Sport, culture & sexuality mostly on two wheels

Trip Start Dec 14, 2007
Trip End Mar 16, 2009

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Flag of Germany  ,
Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Our three short days in Berlin were packed full with sporting events, festivals and parades. From the minute we arrived in the country we exposed to the fact that Germany is much more liberal that any of the other country we had visited thus far. From the exuberant greeting and groping at that airport that often had me turning away blushing to men openly kissing on public buses, something we hadn't seen in 6 months of travel.
After our long wait at the St Petersburg airport without food or drinks and then only a little sandwich on the plane we were ready to get into the city and find some real food and German beer. We noticed on the bus ride into the city that there were many German football fans milling around the cities parks and squares and later learnt that Germany were playing Turkey in the European Championship (Soccer) semi final. The entire city was gripped in soccer fever and we were keen to be a part of it. We found a handy little venue finder at our hostel and as soon as we'd unpacked our bags we set off to find the action.
The Kultuurbrauerei is a type of beer garden which is basically a square surrounded by many little bars and restaurants. In the middle of the square was a massive outdoor LCD screen and by the time we'd arrived the square was already packed with a few thousand fans. The atmosphere was electric and most the fans were kitted from top to toe in the German national colours. We met two very interesting ladies who weren't big soccer fans at all but were fanatical about Germany winning anything. We soon sampled some of the beer and local foods, a wide choice of sausages, other meats and pretzels, then found a spot in the middle of the crowd to watch the game.
Turkey was first to score and the crowed were looking extremely worried and we thought the rest of the evening might be dull if Germany lost. Not long after the Turkish goal Germany struck back twice and were soon in the lead and finally won the game 3-2. The few thousand people packed into the square erupted at the final whistle and we could see the celebrations would last long into the evening.
Sadly not everyone was happy and I think the three frustrating days on the train had take their toll on us and reminded us of the stresses a trip of this magnitude place on our relationship. So we didn't quite share in the crowd's excitement but rather took the time to work through some unresolved issues. Days like this remind us that quantity is not better than quality and we need to pre-empt the symptoms and take time apart before we don't want to spend time together. What makes this difficult is that we often visit some places for such a short time that we both want to see all the attractions which leaves us very little time to do our own thing. Hopefully with time we will get better at this.
The next day we'd planned a city tour by bicycle with a company called Fat Tyre Bicycle Tours.  The tour took us to all the cities highlight and I was amazed had how well informed the tour guides were and found that many of them had university degrees and often majored in history. The tour was intended to introduce you to the city which you could explore in more detail on your own. We took sights such as the famous Brandenburg Gate, the Berlin wall or what's left of it, Hitler's bunker, Victory column, the Deathstrip, Checkpoint Charlie or the former gate between the East and West Berlin, the controversial Memorial to the murdered Jew as well as a well timed stop to a famous beer garden in the Tiergarten Park.
The following day we rented the same bikes for the day and set off to do a little exploring on our own. We got lost many times but still managed to get to all the sights we wanted to see and got drenched a few times as the great weather we had the day before had disappeared. We spent quite a bit of time at the Nazi Topography of Terror which is a open air museum in the former HQ of the Nazi Gestapo and SS. We also visited the underground museum at the eerie Memorial to the Murdered Jew which was informative but at the same time very sad. It terrible to think that 5 - 6 million Jews were exterminated during WWII. To lighten things up we took a walk up the glass dome at the Reichstag or the old parliament house which gives a 360 degree view of the city.
Thanks to our free WiFi internet at the hostel we were staying we found a Jazz festival that was taking place just a short cycle ride from the city centre. A large section of Bergmann Street was cordoned off for a Jazz festival named after the famous street. At each end of the street a stage was set-up so you could catch shows of your choice at either end. Between the stages were hundreds of little stalls selling everything from beer, wine, delicious foods to clothing, jewelery and all sorts of our flee market things. We had a great time and an even more interesting time pedaling home.
A little fact about Berlin that we didn't know was that the city has the 3rd largest gay population after San Francisco and Sydney and as coincidence would have it the Gay and Lesbian Festival fell over our visit. The parade started at 12 a block away from our hostel and made its way all the way through the city to the Victory Tower a few kilometers away. By the time we joined the party was in full swing and we followed the snaking procession through the city. At times the behavior and outfits were very raunchy and even the occasional shower didn't seem to deter the festival goers. By the time we reached the Victory Tower a good few hour later we were exhausted and dreading the walk back home. It was a fun and educational day but we are now looking forward to a relaxing 7 days in the Bohemian capital, Prague.

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