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Emma & Maneesh on the Big OE

Berlin - The Race Is On!

GERMANY | Monday, 27 September 2010 | Views [446]

Em and I after I have finished and changed into some nice warm, dry clothes.

Em and I after I have finished and changed into some nice warm, dry clothes.

Tuesday 21st September

The time to travel to Berlin had finally arrived. We worked the day as per normal. That night all we had to do was drive up to Dublin and stay the night there in the hotel where we were going to leave the car for the 5 days while we are away. We did not leave Limerick until 7:30pm but had a good trip up and got checked in to our hotel just after 10pm.

Wednesday 22nd

We were up at 7:30am and after a shower I went down the road to the petrol station and picked up some milk and a banana for our breakfast cereal. When I got back Em was ready and we had breakfast. Once we were done we dropped some extra stuff to the car boot, then we checked out of the hotel and caught the shuttle to the airport. We got there at 9am and after checking in, we went straight through security. This was painful as the line was long and there were only 2 counters open. We eventually got there. Once we were on the other side we had a quick look at duty free before wandering on down to our gate. We left Dublin at 10:45am and had a good flight over. We landed at 1:30pm German time (12:30pm Irish time).

After getting through customs without bother, we were out in the airport and at the info desk to get some tickets for the bus. We caught the bus to the nearest tube station and we caught the tube to Viktoria Louise Platz, the closest station to the apartment we were renting. When we arrived at Viktoria Louise Platz we were greated by a beautiful small park with a nice fountain in the middle. It was a beautiful neighbourhood, with tall, elegant terraced houses that reminded us of Paris. The whole neighbourhood had tress lining the streets. It was a beautiful afternoon which I am sure made it even more pleasant. We found our way to our apartment on Ansbacher Strasse and found the right button to press to talk tothe person we needed to contact to get the keys to our apartment. He also lived in an apartment in our block. He came out, and was a very friendly German man with pretty good English. He showed us our apartment which was very nice. We had a cool little door at the main entrance, then a small spiral staircase, up to our door. Inside the door was the kitchen / dining area which was small, but had everything we needed. Then there was a massive bathroom with a great big bath in it. Then there was our room, and at the end of the hall way was the lounge which had two fold out sofa beds in it. After we were settled in we thought we should make the most of the beautiful afternoon so got out and went for a walk around the neighbourhood. We found the small local supermarket, then wandered on down towards markets that we thought might be on. Unfortunately we were a little late, but that was okay. We had a look around some of the shops, bought some beautiful massive peaches, nectarines, and a pomegranate. On our way back towards our apartment we stopped in at liquor store and checked out the beer stocks which were brilliant. Then we went to the supermarket to get some supplies for the week. We got pasta, pasta sauce, and wurst (tasty German sausages) for our dinner, as well as green beans. The produce looked so good and was cheap in comparison to Ireland, and this was a little supermarket. We also got some delicious bread rolls. We got back and had some dinner, well lots of dinner. It was delicious! After dinner we had some fruit and planned what we wanted to do in Berlin and when we would do it. We felt like we had already been there for a long time, and not at work yesterday, so that was a good start to our holiday.

Thursday 23rd

We were up early, just after 6:15am so we could get an early start on our day ahead. After breakfast and showers we were out the door by just after 7:30am which was a good start. Again it was beautifully sunny, just a little crisp. We caught the tube into the station at Bradenburg Gate, and were greeted by the enormous stone arch when we walked up out of the station. Wow! Very impressive. And we were nice an early, so there were only 2 other people there, and no cars around, which was brilliant. We walked towards the Brandenburg Gate, and went to the Reichstagg, which is where Germany's parliament sits. It is a building full of history. We had heard there can be massive queues here so we got there early, and had to wait about 10 or 15 minutes, before going through security etc, but it was not bad at all. You get a lift up to the top storey where you pick up an audio guide and then go into the glass dome and walk around the roof. It was a brilliant view from up there, looking over the Teirgarten, which is massive! Tiergarten is a massive park in the middle of Berlin, about 1300 acres in size! It was a little hazy, but we could still see most things. The audio guide was good and explained different buildings on the sky line as you walked up the side of the glass dome along the spiralling ramp. After going to the top, and coming back down we went around the photos at the bottom, which included Eistein sitting in a gallery at Parliament one day, and then the burning of the building by Hitler which was one of the big events that lead to his dictatorship. After looking through those we felt like we had a better understanding of Germany's fight for freedom since WWII. We caught the lift back down and outside saw the queue was now about 30m long which would have meant about 1 to 1-1/2 hour wait. Crazy!

