. Unfortunately the movie is in German, French and English.. so being in Germany we had no subtitles for the German bits (which was a lot of the movie) and German subtitles for the French bits. I could understand what was going on most of the time but it was hard to translate to Megg and Lach while trying to get the next bits – took a lot of concentration!! It was really good though you should all check it out (unless you hate blood and guts..). We ended the night at an American style dinner with a burger and German beer… mmm.

On Friday we packed up and left our place in the sticks and headed to the big smoke, former East Berlin. They wouldn’t give us a refund for our extra 2 nights we had paid for, but they had messed up and not charged us for the 4th night when we arrived, and didn’t take a key deposit which they gave to us on checkout – so we weren’t really out of pocket anyway! Once we had dropped our bags off at the new place we headed to Alexanderplatz where Megg found and bought a jacket in about 2 seconds – seriously the fastest clothes purchase I have ever seen, it was awesome.  We spent the arvo on an alternative tour of Berlin which showed us heaps of great street art and cool places in Berlin where artists hang out. We went to a place around the corner from our hostel called ____. It was originally a department store, and then during WW2 the SS used it to hold prisoners and as offices. Then when the Soviets invaded the Nazi’s flooded it to destroy everything. Apparently the water and muck is all still in the basement, but it’s all sealed off and not causing damage so they just leave it there. Now it’s a derelict building and artists use it as a studio and gallery space. There is also a beer garden down the bottom and a couple of bars there. All the walls and ceilings are COVERED in graffiti, paste-ups and stencils – it’s really grungy and dirty but amazing all at the same time.

We also went to another similar place, and old bombed out train depot. It was never cleaned up, and we were told that this is due to the size of Berlin – it’s way bigger than it needs to be for all the people who live there, so lots of bits that were ruined during the war never needed re-building. Now it’s got the biggest indoor skate park in Berlin, a rock climbing tower, a few clubs and a big beer garden, and loads of street art covering all the walls. A pretty awesome space for people to hang out really, it’s great that positive things have come out of such horrific happenings.

The tour finished right near the ‘East Side Gallery’, a stretch of the old wall covered in big murals, most of which are to do with Berlin’s history. By this time we were officially frozen to the core so we headed back to the hostel and met a crazy Dutch guy, a Canadian girl and 3 Israeli guys. We had REALLY good Thai for dinner and spent the eve at  _____.

For our last day in Berlin Megg and I headed off on a ‘free’ tour of Berlin to see all the normal sites. Most cities have ‘free’ tours where you just have to tip the tour guide at the end. It’s a good way of knocking over all the things you want to see in one hit, and learn a bit of history and hear some stories about what you’re looking at. So we saw all the massive buildings, the Opernplatz where the NAZI students performed their massive book burning, the TV tower that the Soviet’s built to show that they were powerful (looks like a skewered golf ball), Checkpoint Charlie (Berlin’s Disneyland because it’s all fake), bits of the Berlin Wall, the car park that use to have Hitler’s bunker under it - where he committed suicide, the Jewish memorial, the Brandenberg Gate.. etc.. It started raining right after the tour ended which made the weather even more pleasant (I love being cold, but there is nothing better than cold AND wet) so we went back to the hostel and hung out in the bar with everyone, and went out for a cheap crappy dinner. Despite the food and weather I decided that I would call it a night and hope for better weather in Amsterdam…
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