Friday, October 24, 2008


You may wanna grab a snack, this is a loooong one!

October 17th-20th
I think Berlin is one of my new favorite cities. From Rome on Friday afternoon, my friend Amy and I flew easyJet into the city. We arrived around midnight and had to groggily make our way to the Pegasus Hostel so there wasn't much site seeing to be had. At the reception desk we had been told about a free 3.5 hr tour offered everyday by New Berlin Tours, so we went on that Saturday morning. Our first guide, Jaime, who lead us from the hostel to the start of the tour @ the Brandenburg Gate, turned out to be an architecture student too. He is also in his last year in architecture at a school in Germany and had many recommendations for great architecture to see. Our real guide, Paul, gave us a concise tour that lead us along where part of the Berlin Wall stood. From the Brandenburg Gate, in Pariser Platz, we could see the Reichstag and Siegessaule Statue, as well as the U.S. and French Embassies. The highlight of Pariser Platz was having my first Starbucks in about 2 months(It's got nothin' on Italian Espresso!) and seeing The Adlon Hotel, a.k.a. Michael Jackson Baby Dangling Hotel(yep, that's where it happened)!

Brandenburg Gate, Adlon Hotel, Holocaust Memorial

more Holocaust Memorial

From there we went to the Holocaust Memorial by Peter Eisenman. My impression of this space was much different from what I got from just seeing photographs. The architect hasn't said what his meaning behind the design is as a way to allow visitors to develop their own impressions based on their individual experiences. There is a small memorial exhibit underneath one corner of the field of stones. I really like this memorial and think it is such a powerful place evoking many different feelings from each person who walks throughout it.

The next stops were to Hitler's Bunker and the SS Headquarters. The site of the former bunker(it was completely distroyed and recovered with earth) and where Hitler ended his life is actually now surrounded by apartments where a few famous people such as Katerina Witt have lived. There is appropriately very little sign that it was ever there. This was in hopes that the site wouldn't become a shrine to the Neo-Nazi.

remaining Berlin Wall, marking on road of wall, Checkpoint Charlie @ night

Next to the SS Headquarters a large section of the west side of the Wall is still standing. It looks a lot shorter and less looming than I had imagined it would be, but I'm sure the armed guards that surrounded it for 28 years would certainly have kept me far away. One thing I hadn't realized about the Wall is that it was actually made up of 2 walls about 100 yards apart in certain areas, the space between them being called the death zone and the typical images seen of the wall covered in graffiti are only of the west wall, the east being unapproachable.

Jewish Museum

Checkpoint Charlie was the last stop we made on the tour before Amy and I decided to go on our own to see everything else we had on our checklist. Throughout the next 2 days we went to the Jewish Museum by Daniel Libeskind, the Berlin Philharmonic, New National Gallery, returned to the Holocaust Memorial and Brandenburg Gate and then explored 2 key neighborhoods; Mitte and Prenzlaur Berg. We had 2 amazing classic German dinners, both restaurants we stumbled upon(literally out of pure exhaustion and hunger from the many hours of walking) and would return to in a heartbeat. At the first I had "currywurst with homemade potato salad, a "small small salad"(named by the menu) and a Berliner Beer, "Berlin's Best!" The second was a fairly similar dish(why chance a good thing?) but I also had an apple strudel with whipped creme. Amy's meals were equally delicious! I think 2 reasons we enjoyed these restaurants so much were for the atmosphere and the for the complete meals you could order as compared to the separate single dishescourses in Italian restaurants. Here you either get a large plate of pasta or meat and order veggies separately and you end up paying for a lot more food than you should eat! At any rate, German food was a very welcomed change to our exclusive Italian of the past 2 months.

We stayed at Pegasus Hostel in an 8 bed(4 bunks) mixed room. It was decent; clean, quiet and in a good location for the price. When we arrived the first night after 1am all the other beds were full so we had the 2 next to the door. The next morning a couple people left and by that night those beds were full again. The last night there were just 5 of us in the room; 2 new guys, Amy, me and another guy who had been there the "entire" time. It wasn't until we were on our way to Praha that Amy and I realized we hadn't seen the one guy out of bed or his bed empty during our entire stay. It was so weird. We've been trying to figure out how this was possible and how he managed to see any of the city during the 2.5 days. We usually left the hostel by 10 and wouldn't return all day until between 22 + 24 each night and everytime we were in the room he was in his bunk above Amy. Thinking back, it was really weird that I never even saw him get up to use the bathroom! I hope he somehow had at least half as good a time in Berlin as we did!

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