Monday, February 16, 2009

Berlin and Back

The Brandenburger Tor- the symbol of Berlin

Berlin was a very cool city.  In just two days, I feel like I got a great feel for the city.  Here is how it went:

I left with Sara Laprade at 4:50 am Friday morning.  At least, I was supposed to.  All of us went to the bar on campus Thursday night.  I ended up drinking a lot and when I slept right through my alarm.  When I woke up at 9:30am, I realized what had happened.  I MISSED THE BUS!!!  Sara made it and tried to get me by throwing snowballs at my window, but, I wasn't waking up (she doesn't have a phone or she would have called).  I know I set my alarm, but, I don't even remember hearing it.  

I was pretty upset when I realized what happened.  Immediately, I looked when the next bus was leaving and it was at 4pm that evening.  I contacted the bus company and they said there were about 20 open seats on that bus and I shouldn't have a problem getting on.  So, I crossed my fingers and hoped that I could ride that bus.  

Thankfully, I could.  It was not a problem.  The only problem now is that I'm traveling alone.  Oh well, it is my fault.  I made sure that I knew exactly where I had to go once I got to Berlin because I didn't want to be wandering the city when I arrived at midnight.

The bus ride was easy.  The bus was empty, so you could spread out.  I did some reading in one of my textbooks so that was good.  About half way through the trip we get on a ferry to cross a the Baltic Sea.  The ferry was really nice.  It had 3 restaurantes and some shopping.  After 1.5hrs on the ferry, we were back on the bus.  The entire trip took about 7hrs, but, it wasn't too bad.  The ferry breaks things up nicely.  

On the bus, I had made friends with a kid from Denmark sitting across from me.  He was traveling to Berlin to meet some friends as well.  We were each getting on the subway, so I went with him.  We got on the subway, which is right next to the station.  He got off after a couple of stops and I stayed on.  It was like a half hour ride, but, once I got to my destination station, the Wombat hostel was half a block away.  I got there at midnight.  

I checked into the hostel (at 20usd/night) and I was the only one there.  I was living with 5 other kids from RPI, 2 of them girls.  Everyone else was out having fun and I had no way to contact them, so I went to the bar on the 7th floor of the hostel.  The drinks were cheap and the crowd was okay, but, they closed at two.  I didn't want to waste a Friday night in Berlin, so I went out on my own.

I asked the man at the front desk where I could go that is nearby, cheap, and has a good crowd.  He told me to go outside, take a left and the farther I went, the cheaper the bars got.  So, thats what I did.  I ended up at a cheap bar with kids my age and ended up having a good time.  I got back at like 4:30am.  

I got up at 9:30 the next morning and saw everyone.  They were happy to see me.  We went and got our complementary buffet breakfast in the lobby of the hostel.  It was pretty good.  They told me about what they had done last night.  They went on a "Pub Crawl," where you visit about 6 pubs and get free drinks at each one.  They said it was okay.  That day, Sara, Whit (the RPI AEPi alum), and I, went on a "free" walking tour of the city.  The group that did it yesterday said it was great.  

Steph and Grant at the Hostel

The walking tour started at 1pm and had a group of 35 kids, all doing the same thing.  The guide was GREAT.  It was a 5hr tour, and in that time, I feel like I learned more than I could have in a whole semester.  Some of my favorite parts of the tour was stading when Hitler had stood and given rally speeches to some 20,000 germans.  The other cool part was standing above Hitler's bunker and standing at the spot where Hitler's and Eva Braun's bodies were supposedly burned after their suicides.  And then there was the entire Berlin was all really cool.

My tour group is up ahead.  
The Old Museum.  Hitler would give speeches from between those columns. 
A Very Very elaborate Protestant church

The 2nd longest remaining piece of the Berlin Wall

I'm standing at the former SS Headquarters.  Those are the torture chambers in the basement.  The Berlin wall runs above it.
One of the Nazi Headquarters.  The pictured gate used to have the swastika in the middle of that circle.

Standing on either side of the Berlin Wall.

A remembrance to those killed in WW2.  Beneath this statue are the bodies of an unkown German soldier and an unkown prisoner from a concentration camp.

The controversial memorial to the Jews killed in WW2.  There are 2,711 concrete blocks.

The TV Tower, a symbol of Germany

Very cool spot.  The closest tree pictured is the location that Hitler and Eva's bodies were burned.  The tree behind that is above the bunker where Hitler spent the last few months of his life.
The most expensive hotel in Germany.  One night in the Exclusive Room will cost over 100k USD.   It is also the hotel that Michael Jackson hung his baby out the window.

We went to dinner that night at a restaurante where we were told served some authentic German food.  It turned out to be very good.  I think I got the best meal.  It was called the Pork Knuckle.  It was huge.  Check it out.

That night, we went out and had a good time.  It was pretty typical, but fun.  

The next day, the bus left at 3:15pm, so we had the morning to do something.  After breakfast, we went to the Salvadore Dali musuem.  It wasn't my first choice, but, it was okay and it took us to a different part of the city.  

After, that we got back on the bus for the ride home.  Overall, Berlin was a beautiful city, and cheap too.  One last thing I noticed was the amount of graffiti.  There was A LOT of it.  Most of it was done nicely, but, it was still graffiti.  I would definitely go back.

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