Sunday, January 9, 2011


The Fensehturm
A bit late, as I've been here in Mainz for a few days now, but I thought I would post an account of our trip to Berlin. Hauke and I had rather spontaniously decided to go to Berlin after we got back from Austria, so on Wednesday the 5th we caught the train there and stayed in a hostel in Alexanderplatz, which is pretty central, the area with the Fernsehturm (massive TV tower that's Berlin's equivalent to the NZ Skytower). We spent the afternoon wandering around and checking out a museum full of old Egyptian stuff, including the 3300 year-old bust of Nefertiti, it was pretty cool.

Back when Hauke was living in NZ, german public toilets became a running joke between us (long story), so when I read on Stuff months ago that a German woman was running tours of toilets around Berlin I told Hauke we had to do it. He rang Anna up and when she heard I'd
With Anna in the toilet-themed bar
come from NZ she agreed to do the tour just for the two of us on the Wednesday evening. I guess it wouldn't be everyone's cup of tea but it was probably my favourite thing in Berlin, she took us around places like the oldest public toilet, the fancy new ones, a toilet used by the Kaiser, and the most expensive (Japanese) toilet in Berlin, jumping on and off the buses and trains and detouring past a whole lot of Berlin's sights too, for about 3hours. She takes more conventional tours as well, so she was telling us all about Berlin, she is a really amazing woman. We ended up in a toilet-themed pub, (called 'Klo', the german word like 'loo') and I can't even describe that place it was so amazing and decorated in such detail, if you go to Berlin you should really check it out. We drunk several beers with her out of those plastic urinals men use in hospitals and discussed the war, wall and her life growing up in the GDR, I really can't believe that she spent so much time showing us around and hanging out with us for only 10euro each, she is a lovely woman.

Chunk of wall
On Thursday we had breakfast with our hostel room-mates, an American trio touring around Europe on their winter break, and then on their advice went off to the Jewish museum. That place is amazing, we spent about three hours there before checking out Checkpoint Charlie, the Brandenburg Gate (interesting fact Anna told us, there were another 17 gates that were all dismantled or destroyed over the years) and the Reichstag. Unfortunately the Reichstag is closed at the moment due to terrorist threats, that and several other places are currently fenced off and patrolled by police with machine guns, even things like the Jewish museum had extra police guards, you can really feel the fear over here. We finished off the night by doing a Pub Crawl with our room-mates and about 15 others from different countries, several from Australia! I can't get away from them here!

The state we woke up in the next morning taught me never to do a Pub Crawl like that again, we headed up the Fernsehturm first thing and in the elevator a group of english tourists were talking excitedly about doing the same tour that night - I had to laugh, because one look at Hauke and I should have been enough to put anyone off! The Fernsehturm was quite cool, its 368m tall so taller than the Skytower and
Memorial to the Murdered Jews of Europe
the tallest building in Germany. It was built by the GDR between 1956-1959. After my first trip on a double-decker bus (they also have buses here with two or three different sections joined like train carriages so that they are longer but still able to turn corners, they amaze me and Hauke is sick of me excitedly pointing them out to him all of the time!) we saw the Memorial to the Murdered Jews of Europe. This memorial is made up of 2711 blocks of concrete between 0.2 and 4.8m high, all varied and on ground that slopes in different directions as you walk between them. It was built in 2004 and was apparently really controversial, but I quite liked it, I think the magnatude of the memorial and the way you can enter it and be overwhelmed by these tall tombstone-like blocks really makes you reflect. Finally, we walked along the biggest remaining stretch of wall, all painted by different artists as the East Side Gallery in 1990, and finished off the night checking out some different bars with a German/Kiwi friend of mine, Cynthia, it was great to catch up and to see a familiar face, but also quite bizarre to be talking about routine things like people from our old work.

In front of the Berliner Dom

I can see myself living in Berlin, the city has a really nice feel to it, kind of like a really big version of Wellington, and I would love to go back and spend a lot longer just exploring the city and soaking the culture all up. The transport systems are amazingly complicated, they have above ground and underground trains running, a tram system in the former East, and buses everywhere. We bought a three-day pass, and Hauke was great working out what we needed to take to get everywhere, simple things like taking the tram really amuse me! It also really interests me how you can see differences in the two sections, like that one side had trams and the other doesn't, and differences in the more modern buildings. You can also see the effects of the war on the old buildings, many have obviously been damaged and repaired, with different coloured patches where bullet holes were filled in. I feel like I was walking around for three days with my mouth hanging open, everything just seemed so large, and in a really cool neo-classical style - really different from Göttingen and Mainz where we are now!

Wall at the East Side Gallery
Our train ride here to Mainz was again another experience that justified the 'Fail Rail' nickname, we sat on the floor the whole way and after some small delays, we got held up in the middle of no where as they had found suspicious luggage in Göttingen station and we couldn't go through there until the police had checked it all out, but then as Göttingen is a really central city and a lot of the lines go through it there was an epic train traffic jam and we ended up adding a couple of hours onto our journey! It was great to finally reach Mainz on Saturday, I will post about this city hopefully tomorrow.

No comments:

Post a Comment