Thursday, December 21, 2006

Ich bin ein Berliner

Yesterday afternoon a couple of us made a trip into Berlin from Potsdam. Setting out from our hotel armed with a map of Potsdam, and a tiny bit of knowledge from walking into town a couple of nights before, we assumed finding the train station would be easy! About 50 mins, and several false dawns, later we arrived at the station with our map reading skills, and trust of people in tourist information offices, rather diminished.

Anyway we still managed to make it into Berlin fairly early in the afternoon. It was a fairly grim day weatherwise, but we still opted for walking around as we had plenty of time and wanted to see stuff you might miss from the bus. We first walked passed the ubiquitous Christmas market in which at least every other stall was selling gluhwein. We then walked up into the main park in Berlin towards a large column with a golden lady on top - very impressive it was. We then made the far longer than you'd think walk up towards the Brandenberg Gate, but before we got there made the slight detour to the Reichstag. The Reichstag is an impressive building with a fairly new glass dome bit on top designed by Norman Foster. You can go in for free, so we went in to see a bit of German democracy in action. Unfortunately the parliament was not in session, so we didn't get to see Mrs Merkel et al, but the dome of the building was really nice to walk around and gave good views of the Berlin skyline (well as good as you can see on a rather grey and foggy day).

On leaving the Reichstag we went to the Brandenberg Gate and had a brief look round the square made so famous by the BBCs World Cup coverage earlier in the year - they didn't have the big football in the square though, it had been replaced by a Christmas tree. After getting directions from a hotel doorman we headed to Checkpoint Charlie to take in the heady Cold War atmosphere. There were no standoffs between us lovely democratic capitalists and the dirty Commie bastards, and it was generally rather underwhelming. To demonstrate our love of capitalism we then went for a drink in Starbucks. The rest was needed as we'd been on our feet for a very long time.

We then made a move towards Alexanderplatz. Along the way we took the really nice architecture of a lot of the buildings, mainly museums and galleries. In the square by Humbolt University I was tempted by an outdoor ice rink, and we also saw the site where in the 1930's a load of Nazi students had burnt a big pile of books - I felt no inclination to burn a book, although to be fair I didn't have a book on me. Further down the street there was a fun fair, with again, a large number of gluhwien stalls and half metre sausage stalls. We went on a ride (a spinning round on small seat on the end of long chains thing) and had some gluhwien.

After the fun of the fair we went for dinner, with some other people from our meeting, at a Turkish restaurant. This provided us with far more than our RDA of meat, but was very good. A couple of beers later we had to travel back to Potsdam. The highly efficient German rail system slightly let us down as the first couple of trains we tried to get got cancelled. Slightly later than we wanted, and well and truly knackered, we got back to our hotel in Potsdam.