Berlin Travel Journal
> How it all began...
After a great week-end away in our own country to North-Holland we thought it would be nice to do something like that again, but only this time we wanted to pay a visit to our neighbouring country. After all it's only a short drive for us to Germany, making a flight in combination with a Berlin Car Rental not really worthwhile for us. Berlin is a city we'd always wanted to see one time. Somehow we never really went there until now.
> The Plan
A few weeks after our North-Holland week-end I decide to check the internet to see if it's possible to spend the Easter week-end in Berlin. I'm looking for something more personal than a hotelroom, as we enjoyed staying in a B&B in North-Holland. Soon I find a good website with B&B's and homestay possibilities and I send a request for a room for 2 nights in the Easter week-end. The room turns out to be no longer available, but I receive 3 alternatives by e-mail. One of them seems the ideal room for us: a beautiful room with a bath, pretty close to the city center. We make the booking and start looking forward to the week-end. After some calculation for the exact travelling time we find out that it will be a relatively short week-end and we check the possibilities to depart one day earlier. At least we book a formule 1 hotel ahead for the fridaynight. The hotel is close to Berlin and arrival time is any time we'd like. Now we can leave Groningen immediately after Peter's start of the week-end at 17.00 on friday in the afternoon. Spending the night in this motel, so close to Berlin, we can be in the city as early as possible on saturday morning. But it turns out to be no problem to get the afternoon off so we can start our trip at noon that friday.
> Journey to Berlin
Exactly at noon we get into our car and just a few moments later we leave Groningen. As soon as we're in Germany we can speed up a little and much sooner than expected we're approaching Berlin. We decide to wait with the check-in at the hotel and first head for the centre of Berlin to see something of the city. Just before 6 pm we're right in front of the Brandenburger Tor and our car is parked at only 5 minutes walking distance from it. After walking around for some first impressions, including our first "Currywurst" and a view at the cute Berlin Traffic lights we go for a quick diner and try to take some pictures of the beautifully enlighted Sony-Center. We think this is enough for today and go find our sleeping place for tonight. Because of the excellent usage of trafficsigns, that we expect to be Germany's specialty, and a detour it takes a while before we reach the hotel, but just after 11 pm we're in our bed trying to get some sleep.
> Berlin Day 1
We wake up early and after a quick breakfast we're back in the car. Our destination: Berlin centre. Today we manage to get a parkingplace even closer to the Brandenburger Tor and first we walk to the Reichstag, to take a closer look at the outside of the building. We will visit the glass-dome another time, when the line in front of the door is a little shorter. Through the Brandenburger Tor we reach Unter den Linden, the large buildings in this avenue all look wonderfull. At the and of the street we see the Berliner Dom for the first time, a beautiful construction. We also discover a nice market on the banks of the Spree-river but it's not really busy yet, so we continue our walk to the cathedral to look at its interior, which is especially beautifull too. We discover that you can climb up to the dome by stairs. Despite my leg-injury, that made us decide to take it easy this time, we climb to the top in no time and enjoy the beautiful and sunny view over Berlin.
Downstairs again we stroll at the now busy market and walk back by the other side of Unter den Linden in the direction of the Brandenburger Tor. In the surroundings we both visit the Holocaust Monument and the Soviet Monument before we pick up our car to drive to our homestay for the next two nights. We aggreed to pick up the key there at about 1 pm and it's about that time already. Afterwards there will be still plenty of time to visit a few other nice spots of Berlin.
Driving to the address that we received by mail appears to be pretty simple, within 15 minutes we're there. The owner of the apartment won't be there herself, but we can pick up the key at a 24/7 restaurant called "Aber Hallo" and for both of us this has been a reason for plenty of silly jokes already. However, after parking the car we can't find any "Aber hallo" and we enter the building with the right number on the open door. Somehow there is no sign of any person in there and even an inspection of the staircase leads to nothing.
We decide to try the alley next to the house, it seems like there is some activity back there. It turns out to be a meeting point for the homeless named "Bankrott", where they never have heard of "Aber hallo", but they agree with us that this name simply asks for silly jokes. Frankie, one of the employees suggests to try it at a café at the corner of the street, the owner probably will know. But no, she never has heard of "Aber Hallo" and even seems to think that this is part of a stupid joke. We try the only other restaurant in the neighbourhood but they can't help us either. So we go back to Frankie, who told us that they always want to help us out when we can't find it. When he's smoking another cigarette (his third since we met him 15 minutes ago) and we are offered some coffee we check out some phonebooks, but here we also can't find a sign of "Aber Hallo" or our hostess.
Well...Frankie decides to take us to the internetcafé on the other side of the street. Meanwhile he's asking the people in the neighbourhood (whom he all seems to know) if they ever have heard of "Aber Hallo" and tells them all that it probably will be a gaybar and he thinks that's the reason that we can't find it. During his fourth cigarette he leaves us at the internetcafé and goes back to the street.
Just when we've found our apartment with name, but without the precize address, on the internet and we ask a guy in the café whether this building on the photos looks familiar to him Frankie returns.
