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Berlin - part 1, Sightseeing

GERMANY | Saturday, 10 May 2014 | Views [691]

Ah, Berlin! Pleased to meet you! There's always an estranged familiarity with seeing with one's own eyes the images one has been party too for a life time. Television, movies, world news, history documentaries, magazines, books - you name it, Berlin is one city I'd vouch nearly everyone on the planet has heard of, if only for the notoriety of it's most famous leader Herr Hitler.
We rolled into town after a comfortable train ride through some scenic country from Prague. I'm still pleasantly surprised to see solar panel and wind farms in this part of the world. Maybe there's still hope for the rest of us. We taxied to the hotel in Alexander Platz and landed in one of the best Radisson Hotels in town - the Park Inn. It was quite a shock! Forty stories of rooms, three restaurants, lots of pizzazz, lots of important looking people scurrying around, and us! 
The day was cloudy with intermittent showers, but after sorting out some maps and places to see close by, we rugged up and walked down to the old district a few minutes away. I think if there's anything positive to come out of having your city bombed to pieces, the Berliners have grasped hold of the opportunity to redevelop and reinvent themselves with a modernistic and artistic sensibility, so that a mix of old and new exist side-by-side. It defines a particular character we haven't seen in the other cities of this trip. I can only mention a few places - the Rotes Rathaus, the Fernsehturm TV tower, the Gendarmen building, the St. Nikolai Kirche, the Altes Stadthaus - before it got too cold and blustery to go on. But we still have two full days to explore!
One of our objectives in Berlin was to pay homepage to the resting place of dear Omi in the Tiergarten.  So using the hop-on hop-off bus, which by now we are expertly adept to do, we went downtown to the famous Brandenburger Tor and looked for some flowers to take to the Tiergarten. Failing to find any shops, and as mum didn't let me pinch any of the tulips in the garden, we used some local foliage to lay at Omi's tree. A small fox surprised us from the bushes, then turned and ran off, so we knew that Omi was with us and we were in the right spot. Of course the deeply engraved 'love' and the painted 'omi' in the oak tree might have helped us find it too! 
We checked out the other two famous landmarks in the area, the Reichstag building and the Siegessäule Victory Tower, and walked through the peaceful Tiergarten before reboarding the bus for yet another famous site - the Mauerreste memorial to the Berlin Wall. It's a sombre but remarkable place. The long line of display panels depicting the rise and fall of Hitler's Reich is sensitive but informative, and almost surreal given that we were standing in the remains of one of the Gestapo main administrative buildings. Just down the road is Checkpoint Charlie, which is more of a façade these days, drawing in bus loads of the curious for happy snaps with the 'American' soldiers.
The rest of our day was spent walking around Alexanderplatz and soaking in the ambience of the small crowds, the shoppers, the busking drummers, the chalk artist, the Hari Krishnas, the beat-boxing hip-hoppers, souvenir salesmen, and even an old motorcycle museum! Despite it's remorseful past, there's an uplifting liveliness that this place has got going, and it's vibed us up ready to tackle another day in this amazing city!

Tags: sightseeing

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