Saturday, May 1, 2010

3rd Stop-Berlin

Monday-March 29, Day 1
Arriving at nine am in Berlin put us there early. We were staying with Chrissy's family and they were sweet and picked us up. Her cousin Maria and her brother were so nice and so welcoming the entire time we were in Berlin. They drove us around the city pointing out some of the highlights. We started site seeing right away since we didn't have a lot of time in Berlin.
...But before we started hard-core, our first stop was Starbucks---we were starting off exhausted and felt a bit better after that. And it's just delicious. :)
One of the first things we saw was Brandenburg Gate (pic below)-a huge archway with a green statue on top of a woman in a carriage being pulled by horses. In front of it to the right was Hotel Adlon-which is where Presidents, Ambassadors and famous people stay. It's also the place where MJ held his baby off the balcony a few years back.

In the road in some areas-is a layer of brick, flat with the street, but running throughout them that shows where the Berlin Wall used to be.

We also saw the Parliament building that has a huge dome you can go up in and see, the line is crazy unless you go really early or just before they close.

Maria also took us to the Jewish Memorial for all the Jews that had been murdered. It's a large area with different heights of blocks of stone. It's not pretty - but the government or whoever keeps it because the artist designed it so that when you walk through it you feel lost-just like the Jews did.

We then went to Potsdamer Platz where the Sony Center is and took pictures. It lights up at night and is beautiful. One interesting thing is a lot of the fancier restaurants have blankets on their chairs on the tables outside-clever idea.
We then went to some of the restaurants inside the metro-it was like a mini-mall-that had a lot of small cafe type things. They have cheap, good pretzals-one of things Germany is know for in the food area I believe...
We also met Maria's other brother that worked in one of the offices there. He was also very nice. :)
Afterward, we headed off and saw Kaiser Wilhelm church. It was a church that was bombed and I'm not sure, but I think they are in the process of restoring it. The tower has a hole in it, but they've put a museum inside of it, and the floors and ceiling inside it are beautiful. They had small replicas of what the church looked like next to what it now looks like. They have built a new church next to it, it's very modern with tiny blue stain-glassed windows covering the walls.

We then headed off on the bus again. At the end of one of the streets was an angel at the top of a monument that you could also go up and view the city for about 2 euros. We passed this big white house where their President lives.
We then saw another memorial for the Jewish people. A statue of a woman and a child sitting in the center of a small building.

They had an area that was considered Museum Island, with I believe about 30 museums in it...and the Berlin Cathedral was next to it.
There's also the TV tower you can see from a lot of different places in the city. You can also go up it to view the city for about 10 euros. A story that goes along with it that was in our Rick Steve tour guide book was: (Not sure the year) Berlin was taking down all the crosses in the city and they build this TV tower to say they didn't need the churches, etc, but now during the day when the sun shines, there's a cross that reflects off the glass of it.

In another part of the downtown area, there's a glass plate in the ground, and when you look down into it you can see just a room with white empty bookcases, because at one point they burned all of the Jewish books, and now they have this glass plate to remember the spot where this terrible incident occurred at.

We then walked by the Berlin Cathedral again and took pictures (pic below). From a distance we could see a synagogue that had a beautiful gold dome.

Maria then shoes us this area in Berlin that is very popular to meet up in and people pay ridiculous amounts to live in the apartments around it. She didn't think it was anything too special and once there, we understood. The architecture was basic and not pretty at all.

We ended up in a little market that had odds and ends of jewelry, clothes, food, etc. Chrissy went with Maria to her family's house for her cousin's (Maria's brother) birthday. Beka, Grace, Emily and I headed off to see the East Side Gallery to see all the different paintings on the wall (pic below). One paintings was by someone in the U.S. so that was cool, and the wall was very interesting to walk down.

We then headed to Checkpoint Charlie. We read the description and stories of the Berlin Wall for about an hour and a half, there were stories on the ones that had died and the ones that had survived. The walls went on for quite a while. The picture below was on one of the walls we read:

After reading the information, we were starving and looked up a place in the Rick Steve book and found a Beer Garden with indoor seating. They had a huge dining area, and when they sat us, they gave us German menus....which we understood maybe 3 words of. We had absolutely no idea what anything was or what to get for some time. Luckily when the server came over and we asked her what thing were she offered an English menu lol :) Grace and Beka got meatballs and Emily and I got bread dumplings, spinach and salad that was delicious. It got late quick that night and we were further north of Berlin then we thought. And Chrissy's family that was south on the metro map, was pretty far from where we were. The Berlin metro was crazy and large and had sooo many line. Between Grace and Beka and help from Chrissy's family about a train change and then a stranger we got back to where we needed and Maria was there to pick us up. Their house was cute and again, they were so welcoming and so nice.

