Day 5… Berlin zoo.

I finally awoke from my steaming pit at 11AM – the latest I’d gotten up for the whole of the holiday. Breakfast once again consited of a hot pretzel at the Berliner Republik, complete with whippings of hot butter. The pretzel was so hot, however, that the butter had all melted, which made spreading it rather diffcult. That wasn’t a complaint, just an observation, as it was delicious.

Chris got the currywurst again, and I can’t remember what Jonathan got. I don’t think it was the marathon breakfast he had the day before.

On the way back from Potsdam the day before, I noticed that Berlin Zoo was one of the stops. So, without much of a discussion, we decided that would be a good day out, though it would possibly be stupidly expensive. We boarded the train again, and watched as a few stops went by, before the zoo came into sight. Or rather, a large tower block building with “ZOO” written on it. Clearly, this wasn’t part of the zoo, but a helpful arrow pointed you in the right direction. Before we knew it, we were in a queue. The prices were reasonable, I suppose… €18 each, which also gave us access to the aquarium.

By the time we’d got in, it was 1PM, and the zoo closes at 6. Great! this will give us loads of time to see absolutely everything. We wouldn’t need a map, as it was only a zoo. It wasn’t as if it was going to be rocket science. Those were possibly our two biggest mistakes of the day. The place was absolutely enourmous. You will be glad to know that I won’t be posting many photos of this particular day, as I believe you should all know what the particular animals look like. I’ll link to the appropriate flickr photo, so as not to waste the photos entirely. But I’ll post a picture of this elephant, because I thought he was great.

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Well, that was the elephants taken care of. Next, we moved onto the… um… poultry, this section was presumably for people who’d never seen a live chicken before, and always thought that their name ended in “McNugget”. The best part of this was the bantams. I didn’t know they were little fluffy white things.

The giraffes were next. An interesting fact is that this giraffe has exactly the same number of bones in its neck, as the one behind it.

The mountain goats were next, followed by the big birds, such as owls. This particular one had hilarious eyebrows. The bald eagle was suitably impressive, but was a bit camera shy on this occasion. I thought that particular photo had turned out OK. But it hadn’t.

Next were the… pork products, featuring loads of different types of pig. This particular one was my fave…

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What isn’t visible in this particular image is the litter of piglets all huddled together, lying in the sun. They smelled exactly like spicy hot dogs. It was really rather weird.

We made our way around the pig and cattle section, and eventually ended up at the bear section. At this point, I flicked the camera over to video mode, and inadvertantly filmed the same bear having a crap seconds later. This may, or may not form part of the video I’m planning on making when I get my bloody computer sorted out properly. Though, to make up for it, it did pose for the camera later on.

Right next to the bears were the wolves. I thought they were great, though a little inactive. To the right of the wolf pen were the lemurs. At this point, I thought I could smell skunks too. It wasn’t until later on in the day that Chris informed me that what I thought were the skunks, was actually a fragrant blast of flatulence caused by the currywurst… pleasant.

We walked around for a bit longer, and saw more birds, including the first batch of flamingos. Chris, at this point, spotted his favourite thing of the whole day… a duck. Despite the fact we were surrounded by some of the most impressive beasts on the planet, this plain looking duck was his lasting memory.

At this point, I spied polar bears. Naturally, I took photos. Lots of them.

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On the subject of Polar Bears, Berlin zoo is the home of Knut, the little baby polar bear rejected by his mother. Wiki Link). I have no idea if he’s in any of my pictures or not, as he’s now tret just as another normal polar bear, and is, as far as I know, in the same enclosure. Still, they cash in on it at every opportunity. I notced a large stall seeling Knut teddy bears, placed strategically next to the playground.

Shortly after, we walked around to the larger bird section, where you could actually walk into the cages and interact with the birds. This little bastard wanted to do more than react with me….

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Yes, I know it’s hard to tell where the beak ends and the head starts. I sat down on the seat inside the enclosure next to some woman (that’s why there’s a woman’s foot in the top of the photo, natch), and no sooner had I sat down, this bird starts pecking at my shirt. I didn’t really fancy being dinner today, so I pulled my shirt away. The little shit took exception to that, and thought that my fingers looked much tastier…

*crunch* *OW!* I jump up startled, the woman next to me pisses herself laughing, and I walk out of the cage with chewed fingers. I didn’t even find out what type of bird it was. The cage had signs inside telling you which birds were residents, but my new best friend seemed to be missing. Presumably the sign was pecked into submission.

We kept walking, and eventually came across the penguins Woo! The penguins were cool. Quite literally, as the empreror penguins had their own refrigerated enclosure complete with snow…

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They looked like fakes, until the one with the lop-sided head lifted its tail and shat everywhere. No, I didn’t get a video.

Well, they were exciting. Not. Outside of the penguin house, were the performing seals, with some guy in a wetsuit. I couldn’t actually see this, as the area around the pool was about 5-deep in people. He was speaking in German, so I had no idea what he was saying anyway. I attempted to move around and get a better view.

