Berlin, poor but sexy
Trip Start Aug 02, 2010
26Trip End Dec 22, 2010
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Where I stayed
Alice's apartment, Leopold Platz
So, arrival at 9 am and we all rush back to our hostel/couch surfing to put our stuff away, ready for the walking tour. Yes, this time I went and couch surfed with a Berliner!! (Thank you Marcelo for suggesting and organising it!) It was an amazing experience, not only because it was free but also just for the chance to talk and hang out with some Berliners and our host, Alice was so friendly. Learnt that Berlin's mayor is openly gay and is famous for coining the phrase "Berlin ist arm, aber sexy." (Berlin is poor, but sexy), East Berliners like horrible chocolate, and that Bavaria is NOT Germany and DEFINITELY not Prussia
OK, so yes, after dropping off our stuff we went for the walking tour at the Brandenburg gate where we also met up with Patrick and his friend Taichi to form a very multicultural group indeed. Austrian, French, Japanese, Australian and Brazilian! Btw, the Brandenburg gate, while not as awe-inspiring as I had hoped, it's still quite the entrance into this awesome city and of course we had to do the jumping picture. Alice also asked us why all the tourist HAVE to do one of those at the gate, I guess we just like jumping eh?...she also found it quite amusing the number of times tourists have to try before they get a good jumping photo. Luckily for us, it wasn't a problem with Eugene's 6 fps machinegun camera! So yes, off the tour we went...with our lovely New Zealand tour guide, Ice. No kidding. The tour was really an eye opener for some of the history of Berlin and just a glimpse into the city's many many stories.
We started off through the Brandenburg gate, once a symbol for peace, to one for victory over the French and eventually to the famous landmark it is today. Next was the Jewish memorial, officially known as the "Memorial to the Murdered Jews of Europe", you can see why it's hard to be unmoved by the city. It was a memorial of a different kind...made to make you think and reflect, it really did deserve more than the 5 minutes we had there. We then walked to the former location of Hitler's bunker and the closest thing to his grave site, currently a gravel carpark...and not by accident. We visited some of the old Nazi buildings in the area too, while most were destroyed during and after the war, some buildings remain, including the former Luftwaffe head quarters and a small building that used to house the transportation department
That night we had a German junk food dinner of Berliner currywurst =P and went up the TV tower of Berlin, one of the tallest buildings in Europe. While the views weren't magnificent, it was really hard to spot all the buildings and there were spot lights shining everywhere, it was cool to see Berlin at night all lit up. We even grabbed cocktails in the bar on the observation deck =P Was a cool night.
Next day we took it fairly easy and walked around Berlin city and enjoyed the rare day of sunshine
Visited the Sachsenhausen Concentration camp on the Sunday morning, unfortunately that meant we couldn't check out the famous Berlin nightlife but I think it was good that we took the tour instead
Back in Berlin, we visited the East Side Gallery which is this massive section of the Berlin wall completely covered in artworks. It really is quite amazing and the art there is fantastic. Some are graffiti like, others are like proper works of contemporary art but all had a message to say...even if I didn't understand them all =P. Spent the last night in Berlin admiring the Festival of Lights with all the buildings lit up in pretty colours and of course, more German food! =D This time I tried blood and liver sausages...mmmm, yummy...ok, so they weren't exactly something I'm dying to try again but at least now I can say I've tried them right? The place we went to, the Berliner Republik also had a very cool beer exchange where it's like a stock exchange and beer prices fluctuate depending on demand. A very fun idea but we didn't stay long enough to enjoy it =( (but I did manage to try a mixed beer, sprite and beer) To be fair, we had to wake up at 5:30am to catch our plane hence the early night in. Ah wells, I think I've already decided to come back to this chock full of a city.
There's just so much to do and see and every district at different times has a different feel. There's the communist east and the nato west, the divide, signs of reunification, the imperial buildings of the German empire, remains of WWII, the amazing night life, parks, the many many museums...it really is just too much to see in the 3 days that we had there. The things that really made it for me too are the little things you notice in Berlin that bring all it's history to life. The bullet holes from WWII, the different pedestrian lights from East and West Berlin, the markings on the ground showing the path of the Berlin wall, the many street corners that were bombed and never rebuilt - hence the many little playgrounds and parks. And of course there's the wonderfully heavy German food of pretzels and wurst and meat and more meat =P. Yep, I'm definitely going to have to come back!