Berlin is like no other city I have visited before wtih the exception I suppose of Berlin in 2006. The last time I was here I remember thinking that 5 days was definitely not enough time to explore the city. Like Istanbul, you leave thinking you may have experienced about 10-15% of what it has to offer. So this time around, I stayed a bit longer… Arriving on November 15th I walked into the Wombats Hostel lounge to find Michael Woods waiting there with and eager smirk (the kind only possible when two people who shared a wall for four years in Uni haven’t seen each other in a long time). We were both pretty exstatic to see each other and given the circustances, a supportive shoulder to lean on was more than appreciated. Also, exploring Berlin with someone who is pretty much a German history expert has its perks!
Mike and I spent our days exploring various museums which included the Stasi Museum (former headquarters), the topography of terror exhibit (former SS HQ) and the DDR which paints a picture of what life was like during the cold war in East Berlin. considering I had only been to one other museumon this entire trip (in Budapest), I am now a bit museumed out.. I am assuming that if you wanted to spend ever day of the year at a different museum or gallery etc. Berlin would be the place for you! Unlike many of the cities Greg and I have visited recently, Berlin is not what I would call a pretty city. Because it was essentially completely destroyed by the end of the IIWW, there are noticeably less historical buildings and there is no old town in the center however the rich history and unique vibe more than makes up for this.
Other highlights included the East Side Gallery, a 1.2 km section of the Berlin wall with each section decorated by a different graffiti artist, the Reichstag, the various thought prevoking war memorials scattered around the city and of course most importantly, the food:)
On Mike’s last night we met up with a friend Katie Thomson and her boyfriend Marian who are currently living in Berlin. I actually had only met Katie a few times through various other friends and my sister but she had seemed like such a lovely person so I was eager to see her again. We met up at a local brewery near them (mmm beer) and Katie and Marian generously offered to have me to stay with them for a few days. I was thrilled to accept as I had not made any other plans and felt it was too soon to leave Berlin quite yet.
Katie and Marian are just the most wonderful hosts. Their home is truly the most “at home” I have felt since being away. Their flat is adorable with creaky hardwood floor boards and a warm glowey feeling to it. I enjoyed sharing delicious lattes/teas with Marian in the mornings (he has the whole process down to an art), learning all about their lives in Germany and sharing some delicous meals with them.
A highlight for me was speding one day biking around the city on Katie’s old cruiser bike. I essentially did a huge circle of the whole city and checked out some parks and cute neighborhoods in the process. I treated myself to some Spetzle for lunch. Being back on a bike felt so nice and I definitely didn’t feel like a tourist. Everyone bikes in Berlin and they even have specific bicycle traffic lights!
Stay tuned for Greg’s next post about adventures in southern Germany and Solvenia!
*A heads up to all Calgary folk. I will be home for the holiday season as of Dec 18th and I would love to see you all.