Saturday, February 13, 2010

A long day and a long blog in BERLIN!

Alright here’s the deal…I went on a walking tour of Berlin today and it was awesome.
Here’s the other deal…I think I’ve decided to catch the 4:57 train to Prague tomorrow morning.
Here’s the third deal…it’s already 10:30.
So…do I write a wonderfully detailed blog for all you to read, or do I attempt to sleep?  I’m currently debating it with my new Frenchie Frenchman friend Sylvain.  He also goes by Woody.  As in this guy…
Apparently they mean the same thing.  Anyway, he’s reading this over my shoulder as I type.  And I’m pretty sure he’s offended by me calling him a Frenchie Frenchman.  Right now we’re watching the French apparently kick butt at skiing and shooting things.  We already watched the Americas kick butt at long distance skating.  Oh early boring Olympics.
So I don’t think I’m going to go to sleep just yet.
Ok…done with that tangent.
Now back to the walking tour.  Barry our tour guide was an adorable Irishman who attempted to do German, French, and American accents when telling stories.  And he had some funny jokes.  He moved to Berlin from Ireland specifically to give free tours because he didn't know what else to do with his life (sounds familiar.)  I’ll give you a quick rundown with the fun facts I learned.  Oh and you should know that it was freezing btw.

First we arrived at this site…
It was built and made to be a park of sorts filled with picnics, snowball fights, and fun.  And what is it?  It’s the Holocaust Memorial.  And those are rows and rows of tombs.  And yet it is still meant to be a playground of sorts.  It's beautiful, ut a little eerie when you're in the middle of it.

Then we came to this GINORMOUS building…
See the lovely communist propaganda (word contribution by Sylvain)?  Look how happy everyone is being a communist!  This building was originally built to be the center for air forces of Nazi Germany.  Then it was the Communist HQ.  But it was one of the few buildings to have survived both of those wars.  But who would want to use a building with such a negative history? The Internal Revenue Service, that’s who.  Oh the irony.

Then we came to the ACTUAL BERLIN WALL!  Are you ready?  Here it is…
Oh yea I forgot to tell you it’s really not that impressive on it’s own.  But when you include the Death Strip, which consisted of of walls, guards, guns, nails, sand, attack dogs, and all other things, then it’s quite scary.  And would you like to know the profession of half of the 5,000 people that escaped?  Guards.  Yep.

Ok…now it’s time for Checkpoint Charlie. Oh and there is no “Charlie.”  Except maybe this guy…
Except his name isn’t actually Charlie.  It’s for the C in the military alphabet.  Here is where farmers went through with their proper documents and where actors now dressed up like militia take pictures with you for one Euro (price information again contributed by Sylvain.)

We didn’t go in here…
I wish we did.

And after a delicious lunch of pesto, mozzarella, and chicken sandwiches, we moved on to Gendarmenmarkt…
Here there is a concert hall, and two churches.  One, the German Cathedral, and one the French Cathedral.  At the top of the French one is the Lovely Lady Liberty.  The German one I have no idea.  They’ve been restored, but they’re originally from the 16th century when the Swedish (who were actually mean bullies at the time and not furniture makers) were taking over the country, and the German and French actually joined together.  But not too together.  Hence the two churches.

Then after a quick jog across the street and good thoughts up at a suicidal looking horse statue perched at the end of a building so that it looks like it’s about to jump (seriously), we arrived at Babelplatz…
Surrounded by 360 degrees of beautiful buildings.  Oh wait…
Yes the public library is being restored so they decided to make money.  Good for them.  But the rest of the square is gorgeous.  It was built during the Prussian era when big gay ruler Frederick the II was in charge and he wanted nothing to do with war like his father, so instead he built cultural buildings like a library, a bank, a church, and an opera house.  Then his father decided to “cure” him by killing his lover and making him watch, which then led him to become a hard and blood thirsty Freddy and go on and take over land.  Also in the middle is a glass floor looking down into empty bookshelves with the capacity to hold 20,000 books…the amount burned during the Nazi Germany book burning.  Surprisingly though, the Nazi party members responsible were not officers, or politicians, but rather students and teachers from the university.  One of the best quotes was one by an author in the 1800s – way before any sort of horrific German uprising – “When we start burning books, we end up burning people.”  How terribly appropriate.

Then it was on to the one memorial that’s supposed to have no controversy about it so naturally it does – The Museum of Victims.  It’s meant to honor any and all people who have fallen in a war.  But people thought placing a Concentration Camp victim and a fallen Nazi on the same level was horrific.  So they added this and only this statue…
It’s a mother with a fallen son, reminding us that in war, regardless of the affiliation, beliefs, and side, everyone is someone’s son or daughter, which is where the tragedy lies.  I thought it was beautifully put.  And isn't the skylight allowing the elements in so powerful?

Well technically our tour ended around there.  But then we snuck into the Historical museum to get away from the cold as we spent the last half hour of our tour hearing a very compelling version of the last months of the Berlin wall.  Then we were free to go.

Of course I had to explore some more and still learned some things.  Here is museumsinsil or Museum Island.  There are four museums, none of which I went into, and this building…
A combination of almost any and all old architectural design concepts.  It was kind of a palace thing.  Still pretty to look at.

Then I attempted to find the Olympic stadium.  I succeeded, but a football (soccer) match was going on, so I couldn’t get in.  But I did get to enjoy a rather rowdy and drunken subway ride with the fans of the victorious teams (the drunken and rowdy being the 40 year old men coming from the game, not me.)  Fortunately they got off a couple stops later leaving me alone with a snow covered subway car…

For my final stop I went to Brandenburg Gate.  We were here at the beginning but I didn’t get a chance to take pictures.  Plus it started snowing!!!
This is basically the gateway into Berlin.  Every major ceremony and arrival happens here.  The statue on top was stolen by Napoleon, and when the Germans got it back, they changed it to be facing the French Embassy, and renamed the square Pariser Platz – Paris Square.  Just to piss them off.  And then they called French Fries Freedom Fries.  Oh wait that was Bill O'Reilly.  Oh there’s the American embassy too, but I don’t think they’re mad at us anymore...well maybe ol' Billy.  At least the statue doesn’t stare at us…
Plus there’s the infamous building where Michael Jackson dangled his baby…
And that’s it! A very long, but completely accurate I tell you, description of my day in Berlin.  It’s precisely 11:27.  Sylvain has gone to bed (calling me crazy in the process.)  I’m just gonna upload some pictures and call it a night. 
I should also note that I’m sitting in my hostel’s internet café having a google translated conversation with another Frenchie, Kathd.  It’s pretty much awesome, and I want to stay in Hostels all the time now.  Ok, four hours of sleep, here I go!!  (Remember I have five hours on a train.)

And remember…Big Brother is watching you.

Word of the Day: Berliner Mauer – Berlin Wall (German)


  1. That looks like an awesome day!!! I probably would have froze to death though!

  2. glad you are having such a great time!

  3. It is Amazing that you get to have such travels!
    Want to trade lives for a while???


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