Trip to Central Europe - Berlin

Trip Start Apr 15, 2003
Trip End Sep 01, 2011

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Wednesday, July 21, 2004

In late July, we traveled by car from Amsterdam to Berlin, Germany; Kracow, Poland; Budapest, Hungary and then to Vienna, Austria before making the journey back to Amsterdam. Unlike previous trips, we actually were able to leave half a day EARLY on this one -- which meant that we arrived early evening after our 7.5 hour drive instead of late at night. This allowed us to use the folding bikes we had brought to ride to the Soviet War Memorial in the Tiergarten (large park), the Victory column and the Brandenburg Gate. We explored what used to be the East German side of the gate (Unter den Linden Strasse), found a nice outdoor cafe for dinner and made plans for the next day.

Berlin is a city that is rebuilding itself. There are construction cranes everywhere. In fact, we were unable to see the book burning memorial because of the surrounding construction site. Despite this, there are still many areas that are vacant lots in the middle of the city. The Berlin Wall was actually several parallel walls with a large space between them which represented "No Man's Land". So, if you wanted to get over the wall, you actually had to get through the first wall, make it across No Man's Land and then get through the second wall. It is this space that used to be between the two sides of the wall that is still not completely filled.

Thursday morning we decided to take a 4 hour walking tour. It was mostly through former East Berlin and it gave a nice overview of where things are so that we could more readily go back and explore further if desired. This is the only way that we would have ever found Hitler's Bunker as there is absolutely nothing to mark where it had been.

In the afternoon we visited an outdoor display called the "Topography of Terror". It was created in the remains of a former SS-Gestapo headquarters and documents all sorts of Nazi crimes, including information on the treatment of political prisoners. We wandered around the city, tried to find the Berlin Philharmoic -- which took quite some hunting -- only to find out that it was closed for the season, wandered through the ultra-modern Sony Center and had a fantastic Asian dinner at "Noodles" restaurant -- chosen because we had spent the day noodling! Then we went for a sunset view atop the Reichstag. There is always a line to enter the Reichstag and when it's closed, it's closed -- no matter how long you've stood in line. We were nearly the last people allowed in for the day, so were happy to see the sunset and the city at night.

The next morning, after spending some time checking email in Potsdamer Platz and doing last minute shopping, it was on to Poland for the next leg of the journey. Berlin really deserves a much longer stay than 2 nights and day, but as a stop-over on our way to Central Europe we really enjoyed it. It's a very vibrant city with a lot happening and much more to see and do than we had time to cover on this trip.

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