Monday, May 27, 2013

"Ich Bin Ein Berliner": My Trip to Berlin

My friend, who shall be known as Margarita, and I are giggling as we walk through BRU, Brussels National Airport.  We have decided, on a whim, to fly out to Berlin.

As we left the airport, we noticed a little Coke machine.  Images on it include the Atomium, fries, Mannekin Pis and the Belgian flag.

We are quite lucky.  The plane ticket and hostel cost us (at most) around 300 euros, including getting to and from the airports.  The hostel (look up The Circus Hostel) was fantastic and fun: enter the main building by walking through a lion's mouth, and go up an elevator located between the legs of a ringmaster.  The first night, we end up having dinner across the street from our hostel: greasy, cheap "Chinese" food (I use the quotation marks because I've had real Chinese food, and fake Americanized Chinese food).

The fact of the matter was we had been unable to find Chinese food in Brussels under 40 euros, when in Berlin, we found stir-fry noodles for under 3 euros!

That night, we didn't do much.  At first, the front desk recommended we go to a bar, but of course, we didn't find it.  So, in the end, we went to the 24 hour store across the street, tried some drinks, and went to sleep.

I thought it was a light German beer with the label "Scaredy Cat"... Turns out it was wine!

The first day, we decided on walking by ourselves.  At the same time, we found out that our hostel was hosting a visit to the Topography of Terror Museum, so we ended up tagging along.

There's something decidedly depressing about the location.  The museum is located where the former Nazi party police was headquartered.  This includes the SS and Gestapo.

There's a wall, each square with a name and crimes committed.  The few raised squares are those that have had charges brought against them, or have been found guilty of crimes.

Somehow, afterwards, we walked to Checkpoint Charlie and visited quite a few random points.  There's a lot of parts of the old wall, which artists have simply taken over.  I mentioned that I wanted to see the East Side Gallery and Margarita was excited.

There is some much great graffiti and art.  What stands out is this set of "More Walls to Tear Down" which is aimed at dictators and oppressive rulers.

I loved how this wall was right in front of an advertisement that said "You are entering the non-profit sector."

Margarita decided that the bear needed a high-five. 

Unfortunately, we had to take a train and unfortunately, there were clouds.  We end up in the rain, and decide to find shelter.  We ducked into an artist's workshop, which had three installations, and quite a few busy artists.  There was even a working bar!

Outside was intense.  A metal sculpture was in front of the building.  The whole area was covered in graffiti, and we even saw someone in the process of tagging.

I decided that Instagram was the perfect forum for a few pictures I took.

"Pourquoi Pas?"

Further down the street, the rain started up again.  This time, we found shelter in a little coffee shop (unlike the ones in Amsterdam, this one sold only coffee and food).  Margarita opted for a coffee and I chose to try the "Berliner."  To be honest, I wasn't even sure what a jelly doughnut was.

The "Berliner" (jelly doughnut") was a little disappointing: not enough jelly, and too much powdered sugar.  Oh well.

Once the rain paused, there was another mad dash, this time going back towards the bridges that we'd left earlier.  We were trying to find the East Side Gallery.  Eventually, we found it.  Over a mile of the old wall, covered in different artists and art works.

I thought this highly appropriate, especially at the start of the gallery.

I think he needed a ride.

I tried currywurst... Not bad, but it's not my favorite.

That night, we hear about this place called Cookie Club.  Granted, it's supposedly the "best" (and only) club open on a Tuesday. While a few of us decide to go to Cookie Club, Margarita and I make plans to also have brunch with two lovely gals.

Cookie Club is surprisingly silent on a Tuesday.  I say surprising because everyone had been talking it up.  Instead, there is a two story empty space, with less than 70 people.  There is also a bed on the lower floor.  Eventually, we make it back to the hostel, despite trying (and unsuccessfully at that) to find food.

The next day, Margarita lay in bed while I went off to the aforementioned brunch/breakfast.  To be fair, I was operating on less than four hours of sleep, so I was not at my best.  Breakfast was a very fun affair with Kat and Lauren, talking about our lives and how we got to Berlin.  There was also coffee.

Absolutely divine, no? There were currants, so many types of cheese, museli, and lots of meat!

Our food takes forever to arrive (nearly an hour), but we still make it back in time for the afternoon walking tour. We visit Museum Island, the square where they burned books, the hotel where Michael Jackson dangled his baby out the window.  We go back to Checkpoint Charlie and the Topography of Terrors.  We sit, stand, squat over the remains of Adolf Hitler's underground bunker.

The memorial of a mother weeping over a soldier.  The light always falls to illuminate their faces just so...

This was on the steps of the main building at Museum Island, also the building where Hitler would give his speeches.

That night, it's decided that we'll go out with a bang.  After all, it's our last night in Berlin, and the next day is a holiday, which means that public transportation will be slower, so we have to leave nearly an hour earlier, just to make out flight.

Margarita and I, along with a group of five other hostel friends, head towards Tresor. Our hostel happily gave us half-off entry tickets.  Tresor is a factory club, a warehouse club.  The outside is shiny steel and mirrored lights.  They ask for ID and I smack myself mentally.  Of course I forget it.  But they wave me in anyways.  

Inside, it's smoke, beer bottle caps  on the ground, bricks and music.  There are little booths where people can hide and there are slats inside those booths, that support the body weight of three or four people (we tested this out).  There are red lights, cute guys, a long hallway that seems to go on endlessly.

It's a little before five in the morning when we finally stumble into the hostel.  We grab our bags, hungrily munch on Chinese food.  We take the underground metro line, hop onto the bus and wearily wait in the airport.  Margarita dozed off now and again, while I stayed up to make sure that we didn't miss the bus or the flight.

Part of me is as sad as this man. The other half looks forward to returning to Brussels.

The trip from Brussels Airport back to the city... is another exhausting saga on its own (turns out, we forgot that it was a national holiday in Brussels too)...

In the end, I learned:

- Margarita and I did not look like tourists (we were approached to donate blood or something, because we looked local).
- You can't buy a lot of things in a pharmacy without a prescription (including antiseptic things like Neosporin).
- The Ritter Sport store's wholesale prices equal 1USD. While Ritter Sport in the States is priced at nearly double that amount.

Oh, and it turns out that JFK was actually grammatically correct by saying "Ich Bin Ein Berliner".

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