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An afternoon in Berlin

My trip started with a layover in Berlin that was long enough to see some of the city. Tegel airport is very small, therefore it takes like 5 minutes to get through, which gave me more time for the city. Apparently Berlin has 4 city centers, so there was a bit of confusion amongst the helpers in the bus area as to what bus I should get on. Eventually I made it to the right bus and bought a ticket on the bus. (They have machines and you can buy them there before you get on, but that line was long and the bus was ready to go.)The internet said the ride would be 40 mins, but there's no way it even took half that- maybe traffic was light. On the way downtown, I realized that I was hungry, thirsty, and needed to use the facilities. Fortunately, I saw a ton of restaurants. However, when I got downtown to the spot where everybody got off (and I followed), there weren't really any to be found. I ended up walking past the Reichstag building (very cool) and over towards Brandenburg Gate. Still, nothing, which surprised me based on the amount of tourists in the area. I was getting desperate and decided that I'd stop at whatever the next place was. However, the first restaurant I saw had a fixed-price lunch that was over 100 Euro. I wasn't that desperate. The next 3 places I saw were Dunkin Donuts, Haagen Das, and Starbucks. I also wasn't that desperate. Finally, I found a place that looked like it was called 3M and that had food and facilities. As it turns out, it was actually called Berlin Moscow, which means they had Russian-German food. There was caviar and blinis on the menu. I ended up getting a salad and a pumpkin soup. The food was excellent and very elegant- we're talking foam on top of my soup, twilles, pink salt chunks, and other fancy things. The portions were "appetizer" sized, so I didn't leave hungry, but I didn't leave stuffed either, which was ok by mean because that meant that I could try more things. The price was less than I would have expected for that type of place, but still more than a "normal" lunch. Overall, I was pleased. Afterwards, I headed right down the street to the Brandenburg Gate. This is one of the major tourist spots. The square in front of the gate is completely mobbed, which is an interesting contrast to most of the rest of the city. It's as if nobody uses any of the side streets, but large groups of people magically appear at the major sights. In the square, there are a ton of people dressed up in costumes who will take pictures with you, if you pay. I completely got the whole American/Russian soldier duo. Later, I understood why the bear was there as all the gift shops had bears in them to represent Berlin. I have to admit, I'm not sure why Mario and Luigi were there. I'm even further confused as to why people dressed up as bizarre monsters were there. But, people were taking pictures with them. Next stop was Checkpoint Charlie. The whole area was very well-signed and it was easy to find. Currently, there is no sign of the wall at all. They did a fabulous job of tearing it down and erasing all signs. Instead, there are tourist traps related to the wall. For example, somebody set up a beach (with sand and beach chairs and everything). Also, there is a museum dedicated to the wall you can't see. Here, right at the checkpoint, there are guys dressed as American soldiers, holding American flags, who will take pictures with you for 2 Euro. In the surrounding area, there are a ton of souvenir shops carrying old Russian and American uniforms and hats. Even the little cafe I got a pretzel and streusel at was cold-war themed. I think the only thing not directly wall related was the McDonalds. I have to admit that I did buy a magnet with a "piece of the Berlin Wall" on it. However, I think that it's probably just like all the "real" pieces of Jesus's cross- if you put all the "real" pieces together, they'd equal an object several times the size it should be. However, even if it is a fake piece, it's still pretty looking. I had wanted to go to this funky tech/design museum on the other side of town, but I was starting to run out of time. Instead, I walked around the side streets. Again, I marveled at how devoid of people they were given the massive crowds just a few blocks away at the Checkpoint. There was actually some pretty neat architecture and some neat statues. Again, I found myself in need of facilities. Fortunately, this time I found a free museum. The Willy Brandt museum is a small museum dedicated to the life of politician Willy Brandt. It walks you through his time growing up into Nazi Germany, his exile, the cold war, the wall falling. I wouldn't have paid for it, but it was nice since it was free and I only had a little bit of time. From there, I had to head to the airport. The ride back took longer than the ride from. I think one reason was traffic. The other was that the idiot standing by the door kept blocking the sensors. EVERY time the bus stopped, it took several minutes and a yelling bus driver to get him to move the 3 inches away from the door and remain there until the door closed. Again, it's a small airport, so I took all of 5 minutes to get through security. I had time for a pretzel that was much better than the one I had in town, although the mustard here is hot and spicier than I expected.The flight was super-short and the view out the window as we approached Copenhagen was actually very cool. I'm glad I woke up for it. Unfortunately, my luggage did not arrive when I did. While it might be less of a hassle to have one company handling ALL the the luggage claims for all of the airlines, it does mean that the line is very long. I took a number and then waited over an hour before they saw me. The lady at the counter was very pleasant. However, I've learned through experience how to manage this situation. 