The road is long but with no winding turns
Trip Start Sep 08, 2008
28Trip End Nov 20, 2008
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Where I stayed
We have survived our two days in Berlin and will come away with a great appreciation for this great city rich with history. Heading into the capital of Germany I was impressed with the autobahn I had heard so much about in school... these roads are amazing and the speeds the cars were passing our wee coach were major. I've never seen so many Audi, BMW or Volkswagen before and certainly never at this speed. One thing I have to say for icky ol' Nazi Germany is that they knew how to build a road.
Our first night involved eating a traditional meal (sauerkraut soup, pork schnitzel with potatoes and ice cream to finish) in a traditional restaurant with waitresses wearing traditional garb. It's a shame to say the food was pretty awful but perhaps that is how it's supposed to be, it certainly felt like an authentic experience. After dinner we went on an 'Eye Spy' tour of Berlin which told us all about the Estasi (spelling is wrong but it means the East German Secret Police) - they were a pretty awful group. At the height of their activity they had over 100,000 officers and 170,000 informants... this meant that in your group of friends, you were guaranteed that at least one in three of them would be an informant. Sad stuff.
The tour started at a WALL memorial where they have recreated the 'death strip' which is only visible through a small slit in thick concrete... it's pretty creepy even without the guard dogs, barb wire and machine gun toting police. From there the group was divided into two groups were we would have to pretend to be East German escapists and try to find clues that would point us to our next destination (a bar with a drink waiting for us). It was interesting and quick with free drinks so we were pretty happy.
Today it was pretty wet which meant that our historical walking tour was mostly done in the coach. Our guide was fantastic and told us HEAPS about various places in the city. I was stoked with how much I remembered from school and was able to add little of tidbits of information for Mario. Once the tour had finished, we made our way to the infamous Checkpoint Charlie and wandered through the museum. It was an overwhelming wander... so much information and quite disjointed but I had to remember that it was put together by actual East Germany escapists with the help of supporters etc. It made me wonder what I would have done had I been living in Germany at the time, would I be brave and try to escape or help an escape or would I just let it be.
The museum took us a few hours to get through (thanks in large part to Mario reading every little thing) so afterwards we didn't have a lot of time to check out much else. We found a memorial in the square where the burning of the books took place, and the memorial for the Jewish victims of the holocaust created by the Germans and the ruins of the old Soviet Palace so all in all it was a pretty full day.
We left the main city to come out to a small village (can't remember the name of it) and are staying in a quaint little motel out here. Everyone is a local so we're trying out our broken German... it's fun.
Off to Prague tomorrow which I'm really excited about. I will try to write again once I'm there but internet cafes are surprisingly hard to find *sniff*
Highlight: being in this place that is so rich with history and trying to comprehend just what the people here have suffered. It's pretty humbling stuff.
Low point: the rain.