The city, of course, is Berlin. As capital cities go, Berlin is up there. I prefer it to Paris, to Cardiff. It even beats out Edinburgh. And this weekend, I got to go for the second time. Four hours by train seems to be the norm to go anywhere from Ilmenau. Getting on a train at 9.22 on a Sunday was a wrench, seeing as I normally get up at ooh about 12 at the weekend – catching up from all those 6.20 starts, you see – but once I got on the ICE at Erfurt it was plain sailing all the way to Berlin Südkreuz. I then had to figure out the S-bahn system (that’s the tram system) which became ridiculously straight forward when I realised that there were other platforms. Shocking that.
I headed straight for the Brandenburg Gate, because what’s a trip to Berlin without the essential touristy pictures of the city’s icon?
Hello world, this is Berlin calling.
While I didn’t do a cheesy selfie (there were way too many other tourists around for that) I did take pictures from every angle possible. Then I had a wander to the Reichstag before deciding it was far too cold to explore the Tiergarten (a very green area of Berlin next to the Reichstag), and headed for the Willy Brandt museum.
If someone could explain the difference between the Reichstag and the Bundestag, I’d be very grateful.
Willy Brandt is a babe. That’s how I described him in a message home during my time in Berlin, though it was pointed out to me that that’s not a suitable reply to ‘who is Willy Brandt?’ So a (very brief) history lesson. Willy Brandt was the Chancellor of the Federal Republic of Germany from 1969-1974. The FRG may be better known to you as West Germany. During his time as leader of the FRG, he focused heavily on interactions with East Germany (aka the GDR), and improved relations between the FRG and the GDR. Essentially, he made a tense time better under difficult circumstances.
So having wandered round the Willy Brandt museum, discovering things like he escaped the Nazis by fleeing to Norway and changing his name, he was awarded a Nobel Peace Prize in 1971, and was just generally a pretty kickass person, I headed to the gift shop, where I forgot all my German because the cashier looked like Robb Stark.
This bed was so comfortable.
By this time, I could check into my hotel, and I’d like to thank all family members who gave me money for Christmas because it meant I had a queensize bed and the best shower in the world. And Dad got peace of mind. So thank you very much. I then fell asleep in front of the Princess Diaries (auf Deutsch, natürlich) before heading out to the Imperial Club, for the whole reason I was in Berlin.
This comedian is about 2/5s responsible for me studying languages at university.
As previously mentioned, I’m a huge Eddie Izzard fan, and last year I got to see his show Force Majuere in Birmingham. So when I heard he was performing it auf Deutsch, I was super excited, and thus went to Berlin. The venue had about 150 seats, so it was tiny, but it was full. And there were so many native English speakers. I surprised the Americans behind me with my accent when I turned round to apologise for being tall, when they started discussing whether or not they could still see.
See those purple lights? They’re at the back of the stage. And I was half way back.
The show itself was about an hour long, and was a very heavily cut down version of what I’d seen in Birmingham. No less funny though. I think the highlight was listening to him explain how at some point the English must have gone “You see this? It’s just a spoon. We’re not going to use feminine or masculine,” but explaining this in a language that still genders every noun. Was hysterical. He also pulls the universal face of non-native German speakers of “wait, did I say the verb already?” I kind of felt like I was watching an hour long oral exam, albeit it a prepared one. It makes me very glad my lecturers don’t expect me to be funny as well as accurate. All in all, it was an excellent evening, and if you’re in the Berlin area, he’s there for the next few weeks. Go. Have fun. Enjoy the cheap tickets and expensive alcohol.
Monday was a very cold day. The whole of Berlin was iced over, which made walking around for seven or so hours fun. But I hit up the nearby bakery for breakfast and then I headed towards the Fernsehturm. It took me a while to get there what with the ice, and getting distracted by the Nikolaiviertel, but I got there eventually.
The tower disappearing into the clouds is the Fernsehturm.
The visitors floor is 203 meters above the ground and the idea is that you get a fantastic view of Berlin. I went on a day when it was both foggy and cloudy, so that didn’t really work out that well. But it was still cool and for the first time ever, someone who could speak English found out I was English and continued to speak to me in German. In the lift there are stewards and on the way down, the steward was telling me to be careful because it was very icy outside. I must have said thankyou one too many times or something because then he went ‘You’re German, right? Or English?” When I said English, but I understand German, he repeated the warning in English to the other tourists in the lift and then told me auf Deutsch that lots of people have broken arms and legs because of the ice. Basically, the staff at the Fernsehturm are lovely.
I could just about make out the cathedral through the cloud cover.
Then, trying not to fall over, I headed to the DDR Museum, which was totally worth it. (DDR is the German for GDR.) There’s a ton of interactive exhibits, including the section on the Stasi (the secret police) where you can listen to what’s being said in another part of the exhibit. They’ve got a Trabi you can pretend to drive and a typical east German flat set up, and it was just really really cool. As a German student you get to study two parts of German history; WWII and the GDR, and personally, I’m more interested in the GDR, so this museum was awesome. Even if there was a school group of teenagers who really didn’t want to be there.
Following this I went and hid out in Starbucks for a while, because the cold was seriously getting to me. Bless Starbucks and their radiators. And their free wifi. Finally, when I couldn’t hide any longer, I braved the cold again, heading down towards Checkpoint Charlie. At the moment, just round the corner from Checkpoint Charlie, is a panorama of the Berlin wall. It’s not a hundred percent accurate, but the artist is trying to show how life continued despite the wall. It’s shown from the West looking to East Germany, and was generally pretty cool. Even if again, there was a school group who really didn’t want to be there.
A very small section of the panorama.
Finally I went on one last wander that took in Potsdamer Platz and the Holocaust Memorial, stopping only to take ridiculous photos in a photomat from the 70s. It was only when I got on the train home that I realised I’d only been in Berlin for a little over 24 hours. Now I’m ready to sleep for a week, but it was so worth it.
Oh, the things I do when I’m alone.