Saturday, July 12, 2008


By the time we got to Berlin we were pretty exhausted. I'm not that great of a traveler, and even though we were seeing some pretty amazing places, I really wanted to go home. We got to our hostel and pretty much crashed and burned the first night. The city has two buses that just go around all day and visiting cool sites, so we rode around on one for a while and got off at a cool park. In all of the other cities we had stayed mostly in the metro areas, but in Berlin since we were so wiped out we decided to take a leisurely stroll.

The park was beautiful and I tried my hand at a few flower pictures.

We found a low wall by a pretty lake and Jason took a load off for an hour or so.

After that we did some more exploring and found a few more peaceful parks in the city. One of them had lots of fountains and statues.

We liked this one because the boy is riding on a goat. Don't ask why, but that struck us as pretty funny.

After that we bought some food and went to bed early. The next day we did some historical exploration. We went to the Brandenburg gate and the Reichstag - which is the German parliament building. Tons of German history has happened in this building and we even got to look through some glass windows at a curent parliment session. The building itself was pretty old and impressive, so we waited in line for a freezing hour and half to go up to the top and see the city from this huge glass dome thing on the building. The views of the city were nice, but the dome itself was far more impressive.

It had this huge mirrored funnel down the middle that brings natural light and heat down into the building to make it more energy efficient.

One thing I have to tell you about Berlin is that Berliners love Currywurst. You may be wondering what that is, so let me explain. Germans in general love sausages of all kinds.
After trying quite a few from street vendors here and there I can see why . In German a sausage is a "wurst". The currywurst is a particular kind of sausage which is deep fried and then smothered in a tomato sauce (like a sweet catchup) and then dusted with curry powder. It's pretty good. There are currywurst stands all over Berlin and near the famous Check Point Charlie I found this one.

Currywurst, I salute you.

The next day we took a walking Cold War tour of Berlin. It was pretty fun and I'm glad we did it. We learned all about the Stazi spies and the crazy files they had on people - at one point they were actually collecting people's smells! They would bring people into an interrogation room and make them sit on their hands, palms down. Then they would ask them all kinds of questions, and finally let them go. They would take the special cloth (that the person's hands had sweat all over) off of the chair, tag it and put it in a jar, presumably in case they ever needed to set the dogs after that person. Crazy. They also had all kinds of high tech spy gear and at the height of their power they had an estimated one spy for ever six citizens... Yikes!

At the end of the tour we got to go see the Berlin wall. It was different than I had ever pictured. I never understood how the wall had gone up overnight, but at first it was a wall of soldiers and barbed wire. Then gradually the first wall was built and then a second wall was built about 100 yards behind it. The area in between the two walls (called the death strip) had absolutely no cover and was patrolled constantly. The ground was raked sand or raked gravel so footprints stuck out like sore thumbs. Here's a picture of the main wall as it is now.

We also visited a section of the wall that has been restored and has the death strip and everything. It was chilling.

The history tour was definitely an eye opener, but not really very joyous. Then again, the history itself hasn't been very joyous either.

We went to some more monuments after the tour. We saw the holocaust memorial and the old Jewish cemetery. We also went to a super old Jewish synagogue. After that we saw a memorial dedicated to the victims of communism. The shattered man is gradually walking into the future and with each step he is becoming more and more whole.

After that we caught a train back to Frankfurt and then some assorted trams and buses back to the YFC guest house. We relaxed and worked and organized some photos the next day and then we hopped on a plane back to the States.