A Travellerspoint blog

Berlin

snow

Berlin is cooooooold! It snowed on us today and yesterday. It is 32 degrees right now and windy.

Both Dave and I have been completely surprised by Berlin. Honestly, before visiting if you asked me my thoughts on Berlin I would have said Hitler, the wall, East-West, "Mr. Gorbachev tear down this wall.", etc., etc. That is the reason I wanted to come here to see the wall and other remnants of that time in history. All of that history is obviously still a big draw but it is also a fun vibrant artsy place that is really easy to be in. It feels like Berlin puts out a welcome mat for any type of person who visits. It is a big city with about 4 million people in it but it is safe with very little violent crime. It makes walking around fun and carefree and allows you the freedom to explore anywhere. It also is one of the cheapest Western European cities, so we have been loving being able to eat good food for less money. For example on the cost difference, the internet that I'm using right now in Berlin is 1 euro ($1.25) an hour and in Venice, Italy it was 8 euro ($10.00) an hour. It seems like it is a place that attracts people from around the world. We took a walking tour the other day and our guide was from Chicago and originally planned on spending 4 months in Berlin and ended up liking it so much that he has now been here for over a year. Also, the hotel (Circus Hotel) we are staying at here is by far the best hotel we have stayed at on this entire trip. The staff are amazingly friendly.

Even though it has been cold, windy, wet and now snowy we still have been able to get around the city and see a lot of sights. As I mentioned earlier we took a walking tour which turned out to be one of the best things we could have done since our guide was extremely knowledgeable on German and specifically Berlin history. On the tour, we saw a small portion of the wall that still exists in the city center. There is a larger portion that we saw today in the eastern edges of the city but in the downtown area there is about 100 meters of the remaining wall left there. The tour also took us to a huge Nazi office building that the allies missed when bombing and the site of Hitler's bunkers where he committed suicide. The underground bunkers do not exist anymore as they were filled with dirt and water by the communists but still it is harrowing to even stand on the ground above where they once were. We also saw the site of the book burnings where there is an underground memorial of empty bookcases and a building which is actually a museum where Hitler gave a lot of speeches. We also saw "Checkpoint Charlie" the place where the US military checked people going into and out of East-West Berlin. They call it Disneyland Berlin now because everything at Checkpoint Charlie is a fabrication. Nothing of the actually checkpoint building or signs announcing that "You are now leaving the American Sector" still exist. The tour ended at the Brandenburg Gate which is where Reagan gave that famous "tear down this wall" speech. For a bit of silliness our guide also pointed out that this area also is home to the most expensive hotel in Berlin called Hotel Aldon which is where all the famous and rich people stay while visiting Berlin. People like, Michael Jackson and his family, awhile ago when he thought it a good idea to dangle his baby over the ledge of his 5th floor hotel balcony. We took a picture of the balcony.

Little Christmas shops and villages are popping up all over Berlin right now. Yesterday we came across one that had snow sledding on inner tubes. Dave and I decided to do it and had a blast sledding down a fabricated snowy hill in the middle of Berlin.
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Afterwards we had Gluhwein which is warm red wine a lot like Glogg that they served in Copenhagen, just without the fruit and nuts. I love seeing the little Christmas villages and shops with their lights and warmth. This is a definite bonus to travelling in Europe this time of year.

The German food is absolutely delicious. We ate at this incredible German restaurant twice because we liked it so much. Also, prepare to be jealous friends and family from Bucyrus (Bratwurst capital) Ohio - We have had authentic delicious German Bratwurst two days in a row! And it was delicious. I mean really really delicious. Like "I feel sorry for Carle's" delicious.

Me enjoying a bratwurst and some Gluhwein at one of the Christmas villages:
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Dave enjoying one of his favorite beers so far - Berliner Pilsner: (the Germans know their beer)
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England versus Germany
Go Deutschland!
The last thing I want to write about is our football (soccer) experience. Our hotel had secured some tickets for the Germany versus England game at Olympic Stadium in Berlin. Dave and I thought it would be cool to see a soccer game and so decided to buy some tickets. We didn't know that Germany and England have a massive rivalry that dates back decades. Or that the game was completely sold out. The game was what they called a "friendly" but that didn't change the fact that they are huge rivals and that each team still wanted to win very badly. Or the fact that the Berlin police department brought in reinforcements from all over Germany. As soon as we arrived at the stadium there were people everywhere. Turns out Olympic stadium holds about 75,000 people and since it was sold out they were all there. It also turns out that Olympic Stadium is the same Olympic Stadium built by the Nazi's for the 1936 Olympics and where Hitler got all pissed off when Jesse Owens kicked butt and won the 100 meter dash beating the two Germans. When Berlin hosted the World Cup (soccer) in 2006 they debated tearing it down but instead decided to keep the structure and gut and redo the inside. We learned all about the history of German soccer from the owner of our hotel. They remember games all the way back to 1966 and 1974 that they pass along generation to generation. When we entered the stadium it was breathtaking and knowing the history of the place made it even more memorable. A large section of the old stadium remains and the place where Hitler sat during that Olympic event where Jesse Owens won is now just a cement block. But you can still see the spot, as shown with the arrow in the below photo, as a reminder of the atrocities of the past. Unfortunately, Germany lost the game and was subjected to song after song by the very song-loving England fans. It appears that those English lads have a song for everything that happens in a soccer game.

Photos at the stadium:
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Those sections made of concrete are from the original stadium and that arrow shows that infamous spot from history.
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We are sad to leave Berlin since we had such a good time here. However, as always we are also really excited to see our next destination which is a place I have wanted to go for a very long time - Prague!

Here's Dave with a few more photos.....

Hello, Dave here.

Here in Berlin there is a great memorial to the Jewish people that died during the Holocaust. Its of course controversial because its not a traditional looking memorial, but we loved it. It has no names or markings on it of any kind. Its basically a city block filled with rows and rows of huge concrete slabs set into the ground at different heights. the ground also rises and dips as you walk through. So towards the center you go up and down as you go deeper and deeper and the slabs rise above you higher and higher. Apparently the designer of the memorial said that it is not symbolic or representational of anything. It was designed to create various thoughts and feelings about the Jewish experience as you go through. And in that it definitely succeeds. Some words that came to mind for us were suffocating, lost, menacing, wandering, on edge. This photo only shows about one tenth of the whole memorial.
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The Reichstag, German parliament building. In 1933 a fire broke out destroying the main hall. The Communists were blamed, accelerating a political witch-hunt driven by the Nazis that helped them seize power.
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A new modern dome was added to the building not long ago to replace what had been lost during bombings of WWII.
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We went up into the interior of the dome for a view of the city, as well as this view down into the parliament house. You can see the blue chairs down inside. (geek alert) The inside of the thing made me feel like we were inside the warp core on Star Trek's Enterprise. I had my eye out for the dilithium crystals.
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This long remaining section of the Berlin wall has been turned into an open air art gallery. Its an ongoing work of art as people add their own touches. I would have contributed but I forgot to take my Sharpie. Here a shot of Lynette braving the cold and snow to enjoy the art.
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They have left a 2-brick path throughout the city where the wall used to stand and has now been removed. Lynette has one foot on the west and one foot on the east:
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Our time in Berlin has been a great learning experience.

That's all for now.
Till next time.
Lynette and Dave

Posted by schuckley 09:37

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