Berlin is, quite frankly, amazing. I need to spend at least another week there. At least. But I’ve moved on to Copenhagen now, so I guess I’ll just have to go back… What’s so great about Berlin you ask? Well…
Travel day! I caught a train from Prague to Berlin, it was pretty uneventful, which is exactly what you want out of a train journey. Got some reading done, watched some TV shows. A nice way to decompress.
Of course, when I found out that I was staying about two blocks from Checkpoint Charlie, I had to go check it out. I resisted the urge to get my passport stamped there. Good thing, because apparently it can void your passport. It’s a little surreal, this partial military checkpoint in the middle of the city.
It’s a reconstruction, metres away from the actual site, the only original part is the sign warning you that you are entering the American sector. The museum nearby is very interesting, but definitely not worth the €12.50 if you’re on a budget, like I certainly am right now.
Berlin Zoo is world-famous, and rightfully so. They claim to be the most species-diverse zoo in the world, and I’m not about to oppose that claim, especially if you count the aquarium on the grounds.
Fun fact: Three of the species on display can be found in my backyard at home, the Bluetongue Lizard (Skink), the Redback Spider and the Australian (White-Backed) Magpie. It was nice to have a reminder of home, among the more exotic animals.
One small note: Buy the Aquarium ticket with your Zoo ticket, because the reptiles and insects are both upstairs in the aquarium, and, quite frankly, an essential part of any zoo visit.
Also: Despite the huge statue of an Iguanadon, and the Triceratops carved into the top of the doorway, there are no dinosaurs in the Aquarium. I know, I was disappointed too.
Today I sought out the Hostel Culture Walking Tours again, since I was so happy with them in Prague and Budapest. I was not disappointed. They offer four free tours in Berlin: the City Tour, Alternative Tour, Cold War Tour and Third Reich Tour.
Since I’m a glutton for punishment, I decided to take all four tours. In two days.
I started out with the Alternative Tour, which took us through the Jewish Quarter, in East Berlin. The tourguide showed us a variety of street art by locals and international artists, while giving us a history of the city, and the artists themselves.
I followed up with the Third Reich Tour, which was one of those information-rich walking tours. It focussed more on the rise of the Nazis, and the effects on the city, without delving too deeply into the atrocities, which was a nice change from the usual narrative of the events.
Aching legs aside, I was ready to go for two more walking tours.
Just quietly, I probably could have skipped the City Tour, as it’s kind of a catch-all tour, that squeezes the highlights of the other tours into one. However, the tour guide was great, and I still managed to learn some things I hadn’t picked up on the others.
The Cold War Tour was a great insight into the life behind the Berlin Wall, the escape attempts, the Stasi’s rule and the general history of the city during the Cold War years. And, without one mention of Ronald Reagan.
After all that walking, it’s time for a quiet day of doing nothing… Right?
Nope. Museum Island calls. Five museums, one ticket. Do not buy a ticket to just one museum, it’s absolutely not worth it, and for just 50% more, you can get the Island Pass. The museums are kind of small when you compare them individually to, say, the British Museum, or The Louvre.
But as a package deal, they’re more than a match. There are extensive building projects going on at the moment, so I couldn’t see the Pergamon Altar. I did get to see the Ishtar Gate though, which was awe-inspiring. No wonder it was once a Wonder of the World (and is still on my list, due to the possibly fictional-nature of the Hanging Gardens of Babylon).
The other major highlight of Museum Island is the bust of Nefertiti, which you’re not allowed to take photos of. And it’s a lot harder to get a good shot with my 42x zoom lens than I thought it would be.
Only one museum today, and quite frankly, my favourite. The Natural History Museum. 99% because they have the largest reconstructed dinosaur skeleton in the world. the museum still has it classified as a Brachiosaurus sub-species, but Wikipedia says it was recently discovered that it was a member of another species, the Giraffatitan.
They also have what is widely considered to be the most complete, best preserved fossil of an Archaeopteryx, the earliest known species of bird.
I could go on and on about the dinosaurs, because I never grew out of that phase as a kid. But I won’t. The museum also has an extensive taxidermy collection, and a section about space, including a 250 kg meteorite, which you can touch.
Phileas Fogg can eat it. 80 days is not long enough to see the world. I did, however, spend the day travelling. This time, across the Baltic to Copenhagen, where I am sitting right now. It’s 11.30, and i’m pretty sure there was still light in the sky an hour ago. Also, the internet is fantastic, I have a lot of photos from Berlin (close to 1000, HQ files), and they’re uploading incredibly fast. Of course, Google Drive keeps crashing because of memory issues, so it’s taking a bit longer.
Tomorrow I’m going to check out the city, and the day after I leave for Hamburg. The end is getting closer and closer. Just two weeks or so until I’m in the UK and I have to get back to reality.