sorry in advance for how long this post is… + kudos to you if you make it to the end.
our trip to berlin began early Friday morning as aoife and i waited at the hauptbahnhof for our mitfahrgelegenheit ride. after nearly half an hour of waiting and several unanswered phone calls, we frustratingly realized our ride was a no show. a quick trip to starbucks for coffee and therefore internet enabled us to quickly scope out the website and check for another ride. we headed to Dortmund where our new ride picked us up just before 10am. i was definitely stoked that we were now on our way, and hadn’t had to resort to buying an expensive train ticket to get there!
we arrived into berlin around 3pm to see it was very foggy and quite cold. we stopped in for some food (i tried currywurst for the first time – a type of sausage covered in ketchup and curry powder, an interesting kind of combination…) and aoife bought some mittens for her cold wee hands. we made our way by train to the Museum Insel (or Museum Island) where we were to meet up with Elliot, whose place we were staying at for the weekend. a lady from uni had put me in touch with Elliot’s girlfriend who is coming to NZ next year, and although we’d never met prior to us coming, they kindly offered us their couch to sleep on! while Elliot finished up with a rehearsal, we wandered around Hackescher Markt – window shopping mostly, but we also sat down to a steaming cup of Glühwein (mulled wine) in an outdoor café. despite the fact it must have been only one or two degrees, it was a nice experience sitting outside with a hot drink, and i know there will be many more opportunities for this once the Christmas markets are in full swing. apparently the germans love their glühwein.
dinner at a small Italian restaurant was followed by more exploring around the city with Elliot as our guide. we saw the fernseher turn too (the tv tower constructed by the soviets which i would’ve guessed to be a similar height to the skytower). on one of our train rides that night there was a guy with a guitar seemingly playing to the other passengers. his voice was great and he played wonderwall by oasis, aoife and i had a little sing a long, it made me wish people did that here in essen!
the next day we got up early, leaving the house by 8am to head to the Reichstag building which is basically where the German parliament is housed, but there’s a rooftop building that is open for tours, showing the history of the place. it was definitely an interesting thing to see, and a good start to what would be a very informative trip to berlin. i found it quite interesting to see all of the photographs that were on exhibit – particularly those showing Einstein sitting in listening to a meeting, as well as a Michael Jackson concert on the lawn in front of the Reichstag (who knew the germans were fans eh?). unfortunately our views of the city were mostly obscured by a thick fog!
our next stop was a free three and a half hour walking tour around berlin which actually proved to be the highlight of the trip for me. our tour guide was really great, he was funny and a wonderful story teller. we visited the Brandenburg gate, the wall, the holocaust memorial, checkpoint Charlie, old nazi headquarters, the spot above hitler’s underground headquarters and the spot where he died, humbolt university (Einstein actually lectured there for a bit), museum island, the Berliner Cathedral etc. the tour guides are so good at their jobs that i’m sure they make more than a regular tour guide (tips were encouraged at the end of the tour, but were more than gladly offered by pretty much all i think).
the rest of our day in berlin was spent doing lots of walking… it’s the best way to see the city and also means you sleep super well at night! we saw the eastside gallery, ate crepes, took photos at a photobooth, saw many many incredible looking cafes. by the time we arrived back to the apartment just before midnight we were both well and truly knackered after nearly 16 hours of solid walking. samira was back home by this point, so it was cool to meet her and have a chat over chai tea.
the next day we left early again to utilize the time we had left. we wandered around the city again and by the time we finally found a café that was open (it was Sunday) and not horrendously expensive, we were both starving! i had the best coffee i’ve tasted the entire time i’ve been in Europe so i was stoked. aoife and i parted ways as she headed to take a train back home and i used the last couple of hours i had left to go back to Brandenburg gate, buy a few postcards, see the Pergamon museum with Samira, and then navigate the trains back to Potsdamer Platz where my ride was to pick me up from. I’d picked my ride specifically because of it being a Mini and i was not disappointed. We made it up to speeds of 215-220km/h at some points, so it was like being in a scene of the Italian Job! Very cool, and I’m looking forward even more now to one day having a mini of my own…