Casa’s Blog

A Life Abroad

With the love that can be made. Behind your barricade.Yes, and how long can I stay?

Ich bin ein Berliner!  Who better than JFK to quote when opening a post.  Although I have been told in the past that his quote actually means I am a Jam Donut…I will have to ask someone about that.

So I got in to Berlin about 1pm this arvo.  That meant taking a train just after half seven in the morning which was okay although my lovely new roommates last night decided to forgo the cardinal rule of hostel living and decide to come back at 1am and turn on the light! WTF?!  If it is dark outside and the light is off when you come in to a hostel dorm you check for the sleeping masses before you turn on the lights.  It is just common sense and common courtesy.  I did manage to get up in the morning regardless although it may have affected my brain somewhat as I got on the WRONG TRAIN.  I was waiting at platform 18 (where my 7:43 ICE train to Berlin was set to arrive) and at about 7:30am an ICE train came in and it was heading to Berlin.  All things looked good until I got on and just as the train was leaving realised that this was the 7:20am train that had been delayed.  Whoops!  I got up and chatted to the conductor lady and in the end she said it was all sweet as it was the same train just one that stops once or twice less so will get to Berlin in less time.  I sat down and enjoyed the rest of the 5 hour journey.  It was easy to enjoy the journey though as I was in 1st class.  It may have been a train but it was still my first 1st class experience.  It worked out that as I booked my trains not that early in advance all the cheap tickets were taken and it was cheaper for me to get the cheap 1st class ticket instead of the normal coach fare.  We had encounter such peculiarities before in the Uk and I made the most of it.  Basically 1st class on a german train means bigger, better, softer, more adjustable and leather seats as well as a better menu of food on offer (which i didn’t buy any of) and a complimentary white chocolate (which was yummy).  Probably not worth much fuss but I did sleep quite a bit on the way up…

Once I got to berlin I made my way to my hostel, which is again a Wombats one and it is very similar to the hostel I just left in Munich.  It has a similar vibe, similar decor and equally spacious rooms (you could easily fit another 4 beds in each room and that is before removing the table and chairs). What was even better was that there was a NewEurope Sandemans free tour leaving at 4pm so I could get a good first overview of Berlin within hours of my arrival.

The tour was very similar to the others I have done in Prague and Dublin.  It was efficient, interesting, good value although the group was rather large.  Our tour guide Max had a good broad knowledge of the city and the important sights although he struggled to deal with some members of the group who would interrupt him constantly(I suppose it is hard to be firm when you are working just for tips). Our tour was also slightly delayed as a result of a quick passing afternoon thunderstorm.  The day was so hot and muggy though that the drenching was welcomed…by me at least.

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On the tour we saw most of the main things one should see in Berlin.  It starts at the Brandenberg gate, you see the Hotel that Michael Jackson dangled the baby out of (interesting topic in the light of recent events), the car park where hitlers bunker once stood (or more accurately once stood beneath), the concrete Forest which is the somewhat controversal Jewish Holocaust Memorial (It is a very moving sight but most of the controversy relates to the fact that all the different victim groups of the holocaust are being remembered at separate memorials and also then there was much debate over the location and design.  It does the job though of drawing people in to the area where they are confronted with the horrors of the past.), a part of the remaining piece of the wall which has been hacked by souvenir collectors, the tacky tourist destination of Checkpoint Charlie and much much more.  ‘Twas really a  good overview.

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A few of the highlights of the tour were the stories of Ampleman (the cutest traffic crossing signal dude ever) who is a loved remnant of East Germany, the couple who were OVER THE TOP with their PDA for the first half of the tour and then had a mjor bust up out of no where over the break and then were hilariously not talking to each other and a rather good telling of what led to the Berlin Wall coming down and the reunification of Germany in 1989/90.

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Overall my first impressions of Berlin is that it appears to be a unique city.  It is a very dirty and grimey city…but in a good way.  Kind of like the destressed  $400 jeans of cities.  It is also very spread out, somewhat disjointed and lacking of a centre.  However this shouldn’t be surprising when it is considered that it is just 20 years since this place was actually two cities.  Also, it looks like there will be a LOT for me to do.  I made a quick plan of my 3.5 days here and I have a full schedule and will probably not be able to do everything I want to.  However, with 3 major wars and extreme left wing and right wing leadership in the last 100 years of course I will find this city interesting…

July 4, 2009 - Posted by | Uncategorized

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