On Sunday the 17th it was time to leave the Czech Republic and head for Berlin. Our day started early, we had to pack and get to the station for 0819. The train to Prague was 2 hours where we would get on our 5 hour train to Berlin. The intercity trains within Czech Republic are much more comfortable than the international trains run by the national train company! Once in Berlin we made our way to our airbnb apartment. We walked through what seemed to be a bit of a dodgy area, quite dirty, lots of graffiti people loitering etc. Eventually we seemed to turn away from this area and a block away was a bit nicer, which is where the apartment is. The apartment is very small. There is one room and a bathroom. The bathroom is within the main room, and on top of the bathroom is the bed which you have to climb up to. We were pretty tired after spending all day travelling so went to a restaurant nearby which turned out to be very nice. Our waiter was very welcoming and quite funny. He didn’t know why New Zealanders were called Kiwi’s, so we kindly educated him. The menu had some interesting things, like veal cheek and eagle fish. I had an asparagus and walnut risotto and Celia had a Goat’s cheese salad. Half way through our meal I pointed out to Celia that we had suddenly become vegetarian.
We had a small sleep in in the morning and then headed to a café right below our apartment around 10. Again a nice place with great coffee. After breakfast we headed to the main train station to get a Berlin Welcome card which gives you multiple days of free transport and discounts to attractions. It took a while to get to the due to a comedy of errors such as lines being closed and going to the wrong train station, whoops. Eager to continue our mistakes we walked up to the Museum fur Gegenwart (Modern art?), only to find that it was closed on Mondays. After the mishaps we were keen to do some actual sightseeing so headed down to the Brandenburg Gate and Parizer platz. In the atrium of a bank in the square is a really cool conference room. It was a cool design but was also interesting as it was a bit of a hidden attraction away from the busy square. We then walked south to the Holocaust memorial. The memorial consists of 2711 sarcophagi like concrete blocks of varying height on undulating terrain. It takes up a large space and walking through it reminds you of the scale of the atrocities that occurred. There is an information center/museum at the memorial but like the art gallery it was closed on Mondays. At this point it started to rain so we ran into a restaurant beside the memorial to shelter and get lunch. I had currywurst, sausage with ketchup and curry powder, and Celia had Bratwurst. When the rain had subsided we walked down the road to the site of Hitler’s bunker, which consisted of an information board. The bunker was demolished and filled by the Soviets. It was interesting to read about the bunker and see a diagram of where all the bunkers were in the area. They even had a bunker for cars and drivers. Next up was Potsdamer Platz where there were some wall sections and information panels. We then deviated from the line of the wall heading west to the Resistance museum. The main focus was attempts by high ranking officials on Hitler’s life, but there were also sections on other types of resistance such as youth groups and civilian figures. The museum was situated at the site of the execution of General von Stauffenberg and his co-conspirators after their failed assassination/coup combo in 1944. After the looking around the museum we headed back to the wall at Potsdamer platz. Down a side street was an original GDR watchtower, again this was a little visited site so was nice to get away from the rush of tourists.
Next on the list was the Topographie des Terrors which was a museum about the Gestapo, built on the site of the now destroyed gestapo building. At the front of the site was a long series of panels about Warsaw’s fate during WWII. This was something neither of us new much about and the story was presented well. We ended up reading it for about 75 minutes. We were running short on time at this point so only had a small visit to the Topographie des Terrors. On the way home we went past the world’s largest captive balloon and Checkpoint Charlie. I think the balloon was just a helium balloon tied to the ground which you can go for rides up to 150m in. Checkpoint Charlie was the third Berlin Wall crossing point, an area where there was a standoff between Soviet and American tanks at some point in the 60’s I believe. Now there is a touristy Checkpoint Charlie cabin and a memorial/art work. The memorial is a light box with an American soldier on one side facing into West Berlin and a Soviet Soldier on the other, facing East Berlin.
Finally we stopped at the supermarket to buy some food for dinner, cooked it and wearily climbed up to our loft bed.