Berlin (Hey.. the wall is down!)

Trip Start May 22, 2005
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Trip End Aug 09, 2005


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Monday, June 13, 2005

June 10
Our Busabout coach was late this morning by an hour and a half...a long time to stand on the street. The ride was comfortable, but it was a very long trip. We will not bore you with the petty details, but it involved a lot of gas stations and bad movies. Berlin itself is a pretty city, with a lot of different architecture due to the destruction caused by WWII. Our hostel was right in the thick of things, and so it should be easy to get to all the sights. One frustrating thing about the hostel was that they charged you 2.50 euros for the sheets and pillowcases, whether or not you had brought your own. It seemed silly not to just include it in the price (2% for looking in the mirror twice!). Knowing that the Germans were not culinary artists, we stepped out and found a nice Thai restaurant. Good night.

June 11
After a nice morning strolling around (and updating the website), we hid from the afternoon rain by visiting the Pergamon Museum. This is one of the best museums that we have visited so far, not for the number of artifacts, but for the way they are set up. The museum contains whole sections of ancient temples and walls, set up in their original (or near original) layout. The Pergamon Altar (for which the museum was named) was from ancient Greece and was approximately 150 feet wide and 100 feet deep. You could actually climb the steps of the altar and get an idea of how it would have looked to a Greek of the times. Also in the museum is the Ishtar Gate, from ancient Babylonia. The blue clay bricks used in its construction was a rare sight for us because usually rebuilt temples and other structures are devoid of such colour. The gate was over 40 feet high, and was the lesser of two gates in the museum's possession (they have not been able to rebuild the second as there is no indoor space large enough in the museum). The walls of the ancient city would have been 23 feet thick and all decorated with the blue clay bricks and reliefs of lions and other sacred animals. There was also a terrific Roman Market facade, which was two stories high (but currently undergoing repairs due to the inept reconstruction which first took place in the early 1900s). All in all the museum was quite fantastic and a sight not to be missed.

June 12
We travelled out to Potsdam, which is considered to be Germany's Versailles. There are several palaces in a large park/garden, where the Hapsburgs used to live (among other royalty). The grounds were impressive, more so than Versailles, but the individual palaces seemed to lack the luster of the buildings they were modelled on. To walk from one end of the grounds to the other takes more than 30 minutes, and their are large fountains and sculptures among a forest-like setting, whereas at Versailles it seemed like a lot of fancy topiaries. In the afternoon we walked around Berlin to see the historical sites pertaining to WWII and the Berlin Wall. We saw the Reichtag (Parliament building) and the Brandenburg Gate, as well as Checkpoint Charlie and a tribute to the many that died trying to escape East Germany. We visited Bebelplatz, where the Nazis burned over 20,000 books in the mid-1930s (how did people not see a war coming?). After another long day of walking (we figure we average 12kms per day), it was time for rest.
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