Berlin ist gut

Trip Start Aug 25, 2006
Trip End Dec 15, 2006

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Flag of Germany  ,
Thursday, August 31, 2006

The last few days here have been madness. Our third day here we changed hostels to one on the eastern side of Berlin to meet up with the guys who were driving in from Krakow. We went to the Pergamon museum which is a massive ancient history museum on the museum island, just down the road from the Brandenburg gate. That whole area is very cool, a great big church, a few more museums, a nice big park, and just old cool buildings and monuments. I think I preferred the german history museum because ancient history really isn't my thing. They had 3 main exhibits setup - ancient european stuff, ancient islamic and ancient near-east stuff. The ancient european stuff was mainly greek sculptures and parts of temples that were pilferred from the area in the 19th and 20th centuries. I didn't really pay too much attention - there wasn't much english and most of it looked the same to me, but there was a few great parts - one was an entire front of a temple from the ancient greek town of Pergamon that they lifted and brought back to Deutschland, another is the front end of a castle or something that never quite got built near modern-day Damascus. It's made of some sort of stone and the intricate carvings on it are unbelievable. They had also a big gate from an ancient Babylonian city and that was very cool to see also. It's the sort of thing you either knew the history of and were blown away by it when you saw it, or like us, you just cruise through and go yeah, that's cool, and keep going. I missed out on getting an audio-guide thingy which I probably should have gotten in on. I was pretty museumed out after the german history museum though, that place was heaps cooler.

We caught up with Cavka, Clarkey, Mick Mick and Hughsey when we got back to the hostel and went out on one of the great pub crawl tours through Berlin. There are 3 different ones, but they pretty much all go to the same places. Everyone has heaps of fun and they're well organised. I did a number on myself though that first night, we'd had 5 pints before we left the hostel bar, then they were giving out free shots on the trains and I nailed about 6 of them before I realised what i'd done and I was gone. I took myself home after about an hour and managed to navigate the Berlin metro, get a kebab and get into bed all whilst blind drunk. The rest carried on and Rus is now on top of the leaderboard. Bastard.

The next day I cruised off on my own and checked out some sights while the others recuperated. I went up the big TV tower that was in former east Berlin that was built as a symbol to the west that they were doing ok, but apparently during construction they reached a point and were unable to continue with their current level of technology and covertly got a team of Swedes in to finish it off. The museum island has about 4 museums crammed into it on one end, but in the middle there's a big deconstruction going on and around it they had a very interesting boardwalk with a display detailing what was going on. It was an area with an old palace but it was deteriorating and needed to be torn down and something done with the space. It then went on about the planning process and all the bureaucracy involved with the decision and in the end, they'd been working on figuring something out for about 13 years and have only this year started the demolition and decided upon what to build. It all sounds pretty boring but the cool thing about it was this display on the streetside chronicled this and was actually cool to see. Anywhere else if you're wondering what's going on with a major construction you'd be hard pressed finding out then and there while you're still interested in it. Berlin is full of that sort of stuff - there's a lot that has happened and is happening here and they do their best to let you know about it.

I can't say how impressed I am and how much more there is here than I expected, and as I just said, it's all very accessible. It's a massive place and you can't walk anywhere without a great big historical monument or church you can go into, or a museum or a cold-war relic or part of the wall or an interesting display or stunning architecture or just general aesthetic pleasantries. The metro system is unreal too. Quick, cheap, clean and pretty safe (aside from the drunken Australians at 3am).

This is taking too long to write because we did so much cool stuff and it's hard to get it down. I'm also very hungover after a massive night where I didn't make the mistake of getting blind before going out so I lasted. Twas a good night - there was nakedness between 2 of the pubs on my behalf at one point, there was blatant attempts to pick up from myself also, there was random germans on the trains to have conversations with between pubs and there were a lot of Australians, which probably isn't actually a good thing. I'd say 80% of people on the tour were from Australia - mainly Sydney and Melbourne. For a country of 20 million we sure do get around and everywhere you go here there are people from home all over the shop.

There was also a failed attempt on my behalf, aided by a kappa tracksuit wearing croatian, to scale a remaining part of the Berlin wall, and many other shenanigans that should probably go unmentioned. It was our first proper night out on the trip and we made the most of it.

That day though, we did a walking tour, called the Third Reich tour of Berlin, which at first I thought would be pretty bad but turned out to be probably the best thing we've done. It was a walking tour about 3.5 hours long and they walk around to all the major buildings, or areas that were significant to the story of the Nazis and they explain the events in a great way. Our guide that day was an Australian now living in Berlin and doing his PHD on a related topic. He knew a great deal and explained it well and added a whole dimension that can't be obtained from a book or some signs. Pretty much a detailed history of the Nazis through the 30s and then the war and as you walk they explain the significance of the area or a particular building and other genuinely interesting facts. It should be high up on someones to-do list in Berlin. They do 2 more, a general tour which is just the main sights and one looking at Eastern Berlin under the Soviets.

I'm going to leave this here because i'm massively hungover still and need some sleep. Once again I have no pictures because I didn't bring my camera to the internet cafe but I'll probably put some up in the morning. I'm going to head to Prague with Cavka et al. tomorrow for the weekend and will meet back up with Luke and Rus in Amsterdam on Monday. I could spend another month in Berlin and might come back later, but for now we've had a taste and it's much better than I thought it would be.

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