Being a Jelly Doughnut in Berlin

Even though that's not what JFK said in the 60s, I still like the myth :-)  The last two days have been an absolute blast in Berlin!  There's so much history, especially Cold War era, which is my favorite.  It's interesting to see a city that once was divided and reunited.  It's kind of like Noah's Ark, they have two of everything: two train stations, two zoos, etc...  I'd definitely rank it up there with London on my fav places so far.

Let's see, starting Thursday:

  • Started out from Cologne, catching the high-speed train in the morning.  I reserved a seat on this leg, because I wanted to sit at a table by the window.  Not much of a view because it was raining, but it was still very nice.  I was actually surprised to see that most seats are reserved, and that many of the passengers are commuters or older people going on holiday. 
  • For kicks, I wondered down the train through various compartments to the dining cart (hard to do at 200 kph haha).  I looked around and saw a few people that looked like they were backpacking on their own like me, but most of them were next to reserved seats.  Damn!  I guess the other issue is Europeans aren't as forward in general when it comes to meeting strangers, which I read about, so it's hard for a shy guy like me to introduce myself randomly.  I try :-)
  • While on the train, I just blogged and planned a little, edited my pics, played some music, did a few Sudoku, etc...  In the future, I'm thinking of trying a few non high-speed trains with multiple connections for fun.  Maybe then there will be more people to talk to on board.
  • Once in Berlin, I took the S-Bahn (after getting my backpack hooked on a seat, so awkward) and then a tram to our hostel.  
  • I met Gray, one of the hostel keepers, and he was an AWESOME guy, not to mention the place.  As I said, I love Cold War history, so to be able to stay in an Eastern Bloc style apartment building is really cool.  Shoot, the elevator only goes to floors 1, 4 and 7 lol to save money.  Our hostel is literally an apartment with only 17 beds or so in 2 rooms, so it's really nice and you get to meet everyone.  I like this kind of setup compared to the big institutional style hostels like that HI one.  Hopefully I picked a few more like this :-)  
  • Gray also pointed out TONS of stuff to do on the free map he gave me, circling everything from the last sections of the wall to a bombed out church that's still standing.
  • I ventured over in the old East Berlin neighborhood for lunch by us and checked out the cupcake shop he mentioned.  
  • Checked out RAW, an old bombed train depot that was covered in graffiti.  Very cool, now it's full of clubs and a skate park lol.
  • Went to the East Side Gallery, which was very touching.
  • Took a train over to Alexanderplatz and wandered through the East Berlin memorial which retells the events leading up to the fall of the wall in '89, which was really interesting.
  • At this point, my zipper on my hoody was so badly broken I couldn't close my hoody and it was really cold and misty that day.  I actually ended up going clothes shopping!  I guess you could call it my first personal souvenir, but I figured I should buy a decent jacket since it seems a lot colder than I expected.
  • Hopped on the U-Bahn to the largest remaining section of the wall.  It's cool just to walk around Eastern Berlin (personally, that's where all the best stuff is anyway).  My favorite Cold War remnant is the walk/don't walk lights with the little Ampelman walking.  I guess they made a big deal when they started taking these down in East Berlin, so they put them back to preserve some East Berlin history.  They even have gift shops, so I bought a light cover with an Ampelman on it on Friday.
  • Trammed back to the hostel where I met up with Ester, Tianna, Liz, and a girl from Denmark and headed to Indian food.  A great meal and beer for only €6-7!  Berlin is definitely MUCH cheaper than Amsterdam for sure.  I can't wait for Poland!
  • Wandered around town a bit and found a beach-themed bar with floor of sand, so we stopped by for another drink and chatted.  Afterwords, we headed home.

As for Friday:

  • Got up and headed to the free tour.  This was my first one, and everyone said Berlin was the best by far.  I was not disappointed, they basically covered everything on my list.  And anything I wanted to do again in more detail I could just go back to.
  • Did the tour for 4 hours.  I met Anthony, who's on holiday from the UK before he starts at Cambridge.  He had just gotten off a night train from Amsterdam that morning after listening to a Somali woman complain about Americans all night.  Sounds about right.  We pretty much covered it all in the tour: Brandenburg Gate, Reichstag, Hitler's Bunker, Holocaust Memorial, Checkpoint Charlie, Berlin Wall, TV Tower, Museum Island and a bunch of other things.  Our tour guide Max was really awesome, and I'd definitely recommend the free tours to anybody traveling in Europe, no matter what your age or what your interests are!
  • Afterwords Anthony and I grabbed something at a coffee shop and planned for the night.  I grabbed my Ampelman souvenir and we split until night time.  We planned on meeting Tianna and Liz at the Reichstag to head up into the dome.
  • We met at around 18:00 (surprised we all just found each other) and since the line was so long, we decided to wander in search of some authentic German food.  Finding local food has been a running issue, since I guess if you eat it all the time at home, why would you go out to a restaurant for it?  It took us a while, but eventually Anthony found a really good place behind Humboldt University on his phone and I had my fill of sausage and sauerkraut.  Yummmmm
  • Grabbed a quick ice cream after we didn't get one the night before.
  • We got back to the Reichstag just in time to be one of the last groups let up into the glass dome.  It's absolutely beautiful, especially at night.  The views are amazing, it's definitely worth the wait in line!
  • Afterwords, Anthony went home to pass out and Tianna, Liz and I went back to our hostel.  I was beat, I realized how much walking I had done that day.
  • I Skyped my parents real quick and passed out.

On the list for today?  Well, I'm hoping to meet Anthony (whenever he wakes up lol) and check out Kreuzburg, which is the alternative area.



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