Crazy day in Berlin
Berlin Travel Blog› entry 107 of 128 › view all entries
My train brought me into Berlin at about midnight. I had booked a hostel online and let them know that I was going to be in late that night. So, I took the U-Bahn over to my stop, and got off. It was very dark, but after getting turned around a bit I found my way to the hostel. I checked in and went right to bed.
I woke up at a decent time and started to make my way out the door. As I was leaving, a poster for an all day walking tour caught my eye. It said it was 8 hours long, but it was very cheap and something just told me that I would be learning a lot about Berlin. I looked up at the sky and say nothing but dark, grey rainclouds.
I walked to Alexanderplatz. From there, I found my way to the meeting point for the tour. I was a little early, and for a while I thought the tour was cancelled because no one else seemed to be waiting around for anything. Then, seemingly all at once, people came from all directions for the tour. As I finished meeting everyone, our tour guide stolled up, large umbrella in hand. He was an American, but he had be living a while in Berlin - he just looked knowledgeable. Our first order of business was to head across the street and pick up some lunch, which we would eat a little bit later. I don't remember when or where we did eat lunch. I'll do my best to talk about what happened on teh 8 hour walking tour, but I won't do it justice.
Our tour started down a quiet street as the heavens rained down on us. The guide pointed out a building that definitely stood out among the others. It was a Jewish Synagogue. We were walking through the Jewish quarter in Berlin. As we continued on, we came to a bike on the corner. We learned that this was a "rent a bike", you simply call the number on the bike, unlock it with your credit card, and ride it where you need to go. They are all over the city but you never know where you are going to find one. I thought that was a neat idea.
Our next stop on the tour (and by this point I had no idea where we were) was to a piece of the Berlin Wall. This piece of the wall had been removed at some point during the teardown and was painted, perhaps to bring a sense of peace to the whole thing. We then headed onto the Pariser Platz, and the Brandenburg Gate. This gate, once one of the gates leading out of the city, has been the spotlight of even recent events. The Quadriga of Victory sits on top of the gate, although it was removed by Napoleon in the early 1800's and moved to Paris.
We walked from there to the Reichstag, the German Parliament building. We did not go inside, rather we spent some time looking at the memorial nearby. This was a memorial of the members of the parliament who were killed during the Nazi regime. Close by is a memorial to the Soviet fighters of World War II. The next memorial we encountered was really interesting. It was the Holocaust memorial, in honor of the Jewish population that lost their lives.
Before I forget, there were actually various times where we stopped and, over a cup of coffee, talked about the history of Germany, or a person, place, the culture, something. It was a really neat addition to the tour, to not just see the sights, but to learn about the people and the times. Plus, it was rainy and it was nice to break up the 8 hour tour a little!
After leaving Hitler's bunker, we made our way to the only remaining stretch of the Berlin Wall.
Our next stop on the walking tour was Checkpoint Charlie. Although not the original, this replica stands in the place where the original once stood. On the ground you can see cobblestones where the outer wall once stood. For those that do not know, there was an outer Berlin Wall, folowed by some 20 meters of traps, tanks, etc, and then an inner wall. They didn't want anyone making it to the other side.
This ritzy chocolate shop was more of a pit stop for us than an actual tour destination, but it was neat all the same. We smelled the smells and saw the sights inside, and some people bought some. I just looked and tried not to touch. Our next stops on the tour were to the Koncerthaus followed by a Catholic Church that was bombed out during the war, and carefully redone. After the church was Bebelplatz, which is where the infamous book burning took place. There is a memorial here to the books - below ground exists a large room, with bookshelves, that could hold every book burned. As the tour winded down, we passed by the Berliner Dom and made notice of the large communist structure next to it.
The tour wrapped up in the museum area of Berlin, right near the Berliner Dom. Our guide told us as he left that on Thursdays (this day was a Thursday) after 5:00, all museums were free. So, some of the group, including myself, went to the Pergamon museum to see some ancient history. I won't spend much time talking about it, but there were famous gates from Mesopotamia, Greek structures, and much more...for free! It was really cool!
Tired after a busy day, we all parted ways and I went to the hostel. On the way I got some food to cook up and did just that. I took the time in the evening to record as much of the day as I could so I could share it in the future, as I am doing here.