From here we decided it was time to get some morning tea and have a sit down before the start of the walking tour at 11am. We did not have much luck finding anything near so we went to the Hauptbahnhof (main train station) and both found a bite to eat there, before returning to Parisier Platz where the Brandenburg Gate is to sit on a bench seat and wait for the walking tour.

The walking tour was brilliant. It lasted for about 4 hours in total, including 20 minutes to stop for a snack and a drink. It started at the Brandenburg Gate, and then we went to the Reichstagg, and onto the Memorial to the Murdered Jews of Europe. The tour then took us to the site of Hitler's Bunker, the Luftwaffe Headquarters, the Berlin Wall, the former SS Headquarters, Checkpoint Charlie, Gendarmenmarkt, Bebelplatz, The Book burning memorial, The Old Royal Boulevard, Neue Wache, the TV Tower, Museum Island, and finishing at the oberpfarr und domkirche zu berlin, the Berlin Cathedral. Here our guide told us about the fall of the Berlin wall and the events that took place in the days prior to this. It was a fantastic tour and we would highly recommend it to anyone. It really did illustrate the history of the city and how this is encorporated so much into todays current Berlin. These tours are "Free Walking Tours", and you can give a tip at the end to the guide, which everyone does. It's still a very cheap, very worthwhile experience.

By this stage we were starving, so we took some advice from our guide and walked for about half an hour to a nice Vietnamese restaurant which was very tasty. It was a hot day, probably about 25°c, so we were happy to get out of the sun for a while. Once we were done here we walked back via a few shops before going to the Pergamon Museum, which was free from 6pm. Wow, another massive museum. We both wanted to see this though, because we had been to the Greek ruins at Pergamon in Turkey. This had the massive steps and altar and a few other things from there, so it was cool to see. It was a little strange that it was indoors though. What was actually more impressive in this museum, was the stunning blue, yellow and red tiled, enormous gates of Babylon.

We were not done yet though, and caught the tube out to the hangars of the Berlin Templehof airport (a Hitler construction), which is very impressive, but no longer used as an airport. Just going to this was an experience in itself. The hangars were huge, and there were 5 of them filled with displays and shops where the marathon registration was. It took quite a while to get to the registration desk, just because of the distance you had to walk. I eventually completed all of this and after a small walk around we went back to the tube station and went back to our apartment. It was after 9pm when we got back, what a massive day! Out of the house for nearly 14 hours. We picked up some food from our local supermarket then went back, cooked and ate this up before relaxing for a while, then going to bed.


Friday the 24th

We were out of our apartment by just after 8am. We caught the tube to the East Side Gallery, which is a 1.3km stretch of the wall which is still standing. It has 110 paintings, and was painted in 1990. It was very cool to see and there were some great paintings. We were there for about an hour, then we tubed into the city. We wandered through some streets lined with shops and browsed through these for a while before going to have a look in a shopping centre near the Sony Centre. When we got out we noticed we had missed a call from Dirk and Tina, friends of ours who used to live in Ireland, but are German, and moved back to Germany in 2009. They are the friends we bought Sven, our campervan, from. They rang to let us know they had arrived with their two gorgeous boys Tom and Finn, so we tubed back to the apartment as quickly as we could. After getting their stuff in to the apartment we went for a walk and ended up walking to the Kaiser Wilhelm Memorial church. On the way there we had stopped and had a wurst which was very tasty. The Kaiser Wilhelm church was completed in 1885. During WWII it was badly damaged, however it has not been repaired and now stands, with it's broken spire, as a memorial to the ravages of war.

From here we walked around the outside of the Zoo and into the Tiergarten park. At about 5pm we caught the tube back to our apartment. We stopped in at the supermarket and picked up a few bits, then the girls went and got Turkish takeaways for dinner. Wow, they did a great job. They went back to the area Em and I had wandered around during our first afternoon here and managed to find a Turkish takeaways with lots of people there, so went with that. It was fantastic! So filling. We all went to bed at around 10pm.

Saturday the 25th

We got up and had breakfast. It was an overcast day but it was not raining to start off with. We wandered to a nearby playground so Tom and Finn could have a play on some swings. Of course you have to play with them on the swings and seesaws, so we also had fun there. Then we walked back to the local market which we had not yet been to. It was so good, so much nice fresh fruit and veg, bread, cheese and so much nice food generally. We had a few small tasters. Once we were done here we tubed into the city and walked outside the Reichstagg. From here we wandered towards the Brandenburg Gate, as this is where the marathon start / finish line was. It was the inline skaters turn today, so there were quite a few around doing warm ups. While we were watching the rain started so we decided to head back to the apartment. Dirk, Tina and the kids hit the road at about 3:30pm. It was so great that they were able to come and visit and to catch up with them.