1) Be as nice as possible to the lady- don't piss her off. There were 2 buttons to take a number, 1 for business class and one for regular. Some people got tired of waiting while the business class passengers get served and we didn't, so they took business numbers. When the lady asked if they were business class and they said no, she then had to play the bad guy and looked very annoyed. Plus, one of them had children that she wasn't controlling. I'm not a parent, and I understand that all kids are different, but I'm pretty sure she should have been able to stop her kids from screaming so loudly. Nobody cares if they run around, but the screaming was unnecessary and clearly annoying the ladies behind the counter. 2) Ask for the toiletry kit. If you don't ask, they don't offer it. The kit I got was nice- it had a t-shirt, brush, nail file, deodorant, shower stuff, laundry detergent packet, and various other useful items. 3) Ask what your allowance is for reimbursement and what the method is. Again, they don't always tell you and then you're left guessing. In this case, if I don't get my luggage within 24 hours, I get 77 Euro per day up to 3 days to go shopping. Of course, I'd rather just have my luggage considering that I hate shopping and most certainly don't want to spend my vacation doing that, but at least I'll know what to spend. After the baggage situation, I headed to the Metro station to get to my hostel. The ticket computer said it was 84 kroner, but that machine didn't work. So, I went to the desk and was charged 36 kroner. However, I couldn't see where to put my ticket in, so I just got on the train. I'm guessing it's one of those honor systems where the only time you get into trouble is if the inspector gets on the train and you don't have a ticket. I got off at Forum and walked several blocks to Sleep In Heaven. It was pretty out of the way, although it seemed like a completely safe area to be walking alone at night. I didn't really have a choice as it's not like I saw any taxis. Upon arrival, it turns out that my booking went through for the wrong nights. I promise I double-checked all details before actually booking, but even my printout confirmation had the wrong dates. I'm guessing that I ended up booking through one of the sites that keep resetting my dates and offering me other "cheaper" dates than what I wanted. Oh well. They allowed me to cancel that booking, but since they didn't have room that night, I needed to find a new place. Thank goodness for the internet. In a few short clicks I had reserved a place at Generator Hostel. I headed back to the metro station, actually not too upset that I didn't have to drag my bag the whole way. However, I was hungry and I tried to stop at the few restaurants that appeared to be somewhat open, but they were all closing. I took the train to the K North station that was close to my new hostel. I passed on eating at McDonalds, and the risk paid off as there was a pizza place nearby the hostel that was still open. I grabbed a pizza and the Danish version of a sprite and headed to the hostel. As it turns out, you're not allowed to bring outside food into the hostel. They say it's sanitation, but really, I think it's because they have their own overpriced food they're trying to sell. So, I ate the pizza outside and then went in to get settled. The hostel doesn't provide much more than sheets and a bed, but they have everything for sale, and the prices are actually pretty reasonable for the stuff. I bought a bath towel for about $10 and would have bought some of the toiletry stuff if I didn't have the kit from the airline. I didn't buy a lock, but the price was such that somebody else asked if that was a rental price per day or total. (It's a purchase price, so he must have gotten a deal.) The hostel itself reminds me of a college dorm more so than a hostel. It's actually very clean and well-kept. The mattresses and comforters were very comfortable. Plus, the location is very good as it's basically on the edge of downtown. I have to admit that I'm not at all upset to be staying here instead of the other place.

River View

River View


Reichstag

Reichstag


Lunch

Lunch


Brandenberg Gate

Brandenberg Gate


Mario and Luigi in front of Brandenburg Gate

Mario and Luigi in front of Brandenburg Gate


Checkpoint Charlie Beach

Checkpoint Charlie Beach


Checkpoint Charlie Sign

Checkpoint Charlie Sign


"Americans" at Checkpoint Charlie

"Americans" at Checkpoint Charlie

Posted by spsadventures 16:00 Archived in Germany

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