Beeeerrrrrrrrr - lin

Trip Start Aug 17, 2009
Trip End Jul 20, 2010

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Flag of Germany  ,
Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Hello all.

So my last post was just a brief send-off from Leiden with no pictures. I've now updated it to include pics from our trip to the peace palace, our adventure taking our luggage to the post office to mail it, and the copy of the Nobel Peace Prize that is hanging in my Law professors guest bathroom.  He received it because he was working with the UN High Commission on Refuges when they received the prize.

Okay, now, on to vacay.  Sahara, Kit, Nicole and I left Leiden on Sunday morning bound for Berlin.  7 hours later we finally arrived at the huge Berlin train station, where we caught a cab to our hostel in former East Berlin.  The hostel had its good points, but it also had its low points.  High point, it had a bar and restaurant, so dinner Sunday night was super easy.  Said bar/restaurant also had American-style nachos.  YUM!     Low point.  Well, first we couldn’t find our room.  We were in room 12, on the 1st floor.  So we took the elevator to the 1st floor, and there were rooms 1-11 and 13-15, room 12 was magically absent (I swear I left the room RIGHT HERE!!)  So we had to send Nicole down to verify where it was.  Turned out it was through the door marked "showers," which of course makes perfect sense.  Problem #2, key didn’t work.  So down Nicole went again to get the desk clerk to come up and open the door.  Our key was deactivated for some reason, we still felt like idiots.  The room was fine, beds were a little uncomfy, bathrooms were down the hall, shower was very hot.  All in all it was okay, just not great, and the location was a little out of the way. 

On Monday we got up and going about 10:30 and decided we would just walk until we figured out what we wanted to do.  Around Alexanderplatz we found the hop on/hop off bus tours, YAY, so we chose one of those and set off for our “Japanese Tour-group” tour of Berlin.  We did a lot in Berlin in one day, so to list off a few of the various things:

Saw the “toothpick” Radio tower and Neptune's Fountain in Alexanderplatz

Saw the Brandenburg Gate, ate Bratwurst next to it and fed the cute birds who were 'begging’

Visited the Holocaust Memorial

Saw the US Embassy, tried to get in because Sahara needs fingerprints done for her Peace Corp application (okay, so that was a valid excuse, but mostly we just wanted to go into the Embassy), but they said we would need to come back the next day for fingerprints, so then we really had no reason to go in.

Stood with one foot in East Berlin and one foot in West Berlin

Wandered through the Tiergarten and saw a collection of massive boulders from 5 continents

Saw the Reichstag, but the line was WAY too long to stand in to go up to the dome, so we passed

Visited the Kaiser-Wilhelm Church that was bombed very badly during WW2.  Such a tragedy, because the inside of what was left of this cathedral was so beautiful.

Went to the Bebelplatz, this is the large square where the Germans held the mass book burnings in 1938.  In the center of the square there is an underground room and when you look in there are just empty shelves.  Its supposed to be a symbol of the knowledge lost when the books were burned.

In addition to the above, we also visited the Topography of Terror, which is an outside exhibit on the grounds of the former SS buildings.  The exhibit details the actions of the SS and SD and of Hitler’s various minions.  Very moving exhibit.

We also stopped at Checkpoint Charlie, grabbed a few pics, and walked past one of the last standing pieces of the Berlin Wall. 

During one of the legs of our bus tour we passed the Presidential House and saw that there were several flagged cars lined up out front and then, who should step out but Angela Merkel, the President of Germany.  Lets just say the IR grad students went crazy, we were like paparazzi :-)

We also lucked out during our trip to Berlin.  For 2 weeks in October Berlin is celebrating the Festival of Lights.  So Monday night we wandered out, found some delicious Vietnamese food in a greasy spoon, hole in the wall place, and then wandered the city enjoying the lights and taking pics.

Tuesday we slept in, checked out of the Hostel at 11 and then made our way over to the German History museum.  We covered 2000 years of German history in about 3 hours.  We had also hoped to go to the Pergamon Museum to see the Ishtar Gates of Babylon (which I had just written my IR paper on), but after the German History museum we were a little cultured out.  So it was off to lunch (Asian), then some window shopping and off to the train station to catch our 9pm night train to Krakow.

There were also Bears all over Berlin, which had to be explained to me as to why that was (yeah, I'm a little slow).  And, it also turned quite cold while we were there, "brrrr"

So that’s it for now.  Krakow update will be next.

Love, Heather

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