08 June 2009

Berlin!

When we were booking this trip, we tried everything to make it as cheap as possible. The cheapest scenario involved an overnight stop in Berlin on the way from Prague to Copenhagen/Sweden. I LOVE Germany, so I was definitely a fan of this little plan. Here are pics of the GIANT Prague airport! We even saw someone rollerblading in here. Weird! We arrived in Berlin around 7pm and took the excellent subway system, the U-Ban, to our hotel. We booked this hotel on priceline and it was definitely not what we would have picked on our own. The Art Hotel was Andy Warhol themed (read: creepy and dated) and didn't provide breakfast. And it was really far from all of our destinations. Worst of all - either the AC was broken or it just didn't work. When we checked out in the morning we actually saw a crane putting something on the building's roof - I guessed it was a new AC Unit....

We quickly dropped our bags and headed back to see some sights. No time for food (even though I was starving) because we were losing the light. First we hit up the Brandenburg Gate, which at one point was in East Berlin. Ryan got some great pictures. He brought his tripod, which came in handy more than once, and right after sunset the sky turns this very deep blue. Here, see for yourself: From here, we walked to the Reichstag. The Reichstag Building is the home of the German Parliament, with a glass dome that has been built on the top of the building. This gives you a 360 degree view of the city, and you can look down into the main hall and watch government happen! We arrived just before 10pm, and were in the LAST group to get let in. Yes! Plus it was FREE! Here is the dome from down below: Bradenburg Gate from inside the dome. You can see how close it is to the Reichstag. Here is the Sony Centre - looked very cool, but we didn't have a chance to make it there during the daytime. Some Fireworks! Why? I don't know...Do you ever really NEED a reason for fireworks? Now inside the dome looking down into the Reichstag. You can see the blue chairs where the "magic" happens. The Column is full of mirrors that are used to light the room.












View from the inside. These ramps wrap all the way up to an open-air platform at the top of the dome. After the Reichstag we were tuckered out, so we hopped on the U-Ban back to our uninviting hotel. I still was STARVING, having not eaten since our plane ride at 4ish (a teeny tiny airplane sandwich (and I didn't get much of a lunch that day either (I don't want you all thinking I have some sort of over-eating disorder))), but we were hard pressed to find food at 11:15pm. Ryan left me in our sweltering hotel room to fight with the air conditioner while he left in a quest for some good eats. He returned triumphantly about 20 minutes later with two Duner's and a giant beer. I was so defeated from my battle with the AC unit that I could barely eat or drink. I decided to put myself down for the night, still hungry and sweaty.

Getting up and out of the hotel in the morning was no problem. We stashed our bags and stopped by a bakery where I was delighted to find a chocolate croissant! Too bad it was more air than food! After a quick stop at an Internet cafe to check flight times we were off to the East Gallery, where you can see old sections of the Berlin Wall. I have to admit, I find the Berlin Wall completely fascinating. I was only 5 years old when the wall came down in 1989 and I am a little naive when it comes to this part of history. I just can't believe they would throw up a wall in the middle of a city! This was only 50 years ago.....And West Berlin was the only free area within all of Germany. Apparently 98 people were killed trying to climb over the wall. Many more were killed trying to flee by other methods. Artists were repainting sections of the wall, but we were able to see a variety of different artwork throughout the gallery. Here is a newer painting. Definitely a clear message! It felt a little strange taking pictures next to the wall...but we got over it... Next we were off to the Berliner Dome! The pictures cannot express the immensity of this structure. Once inside, the dome's size is even more overwhelming. You could play football in here! Ryan took this shot with his SUPER zoom! We went down in the Crypt where some caskets of important people are stored - who, I cannot say. I don't READ GERMAN! This steel casket was damaged during the war. Now let me fill you in on my favorite thing to encounter when traveling: stairs. Lots of them. These really weed out the faint-of-heart-travelers. Don't get me wrong, it SUCKS for handicapped people and for that reason I am genuinely sad, however, this keeps many bandwagon travelers away from some of the coolest sights, and means its less crowded for ME! The Berliner Dome has secret stairs that lead up to the VERY TOP of the dome. As you can see, these are NOT for the faint of heart.
We stopped along the way, here's a viewpoint looking back down into the dome. And me at the top! If you thought the top of the space needle was scary, stay away! The walk around the dome was only about 2ft wide. Again, good thing there were very few people up there! From here we thought we had enough time to check out the Sony Centre. As you can see from the lack of pictures, we did NOT. En route, we got suck in some sort of road-closure induced traffic jam and had to redirect ourselves to the hotel to grab our bags. We were concerned about time and had to skip our lunch plans. This means my only real meal in Berlin was a few bites of Duner and a disappointing chocolate croissant...

We were told it would only take 20 minutes to get to the airport from our hotel. Someone was drunk when they provided us with that information. Over an hour later, we arrived at the airport. We SPRINTED to the check-in area and found a 3-hour line (I am not exaggerating, they told us). I went straight to the front of the line (luckily, they had just made a last call announcement for our flight) and we were able to check in just in the nick of time.

Unfortunately, our battle to make the plane was not over. We still had to contend with airport security (blegh) and get to our gate. For those of you familiar with IKEA, you'll understand what I mean when I say the airport was set up like an IKEA. You literally walk THROUGH the stores on the way to the gates...or in our case RUN through. First we had to dodge strollers and alluring liquor displays in the Duty Free store. Then it was a souvenir shop, followed by some sort of luggage store, and finally a greasy-floored Burger King (I threw up in my mouth a little) before we made it to our gate! But we made it! No one can say our 18 hours in Berlin were uneventful!

Next blog: Copenhagen & Lund, Sweden!

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