It was a twenty kilometre drive to Zussow and Imke had often gone to Berlin for work and so knew the train routine well. She helped me purchase a ticket from the automatic machine for 43 Euros and I was ready to ride. Then there was an announcement at the station to say that the ICE train would be 80 minutes late. Apparently someone had decided to end it all by throwing themselves in front of the train.
By the way ICE is not the inflight entertainment system on Emirates but the high speed bullet train. We consulted the timetable and the next alternate train was the regional one at 1500 hrs and so I took it and arrived in Berlin 2.5 hours later – a journey of 200km.
I had booked the Hotel Berlin, Berlin on Lutsow Strasse using late rooms.com. It is a 4 star hotel on the south west corner of the Tiergarten and very handy to most attractions. With 700 rooms and modern decor, Ich war zufrieden! I called Mike the entertainment officer who had arrived in Berlin two days earlier and we arranged to meet for a beer at Alexandra Platz and then we progressed to Kreutzburg. Great beer and some excellent joints which reminds me of the T shirt – I think I was in Berlin but I can’t remember!
After a slow start on Monday morning I bought a 2 day pass for the sightseeing Hoppa Bus and off I went with a commentary in German and English. Embassies from all over the world seem to have collected on the south side of the Tiergarten and stand alongside each other except for the Italian, Japanese, and Swiss embassies which are close to central government! Remember the Swiss were neutral during the war and the Italians and Japanese were fighting on the German side and hence the favouritism!
By 1961 there was a lot of tension between the Soviets and the West and already 2.5 million East Germans had escaped to West Germany. The Soviets decided to erect the Berlin Wall which spanned 43 Km and split the city in half. When I was in Bavaria in 1972/3 there was a very narrow corridor through East Germany to reach West Berlin. Eventually through negotiation people were allowed to cross the border on a temporary basis but only at one point – Check Point Charlie on Friedrickstrasse. Here there are several museums that tell the pictorial story.
At one stage the Soviets had 10 tanks lined up at Check Point Charlie ready to have a bash and Americans had a similar force lined up on the opposite side and nobody wanted to back down!
There is a prominent photo of John F. Kennedy when he made his famous speech in Berlin that ended with ‘ICH BIN EIN BERLINER’ which brought the house down.
In 1989 the Berlin Wall was dismantled and there was jubilation throughout Berlin as it had split families and caused all kinds of hardship. Wherever the wall once stood there is a double line of stones embedded in the road to mark the event.
Another highlight was the Brandenburg Gate which was built to celebrate the Prussian victory over the French by Friederick 11. And if you are going to have a victory march, why not have a 69 metre high monument of Victoria, Goddess of Victory, at the other end of a very wide tree lined Boulevard. On the other side of the gate is the famous Boulevard ‘Unter den Linden Baum’.
The Tiergarten is a huge park in the centre of Berlin which was once the private hunting ground of Friederick 11 and his palace “Bellevue”, backs onto the park. The Tiergarten was later given to the people of Berlin and is a wonderful place to stroll through with fountains and ponds. After the unification of Germany, government was eventually moved from Bonn back to Berlin. However before this could happen the entire Potsdam Platz, which was a wasteland during the Cold War era, had to be populated with government buildings. They are very modern architecturally designed buildings. The transition occurred around 2,000.
There are two things you must do while in Berlin and they are to eat Berliner Currywurst and drink a Berliner Weissbier. The beer is made from malted wheat as opposed to malted barley and it is very refreshing. It is also a great breakfast beer! I am writing this while on the ICE train to Frankfurt and I think I deserve another Weissbier.
It is time to bring the Blog to a close but before doing so I wish to post some very good advice written on the wall of my Hotel Berlin, Berlin. If you are thinking of doing something adventurous take a leaf out of Nike’s book and “Just do It”! (click the photo to enlarge).
Time to say goodbye and Auf Wiedersehen. Thank you for following our Voyage of Discovery 2014.
El Capitano Noel