3rd December 2011
Soppy Moment Warning: Once we had finally figured out how to get my SIM card active, I sent Buddha a message to let him know my number in Germany. He replied around 1am Germany time, I saw it but was too tired to reply. About 5min later he sent another checking if I got the first. By now the jet lag and effectively kicked my butt and I was in no condition to reply. In all he sent 3 texts and tried to call me twice. It was kind of sweet that he wanted to reach me so badly.
To get to Berlin we were taking the subway to a meeting spot where we were meeting up with a rideshare. It makes traveling in Germany so much easier and cheaper using the rideshare website. As we waited for the train I sent Buddha a quick text saying I got his. He called me almost immediately and it was so good to talk to him, and he sounded thrilled to have reached me, but unfortunately the train pulled up at that moment…
Taking the train to the city center we found our rideshare. Cathleen had warned the lady that I was at the end of a world tour and had 2 big bags, she had assured Cathleen that there was space and she might not offer the 3rd seat just in case. Well turns out she had a tiny car that was already pretty chocka-block full and she had offered the 3rd seat. After much shifting and squeezing we managed to fit ourselves and the bags in and set off. The guy sitting in the back with me kept spreading out and eventually I was almost sitting on the door handle, all the time with my backpack in my lap. At the same time, our rather… eccentric (that seems like a safe word), used this down time of driving 2 hours to catch up on all her phone calls, without a headset.
I don’t think Cathleen and I have been happier to fold out of a car as we were when we reached our destination. It was just crazy, but makes for a funny story in hindsight and it only cost us 14 euro each, about a third of the price if we had taken the train all the way.
3 Little Pigs Hostel
We had been dropped off at the train station and it was just a short ride to our exit for the hostel. The train exit was at the beautiful old ruin, originally the station during WW2 I believe.
As we emerged two wizened old men asked us if we were going to “The Church”. We said no and looked a little confused. When we reached the hostel we realised it had been converted from an old convent and it still had the church up and running. Hahahahah it was rather amusing after we had stood and disagreed with the old fellas just moments before. 3 Little Pigs Hostel was rather impressive, but it was barely 11am and check in was only at 3pm. So after stowing our gear we headed out for the first half of the walking tour that Cathleen had chosen. Of course as we stepped outside it started raining.
Berlin had Bear statues everywhere. Reminded of the pigs we had all over Seattle, Washington in the states. I couldn’t resist getting a photo with at least one of them.
Heading for the Platz
Just down the way from the hostel was the new up and coming trendy area called Potsdamer Platz. With tons of restaurants and stores to choose from, it was also the site of the next Christmas Market. We decided to save that for later though.
Walking the Wall
I remember hearing about the Berlin Wall growing up, studying it in history class and watching on TV when it was finally torn down. I never thought I would be standing in the shadow of its remnants. It just made you wonder why, why and how politics so often destroys lives.
Started in 1961, the wall was built by the German Democratic Republic (GDR) and completely cut off West Berlin from East Germany and East Berlin. The fall of the Berlin Wall paved the way for German Reunification. The wall was torn down for the most part in 1990. During those almost 30yrs the wall tore apart families, friends and an entire country.
Part of the Wall Left as a Reminder
At this section of wall there was also a museum that gave full accounts of life during Nazi Germany, the camps and Hitler. It was a rather poignant reminder of that time and I was impressed that even though it was a time of shame in so many ways, there was no attempt to hide it.
As we followed the Walking Tour we came across one of the largest memorials I have ever seen, The Holocaust Memorial. Covering 4.6 acres it is covered with large stone stelae (slabs) numbering 2711. The stelae are of varying heights and arranged on a sloping field. According to Eisenman’s (the architect) project text, the stelae are designed to produce an uneasy, confusing atmosphere, and the whole sculpture aims to represent a supposedly ordered system that has lost touch with human reason. And it certainly does just that. Within the midsts of the stelae, especially on the grey cloudy day, the feeling is hauntingly eerie.
Continuing the walking tour we followed the East / West line towards the Brandenburge Gates, the ultimate symbol of German reunification.
We spent the next 2 hours gawking at spectacular architecture and looking for either a Christmas Market or coffee shop as it was raining and freezing!! The only market we found you had to pay to enter but just down the street was a coffee shop. So we huddled in there to get warm. Cathleen had hoped we would get more of the walking tour done but, after 11months of travel, sitting in a coffee shop and watching people go by seemed like a much better plan to me.
Finally the time rolled round when we could check into the hostel and we hurried in that direction. Walking into our room was like walking into what a backpacker might consider 5 star. The room was huge with only 6 beds. The beds were large and comfy and clean and had HUGE pillows. After 4 hours of walking in the rain and being soaked almost to our skivvies, there was only one thing to do…NAP.
Potsdamer Platz Revisited
Around 6pm, with much difficulty, we rolled out of bed, rebundled against rain and cold and decided to head back to the Platz for the Christmas Market. I had my first bratwurst here and think I could have had 10. It was divine, especially with my mug of gluwein. My second gluwein mug is also one of my favorites, tall and slim with frosted glass.
Back at the hostel and in bed around 10pm, I fear I literally passed out and have no recollection of anything, only waking at 7am, as 2 male roommates returned after a rather successful night out… by the smell of them anyway.