Day 33 & 34 – Berlin to Hamburg

IMGP1284 The weather wasn’t any better today. I keep hearing people say that this has been the coldest and wettest May in around 10 years. Not sure if it has anything to do with the Volcano but probably.

So I went and dropped my bag at the train station and went to the meeting point for the walking tour. Berlin has a long and varied history. Most of the more prominent stuff happening in the last century. Its not surprising then that the tour started at a place that affected millions of people around the world and is still in their minds today. That place being the Hotel Adlon. Also known as the hotel from which Michael Jackson dangled his baby from. 🙂

Anyway the serious stuff got going after that. The square that the tour started in was actually in the former dead zone which ran between the walls of the Berlin Wall just near the Brandenburg Gate. Everything is essentially new here as nothing was allowed to be built on this ground until recently after the walls came down. The Reichstag is just around the corner from here as well. The current place of parliament and also the former place of the puppet parliament during the reign of the Kaiser and also the tool of fear mongering used by Hitler to get the ball rolling on his coming to power.

IMGP1289 The walk took us past a monument built for the murder jews of europe. It has no signs or plaques or anything to say what it is or what it is for. Its designed to make people ask what it is, what its meaning is, so that people will be more likely to stop, think and remember. Its pretty simple in design. Columns of concrete at varying heights. The artist never said what they actually symbolised though.

Just across from this memorial is a place they purposely ignore. The place that Adolf Hitler and Ava Braun committed suicide. Today its just a car park. A pretty uninteresting car park. Not even one that is well maintained. Its at the back of a block of apartments that look pretty rundown themselves. Hitler’s bunker is apparently still below it but it is inaccessible. They have tried to destroy it but since it is a bunker and designed to withstand that sort of thing its still there. The Germans are very adamant about memorialising Hitler or the Nazi movement in anyway. I think they feel this is the best way to show it too.

IMGP1334 From there we got to see part of the remains of the Berlin Wall. It was interesting to here the reasoning behind why the wall was put up. We all know the general story of communism and the iron curtain, east vs west etc. I wasn’t aware the reason that the wall was put up was to actually stop the brain drain of east to west. After the borders between east and western Europe were closed Berlin was the loophole that eastern europeans could use to migrate to western europe. All they had to do was get to east Berlin and cross the street into west Berlin and they were pretty much free. Millions left eastern europe during this time so to stop this they put the wall up. It was all done in the subterfuge of darkness as well. The people of Berlin went to bed one night and woke up the next separate by a wall. So now I know, and I’ll most likely get a lecture from my brother on why this is totally wrong and the true facts to follow. I thought it was interesting.

We stopped off at this associated restaurant for lunch. I walked across the road to an electronics store instead for a look. I had a play with the new iPad. I think I want one.

IMGP1351 We walked past Checkpoint Charlie which was a gate between east and west. Its apparently all for show these days and nothing like what it was originally. There also seems to be people dressed as american indians at some of these historic locations and I have no idea why.

The rest of the tour covered some of the famous buildings including the only remaining example of Nazi Architecture (prison like is the easiest way to describe it) the only reason it wasn’t torn down by the soviets was because they needed a building to run their country from. Ironically its current inhabitant is the tax office.

We also saw a memorial to the book burning where 20,000 books were destroyed as they were written by jews/anyone else Hitler didn’t like. The memorial is underground. A window allows you to look down into an empty room with empty bookcases lining its walls. There is enough space to hold 20,000 books. They have some good memorials here.

After the tour ended I headed back to the Reichstag as I wanted to go up to the dome. When they rebuilt the building they incorporated a glass dome on the top that serves as a viewing platform for both the city and also the parliament. The idea is that all the politicians  have to do is look up to be reminded of who they work for. Its pretty interesting up there. Although the wait outlasts the time you actually spend up there. You even have to queue to get out.

After that I headed over to the train station to catch the next train to Hamburg.

Hamburg sucked.

IMGP1378 The hostel that I booked conveniently forgot to mention that it was right in the middle of Hamburg’s red light district. Not a fun, family friendly, red light district like the one in Amsterdam but a dirty one like in Hamburg. The hostel was right behind a strip joint so every time I walked out the door the guy spruiking for the strip joint would be trying to get me to walk in his door. Then so would the one next to him, and so forth. I enjoy a good red light district but this one was all take.

There were a lot of golden oldies walking around enjoying the sights together though.

I eventually found the town centre and had a look around. I asked one of the service desk people at the train station where the town centre was. He said it was all around us. I was sure if he was speaking figuratively or not. To be exact it was actually to the right of us. It was late (still broad daylight though) so nothing was open and the place was deserted. Not a whole lot to see. One nice building, a whole lot of shops and that was about it. I ended up hoping the train back to the hostel and surfing the internet until I had to go to bed.

IMGP1382 The trip to Hamburg was supposed to be so I could go and see the town of Orel which is where my great great grandfather came from. Upon arriving in Hamburg and trying to align the planets so that I would be able to get back to London in time to catch my plane home I realised that I would not be able to do so. It was either miss the town or miss the plane. So that was the end of that story. I think I saw everything on google maps anyway.

So with that decided I’ll be hoping the train to Cologne, and then to Brussels so that I can catch the Eurostar to London from there.  The next two days are going to be take up by just trying to get back to London. The party pretty much stops here.

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