Travel Diaries: Berlin (Part 2)

Second of the three part series.

Posted by Manjil Saikia on July 17, 2016

(Images are missing, due to importing from a different location. This will probably never be fixed. Sorry about that.)

Berlin, in the second day has already grown on me. I was right when I said that Berlin is a city which you will appreciate more if you live here longer. Although, the highlight of the day has to be the talk by Ben Green that I attended, but I still had a great time enjoying the sights of the city. I decided for a change to go on my full tourist phase and do the top 10 things that appear in the lists of Berlin. I could manage quite a few, by the way.

The start of the day was lazy for me, having slept close to 13 hours last night, but I decided to do the most I could today (its yesterday already, but who cares about time zones and what the clock says). I sneaked a visit to the Rathaus Schoeneberg, which was the city hall of West Berlin for some time in the last century. I find that visiting the Rathaus in any German speaking city is worthwhile, normally they have free concerts and festivals going on the year round. However, this one had a kind of flea market today and the view of the main building was obstructed. I took a look at the wares in display and found nothing that interested me. Although to be honest, I really wanted to buy an old cassette player, but it was much too big to carry with me the whole day. I will try my luck tomorrow and see if they still have that one. The building itself was not impressive compared to the other Rathaus’ I have been to, but there is a more famous Rathaus in Berlin which I am planning to visit tomorrow (again, keep in mind the lax attitude of mine towards time zones in this post). I also found a very old printing of a book by Goethe, but I could not find the owner of that particular stall to pay for it (again, I have to try tomorrow).

In the evening, I went into full tourist mode and visited lot of beautiful places. The first stop was the famous Checkpoint Charlie, this was the best known point in the erstwhile Berlin Wall maintained by the allied forces. I have seen and heard so many references of this checkpoint, that I had to go and see for myself what the fuss was about. It was teeming with tourists and most of them were American, which is understandable considering the context. The checkpoint is maintained as it was and there is a possibility to also have your passport stamped with a fake visa at the checkpoint, which I did not do.

After the Checkpoint Charlie, I went to the Holocaust Memorial for the murdered Jews. The one thing that is synonymous with Germany is Hitler and how he murdered thousands of Jews. The memorial stands as a testament to the sad history of the country and its people. I spent quite some time in the memorial and it was a surreal experience for me, to say the least. I went to the very centre of the memorial and looked at all the directions and the grey columns that stood around me made me feel the pain and suffering of the people. I had wanted to visit the Holocaust memorial in Vienna for quite some time now, but never actually went there. I am glad I went to the one in Berlin.

The next stop for me was the Victory Column, which I missed yesterday. This 19th century column was erected after the Prussian victory over the Danish and stands quite tall and secluded from other interference. It is a nice place to visit and spend some time. There is also the Schloss Bellevue nearby (‘Schloss’ is the German word for palace). The palace itself is not very impressive, but there is a nice garden in front where you can lie down and rest or do whatever you want. Also, the Spree flows nearby which is also a good place to walk by. Hunger had overtaken me at this point, and I went to the only place I could find near the column. I tried a Viennese sausage with a pilsner beer this time. Needless to say, the sausage sucked, so did the potato salad that came with it. No one can make better sausages than the Viennese. The pilsner was not too good, so I skipped having a second one there.

With my stomach full now, I made my way towards the Berlin Cathedral. I make it a point to visit the main cathedral in every European city I am in, for two reasons. First, the cathedrals are quite nice, if you can go inside then you should; and secondly, there are normally lot of places nearby that one can visit. The Berlin Cathedral is not impressive as the Milan Cathedral, but the style is a bit different and there is a nice garden with the river flowing nearby. I was pretty impressed by a fountain in front of the cathedral. Just alongside the cathedral is a museum. Within walking distance, there is the State Opera House and some buildings of the Humboldt Universitaet. Unfortunately, the Berlin metro is doing some construction work in front of the Opera House and the view is obscured. From what I could make out, it seems a nice place to visit. The buildings of the Humboldt Universitaet were very nice and appealing. There was a musician playing the guitar and I stopped for a while to listen to him play. He played some really good Latin American music, I had missed the street music scene in Berlin so far; but this was good.

The next stop was to the Berlin Wall Memorial in the actual site of the Berlin Wall that had separated East and West Berlin for quite some time. The actual wall is no longer there (some parts are elsewhere), but there is a nice memorial for the victims and the families who used to live in the border of the wall and had to undergo lot of hardships. There are various posters which explain the politics as well as social conditions at the time of the wall. I walked a bit in the memorial and read the stuff that was written in the posters. There was also a sculpture which I felt depicted true human emotions related to the wall and its atrocities.

I then wanted to go to the Schloss Charlottenburg and I made my way to the bus stop, but inspite of waiting for quite a while, the bus didn’t show up. This I found strange because, Germany is known for the punctuality of its public transport timetables. I did not want to walk towards another bus line and so decided to return back to the place where I am staying. By this time, it was already dark and I took a bus which covered a bit of the city. It was a nice way to see some of Berlin’s night life. To end the night, I went to a bar and had a couple more pilsners, this time it was good and the bartender told me that it was made in Berlin and is quite popular. I should try some lager next.

Tomorrow I have the day, and in the evening I have my train back to Vienna. I am planning to go to the Palace and then try to visit two museums. This seems like a tall task, so hopefully I will wake up early tomorrow. I now regret not spending a few more days here, but there are other travel commitments in the next weekend to keep. I will surely like to return to Berlin at some point and stay for a while.