Sunday, August 10, 2008

Berlin

My weekend in Berlin started off with a bit of a hiccup. I left work and caught the train into town to catch the bus to the airport. Everything was going along swimmingly when a stop and a half way from the train station (where I could catch the bus) the train stopped. There is probably another train in the station ahead of us and we are just waiting until it pulls out I thought to myself. A few minutes turn into 10. An announcement (in German) is made and everyone groans so I take this is not good news. The conductor makes his way through the train and finally the train starts moving, backwards. It makes it back to the previous station and everyone leaves the train, me included. Not sure what to do next, I head outside and start walking towards the next station (fortunately I had an idea of where I was). I get to the next station just as the train I had gotten off pulls into the station. It leaves a few minutes later and I decide to wait a few minutes to see if another train will come along (I’m anxiously watching the clock at this point as my cushion to get to the airport is melting away). Another train did come along and I catch not the bus I wanted to, but the one immediately after (they come approximately every 30 minutes). Whew!!

With that excitement over, the flight to Berlin is nothing. We land and I had already decided to take a taxi even before the escapade with the public transportation which just fortified my decision. The hotel is something else. According to Rick, it once housed the Nazi Chamber of Culture. The bathroom smells like I don’t know what but I’m only here for 2 days and as long as I keep the bathroom door closed it is fine.

I wake up early and head to the Reichstag (Parliament). Even at 8 a.m. in the morning the line was long, but it was even longer when I came out. This turned out to be one of my favorite things - I really enjoyed the cupola at the top of the building. From there I walked over to the Brandenburg Gate and after admiring it, I walked along Unter den Linden, stopping at the Neue Wache (where the tomb of the unknown soldier and the tomb of the unknown concentration camp victim are buried) before continuing on to the German History Musuem. The museum covered a lot!! I then walked over to Museum Island. The Pergamon Museum's line was way too long so I went to the Egyptain Musuem to visit Nefertiti and then visited the Berlin Cathedral and climbed the dome. From there I had lunch in a little cafe before continuing on with my exploration of Berlin. Next stop was the German Cathedral before continuing on the Museum of Wall and a visit to Checkpoint Charlie. I never knew why it was called Checkpoint Charlie - it was the third checkpoint (c = charlie). The museum was very moving with tales of escape attempts. The Jewish Museum was next. It is a very interestingly designed museum, and very haunting at times with stories of Jewish persecution.

I finished up the day at KaDeWe (or Kaufhaus des Westens), a huge department store before walking back to my hotel. It reminded me a lot of Harrods. I checked my map and decided my hotel wasn't too far. Turned out to be a case of it looking closer on the map than it was in real life!

Sunday I woke up a little stiff and decided to take it easy. I checked out of the hotel (leaving my luggage there) and made my way to the Kaiser Wilhelm Memorial Church. It was not open but I looked around and took a few pictures. Next I went to the Berlin Wall Documentation Center. The street is lined with another remaining section of the wall and from the center across the street you can look down at the "death strip" between the wall and the border. I ended up back at the Brandenburg Gate and visited the Memorial to the Murdered Jews of Europe. Next I toured around the city on one of the hop-on, hop-off tours, stopping at Potsdammer Platz and walking through one of the art museums in the Kulturforum. I finished up the bus tour and got on a train back to my hotel. In Germany, as opposed to other places, there really isn't a ticket checking mechanism. It's on the honor system and if you get caught there is a penalty. So far I hadn't ever had my ticket checked. Not anymore! I, like Mandi, had expected these ticket inspections to be carried out by a potentially scary police officer, but no, it was a regular person in street clothes. He paused for a second looking at my ticket, which to me seemed like an eternity before thanking me and turning to the next person.

I got my luggage from the hotel and headed to the bus stop to catch the train to the airport. I just caught the bus and as I was heading to the back to find a seat, I haphazardly stuck my ticket in my purse thinking I was already checked today, surely I won't be checked again. That was an incorrect thought. She ended up looking a little more official than the last one and asked to see our tickets. I started rummaging through my purse and my pockets. She passed me by and looked at everyone else's before coming back to me. I was still rummaging, thinking oh crap when finally I found it! I triumphantly handed her my ticket and she smiled and thanked me.

Note to self: ALWAYS put your ticket in a safe place!

And that was my trip to Berlin.

3 comments:

Stacy O said...

Sounds like a great trip Em! I am so excited for you that you get to take these trips! Even if they start off badly... :)

Mandi said...

Wow, you covered a lot of territory -- I'm impressed! Berlin is definitely one of my favorite cities!

Anonymous said...

lots of challenges, but it sounds like a great trip - thank God for angels watching over you!
mm