We arrived at the Berlin train station without directions to our hostel (seems to be a theme, huh?) and George was getting tired and hungry. Uh oh. So we jumped in a cab to take us to the hostel, which in his defense turned out to be a good distance away from the train station. We arrived at this gigantic, Stalin-esque building where we checked in our room and took a bit of a breather. Since food was the next item on the list, we ventured out of the hostel in search of something that was cheap and already prepared. We found a döner place and we both got very big falafel sandwiches. After that very filling meal, we decided to check out the neighborhood and wound finding a really cool shopping street, the Konzerthaus and a chocolate shop. The latter being the most important of all. And they were delicious. The store also had these incredible sculptures made of chocolate, which I would have loved to stick my head in. We headed back to our hostel since we were only staying there for the night (we had a better one booked for the rest of the time) and called it a night.
We started our morning with the famous, amazing German breakfast of fresh rolls, salami and cheeeese. And then we headed to our free Sandeman’s tour right by Brandenburg Gate. Side bar, our hostel was located right next to the North Korean embassy with lots of pictures of “dear leader”. On our tour, we saw the Memorial for the Murdered Jews of Europe, where Hitler’s bunker is still located, Berlin Wall, Checkpoint Charlie, and the East Berlin Alexanderplatz. After our tour, we headed over to Alexa, a HUGE shopping mall, where we got absolutely nothing. Yay. So we went back to our previous hostel to grab our bags and check into our new one. Grabbing a bite to eat, we settled in and then checked out the neighborhood.
We decided since it was a decent day outside that we would walk the 3.6km from our hostel to the Reichstag. There was quite a line to get in, so we admired the building from afar. When we were reading about the history of the building, George was approached by what looked like a petitioner with a pen, clipboard and sheet of paper supporting the deaf. What seemed like a noble cause is nothing more than a scam. These children come up with a simple piece of paper, have you fill out your name and then the minimum donation is €10. The money is only going to their pockets. When George flat out told the “deaf” kid in English that he wasn’t getting any money, the kid threw a temper tantrum and stormed away. Seems like the kid can hear and knows English? We saw soooo many people giving them money, it was so ridiculous. They’re all over the place, especially in touristy areas, so be aware of them and make sure that they don’t try to knick your purse while you’re signing the paper (if you do get that far).
Since my interest is pretty strong in the Holocaust, we also went inside the Murdered Jews of Europe museum. You start out with a wall of history, then move into a white room with all of the numbers of Jews killed from each country, then into a room all about specific families and their fates and finally a room with videos from all the concentration camps. For me, personally, it was a little eerie going to this museum (which is right across the street from Hitler’s bunker) in the place where all the hatred started. I think the emotion that was running through me was anger. Anger at the fact that they still refuse to support the Jewish state, anger at the fact that they spent €28 million building it and anger for the fact that although people attend this museum, with quite a queue actually, many of them have never met a Jew since Europe is almost devoid of them now. I know I should be happy and grateful that people are remembering this horrific event, but I am SO sick to death of people building museums to remember instead of supporting the people who suffered through these atrocities.
I want to hear your thoughts. Too many museums dedicated to the Holocaust or too few?
Well, after the museum, we had worked up an appetite, so we went on the prowl, ending up at an overpriced cafe since it was close and we needed food stat. Oh well, live and learn. We then walked back to the mall to see if they had this poncho that I had found and never purchased from H&M. Well, we both went a little crazy and bought a few new things, and I found my poncho. Yay!!
That night, George and I went out on a date! We went to this delicious German restaurant that does traditional food with a twist. We shared the awesome goat cheese with roasted tomato pizza and I got the spatzel with cheese, aka German macaroni n’ cheese, and a salad. George went all out and got weiner schnitzel with roasted potatoes. At the end of the meal, we were so stuffed, we basically had to be rolled out of the restaurant. We wanted to have an authentic Berlin experience, which means clubbing. Too bad we were both tired from all that food. We wound up crashing, but I had set my alarm for midnight, which everyone knows that the party doesn’t start until 1am in. Berlin. On the weekends. We woke up, still groggy, and we only willing to travel so far. So, we went to White Trash Fast Food, a restaurant/bar/club that plays rock and rockabilly music vs. the techno scene. We walked downstairs after paying our cover and everyone was smoking. We could barely breathe, but luckily there was a live band playing in the restaurant, so we sat down and checked it out. It was alright and there were more songs that I didn’t know than I did. It ended up being a bust. Next time, we’ll have to have the stamina and go to a big techno club. By 2am, we were back and fast asleep.
On our 3rd day in Berlin, we took a little trip outside for a free walking tour, well train and walking, of Sachsenhausen. This was one of the first concentration camps to be used, but was mostly used for Communists, criminals, those that spoke out against Hitler, and homosexuals. There were some Jews and Russian POWs there as well during the latter part of its use. It was so weird being there because it is now, more or less, a giant field. The firing range and gas chambers are somewhat intact thanks to conservation efforts. I think the hardest part for me to see, especially in person, was the gas chamber and oven area. I’ve seen so many photos of those areas, but seeing it live, and being there, being told that they could burn 5 bodies at a time was just very haunting and surreal. It was a moment for me that showed the lowest point in modern human history. I know it may be difficult to see, but I really do recommend checking it out. It is free to go in if you don’t want to do a tour.
After the tour, we went to the train station to book our overnight train tickets to Amsterdam. Well, just our luck, the woman at the counter didn’t schprechen sie English. With my extremely, and I mean extremely, limited German skills I successfully purchased tickets for us. It was a proud moment for me! We walked back to our hostel and along the way, we found a real cool flea market, so we wandered around and checked it out. I almost bought a few things, but I have to keep reminding myself that I have a couple more months to schlep all that shit. We got a little lost, but made our way back and calling it a night. We ate and drank at the bar, watched some shows on our iPads, and relaxed since we did too much walking.
Well, our last day in Berlin, and what do we do? We check out of our hostel, stash our bags and proceed to order food, sit in the bar and watch the last episode of Dexter. For those Dexter fans that have yet to see the finale, I will not give it away here, but let me just say that I could come up with about 80 better ways to end the series. Ugh, so frustrating. After being lazy for about 3 hours, we decided fresh air was in order. We walked around pretty aimlessly, just taking in the last of the Berlin sights.
At the end of the night, before our train, we did some much needed laundry. Then we headed early to the train station and waited to be whisked away overnight to Amsterdam.