Saturday, 7 February 2009

Germany, is that you?

So, two weekends ago Fred, Gabe and I embarked on what would soon be remembered as an epic journey. To be honest, none of us really had it in us to go... I think Fred gladly would have skipped it if I had let him. The grueling process of flying out of Stansted at 6am did not help matters... we had to take a 3 hour bus to the airport which departed at 1am. When we finally made it to Berlin we ate pretzels and took the pretty amazing tram into the city where we came out of the underground to be met with icy weather conditions, a lethal wind... and nearly nude models in the middle of a photo shoot?

Well, nothing like a little early morning fashion to get your heart pumping (mine at least). So then we were off to find Colin (Fred's under-grad biology buddy). He's managed to secure a very well paying 'proper' job. None of this academic stuff which we are finding so fun. Anyway, we went out for a very un-German Thai lunch. Then he went back to work and the rest of us headed off to explore the city...

Yes, those are chunks of ice floating in the river - and yes, it seriously was mind numbingly cold.
So, in the distance behind Gabe there is the TV Tower - which, as Fred so proudly will tell you, was 'built' but the Soviets to show their power in east Germany - but they couldn't actually figure out how to build it, so they had to bring in the Swedes to do it for them. To escape the weather we decided we would venture up it. It wasn't nearly as scary as the St. Louis arch but the elevator did go up pretty unsettlingly quick.

Gabe and I holding hands with the great minds of Germany.

We then went over to Checkpoint Charlie... Fred was nearly conned into buying a 'real fur' Soviet hat for 20 euros - until the badge fell off of it and landed in a puddle...

After that we met up with some pretty interesting science-friends who are working in Berlin. A whole assortment of them: one pretty famous science guy, one Alaskan environmentalist bear shooting/gun owning guy, one Serbian journalist lady etc. They seemed to know the cool places of Berlin that weren't located in our Time Out guide... some places that I probably wouldn't have wandered into had they not said it was safe: an art commune run by dubious men who sat on the floor smoking and playing cards and an abandoned graffitied building that was warehouse to 'offbeat' art and their artists. Oh, we also got taken to see a gig - that i can only describe as the most horrendous noise I've ever paid 2 euros to hear. It was truly awful... but still fun because there was some pre-teen goth night make up artist there - so you could get your face painted like you had gotten run over by a car (or something equally disgusting).

The next day we set about exploring the city again. We saw a cathedral that had been half blown away during the war and was then rebuilt (the two short black buildings next to it). All the little squars in the building are filled with original pieces of stained glass and looks pretty incredible from the inside. You'll have to go yourself to check it out though.

We also spent an awful long time just walking around the city due to a few errors on our bus route. But turned out pretty good, because there were always nice things to look at. We even found a shop for mom!

We were headed for some palace... I don't know much about it because by the time we got there it had shut. But it looked nice from the outside.

Then we happened to stumble across part of the Berlin wall that has been left standing. It was actually pretty incredible to see.

We tried to push it over and pay homage to all the people it had kept separate for so long... but I guess if they couldn't knock it over, we didn't have much of a chance either. So, we had a little kiss instead.

The next day Fred and I set off on our own. Colin had to work... and Gabe was sleeping. We stumbled across a protest in a square the had a lot of embassys facing on to it. I learned that I do not like large crowds of shouting people... even if they are just shouting that their church in Turkey should not be gotten rid of.

Through that monument and to the left was a Jewish memorial. It looked okay from the outside - but it was when you walked into it that it got interesting.

Due to a poor choice of shoes (converse are not acceptable foot attire for the 1,000mile walking tour or Berlin) and way too little sleep... I was starting to reach the end of my tether. So we hit up our final attractions of the day, said adieu to the city and headed for a coffee shop.

A few funny things to note: when trying to go through passport control the people spent about 10min deliberating over Fred's picture. They didn't believe it was him. Granted, he does looks very young in the photo. But they laughed at it, showed the policeman who was standing behind them... asked for another form of i.d. Fred tried to talk to them in German and make a joke and they were having none of it. It was pretty funny... once they let us through. Also, Fred and I could both barely believe that Berlin was actually part of Germany. It is entirely and completely different than Kandern (obviously, I know) and any other part of the country we had ever seen. It was a great trip though, and we both loved it.

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