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To Berlin We Go….

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.

Berlin Bound

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.

Holocaust Memorial

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.

Gates

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.

Hostel Room

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.

Mug 2

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.

 
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Posted by on June 29, 2012 in Uncategorized

 

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Nagakot….and meeting Steve

27th November 2011

Trip to Nagakot

Buddha was taking me to a town just outside of Kathmandu, by the name of Nagakot. He used to come camping in this area as a kid, and it was known for its great views of the sunrise and set. We headed out after a lazy morning and afternoon, around 3.30pm. Apparently it was “very close”, but it took almost an hour and half. About 45min into the trip along a country road we hit a kid… or rather the kid hit us. We were going along on the far side of the road and the kid was walking hand in hand with an older girl. All of a sudden this kid just darts across the road (has a possible future in sprint) and slams into my knee… I know ridiculous, if he had been a second faster he would have been hit by the bike, instead he ricocheted off my knee and fell on his butt. Thank heavens Buddha is a good driver as he managed to stop the bike without us falling over. The kid bounced up and ran crying to a group of old men who seemed none too concerned, they waved at us with an expression that perhaps meant “no worries he does this all the time”. If I could feel anything below my right knee I might have hopped off to see if he was ok, but at present I think I was the one with more damage. Once we saw the kid get up and walk away we knew he was ok and headed off again, my knee throbbing with every mile. He sure had a hard head that’s for sure.

What with falling off the bike yesterday and bruising my right leg and now being hit by a kid in the right knee, I was a little on the shaken side. However, the beauty of the scenery started to distract me and I couldn’t help think to myself that this is what I had expected to see more of when I bought my flight to Kathmandu.

Missed Sunset

We had been told that the sun set after 5pm, but by 4.45pm it was a solid red ball and sinking fast. Since my knee was throbbing I motioned for Buddha to pull over, it took me a few seconds to descend and limped around to get my bag and camera. But in those few minutes the sun was down and gone before I could take a picture. Buddha acted a bit sheepish for putting off our departure. But no worries, just means the early morning sunrise was a go.

Nagakot was set high up on a hill and the road involved many curves and driving round and round to get to the top. Buddha had said to look for a place that might be good to stay at, but ignored every one of my suggestions. It was getting quite annoying until he pulled up to this place called Sherpa Alpine Cottages. It was perfect, individual cottages overlooking the valley. Just what I had been thinking of, sometimes I think he can read my mind. We were lucky as they had 1 available.

The Outside


The Inside

We dumped our bags and headed back into town by foot to look for somewhere to eat. We had to borrow a flashlight as there were no streetlights, just the beautiful stars. This felt much the same as the search for accommodation, I would point at a place and Buddha would frown and say “Nah!”. Eventually we opted for cozy looking place and sat down on elevated platforms and ordered some hot chocolates. When they were brought to us, the guy told Buddha that nothing was prepared and dinner would take a long time. So we decided to just have the drink and play the dot game. It seemed so strange that a place would actually tell guests that, all I can think is that the staff wanted to head home early.

Playing the Dot Game, It was a little chilly that evening

But it all worked out in the end. We walked back to the hostel where the staff there were entertaining everyone with music. It made for a great evening and good food. I taught Buddha a new card game and he instantly became addicted to it. Dinner was momos for me and fried rice for him.

Evening Entertainment

The Meeting of Steve

While we were enjoying dinner and card games another couple came in followed by a black and white dog. Turned out it was a village dog and had adopted them. After dinner as we all headed outside the dog, I named him Steve, decided he would choose us for the evening. He must have known that Buddha had a soft spot for dogs. We got to the cottage and Buddha immediately ushered him in, he looked around, curled up and went to sleep. Buddha took the towel provided and laid it on him as a blanket. It was rather cute, but guess that means we’re not using the towel.

Steve!


Buddha making sure Steve is comfy

The cottage provided one of the singularly beautiful sights, a view of the stars, don’t think I have seen them that bright in a very long time. It would be an early morning so that we could catch the sunrise. so with Steve snoring us to sleep, we called it a night.

 
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Posted by on May 21, 2012 in Uncategorized

 

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