Germany, BerlinJuly 6, 2017 in Germany
Wow. How good is Berlin? We arrived mid afternoon yesterday and found the hotel, just couldn't get to it as it was surrounded by roadworks. Eventually made it. The driving round and through Berlin is really quite easy (maybe I'm just getting better at it?) they don't seem to have real peak hour. Coming from Prague yesterday was pretty effortless also, didn't have any driving mishaps leaving Prague and once we were on the autobahn the k's get eaten up pretty quickly. It would have been nice though to know that German freeways don't have stops for fuel, food and toilets like all of the other European freeways we've been on. For some reason I suggested we fill up the car before arriving in Prague - turned out this was a good idea. All of our borders crossings have been a bit of a non event except for this one. The Germans have quite a set up at the border and all of the traffic was funnelled into one lane few k's out which made for pretty slow driving. Lots of men in uniforms with big guns randomly stopping vehicles. We got through unscathed.
On first impression Berlin is a lot like Melbourne. It's different to other places we have been this trip but it is easy to get around and has a nice relaxed feel to it. We booked a walking tour for today, it started t 10am and finished at 4.30, and was advertised as a Walk and Fork tour. We were the only people on it and our tour guide was an expat New Zealand woman who has been living in Berlin for 7 years. It was a fabulous tour that took us for the most part away from the tourist haunts and exploring back streets and trying local eateries. Food we ate ranged from a platter of Lebanese food (it was easily the best I have eaten), some of the more unusual beers that are here with a strange thing called Currywein that came about rather randomly during the war when a housewife apparently bartered spirits for currry powder and then invented a sauce for sausages (Germans apparently think it is quite exotic, just tasted like tomato sauce to us. They do have what our tour guide called a childish palate), New York sandwiches and drinks at a cafe set up in an old Jewish girls school that had a very sad story (there are an awful lot of those in this town) and then fresh cinnamon and apple buns just out of the oven at a local bakery, wrapping up with craft beer from a small brewery. Need less say there will be no more food for us this day!!
The walk took us through the back streets through parts of what were former Jewish areas. The guide shared many, many stories with us but here's one that I thought quite interesting: embedded in the paving outside a building are small brass plaques with a name and date of when the person was forcibly removed from their residence in the building and where they were sent to, and when they died. The plaques mark the last place that person CHOSE to live. There are 56,000 of them, not all in Berlin, or even Germany. We mainly walked through old East Germany and saw lots of evidence of what hd occurred here. We ended up at a large memorial park, kind of an outdoor museum about the beginnings of the Wall, and its history in a particular street. On this street the houses literally backed up to the beginnings of what would be the wall. The wall appeared overnight sometime in 1961 and the first couple of days and nights these houses provided escape routes to the west through their windows and roofs where people jumped for their lives hopefully landing in nets that the West Berliners were holding. The secret police ( the Stasi) quickly blocked off these houses with the houses all eventually being demolished and becoming the no mans land between the walls. We walked along the former wall and saw some surviving parts. The wall was put up by the GDR on the pretext to keep the west out but effectively cut off families, relatives etc for 30 years. It certainly is a very moving place.Read more