We took the train from Hannover to Berlin after buying our Eurail passes. It was an express train which meant it was only an hour and a half. We arrived in Berlin’s HBF (the central train station) and spent fifteen minutes figuring out how to get out of the station and to the hostel we were staying at. Said hostel, despite being named Heart of Gold (firefly reference) was themed after Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy, complete with ‘don’t panic’ business cards. We went exploring (a self-guided walking tour) and with a little skill and a lot of luck we managed to find (stumble across) many of Berlin’s iconic sites. We walked through the pretty downtown core of the city and managed to see the Reichstag (parliament building) complete with several protestors, the Brandenburger Tor (the iconic gate), and the Soviet Memorial – and we acted like tourists in front of each. Then we decided to go find the Holocaust memorial before wandering through the university district.
Our map showed the memorial in the park across from the Brandenburger Tor, and it seemed pretty so off we went through the woods to find said memorial. We walked and walked and walked, happening upon various memorials (such as one dedicated to Goethe) but after about three kilometres of trails, we still couldn’t find this memorial. Eventually we gave up and left the park, walking across the street to this odd sight – a city block of enormous concrete blocks all laid out like an odd maze. So of course we took photos there being smiley and happy. Imagine our surprise when a few days later we learned that those blocks were the Holocaust memorial (signage anyone?) and of course we felt suitably embarrassed for not treating the memorial with the respect it deserved. Whoops!
That evening we wandered through the university district and saw the beautiful and massive Berlin cathedral. By that point it was after seven and we were both starving so we found a little café and had dinner – currywurst for Janice and bratwurst with sauerkraut for me! Needless to say that after all that walking, we slept very well that night.
The next morning however, I rolled over and opened my eyes just in time to see that through the night we’d acquired new bunkmates (including one on top of both of our bunks). The one on top of Janice had already woken up and was parading around the room in his very tight hot pink briefs. A bit too colourful if you ask me! That day we wandered into a tiny German café for breakfast where (unusually) the woman didn’t speak English, so after much signing, we managed to procure pastries and fruit for breakfast. Then we wandered off the see the Wall Memorial (which was interesting but rather stark). The memorial is a little ways away from the centre of the city so we decided to take the metro back into town. The German metro systems is inexplicably complicated considering their love of order, and so on the same metro line there were two stops with the same name – rather confusing. And of course we got on the train going to the wrong one and ended up in the very north of Berlin somewhere in the suburbs. Luckily it was a simple fix – take the same train going the other way! Nevertheless, I now understand why all the Germans on the train were looking at us so strangely!
After we got back on track we visited another Holocaust memorial and then went to the German history museum (which was very interesting, but included an enormous section on the wars and the Holocaust). Needless to say we left feeling a little morose. We stopped at an Indian place beside our hostel for curry and then went back to the hostel to do some errands, such as laundry.
The man at the front desk told us to put our money in the machine to make the washer work, but no matter what we did, we could not get the machine to take our money. Strangely enough though, the machine did turn on and after about twenty minutes of fiddling (in which Janice almost flooded the room) the machine actually started to wash our clothes. We encountered the same issue with the drier, but put it on a settling called extratrocken and that seemed to work.
The next morning we headed off to the train station to catch a train to Prague and at the train station had breakfast – more pastries and delicious coffee (have I mentioned I love German pastries?). The one I had that morning was a tart filled with pudding, apricot halves, a jelly glaze and icing. They really do their baking right!
Off to Prague, so more updates from there!