Potsdam it.....

Trip Start May 07, 2007
Trip End May 31, 2007

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Flag of Germany  , Brandenburg,
Thursday, May 10, 2007

Today was probably the most extensive day of traveling so far. It all began in the morning in the overly sanitary and clean underground system of Berlin. It's amazing how clean the subway and most public transportation are in this city, even the Taxis are brand new luxurious Mercedes Benz. It's a drastic difference over the filth and odorous types I have encountered in the states. However, rat watching in New York City can be quite entertaining. Also it is wise to buy a ticket for the U-Bahn since fees can range from 400 to 600 Euros if you are caught without one; however I have never seen a check for tickets I wouldn't want to risk the chance. Plus, if you don't have it... they kick you out... even in the middle of nowhere.

We took the subway out of Berlin to Potsdam, the ride was very enjoyable. For first time travelers to Germany they were able to experience a multitude of different scenery than the urban bleak metropolis we had been surrounded by for the past few days. Outside the train window you could see vibrant small towns, darkened fairytale like forests, and golden vast stretches of fields. Very different from anything Florida could offer, every mile had a heartbeat of culture. Even the occupants on the train were a mix of new and old. The elderly argyled gentlemen, the businessmen, the teenage girls with their fashion magazines. Dr. Toro was curiously inspecting the crew of gothic youths, with their strange hairstyles, dark clothing and four inch spiked collar. I knew if he knew German he would be asking them questions, respectively of course out of curiosity about the lifestyle. I had many conversations with him on the topic of being gothic, the misconceptions and about the upcoming festival I would be attending. He was so enthusiastic about the subject if I had time I would have taken him out to K17 in Berlin, a local Goth club. However, I am looking forward to taking him out to The Castle in Ybor for a "research expedition in gothic culture".

Arriving in Potsdam we were greeted at the train station (Haupftbahnhof) by a multitude of shops and eateries. The train station is a good cheap place to eat and buy any needed items. Water being one of those items, one thing about Germany is that if you want water, you are going to get a Vasser mit Gas, or sparkling water. Also be prepared to spend 3 Euros for a small bottle (a half liter of beer is much cheaper!) of this is why when at a train station find the local Aldi or other supermarket and buy the biggest bottle of natural water you can find. It's much cheaper and you can fill up your bottle with hotel tap water. It's clean and safe to drink. Plus you'll have more money to spend on other liquid refreshments at the end of the day.

Dr. Toro is the leader of this expedition for the day; he warns us... you will do a lot of walking today. Of course we doubt the truth in this statement, especially when we start walking. Seven more miles he says, we keep walking through excavation sites, over bridges, through residential areas, our group a reptilian line of tourist. A supposed ten miles later, we arrive at our first destination... The Neues Garten which is positioned around a large sprawling lake and a tower that looks like it jumped out of the pages of Lord of The Rings. I expected a quick walk through the park to get to our next destination; however this is one massive garden. The weather was however very forgiving that day, and this place was a Garden of Eden. Another thing that struck me walking through this park is the strange Egyptian monuments and temples placed throughout, some in disrepair and some looked like grand tombs of kings. I am curious to the historical link of these and about the previous owner of the land to wonder who they were and why the extreme devotion to Egyptian mythology, they almost look out of place like they dropped from the sky. It makes me wonder if there were any ties to the occult or if it was just a trend back in the day to have a pyramid in your backyard, kind of an expensive pink flamingo to just flaunt. Another thing that was very noticeable (I guess only to me) was throughout the whole park it smelled like cherries and cigar smoke...incense like odor. I asked everyone if they smelled it, I was the only one who was attuned to this musky aroma. I wish I could have bottled it up.

After two hours of walking through the park we reach our final destination in Potsdam, Schloss Charlottenburg. A famous lodge that held the Treaty of Potsdam and holds till this day many meetings of great leaders from all over the world. Dr. Piper takes over and is our tour guide for this part of the day, as he starts explaining the history behind the place, a very round and loud employee of the place tells Dr. Piper very rudely to be quiet. This was utterly ridiculous, because the tour group next to us was much louder. Well, we try to be respectful and we move onto the next room, the same guy tells Dr. Piper to be quiet. Very sternly and comedically Dr. Piper tells him "I don't speak German" and continues his lecture. Honestly, only the room with the famous round meeting table was worth the trouble, since the place is very small, you can't take pictures and video is an absolute no no, so is speaking, breathing, and being American. At least the food was good, they have a great little patio with a snack bar and a buffet of wursts, salads and other Germanic treats. I had to have the German potato salad, since my father and I were both suspicious there was no such thing other than the kind that comes in a can. It was very delicious and different than what I am used to but it was a joy to know that such thing actually exists in real Germanic potato form.

I believe the walk back was much shorter than the walk earlier in the day; Potsdam was an enjoyable experience and an interesting town nonetheless. On the way back I had originally planned to head back to the hotel for a little rest and relaxation, but that was foiled when I was delayed in exiting and missed my stop. So I went with a few of the girls to the main part of Berlin, I was not however interested in shopping for clothes as they were so I decided to find my way back to the hotel using the subway. I wandered around Berlin for a bit, through the busiest part of town trying to find my way out. I found a part that I had been to the year before, I remembered that the U2 connected to Potsdammer Platz and from there I could potentially find my hotel again. After walking and looking for landmarks that were close to my hotel, I was never happier to see a Holiday Inn sign. This was an interesting experience and I think I was proposed to on the train, not sure though he could have just been talking to himself. I however was very proud since this was my first time navigating the underground and streets alone. If ever lost in Berlin, just remember that Bono is your best friend. U2 will get you pretty much everywhere and all roads lead to Potsdamer Platz.

On our way to dinner, we are stopped by police from crossing a main intersection. We thought the lights had gone out until we see four other police show up, and then a motorcade of motorcycles and black BMWs pass right in front of us. The formation of the motorcycles was amazing; they were in a V shaped formation, just inches away from each other going at a very high speed. We could see inside the cars and it looked like a Spanish military general of importance. That night we had our last dinner in Berlin, the place was playing Depeche Mode and that is always a good sign. Depeche mode, good food and speeding Lamborghinis through the streets of Berlin. Ah, Germany! How I love you. A few of us decided to explore Berlin a bit at night and we had a cup of coffee at Balzac Coffee, where I had visited the year before. The finale of our time in Berlin was held at the bar we had visited the night before, we are recognized immediately and the bartender happily welcomes us back. She goes to take our order, and says... "No, you drank all of that beer last night... I have no more." She wasn't kidding either, we really had. We have a few drinks and laughs and then we head over to our hotel. As soon as we step back in the hotel the same motorcade from earlier flies past the window. Someone yells, wow... looks like someone is getting pulled over. I slap my forehead and look forward to the next day since tomorrow is our big train ride to Prague.

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