Tuesday-March 30, Day 2
After we woke up and got situated, Maria had set up a wonderful breakfast for us. There was fresh bread, Berliners (donuts filled with fruit), juice, etc. It was amazing. She then told us to make sandwiches out of the leftover rolls because otherwise they wouldn't use it. It was incredible after staying in hostels and eating PB & J constantly. :)
We were going to first try and go to the Parliament, but we didn't leave on time, and the line was already a couple hours long. We then found a tour at 11 in English we wanted to go to, we had already missed our stop by 4 stops and were heading back to where we intended on going, but the tour was one stop past where we had just been. So the 4 of us took off for that-unfortunately for us Beka had to take off for the airport because she was heading back to Bilbao. Her family was coming in and they were going on a cruise-which sounded amazing with nice sunny weather. But of course once we got to the tour it was at capacity. We weren't sure what to do and Chrissy and I had wanted to go into the Berlin Cathedral. We headed that way and Grace stayed outside looking at the tour books while Emily decided to go with us. It was beautiful with a massive organ. We were able to walk up to the dome and circle around it and see the city. Along the way there were a couple rooms, one of them had massive replicas of the cathedral they did before they built it to see exactly how it would look. It was pretty crazy. We had to race through the dome because the free walking tour we wanted to go on for the New Berlin tour started in a half hour. The dome's windows were pretty dirty anyway-so it was difficult to take pictures. We then rushed to the exit. We had seen the main part of the cathedral from a room looking down on it, but Chrissy and I quick stopped in to look at it from ground level.

The exit was downstairs and it was a crypt full of cement coffins and was a bit creepy.
The walking tour was sooo busy. We met outside the Gate near the Starbucks. The U.S. embassy is there along with the French embassy and Canadian embassy. Our tour guide proceeded to give us a history lesson for about 15 minutes on Berlin's time-line. Then he talked for about 15 minutes about the Parliament which we could see the back of from where we were standing. He just was not exciting-he was a guy in his 20's with a history degree. He also brought us to the Jewish Memorial (where Maria had also taken us the day before) for those who were murdered and we learned that the chemical company that made the chemicals that would make getting any graffiti of easier for the stone blocks in the memorial, was the same company that supplied a lot of the chemicals for killing the Jews....
We saw an original Nazi building-it had long dark windows to give it the illusion of being larger. We had also stopped to a spot where underneath the ground had been a Nazi bunker. They completely destroyed it now and there is nothing to see, they built on top of it. The picture below is of the Nazi building:

He also took us to see part of the Berlin Wall that was old and not part of the East Side Gallery (pic below). Afterward there was a break in the tour, and we took off. All though it was informative-he was not a great tour guide. And we had plans to meet up with Chrissy's cousin.

So we took off on a train to meet up with him, he lives in Potsdam and wanted to show us some of the area. It was a cute old town, across from his apartment was the place where the person who discovered South America had lived. We saw/walked through the outside of a church and then saw the Palace there. The Palace is now an area fore everyone to walk around in. There are fountains, etc.

In one area quite a ways from the Palace, is a cute, extravagant building that was used to drink tea--and that was its' purpose. It was a beautiful - large area.

After walking around a bit more, we ate some dinner and then headed back to the city. We walked through the Sony Center that was lit up, and was really cool to see at night.

We tried to make it to Parliament but they cut the line off right in front of us. We had some bad luck with seeing things on our trip quite a few times lol.
We headed back to Chrissy's family house and talked with Maria for quite a while. We then decided to try and go to Parliament and skip trying to go to the tour the next day that had been full today.

Wednesday-March 31, Day 3
Today we woke up and had another amazing breakfast with Maria. They were amazing and helped us with our luggage, and ended up bringing it to the train station and meeting us there that evening. We were able to tour our last day without having to worry about luggage-it was soo nice!
We were off to a late start and didn't end up going to Parliament-it was already a two and a half hour wait. We tried to go into this red building next to the Sony Center that was only 2.50 euros to go up and see a view of the city--but it was closed for the next two months--go figure.
We didn't want to pay 10 euros to go up the TV Tower-and didn't want to walk to this angel monument to find out if it was open or closed---since out luck was running out on seeing a view of this city lol. We came to the conclusion we weren't meant to see the city view. Instead we got a pretzal at Weiner Feinbacker where Beka and I had first eaten at the metro on the first day and had a pretzel. We then headed for the biggest chocolate store in Europe called-Chocolatiers. It ws really big and had the Brandenburg Gate made out of chocolate along with a big frog (with a gold crown on top), a volcano, etc. It all looked delicious.

We ended up eating lunch at Pergamon Bistro eating Doner Kebab's. Yes-I ate a pork one. Max, my friend from Germany had recommended them also, so I felt I should try one. Plus Germany has a huge Turkish population, and that is a Turkish food. It was a big sandwich and pretty good.
We again weren't sure what to do afterward, so we headed to the Olympic Stadium of 1936, it was renovated since then, but still really old looking. Still cool to see though.

We had to meet Chrissy's family at the train station so we took off since the stadium was quite a ways away.
Grace and I struggled to find souvenirs, but we were finally able to find a store in the train station.
Maria's mom came with her to say good-bye, and they bought us Berliners-which were amazing later that night on the train. They also helped us find the correct platform. They were great people to meet. :)

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