One thing that I have discovered, upon our return from Berlin this morning, is, that after 14 hours of being on a train, I have ‘train’ legs. My whole body actually feels as though it is still ON the train, rocking to and fro, back and forth.
This time around, this trip to Berlin was my first night train experience. I was a little nervous, after having some awful night train experiences years ago, when H and I didn’t feel like splurging for a couchette or sleeper car. So, I had no idea what to expect when we ordered up a sleeper car for this trip. On his last night train to Prague, T had a plush car all to himself with much free space, so we thought that was what we were getting this time around too.
You can imagine my surprise when we boarded the train and opened the door to our ‘room’ to discover that we were retiring to a CLOSET for the evening. I think the closter phobia set in right away as we closed the door behind us and tried to settle in, which required T to lie underneath on his bunk, while I took my coat off and set my things aside, and for me to jump onto the high bunk as he took off his coat and set his things aside.. It was THAT small! On top of that, we were in the lower ‘room’, which meant that there were two people on top of us in their own closet…eeeek.
After the initial shock wore off and we resigned to the fact that we would be spending the next 12 hours locked away, it wasn’t TOO bad. I think lying down and reading, and then trying to sleep helped to take my mind off our close quarters.
So, we arrived somewhat fresh to a rainy and dreary morning in Berlin, which somehow seemed appropriate…I say this because the city has definitely undergone a HUGE transformation since the Wall came down in ’89..Yet, there is such a tragic history there,a history that is dreary in itself..
We started out by heading to Starbucks, which is by the Brandenburg Gate, one of the most important landmarks in all of Berlin. Funny how Starbucks is just a stones throw away from the Gate, as is Dunkin’ Donuts.. Anyway, we decided to do a Free Walking Tour, although at this point the rain was falling pretty steadily. We are glad that we did do it, well, at least part of it, until T was pretty much soaked through and I was just freezing my ass off. We learned a lot in just that short and wet period. We were able to see and learn about some important places in Berlin, like the location of Hitler’s Bunker where he later committed suicide, which is now in some fancy apartment complex that gets hoards of tourists coming through their courtyard hourly. We also learned about how the Brandenburg Gate supposedly lay in the “Death Zone” between the outer and inner parts of the wall, so in fact, it was an isolated piece of history in a no mans land between the walls, and until the walls came down, there would be no traveling through the gate, that is unless, you wanted to get yourself killed. Interesting Irony. We also learned a bit about the Holocaust Memorial and how it is coated with a non-graffiti type spray..(Berlin is FULL of Graffiti..) An interesting fact is that the company that manufactured this “non Graffiti” spray also produced the toxic gas used to kill the Jews during the Holocaust. Interesting how things work out. Aside from some interesting historical facts, we also saw the famous hotel window from which Michael Jackson dangled his baby…
So, Berlin is still under construction. It was 8 years ago when I was here last, and it is still being rebuilt today. There has been a lot of progress though. Potsdamer Platz is a miniature Times Square now, full of interesting and modern buildings and bright lights with pieces of history tucked in here and there. The Berlin Film Festival was wrapping up the last couple days, so there were billboards showing the movies being featured and other interesting advertisements. My favorite one offered a glimpse into the movie stars of the past. The ‘exhibit’ took place in a row of new and identical Red VW’s. Each car was pumping out music, with lights flashing within. As you neared the car, the windows were frosted over, all except a little peep hole to look into. On the windows was written a history of the movie star that was featured within. When you looked through the peephole, you got a glimpse of a movie in which that star was featured. It was a crazy sight, especially at night because the cars lined the street and each one lit up and had some sort of music or sound to a movie blaring from it. It was a bit surreal and made me laugh to walk by it every night. Berlin was surreal to me in so many ways. It is so new and modern and bright, which is such a contrast to the old and historical dark side. Supposedly, only 1/3 or so of the city was left after the bombing in WW2, so you can imagine what is being done not only to rebuild but also to preserve.