Berlin, more than just a place that had a wall.
Trip Start Apr 01, 2011
73Trip End Jan 26, 2012
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We arrived at the Bus station because in addition to great trains, Germany also has great bus systems and they are less than half the price of taking the train. But wait a minute, isn't the bus slow and boring? Not really, we had a great ride through the middle of Germany, sitting in the front row on the top of a double decker bus. It was like being in the drivers seat except with an even better view. Since most of the journey was on the Autobahn, which has a speed limit of 130 Km/h and having 3 to 5 lanes in each direction, it was a pretty fast trip.
We did a lot of sightseeing while in Berlin and in addition to visiting museums and specific monuments, spent a lot of time just walking around different areas of the city taking in the view
After the DDR museum, we took a 1 hour riverboat tour through the city on the Spree River and got an overview of the history of Berlin and many of the buildings that line the river. Walking around the town, it is pretty easy to tell if you are in the former East side or West side based on what the buildings look like. If you are in the East, there are rows of condo buildings on almost every street that all look the same. They all have flat brick or concrete sides, 2 windows per apartment and most of them have no balconies, but if there is a balcony, it is set into the building so the front of the buildings are all still flush. There is also a huge communications tower with a silver ball on the top of it that I think you can see from anywhere in the East side of Berlin and even a lot of the west side of the downtown
Most of the wall is gone now but a few sections are still in place and one of the sections that is over a kilometer long is painted with murals and is a sort of long outdoor art gallery
Anyway, by this point, Robin was getting a bit tired of walking around museums (or at least the kinds of museums I like) so I headed off to the Deutsches Technical Museum and she went off in the other direction to randomly explore more of the city with the plan being to meet back at the hotel in 5 hours. The technical museum was great, with a ton of trains, airplanes, boats, old computers, radio and TV equipment. The funny part of this story though is that after going to the museum, I decided to take the U-Bahn to see Brandenburg Gate. After walking around the Brandenburg Gate plaza, I went back into the U-Bahn station and, in a city of over 3.4 million people with 259 train stations and over 1 million transit passengers per day, I run into Robin
Next stop in Berlin was a tour with Berlin Underworlds Association. The guides took us thorough a WW2 bunker in downtown Berlin that had later been refitted as a cold war bomb shelter. The other building they took us through was a multipurpose building which was built in the 1970's as a combination U-Bahn train station and nuclear fallout shelter for over 3,000 people. It's still operating as a train station and was only recently decommissioned as a fallout shelter. When a train is sitting on the tracks at the platform, there are sets of airlock doors in the back wall of the station that line up with the trains doors. The trains were actually intended to be a part of the living space of the shelter. On the other side of the train platform wall there are decontamination showers, generators, water, kitchen, bathroom, sleeping and air filtration facilities to keep over 3,000 people alive for 2 weeks. It was a very interesting, informative, funny and sobering look at the state of preparation for a potential WW3.
We spent the rest of the last day just walking around Berlin and other than me getting mobbed by a bachelorette party :-) it was uneventful and relaxing.