Rounding the world – Day 2: Berlin…

This morning I woke to cloudy skies around 8am. Temperatures in the high 40s and expected to climb to the mid 50s during the day. I got ready in my econo-bathroom where the shower door doubles as the bathroom door and the whole thing is the size of a small walk-in closet. Reminiscence of Japanese hotel rooms.

As every morning should, today started with a visit to the little coffee shop just down the street. It was maybe 100 square feet with the barista counter made of plywood with old milk crates on the wall to hold glasses and a chandelier made of an old stick wrapped with thick yarn. The place looked chic and edgy despite it’s budget design. Absolute genius. I drank my cappuccino on the wobbly wooden chair out front watching the world go by.

Then it was back to Alexanderplatz to grab the hop-on hop-off bus to West Berlin. First we passed the museum section where lines and lines of museums cover the ground beside the canal. Stunning historic architecture. Next the bus took us down Linden street with high end stores and auto dealerships (tucked inside old historic buildings).

When we got to the Brandenburger Tor (aka Brandenburger gate), I hopped off to get a better look at the beautiful arches. From there I walked around the park and over to the Reichstag (i.e. the parliament building). The dome on top is popular for tourists looking to get a picture of Berlin from above. Tickets to the dome must be picked up in advance and you’ll need your passport.

Getting back on the bus, which by the way is a wonderful form of transportation through the city, we were off to see the West. Yesterday they had live narrators sharing tidbits about the city as we rode past various landmarks. Today was the typical recorded narrative, which I liked as well as it seemed to be much more information condensed in between stops. The next stop was the Hauptbahnhof station to drop off and pick up passengers.

From there we passed through a beautiful park until we got to the Siegessaule statue with a lovely gold woman on top. Also something one could go to the top of if you so desire. From there we passed the zoo which was quite lovely from the outside and on to the high end shopping district. We saw the very expensive Ritz Carlton which the audio said cost $100 million for each of it’s 5 stars to build. Incredible.

Then onward until we passed the Potsdamer Platz with it’s little shops. The next stop was the Mauerreste, which is where I got off. Here they had a large section of the wall still remaining, both the inside and outside walls. I was also able to visit the Museum of Terror, what an awful name right. Inside it had historical narratives on the timeline of the war, the mass shootings, and other tragedies that took place during the time of the wall. Heart wrenching stuff.

I remained on foot and walked over to Checkpoint Charlie to visit the historical displays and view old photos of how it looked during operation. Not sure if Checkpoint Alpha or Checkpoint Bravo are still around, but Charlie seemed to be a prominent juncture between East and West transiting. Nearby I found a Linden café where I was able to get lunch for around 7 euro – chicken schnitzel with cucumber lox salad and a bottle of water.

From there I walked over to Gendarmenmarkt stopping for a bit to enjoy the large promenade with it’s beautiful buildings and churches. Outdoor eateries lined the brick garden and there were pigeons everywhere. I guess they don’t mind the winter. I found an old school outdoor public restroom with only one stall for women and one for men. Guessing the word in German for woman, I tried it out – not too shabby.

Near by I was able to walk back through the museum section on foot to get photos of the various buildings most of which were quite ornate. One of the museums was open to the public and was just one large empty room with a memorial inside for the wars. Having covered the Western section it led me back to Hackesher Markt with the buzz of tourists. Taking a slightly different way back to the hotel, I passed by a number of adorable little eateries including a cereal bar! Might need to try that for breakfast tomorrow.

As with most introverts, after a busy day surrounded by people and noise, it was time to hunker into the hotel room for a brief recharge in the silence and stillness of the hotel room. Awe… Having covered the West faster than anticipated, I had hoped to visit the underground tour, however, the last tour left at 3pm. Bummer! Instead I was able to take the subway to the bus to the Jewish Museum, which was a thoughtful account of the last few hundred years of Jewish history. It was intense.

Amazing how quickly the day goes when you’re out and about. It was time for dinner! Going back to the Lonely Planet website for food suggestions in the area, I found Ruza Wein Bar (aka wine bar) run by a Michelin chef, though not Michelin starred. The ambiance was more stately but  the food was delicious. As Salt and Pepper came on the speakers, I wondered how many of the other patrons recognized the song… awe childhood memories! In any case, it was just the perfect dinner for my last night in Berlin. Tomorrow it’s off to Poland!

Today’s learnings:

1. On all my subway rides, no one checked if I had my ticket…hmmm…
2. Speaking of subway rides, it seemed it’s completely acceptable to bring beer and drink it openly
3. The beer gardens weren’t crazy packed for Ocktoberfest, so I’m thinking that must be more of a Munich thing
4. Probably a left over mindset from the 80s… but there have been no skinheads wearing Doc Martins to be found ;)



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