We left Amsterdam for Berlin late on…whatever day it was, Thursday, and arrived at Tegel in the evening. It was the most ridiculous customs experience ever. Basically, the way Tegel is set up, you get off your plane and you are right at your baggage claim. Convenient. Then everyone just walked out. There were 2 police/guards standing at the exit and they did not look at a single passport, did not ask a single customs related question. Nothing. You just walk out and you’re outside and getting a taxi. It was easier than traveling to Canada pre 9-11. I couldn’t quite get over it.
We stayed at the East Side Hotel which is directly across the street from the East Side Gallery – the largest remaining portion of the Berlin Wall. Very cool. The hotel had all sorts of related art, and our floor was filled with photos of Trabants. Score! Haha easily amused.
On Friday we decided to take the 4 hour walking tour given by New Berlin, which starts at the Brandenburg Gate. It was really the best thing to do, as you walk by all the major attractions in the area – the Gate, Reichstag, Holocaust Memorial, Hitler’s Bunker (an apartment complex and parking lot were built on top of it), a portion of the Berlin Wall, which is itself, oddly fenced. Went by the old Nazi Air Force headquarters, which then became a center of the Communists and scene of a massacre of protesters in 61 (i think). It has a wonderful mural of the ideal socialist life haha. Fabulous. Then Checkpoint Charlie which is wonderful. Just so fantastic. I got my passport stamped with the old CCCP and East German stamps and they write up a fake visa for you. We went through some beautiful square surrounded by French and German matching churches and the philharmonic concert hall. Then to another square with St Hedwig(!) catholic church and Humbolt University where the Nazis held their book burning. Ended at the Museum Island where the guide told us how the Berlin Wall fell completely on accident. Great story and I must look up the press conference on youtube.
At the end of the tour it started to rain. We went off to find Zoo Station. Unfortunately Zoo is actually Zooogischer Garten so no signs had the abbreviation. One good thing is one sign was for the U2 train and had the station name. Good enough I guess.
Then to the Victory column, the set of the “Stay (Faraway, so close)” video. It was weird to see it in real life, it looked like a prop. Climbed up to the top. No more stairs for me for a long long time now. It has a great view, too bad it was raining. It, like the Cologne Dom, was filled with graffiti, and some was U2 related. I wanted to add song lyrics from Stay but I just couldn’t. So in the underground walkway I added “Rock and Roll stops the traffic” hahaha.
From there in the rain and darkness we went to see Hansa Studios. Rather unremarkable but I had to. Ate at the restaurant next door, then back to the Reichstag and BrandenburgGate to see them lit up. Things were crazy in the area because they were setting up for the Europafest celebration of 50 years of the European Union.
The American Embassy is being built in Pariser Platz with a sign explaining. I was looking for it to say the construction was being done by Halliburton but alas it didn’t.
Before going to the venue on Saturday we walked along the wall across the street from the hotel on our way to the station (and yes I totally just got “into the void” in my head), to go to the Checkpoint Charlie Museum. Very cool amazing place, great stories about escape attempts etc, but a bit overpriced and very crowded.
And I ate french fries out of a vending machine. In one of the stations they had hotdogs and sausage in vending machines and another machine with french fries. They cook them in the machine in 45 seconds and come out into a cup like coffee vending machines. They were actually really hot and quite good. Let’s say I’ve had plenty worse from real restaurants. I’d definitely have them again haha.
Then the shows, another post.
I attempted to change my flight home from Tuesday til Sunday or Monday so I could keep on the tour through Vienna. But Delta sucks and they wouldn’t change me. If I could have found a cheap way home I would have just “missed” the flight home and gone on with all the girls, but the cheapest price for a new ticket was 1700$. We had a whole plan involving “losing” my passport and telling the casino I wasn’t allowed to leave Germany until I got another one blahblahblah. The travel that I’d need to arrange to get to the next cities was cheap and would have worked, there was just no way for me to get back home. Very depressing, I really don’t want to leave.
So, Monday checked out of the hotel but my flight didn’t leave for London until 7:45 so I had all day to see more of Berlin. I wanted to go to the Franciscan Monestary ruins, and I did, but they’re closed Mondays. So I just decided to wander, and I wandered on past the Berliner Dom, so what the hey, I went in. Very different, and things kept saying it was a Protestant church – but dear lord it was the most elaborate ornate looking non-Catholic church I’ve ever seen. Very different from the Cologne Dom, but very ornate in its own way. You can go all the way up to the top of the dome and get a good view of the city from there. I approve haha. More wandering, and I wandered past the German Historical Museum. David had mentioned there was an exhibit on the Art of Propaganda that he was going to go to, while I had decided to go to the monestary ruins. But since I ended up walking by and had time to kill I went to see it too. I love propaganda so it was very cool. Showcased propaganda from WWII from Germany, Italy, USSR and US. More wandering and I remembered the car in Hard Rock so I went out back that way, took some pics of the U2 trabbie, and went to the half ruined church that got bombed out but was left that way while they built a new church next to it. (Woah some movie I put on has Charlize Theron and Johnny Depp, and he’s apparently evil?…hot but weird tho, and Clee Duval)
Got a cab to Tegel and wow I hate that airport. It seemed neat when you arrive, but not when you depart. Language wasn’t an issue so much as just the way it’s set up. There aren’t long rows of check in desks for each airline, like American airports – there is a check in for each gate, and every airline can use it depending if they have a flight leaving that gate or not. So I was confused that I couldn’t find a British Airways checkin station, I had to ask, and you just check in at the gate you’ll be leaving out of. Ok fine, but they wouldn’t let the London flight check in until the flight before was practically off the ground. Once I checked in I figured, I’ll go sit at the gate. Except you can’t go to the gate until it’s your flight. But there are no signs, and I’ve never seen it set up that way before. So I try to go through security and this guy starts yelling at me in German. And I say I don’t know German and he’s still yelling in German, and I again say DO YOU SPEAK ENGLISH. He just keeps yelling and saying “pass”. Wtf. I go back out the door I went in and there is one of the police/guards in this little booth and he speaks German to me and again I’m like, ENGLISH! So he finally does start speaking in english, and he tells me you can’t go to the gate until it’s your flight, and when you do he has to check my passport. That’s fabulous, there’s not a single sign saying that the booth was a passport check or that I had to show anyone anything.
Ok fine, so I don’t go to the gate, but now what the hell do I do. There are no lounges, or even big spaces with chairs. There are occasionally little nooks with chairs. So I end up sitting on the floor in front of the check in for the gate, cuz I have no where else to go. Finally I go to the passport guy again, and he’s flipping through it looking for my Berlin stamp. Except I don’t have one because as you recall, no one looked at my passport when arriving in Berlin. But I didn’t say anything, and he saw the Düsseldorf stamp so I let him assume that I came from Düsseldorf haha. The whole thing was incredibly frustrating and irritating. The theme so far of traveling in Berlin I guess.
On the way to the airport I actually saw a Trabant driving on the road. That made me happy.
Flight was delayed but not badly and Glen picked me up at Heathrow to bring me to Gatwick, which was much appreciated. The cops walking around Heathrow all were carrying huge automatic weapons – rifles or something. It was pretty scary. My London hotel for the night gave me a room with 3 beds, 2 of them bunk, 5 pillows and still no sheets. Why don’t they use sheets in Europe? Could have used this room when Alex was with us, there is at least room to walk.