He found a taxidiver and asked him about the restaurant, so now he's got the correct address for us. It has to be one kilometre down the road and then just around the corner. The internet confirms this and while he's smoking his fifth cigarette we say goodbye to Frankie, giving him our Magic Photo World card. When we can't find it we can always come back is what he says, but that's not necessary. 5 Minutes later we're in front of an apartmentblock that looks very familiar from the photos on the internet and we spot a restaurant with the name "Aber Hallo": so it really exists! Much later, when we're back home again we get a message from our hostess telling us that the place where we were first is her last address, where she used to live until 2 years ago. Ha ha, it was a special adventure, but luckily with a happy end.
By the end of the afternoon we take the tram, that has a stop right in front of our door, back to the centre in the direction of the Alexanderplatz. The sunny square is still a big construction site, but because of the groups of young people chatting on the ground and the modern buildings that have been finished yet it already looks like a great city square.
We feel like seeing something of the western part of Berlin now and we go to the Kurfürstendamm. On our way over there we pass the KaDeWe (kaufhaus des Westens), where we look around a bit, but we're not great fans of this huge shopping paradise. Right before the Kurfürstendamm we see the Kaiser Wilhelm Gedächtniskirche for the first time, the bell-tower of the old church forms a huge contrast to the modern new church and bell-tower standing next to it. The exhibition of photos in the bell-tower is impressive and the blue light gives the new church a very special athmosphere. It's still sunny outside and on the crowded stairs outside the church we enjoy some delicious crepes, which apparently are not only for sale in Paris. After a short walk at Kurfürstendamm we stop for a cup of tea and some rest for our feet and after that we go to Mc Donalds for something to eat. When we're finished we go to the Reichstag. We expect it to be less crowded here now and we hope to be up in the dome at sunset. Unfortunately we're not the only ones with this idea and we have to stand in line for more than an hour. When we're finally allowed to go up it's completely dark. Still the dome is beautiful, just like the view over an enlightened Berlin. It's already late when we get to our apartment for the second time. This time we find our way much easier and after a good shower we get into our bed.
> Berlin Day 2
Today we first take it easy and get up late, yesterday has been a busy day and our bed is excellent. When we get out at about 10 we find out that todays weather is not as good as yesterday, it looks a bit grey and rainy. First we go to the Jewish cemetery still in the area of our apartment, we've read that it must be beautiful. Unfortunately the cemetery is closed today and after some peeping at the fences we move on to the East Side Gallery. The directions to this 1,3 kilometer long part of the Berlin wall in our Capitool compact book are very bad, so it's not easy for us to find the right place. After a long walk we're finally there. Many of the paintings made by artists have become filthy by the bad air in the city or have been damaged by vandals and only the first part of the wall has been restored. Still there were some people who even covered them with their own graffiti again. We take a look at everything that's left from the former Berlin wall and then take the subway to the city hall with its Neptune fountain.
Just when we get here it starts raining for the first time and we run into a souvenirshop to stay dry. We go to the Potsdamer Platz for the second time, to take some pictures of that area by daylight as well. From here we walk to an antique market in the neighbourhood, but there's not much to see with weather like this. We do have a lot of fun with the giant seesaws they've got here, but right after that we quickly move on to Checkpoint Charlie. We wanna go to the museum Haus am Checkpoint Charlie to avoid the rain. Again we're not the only ones with a good idea, but 30 minutes later we're inside. It's an interesting museum with impressive photos and items that have been used for escapes to the West. Afterwards we have a good meal at the Chinese-Japanese counter in Snackpoint Charlie across the street and allow ourselves an icecream from Jenny's even though the weather is not really like eating icecreams.
After the full program of yesterday we think this was enough activity for today and we return to our room in Prenzlauer Berg to relax a bit.
> Berlin Day 3
Today it's our last day in Berlin and we wake up early. The sun is back again and first we go to the New Synagogue and a little further in this street we see another beautiful building which is an old post-office. At the end of the same street there's also a small artists' village in the middle of the city. After a second visit to the Alexanderplatz we go to the Gendarmenmarkt, which really is worth its name: "most beautiful square in the city". We see a couple of Trabants here, as this is the start of the Trabbi-safari as well, but in my opinion these cars only are a tourist attraction more and more every day. For the rest we've hardly seen any of them the entire week-end and I think it's not a very fancy car to have in Berlin anymore.
The German and French Cathedral look fabulous in the morning sunlight, just like the Concert Hall in the middle, but when we leave in the direction of the old Olympic Stadium from 1936 the first clouds appear. When we arrive at the stadium it's completely cloudy and we're disappointed when we hear that the stadium is closed because of a football match later today. We leave to visit the Schloss Charlottenburg where we are just in time to take a walk in the nice royal gardens before the first raindrops come down. Luckily it's not a lot of rain and when we arrive at Snackpoint Charlie for lunch we're still dry. We also take some sandwiches with us for on the road and go back to Prenzlauer Berg to pick up our car. We leave Berlin with mixed feelings: we had a great week-end and we've seen beautiful things here, but Berlin simply doesn't feel like "our city". We've seen many places which are more beautful and Berlin won't make it to the top 10. After almost 6 hours of "Autobahn" we're back in Groningen.
> More Info
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