It’s quite interesting that I have been to Germany several times in the past but never got the desire nor the chance to visit the capital city of Berlin. However, finally I felt like going to Berlin and thanks to the ease of commuting at cheap prices with the new long distance buses that have come up since the last two years or so after some law regarding long distance travel was changed in 2012, I could make this journey over a weekend in August. What I found remarkable was that the buses were comfortable, on-time and even had free wi-fi which seems like a basic necessity in modern times.
Alright, back to the details of the trip. What I found yesterday was that 2014 marks the 25th year of the fall of the Berlin wall and I didn’t know that in August. So I unknowingly managed to visit a city in an important year in it’s history!
The whole city was under a lot of construction and that was a bit annoying because I was getting lost and walking in circles as there were so many detours everywhere. Nonetheless, I managed to cover a great deal of the city, thanks to the guidance from a friend M, whom I visited the previous day in Leipzig which is another wonderful city and needs a complete post to itself..will come soon.
So I started with finding the locker to put my bag at the bus station – there was only one free! I was lucky about that..
Then I followed M’s directions with the S and U bahns, and reached “Unter den Linden” street and walked upto the Brandenburger Tor which is the site of the famous “Mr. Gorbachev, open this gate!Mr. Gorbachev, tear down this wall!” proclamation of the US president Ronald Reagon.
Then I walked a bit more and found a memorial to Sinti and Roma victims of the second world war. And then it started raining! A Japanese female tourist asked for shelter under my umbrella and so there we were, two Asians under an umbrella not knowing each other’s language but connected by the global language – no no – it’s not love, it’s English! Anyway, after it stopped, I walked further and reached the Reichestag which is the German parliament.
I now know that I needed to go to the left from the Brandenburger Tor to reach the memorial for the holocaust victimes. But at that time, I didn’t know and was confused so I simply decided to hop on to the Bus number 100 and go to Alexanderplatz so that I could go to the museums before they closed and thought that I could come back there later.
Upon reaching Alexanderplatz, I wasn’t sure what to see…so I sat down to have some lunch first. And again…it started raining..so lunch was indeed a good idea. And, I met another tourist from Australia who was doing some European exploring herself at the diner – she gave me recommendation for another trip – Budapest. Let’s see when that happens.
After the lunch and rain, I started walking and saw the Tv-tower (see above) which was quite interesting – particularly because of the shape, which is a typical style from Eastern Europe. Going further, I could see a
cathedral on my right hand side and the Rotes Rathaus to my left. There was massive construction work going on..so it was difficult to get a picture without any construction equipment coming into it!
Then I continued walking and found a blast from the past- at the place around Nikolaikirche, people were dressed in old style clothes and having shops like they would have been in old times. I don’t know if that’s called Mittelalterfest (Medieval festival?). So there I was at the banks of the river Spree and find a group of dancers ready to perform!
Thereafter, I decided to really get to the museums as it was already quite late. But as usual, it took me another half an hour or so before I reached this Museum Insel by going around the construction sites. And finally…I saw something called DDR but it was not on my list, so I ignored it and went ahead.
Found also an interesting artists’ street at a place called Lustgarten (no, it’s not a garden for the lechers)…and I wanted to spend some time there and see the cool craft work, but was getting nervous about the time remaining for the museums to get closed..So I strengthened my resolve and made the difficult choice of leaving this street…
Amongst the museums, I only went inside the Neues Museum and spent about 2.5 hours there. Even this much time was not sufficient to see everything there properly..But I was late in arriving there due to the reasons explained above :-)…Pergamon Museum had a long queue and there was a sign displayed saying it’s 4 hours waiting time (I wonder what were they showing). Deutsches Historisches Museum had some boring exhibitions in it which I wasn’t interested in.
After coming out from the museum, I thought of checking what’s inside the Berliner Dom…but then on reaching there, I found that a service was going on and they expected the people to sit inside for 1 hour!!! So I dropped the idea and decided to go towards Checkpoint Charlie. So on I went to the U-bahn station with bus number 100 and took the U-bahn to the “U Kochstr./Checkpoint Charlie”.
I found a museum there “Haus am Checkpoint Charlie” but didn’t go inside. Instead, I reached that point where there were some people in uniform, with the flag and sandbags at a checkpost and people were getting their pictures taken with these guards. I wasn’t sure what should I be seeing at this point…so I went ahead in search of the old wall…couldn’t find it..so sat down to have some dinner.
Then started again and found another tourist who looked friendly – so I asked her if she knew where the wall was. And she showed me the place – upon reaching there, I found that the place was having some wall fragments and there was an exhibition about Warsaw. The place was called “Topographie des terrors”. There were fragments of walls inside there and yesterday a colleague told me that those walls were from the buildings from the Nazi times where a lot of bad things happened. So I am still confused about the Berlin wall – there was an outside wall which was not too high and I am not sure if that’s the left-over piece of the Berlin wall.
I also wanted to see the “East Side Gallery” but my map app couldn’t point me to it it..so I was a bit disappointed..
Anyway…after all this, I thought of going towards the Gendarmenmarkt. So I walked towards that asking people for directions but couldn’t get much help….but I found it nonetheless.
It had impressive buildings surrounding it but I was surprised at the lack of people there..there were very few people. It’s such a nice square..probably Berlin tourism should do something about making it attractive!
It was getting dark and I thought of what to do as it was only 8 then and my bus was at 11 PM. But I was also tired..so I thought of checking out the Hauptbahnhof. It was huge and I kind of felt like having vertigo looking down from the top level towards the maze of escalators to several levels below!!
I came out of the Hauptbahnhof and in most of the cities, it’s nice outside but here, there was nothing! So I went back and decided to go towards the ZOB itself and relax there by reading my book.
So taking the same route as in the morning, I reached the ZOB and waited inside the waiting hall till my bus was ready to go..and then I slept all the way back except waking up briefly when the bus was back in Leipzig – I guess it was the same spot from where I had started in the morning..
That’s the story of my first Berlin trip…let’s see if there’s a second time.