Trip Start Mar 13, 2009
Trip End Mar 15, 2010

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Flag of Germany  ,
Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Berlin is such a crazy city. It has so much history, but unlike a lot of places we have been, it is all really recent history, as well as really old history. Also, a lot of what Berlin stands for/is created from is our generation and our parent's generation, which is very different from everywhere else. That being said, the German people we encountered were a little more closed off than we had previously experienced. Incredibly polite, but strictly business.

We had this problem at the first hostel we stayed at - they were strict, rude, and rule orientated to the point of obsession. We had two nights booked there, so we toughed it out, but needless to say we spent as little time there as possible. Luckily, the weather was nice and we spent most of our time outdoors. 

The first day we took a New Europe free tour, which was really funny because we had taken one in Amsterdam the day before, and it was pretty much the same script with different words and dates inserted. We talked about the Reichstag - the new Berlin government building with a clear dome on top, for transparent government, the Branburger Gate, with the statue of Victory on it, the holocaust memorial, the Wall (a big section still standing anyway) the memorial to burned books, and several other sites around the city. Luckily, ET, Ayal and I were able to go back to many of these sights later and see them more slowly, because the tours go by quickly.

Public transportation around Berlin is amazing - there are buses, trams, and the UBahn, which we took everywhere. We also walked all along the Tiergarten - the big grounds where the royal people used to hunt. They must have forgotten some animals there because we found a fox chilling in the grass eating. Berlin wildlife was hard to come by... There are beautiful gardens and parks all over the city, most of them containing statues and fountains. We enjoyed exploring them and then trying to remember where we were to find it again.

ET fell in love with donor kabab, so we ate that a lot, as well as falafel (the veggie version of donor,) generic Asian noodles, lots of pastries, and  some delish food from a Turkish market we went to. Basically the cheapest food and beer we can find - keeps the budget in check. We met up with a girl who couch surfed with us in Galway, Ireland who is going to university in Berlin, and she took us to the Turkish Market. We had a nice afternoon with her walking around a really cute, diverse neighborhood of Berlin where a lot of students are and where a lot of people who have immigrated to Germany from other places live. It was fun to reconnect with her after a few months. Thanks, facebook! We also went on a pub crawl (for shits and giggles) with some Canadian girls from our first hostel and had a blast. We ended up waiting until the UBahn re-opened at 5am rather than walk or take a cab back. Long night, but lots of fun.

The best thing we did in Berlin by far was go on a tour of "alternative Berlin" This tour was much smaller and more laid back than the bigger free ones we had been on before. This tour took us to a bunch of places we never would have been able to find on our own, like the 50 Faces Gallery (a bunch of faces spraypainted on the walls of an apartment complex that used to be the deep ghetto) the East Side Gallery (the longest stretch of the Wall still standing, filled with gorgeous graffiti) some awesome art galleries, a man made waterfall (there are no hills in Berlin) the studio where they film the European Pimp my Ride, a sticker gallery, and to look at some of the best decorated buildings and full wall graffiti murals Berlin has to offer. It was an amazing tour, almost 6 hours long, and we ended at a beach bar (they are big on those for some reason) of a squat house that also housed 5 or 6 art galleries and workshops and a rave floor. So fun.
Sometimes people are surprised that we are staying in cities for so long (5 days, on average) but it is important to us not to be flying through, checking cities and countries off our list. It would be even better to see some other cities besides capitals, like we will in Czech, but that is not always possible. Also, we like moving slow and steadily, getting to know a place and like I said, going back to see some of the sights more than once for 5 minutes on a tour. We really enjoyed climbing to the top of the Reichstag (despite the pouring rain on the way home) and walking through some of the parks, discovering our own architecture and statues that we wouldn't have otherwise found.

So Prague is next - 5 hours on the bus is not terrible. Bye, Berlin - until next time. Really a fabulous city.
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