Leaving Warsaw at some ungodly time, we made our way to the train station to catch the train to Berlin. The only positive to being up so early was that we could see an awesome sunrise. Its the only positive I could remember. The trip itself took about 6 hours and whilst I was somewhat zombie like and not much conversation was happening you could feel a good vibe knowing we were coming to our last city stop on the Intrepid Tour. Stefan in particular was full of zest either because it was his last night with us, he was home in Berlin or maybe he was seeing his girlfriend for the first time in a while. I’d put good money on the latter two.
On arrival we checked in into the hotel and then had one of my favourite Berlin dishes for lunch being currywurst. I also noticed on the menu on the menu they offered hot chips with nutella, cinnamon & sugar. I know it doesn’t sound great nor did it look good but I could not resist trying it. It was not too bad to be honest and I’d have it again with no hesitation.
For the afternoon, Stefan gave us an awesome orientation around Berlin, where we took in such sights as the Eastside Gallery, Brandenberg Gate, Berlin Wall, Jewish Memorial, Hitlers Bunker, Museum Island, Checkpoint Charlie and the Berliner Dom. He walked us around for about 6 hours and could have gone longer but dinner was waiting for us. As this was our farewell dinner he booked this small and cosy German Bar where they had the best schnitzel I have ever eaten. Mine was covered in a vegetable ragout and it was so good, I could have gone for a second serve, but then thought I probably would have exploded and that would not have been a good thing. We followed that up with drinks at another pub before farewelling each other, well the ones some of us were not going to see tomorrow. It is always sad saying goodbye but now is the time for us to grow up and leave Stefan’s nest, so to speak.
As yesterday was an extremely long day, I took the opportunity to have a big sleep in, check out, then find my way to the hostel I had booked for the next five nights. The transport system looked so easy when with Stefan, but as there were some construction works happening on the weekend, it was slightly more difficult than I thought. I eventually got there and found out I was sharing a room with seven rather loud Italians who were all good friends. This was not going to be easy and the less said about them, the better. This is the same hostel I stayed in four years ago and it is just the best one I have ever stayed in.
After sorting myself out I headed out to Alexanderplatz (the common meeting point area) to catch up with the remaining group members as we planned to do a river cruise along the Spree. Thius cruise lasted an hour and gave us a different view of the city. It was also very relaxing and just what we needed after being on the go for the last two weeks in a non-stop basis. Once the cruise completed I looked at going to the view platform in the TV Tower but the queue was huge and even once you got a ticket, you might not have been able to get up there until after 6pm which wasn’t going to fit in with our dinner plans for the evening. I went and met the remaining members back at their hotel and it was held in a small cafe and was a good opportunity to reflect on things we had done and say our final goodbyes.
When I woke up on Saturday, the weather was so wet, therefore the best thing to do was go museum exploring. I started off in the German History Museum which was highly recommended by a number of people. To say it was comprehensive is an understatement. It went all the way back to 500BC to the current day. It was a place you could easily spend 5-6 hours in but I kept it to about three, including a nap in the film. I did really gain a better understanding of the Nazi regime and what happened in WWII from this museum than I had elsewhere. I would highly recommend it to anyone who comes out this way. From there I checked out the Berliner Dom and whilst I don’t like paying to go into a church, on this occasion it was worth it, if only to see the crypt underneath. After that I checked out the DDR (East German) Museum which surprisingly was a lot of fun and very hands on and interactive. Unfortunately a lot of others had the same idea as me when it was raining to explore museums, so this one was more crowded but if one was patient you could really enjoy it.
As the wet weather was only around for one day, the next I went on a great six hour walking tour around the city through Brewers Walking Tours. My guide for the day was Victoria who was very energetic and enthusiastic. Her knowledge was fantastic and showed me the Jewish section of the city, some of the same stuffed Stefan took me to before, a Nazi style building which somehow was not bombed in the war. Given the size of it, its difficult to work out how the Allies missed it. It was a pleasant walk but given the Turkish President was in the city we couldn’t really get to the Brandenberg Gate nor the Reichstag. Damn politicians and their requirements for security!
Next day I did another walking tour with the same company but with the founder, Terry Brewer. He is 75 years old but has the energy and enthusiasm for the city of someone half his age. This guy is a marvel and literally has a story about every building in the city. Today the plan was head to West Berlin (new for me) and to view the Olympic Stadium and a part of Berlin called Spandau. It is not known for ballet. Trip didn’t get off to the best of starts when the whole Olympic Area had been closed off for the upcoming Pope visit. He had anticipated that the Bell Tower would have been open as that was a fair distance from the Stadium but to no avail. Just one of those things. From there we headed to the Commonwealth War Graves of WWII. I never even knew this existed in Berlin and it is not even mentioned in any of the guidebooks. This was a great memorial and should be seen by more visitors than it does.
After a bite to eat we checked out Spandau which is older than Berlin and only become part of Berlin from WWII. Once again I was surprised so much by this place. It was designed as a fort to protect access to Berlin. The Citadel is the main part of Spandau and is impressive in its stature. From there we just wandered aimlessly through the old town, seeing the oldest house in Berlin, the Churches of St Mary and St Nicholas and various memorials to the Jewish community and WWI. It was such a great place to visit and once again way off the beaten tourist track. Terry was a great guide and a true inspiration to me.
My final day in Berlin I was booked to do a tour to Dresden. I had heard Dresden is a beautiful city but after 2.5 hours on a bus to get there, I was truly taken a back by the architecture. For a place that was literally destroyed in the firestorm of WWII, it is amazing what it looks like now. The Baroque style of architecture is something to behold. You can just stand around taking thousands of photos without moving but who wants to see a city through a camera lens.
You have the Royal Palace, The Royal Church. Augustus Bridge, Church of Our Lady, Dresden Opera House amongst others that blew my mind. There was also an awesome outdoor market which was so relaxing and a couple of observation points in the churches that provided the most amazing views over the city. Might have only been here for about 4-5 hours but I will never forget it. The bus ride back was great to sleep on to wake up in Berlin and to honest, the whole day felt like a dream. With any luck the photos will prove otherwise.
Next up is London and hoping I can get to the airport without being too interrupted by the Pope’s arrival.