Berlin

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Berlin was our next stop from Amsterdam.  We arrived in the morning on a Eurolines bus which dropped us at the coach station.  We had a palaver trying to get metro tickets because the machine only took coins and maestro… but eventually made it to our hostel in Friedrichshain.

Friedrichshain was a great area to stay in – lots of cheap veggie friendly places to eat, and some hipster coffee shops with really really good coffee.  We especially enjoyed the aforementioned brunch buffet we had on the Sunday, and the microbrewery bar we went to twice.  We felt it was important to test all of the beers for research purposes.

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In our breaks from eating and drinking we did lots of walking around the city, and visited some museums.  The subterranean museum which is part of the holocaust memorial by the Brandenburg gate was the most compelling of these.  The memorial is excellent.  It fills a whole square with stone blocks of various heights.  The footprint of the blocks is grave shaped/sized.  We didn’t see any information about the memorial at the site, but from looking at maps in the Terror museum we visited the next day I think it is on the square which was once overlooked by Hitler’s Reich chancellory and other offices.  It was an eerie place to be. Although there were lots of people chasing each other through the maze of blocks and jumping out on each other from behind them.  Mostly grown ups.

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The museum below the memorial was very well presented and curated.  Also, free.  I feel slightly ashamed that we have avoided quite a few museums on World Ward Two atrocities so far.  In the four cities we’ve visited so far there have been two or more museums like this listed in the guidebook as key ‘attractions’.  We’ve been to a few, and visited plenty of these in other cities on other trips, and after a while it stops feeling like you’re learning something and starts to feel a bit voyeuristic.  I think it’s really important that these museums exist, but there’s so much more to these places now.

Having said that, I would recommend visiting this one in Berlin.  It focussed mostly on the stories of individuals and families, using photos and letters and things to give some sense of the people.  I felt like I learnt from it.  It’s particular details that strike home.  A photo of a mass shooting site where ordinary people had come to take jewellery from corpses.  Another where along with clothes and shoes piled as people stripped before they were shot, there was a prosthetic leg.

In the museum we visited in Warsaw on the city’s uprising against the Nazis in 1944, it was details like this that stood out too.  In one case a happy detail – a hurried wedding in the midst of it all.  I suppose it’s natural to identify more with the human details than the facts.

On a lighter note… we also visited the computer game museum (thanks for the tip Fraeya!) and spent a happy couple of hours reading about the history of them, and playing on all the vintage games.

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And, of course, there was also the Berlin wall to visit.  We went to a few sites — one with some info boards, one where it’s in its original condition, and then the East Side gallery.  The gallery is a section of wall which was painted in sections by lots of artists in 1990, and then restored in 2009.

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Last thing in Berlin was for Arthur to eat some Curry Wurst! (I had falafel…)

© A Gordon-Wright 2015
© A Gordon-Wright 2015
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Week 1 on the road

2015-10-04 13.37.03We’ve been on the go for a week now, and spent some time in Amsterdam and in Berlin.  More to follow on these, but for now here’s a round up of how the first week’s been.

We started the trip pretty exhausted.  Sub-optimal, but not that surprising given our track record of biting off more than we can chew.  I feel like we’re only just getting our energy back a week in.  The first week has been fun, but we spent a lot of time wondering why we were so tired.  We feel old!

It’s taking us some time to adjust to travelling – mostly we’re finding it uncomfortable to be spending money all the time!  We were chatting about this this morning and we think it’s because we’ve been in thrift mode for so long saving for this trip (/for our entire adult lives).  So it feels uncomfortable spending money every day.  We wouldn’t usually eat out two days in a row, and it’d be rare for us to eat out (I’m including all meals in this!) more than a couple of times in a month.  And we never really do any activities that cost money.  How sad!

I expect this will get easier (#firstworldproblems) as we go on, and especially as things will generally get cheaper as we move east, and then south (Amsterdam is mega expensive).

Things we’ve learned

  1. Our enthusiasm for the city we’re in is directly proportional to the current sunshine level.
  2. There is a limit to how many WW2 related museums you can visit and still feel any enthusiasm to visit another one…
  3. Always arrange couch surfing hosts in advance.
    We planned to couch surf most of the time so that we would meet people and get a more in depth idea of the city we’re in, as well as to keep costs down.  Unfortunately we haven’t managed to arrange any hosts yet because we’ve left it too late.  Fingers crossed for St Petersburg.  UPDATE:  We have a host for Warsaw, hurrah!
  4. Night buses are tiring.
    Probably should have remembered this from previous travels.  They are cheap though…
  5. Dutch looks quite like English on paper.  Don’t be fooled.

Highlights of the trip so farIMAG1002

  1. Riding bikes around Amsterdam and into the suburbs.  We felt slightly more like locals on our rickety Dutch bikes, and Amsterdam is small enough to get more or less everywhere easily by bike.
  2. Visiting the Anne Frank house.  We queued in the rain for about 40 minutes, but it was definitely worth it.  The rooms are empty, but there are pictures on the walls still, and you can feel what it would have been like living there.
  3. Joining in a “Stop TTIP” demonstration marching through BerliIMG_5411n in the Saturday sunshine.  (TTIP is an EU-US bilateral trade agreement that threatens to gut all participating countries’ power to regulate the activities of companies trading within them; click here for further info.)
  4. Drinking beer brewed on site in a packed bar in our (adopted) Berlin neighbourhood.
  5. Stumbling across a restaurant round the corner from our hostel that was doing amazing all you can eat Sunday brunch, when we discovered that supermarkets are IMAG1049shut in Berlin on Sundays (oops) .  We had a great time slowly eating our way through the selection.  N.B. Tiramisu is totally a breakfast food.