After they had left Em and I walked back to the markets, Em got some dinner, and I got some fresh orange juice. Em's dinner was delicious moussaka, so tasty! I had woken up this morning with a sore throat which is not what I wanted considering it is the marathon tomorrow, so was trying everything to get rid of it. We went to the supermarket and picked up stuff for my dinner and a few German beers (for after the marathon), then back to the apartment. When we got back I was quite cold so had a bath and relaxed for a while. At about 6pm I went for a 20 minute run, which was just to give the legs a little work before the last big meal before the race. After I came back we had dinner, then relaxed. We had an early night as it was going to be an early start in the morning.

Sunday the 26th

RACE DAY! I was up just after 6am, and finished breakfast by 6:30am. The morning was run to clockwork really, as I was trying to make sure I did everything at the right time before the race. We left the apartment about 7:15am and tubed into the city. This went okay. It was still quite dark, but it was generally an overcast, drizzly day.There was quite a few people around at the tube station with a general buzz around. As we got nearer to the Brandenberg gate, the crowd got bigger and bigger. It was about 8am when I said goodbye to Em and went into the runners area. I went and changed into my running gear and then did a small warm up before using the toilet (massive queues), then heading to the start line. This was about 2km away I think, so took a while to get to. I ended up doing a slow jog to make sure I made it on time. When I got to the start line I start the get a better idea of the size of the race. I was in the second group of people, so there were probably only 500 people in front of me. There were 40,000 runners. The start line was a 4 lane road and it was shoulder to shoulder, and went back about 1km from the start!

There was light drizzle when the race started, at 9am. The first 10km was hard work, because there were so many people around. The drinks stops were packed and dangerous with people stopping and tripping over, but I managed to get through them. By the half way mark I was going well and it was starting to get a little thinner so that was good. I had not seen Em. I eventually saw her at about the 25km mark, waving and cheering like a lunatic. I gave her a hi-five as I ran past. She had planned to get to a couple of places on the course, but after the start she had to do a long walk to get the tube station so only had time to get to one place. From there she went back to get a place near the finish line.

The rain came and went. It was nice conditions really, as it was quite cool. At about 35km I started to feel tired and the last couple of kilometres were especially hard work. I think it was mainly due to not being able to do as many long runs in my build up as I was hoping to (because I got so many colds during training). Just before the Brandenburg gate I saw Em in the crowd again. From here it was still about 400m, which was tough - it feld like a long 400m. I finished in 2:52:22, which I was happy with. It is strange, because I ran across the finish line, then you try and slow down slowly. I got slightly light headed but that passed, then it was hard work just to try and walk! After getting a plastic sheet to wrap around myself which was great to keep me warm, I went into the finishers area. Erdinger, a beer, was one of the sponsors. There was non-alcoholic beer there, which was really the last thing I wanted. After getting some water and fruit I slowly made my way to pick up my bag. It was good because it was still quiet in this area. After getting changed out of my soaking wet running gear into some dry clothes I made my way to meet Em. It was all quite hard work. She got me a hot chocolate and I had more water, then a wurst, then we watched for a little while. By about 1pm I think we decided to head home as I was wrecked, freezing and it was all hard work. We caught the tube home which was good apart from the steps down and up from the stations. When we got home we just relaxed, I had a bath, and relaxed. At about 6pm we went out for dinner to a traditional restaurant just around the corner from our apartment and had a fantastic dinner. It was so good. I had my first beer with dinner and very much enjoyed that as well as the tasty german food. After dinner we wandered back home and went to bed.

Monday the 27th

We were up earlish as we had to tidy up the apartment and get our things packed as it was time to head home. We left the apartment at 8:30am. Unfortunately it was raining, so the 500m walk to the tube station was not too good with all our bags. I was quite sore, but could walk. After the tube we had a small bus ride to the airport which all went smoothly. We left with plenty of time because we needed to factor in my slow walking. Once we checked in we went through to the other side. Here was quite entertaining as you could see a lot of people hobbling around the place and loooking in all sorts of discomfort because they had obviously also run the marathon yesterday. It was quite entertaining. We left a rainy Berlin and 2 hours later touched down into a sunnny Dublin! Amazing to come back to Ireland and see the sun when we left the rain. After getting a shuttle to our car park we picked up the car and headed back to Limerick.

It was a great experience to do a race like that, not sure if I will do another big marathon like that though, just so many people. Berlin was a great city, one of our favourites in Europe really. Well worth going to. Germany is generally one of our favourite countries, if we could speak the language I am sure we would fit in quite well there - great food, lovely people, nice relaxed culture, and very efficient!

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