I’m now in Berlin, my favorite European city outside of Italy. The history here amazes me every time I walk around. I arrived two nights ago and stayed at an ultra-modern, brand new hostel, one80. It was very inviting and amazingly comfortable.
Two mornings ago, I met up with a few people from my Contiki tour group that arrived in Berlin the night before. We bought tickets to go up the TV Tower, but I was turned away because their insurance company won’t insure them if they let anyone with a disability up to the top. It’s the same problem I had at the Eiffel Tower only they were much more polite and apologetic about it.
I waited for the others to get back down & we headed out to lunch. I had a currywurst which is a sausage with curry sauce on top. It is a Berlin specialty and was phenomenal. Then, we headed to our hotel which is about a 20 minute subway ride then a 20 minute walk from the main area of Berlin. While it is pretty far away, it is a block away from one of the main Stasi buildings during the Cold War.
After checking into our rooms, we had our orientation meeting. There are 50 people on this tour – a huge group. Then, we went out to a group dinner which was included in our tour. The bus took us to West Berlin, the allied side, where we ate in a German restaurant in a mall. The food was pretty good, though. I had German meatballs.
After dinner, we took the subway to Brandenburg Gate and tried to find a place to watch the Germany v. Ireland UEFA European Championship qualifiers game. The bars were so crowded that we didn’t have any luck. We eventually gave up and walked back to Alexanderplatz (by the TV Tower) to find a bar to hang out in. Then, we caught a cab back to the hotel.
Yesterday was a relatively early morning – we woke up at 8:00 AM and had to leave our hotel by 8:45 AM to take the subway into the city for our walking tour. I grabbed a large Dunkin Donuts Iced Coffee before our tour began.
The tour was essentially the same tour I took last time I was in Berlin. We walked from the TV Tower to an area with a lot of museums called Museum Island. Then, we walked down to the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier (a pretty controversial building) before heading to the Humboldt University, where Albert Einstein taught. We saw the place that there was a large book burning when the Nazis came to power and the monument that is there today to commemorate it. It was a room of empty bookshelves set beneath the ground with a window from above. Then, we saw the street that used to be the main thoroughfare of Berlin before heading into the subway to see a subway station that was designed by Hitler. Then we saw Brandenburg Gate, one of Berlin’s most famous sites, and walked to the Memorial to the Murdered Jews of Europe. It was a bit abstract – a bunch of concrete blocks of different sizes on a piece of uneven land. It is supposed to symbolize the insecurity the victims felt during the Holocaust when are walking through it. Then, we walked to the area of the bunker that Hitler killed himself in was and to the Nazi Ministry of Aviation. The building was turned into an office building for the Soviet government and was the site of a bloody riot against the Soviet regime. Then, we walked along the old Berlin Wall to Checkpoint Charlie where our tour finally ended. It was a long, but informational tour!
Tomb of the Unknown Soldier
Memorial to the Murdered Jews of Europe
Remnant of the Berlin Wall
After the tour, a few of us grabbed lunch at an Italian restaurant before heading to the Museum of German History. I only did the part of the museum from 1918 to today because I was exhausted! Then, a smaller group went to grab a cup of coffee and buy souvenirs before grabbing a cab back to the hotel.
After dinner, our group met back up for a Stasi themed tour. We saw the section between the two edges of the Berlin Wall that anyone trying to escape Berlin had to cross. It was called “No Mans Land”.
This morning, we got on our tour bus to head to Prague. Before we left the city, our tour bus made one final stop – the East Side Gallery which is one of my favorite parts of Berlin.
Berlin is as amazing as I remember it. Just the thought that 25 years ago I would not be able to do what I just did today is astounding. We walked across the Iron Curtain. That’s a pretty amazing experience.
Note: This post was originally published on June 11, 2012 in a blog entitled “Romeing Around Europe…Again” which chronicled my post-graduation trip across Europe.