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Maria & Brett's HUGE Trip 06-07-08-09-? ok, so the Socceroos lost in 'that' penalty against Italy; Adriatic summers aren't long enough (bliss!); and we found that you should never use the term "Eastern Bloc" when talking to a Czech (Central Europe, please).

East Meets West & West Eats Meat in Berlin

GERMANY | Wednesday, 31 January 2007 | Views [1429]

B for Brett.  Putting the love back into Liebe.

B for Brett. Putting the love back into Liebe.

"Brett and Maria, your work visa's ready for collection. Oh, but there's one more thing - you have to travel to Berlin to get it and then have it stamped by the border guards on your return to the Czech Republic. Unfortunately there's no way round this". 

This translated to meeting 'a guy called Premysl' downstairs at Nadrazi Holesovice metro station at 5:00am so that he could drive us 4 1/2 hours to the Czech consulate in Berlin, and then back again in time for dessert. Only this screamed 'Opportunity' in capital letters to see a bit of Berlin for a long weekend (it was conveniently Friday, after all!) and we told our friendly Premysl we'd only need his services one-way. Actually, we would've been idiots not to. Berlin is a city that can't be done in a toilet stop. We knew we'd need a month to get into the grit of it, but at least a long weekend would be a decent nudge to give us half a chance to taste the sights and... you know the deal.

We must've cashed our standing-in-line-for-hours-at-government-offices credits on this trip because the visa thing was done in a jiffy, letting us loose on the streets by about 11am, with two and a half days of open-ended exploration ahead. Knowing that Berlin had so much to offer we felt like kids in a candy store at an amusement park on the night before Christmas. It was going to be an ecclectically cultural mix of Berlin Wall and communist history, museums, galleries, shopping, people watching, and generally getting lost in the modern suburbs that have sprung into life around this bustling and multicultural town.

With the Checkpoint Charlie site out of the way (this was the third checkpoint "C" in the Wall that kept the Americans away from the Russians and vice versa), we gravitated towards Prenzlauer Berg for most of the weekend - an area in the N/E of Berlin filled with cafes, restaurants, modern art galleries, street art (eg guys taking photos of apple cores on their mobile phones - see photo), grit, breweries-cum-theatres and cinemas, sunday markets, beautiful people, and of course beautiful people (guess who!) watching the beautiful people. It was Newton and Surry Hills all mixed into one.

We had a truly sobering experience when we visited the Documentation Centre at Bernauer Strasse, which provides an in-depth pictorial account of the lead-up to the construction of the Wall and the propaganda used to convince East Germans of its merit (presumably to stop the workforce leaving in droves to take advantage of better opportunities in the freer market of West Berlin). Climbing up about 4 flights of stairs onto the roof of the centre we peered out over intact sections of the wall with the "Death Strip" between east and west still clearly visible. A must see for any person visiting Berlin, although truly unbelievable that this took place in our recent lifetime.

Berlin's full of historic and tragic past - with museums and monuments every other block and sometimes taking up the full block itself, bristling side by side with a modern multicultural vibrance, and quite possibly the best Turkish restaurant in the region - and cheap too! (See http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Memorial_to_the_Murdered_Jews_of_Europe)

We found a gorgeous little unnamed bar for a late-night glass of red, with fresh tulips placed thoughtfully on every table. Ahhh, the perfect cruisy wind-down from a busy day of non-stop wall chasing and trekking 10s of ks around town. This area's apparently full of unauthorised bars - here one minute and gone the next. We could easily spend weekend after weekend checking out these little holes-in-the-walls and not even get close to seeing all of them.

On our way back home to Prague the next day on the train we found ourselves sharing a cabin with a young Czech couple who had spent a week in Berlin doing the cultural thing, checking out the museums and galleries. They told us about this cute little unnamed bar in Prenzlauer Berg with nice tulips on the table. "Hang on, let us show you the picture we took", they said. Instantly we found ourselves gazing back at the exact same tulip, and suddenly felt more connected to the 6 billion other people in the world.

Tags: Culture

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