Back to Germany we go!
From Prague it was time to head to Berlin. A destination we had both long wanted to visit we made sure it was in our itinerary before leaving the UK. We arrived into Berlin, found our way to the hostel (which due to a power failure meaning their systems forgot we were staying, meant we were put in a dorm with a Finnish band who had hired the whole room… awkward) and found some food and slept in preparation for oodles of exploration.
There is bloody loads to see and do in Berlin, and 3 days barely scratched the surface. In order to get a feel for the city and to establish some sort of sense of direction we decided to take another of the free walking tours on offer in many European cities. Firstly though, we visited the brilliant German History Museum which gave us an in-depth insight into the history and comings of Germany. With a deep and dark past it was at some points harrowing but absolutely necessary and vital to learn about when visiting the German capital.
After a few hours we were ready for the tour and took to the road (pavement). The tour was good but, again, not quite Munich! We walked through the Jewish Memorial site, to the site of Hitler’s bunker (which is now a car park surrounded by apartment buildings), Checkpoint Charlie, the site of the infamous Book Burning and various cathedrals and churches. The guide was a nice welshy and knew her stuff, but the mention of tips and trying to sell other tours was a little too persistent and put me off quite. While the tours make no secret they work on a ‘tips-only’ basis, they do indeed sell themselves as a ‘FREE TOUR’ so should you feel your tour was not really worth much more than, well nothing, then you should not feel obliged to tip. (Obviously, being polite Brits we of course tipped). A mere mention of the way it works at the beginning is fine, but to then say it and try to sell the rest of the paid tours on numerous occasions really does make you question the free tour ethic. Still, we had a good couple of hours and got our bearings with some of the major parts of the city that we knew we had to return to.
The following day we returned to the site of a part of the Berlin Wall, which is also home to the Topography of Terror Museum, which is completely free (always a bonus). We went into the museum with the idea of spending half an hour or so before moving on but we ended up in there for a good couple of hours as it was so gripping and informative. Again, harrowing and often tricky to take in, we deemed it absolutely vital that we learnt as much as possible whilst visiting Berlin. The past couple of weeks have taught me far more about the horror of the war and communist regime than I had learnt in all my formal education. When the willingness to learn is there, that is all you really need.
After reading so much unhappy and depressing information, a break is certainly needed and there are few better ways then coffee and cake to lift one’s spirits. (And ice cream).
Berlin was a thoroughly interesting place and one that I must certainly return too. Though the initial feeling of the city was pretty cold and a little, perhaps, unfriendly, it soon grew on me and left an impact on me that has created a curiosity about the place and an itch to learn more.