Rain, rain, go away
Trip Start Mar 07, 2006
56Trip End Jun 30, 2006
I last left you on Saturday in Berlin, having intended to go back to the hotel to relax. Well, that was the plan, but as I was walking towards the tram station, I kept seeing interesting things to look at... and then more interesting things a few feet further... and more a bit further on... and before I knew it, I'd been walking around Berlin for seven hours. I saw loads of museums, the Rathaus (city hall), war memorials, the famous Brandenburg Gate (with a Turkish cultural festival taking place on one side, and a giant inflatable soccer ball on the other), the Reichstag, the new Holocaust Memorial and underground museum, and loads more. I didn't have a map or guidebook with me, so some of it is a bit of a blur and I'll definitely have to go back and see most of it more in-depth, but it did provide me with a great overview of Berlin.
By Saturday night, I'd been awake for nearly 48 hours straight, and I returned to the hotel to collapse. It may sound silly, but I nearly danced with joy when I saw my big, clean, modern, private hotel room with my own bathroom. First time in nearly three months that I had such a luxury, and it couldn't have come at a better time.
I slept 14 hours straight, right through breakfast, and the reception had to wake me up at noon to get me to check out of the room and into the double that I'd be sharing with my roommate for the duration of the tour, Paula. As it happened, she'd done pretty much exactly the same thing, so we met as we were both switching rooms at the same time and decided to go exploring Berlin together on Sunday.
First, we tried to visit one of the largest remaining sections of the Berlin Wall, but for some reason we couldn't find it. We exited the S-bahn station, walked around for a half hour, and gave up. Then, of course, we spotted it from the U-bahn, and realized that had we walked another fifty meters, we would've been there. Oh well, something to do upon our return to Berlin. Then, after lunch we headed to the Jewish Museum and spent hours there. It's a fairly new museum, and their collection is astounding; artifacts dating back to the middle ages, lots of personal stories and photos from various periods in history, and a lot of artwork and other items that have been donated to the museum after being in private collections (often people who were holding onto things from Jewish friends and neighbours for "safekeeping" during WWII). There was also an exhibit on Freud, which was a bit strange considering he wasn't "really" Jewish, but they're having exhibits about him all over the place in Germany now because it's the 150th anniversary of his birth.
After the Jewish Museum, we headed back to the hotel to meet the tour group and have dinner. The tour "officially" began yesterday morning, when we departed Berlin to head to Prague. As a pleasant surprise that wasn't on the itinerary, our lunch stop was in Dresden, where we got to spend a few hours. Those of you who know your war history know that Dresden was completely carpet-bombed by the Allies in 1945 and totally destroyed, so everything there has been rebuilt in the years since. When you look around and see the elaborate buildings, it's hard to believe. One famous church just re-opened this year, after having been meticulously restored using as many of the original stones as possible; they were labelled, numbered and catalogued so they could be re-assembled like a giant jigsaw puzzle. Amazing.
Crossing the border into the Czech Republic took much longer than I'd expected, considering it's in the EU now. Finally, we made it to Prague around dinnertime. After dinner, we headed into the Old Town and spent an hour or so walking around in the pouring rain. We saw the Old Town Square and the Astronomical Clock, the Charles Bridge, and loads of souvenir shops. By the time we got back to the hotel, everyone looked like a drowned rat.
Prague, despite the rain, is everything I'd expected and more. A beautiful city, full of buildings that are hundreds of years old, and full of more history than I could recount. This morning, we had a locally-guided walking tour of the Castle and the Old Town. The guide was great - probably forgot more history than I'd ever learn - and also knew his hockey pretty much inside-out and backwards. I never knew that Dominik Hasek and Jaromir Jagr both chose their numbers to commemorate the occupations of the Czech Republic. Interesting trivia.
Now I'm having a bit of lunch, and then I'm heading to the Jewish Quarter to explore. Of course, that's the part I'm most looking forward to, so I expect to update again shortly to fill you all in. Until next time!