At this point, I phoned Daddykins. He seemed genuinely happy to hear my voice, and for the first time, didn’t hurry to get me off the phone. I felt homesick for approximately 37 seconds, until the performing seal guy jumped from a large rock into the pool, and soaked everyone where I’d been standing only minutes earlier.

It then struck me that we’d not seen half of what the zoo had to offer, and time was getting on. According to the camera, it was 15:35 by the time we left the seals. It was at this point where the lack of a map became an issue. We managed to find our way to the zebras – and a map – some 8 minutes later. Of course, you can’t go to a zoo without seeing the big cats, so this was the next stop…. There were tigers (at least one), unfortunately barely visible. The one I saw spent most of its time darting from tree to tree, the result being this blurred, and totally uninspiring photo. No sooner had we left the tigers, there was a loud roar. We were indeed, approaching the lions. Hurrah! First stop, hwoever, were the leopards…

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Some of the lions were temporarily indoors for whatever reason. Well, when I mean indoors, I mean in inside pens, with one female lion violently scratching at the metal door. At this point, I got Chris to take a picture of me and said lion. I am truly apologetic for what you are about to witness…

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The lions were class, though.

The male lion, although very vocal didn’t really stay around much. He was treated to an outside pen. Only a small walk away was the panda. I’m not sure whether there was more than one. Either way, my mind was too preoccupied, trying to stop me from singing the “Sexual Harassment Pandaaaaaaaaa” song from South Park. Then it was the highlight of the day for me….. MEERKATS! I’ve always wanted to see one of these, ever since I watched a documentary in primary school called “Meerkats United”. I thought they were cool, and always did. I didn’t quite realise just how small they are…. they’re absolutely tiny. This image isn’t necessarily the best, I just noticed it had 6 7’s in its URL.

At this point, we’d paid €6 to see the aquarium, so the next thing was to find its location. At this point, I was still randomly snapping… it wasn’t until I got this photo home, featuring flamingos and ducks, that I spied something interesting. Notice how the seemingly normal ducks also stand on one leg, copying off the flamingos? Maybe there’s a lot more I need to learn about ducks, but I certainly can’t remember seeing them do that at home…. They certainly don’t do it when surrounded by orange slices… Ummm…

The primate house was next… this was a bit depressing to be honest. An orangutan, laid flat out on the floor, clearly bored as fuck. I didn’t really get many good shots in there, as it was a bit dark, my batteries were going, and my memory card was filling up. I spent most of the time in there going through my camera and deleting any images that looked crap. I could only find about 10. Bugger. It was at this point, we REALLY needed to find the aquarium. I still kept snapping though…. let me introduce you to a baboon with an erection (they went for it like monkeys seconds atfer this photo was taken, but only Jonathan saw it), better giraffe pic, and a gorilla wearing a sack.

We walked around for what felt like an age, attempting to find the aquarium, eventually finding this huge building with “AQUARIUM” written on it. Uh, that’s where the aquarium would be, then. We went in, and spied many weird and wonderful fishes… the last one before I ran out of space on my card had to be of Nemo.

So, it was official. I’d taken over 1Gb of photos and videos… I was impressed. I wasn’t stopping there, however, as I remembered my phone. Woohoo, perfect backup. Naturally, it didn’t work as well in low light, and not many of the aquarium photos turned out to be worth posting.

The last stop was upstairs…. to the reptile house. There were lots of good pictures taken here, but this one has to be one of my favourites…

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I clearly didn’t finish uploading all of the images from there, as I can’t find many. Either way, we’d just got to the snakes when we were kicked out due to closing time. Bugger. Had it really been five hours? Yes, it had. I had a pocketful of pictures, therefore I’d had a great day. There was still the job of getting home.

We retraced our steps to get to the train station from the zoo, only to be found that we’d went the wrong way… Lost. Again. Learning from the trip yesterday, surely it should have been as simple as following the green S’s. It was. The problem was FINDING the green S’s. Chris queued vainly at the customer desk. Jonathan rushed around madly, and I just sat on a bench, waiting for feedback from either of them. Eventually, Jonathan picked up the scent of green S’s, Chris picked up the scent of a doughnut shop (and bought some, two for me too), and I spied a cashpoint.

My money was running low. I was still confident that it would work, despite Chris’s oreal with the machine just one day earlier. The “GUI” to the cash machine was horrible. Clip-art graphics, grey marble style backdrop, cheery comic-sans style font. It looked llike a Powerpoint presentation I would have done in college. I insert my card, enter my pin number, select English (I don’t know whether it’s standard that cash machines ask you your language over there, or the fact it determined my card wasn’t German), and choose the amount of money I wanted… in this case it was €40. At this point, there was a queue forming behind me.

My card comes back out, like it’s supposed to. I pay no attention to what is happening on the screen, as it was hurting my eyes. I remove my card and look at the screen, with just enough time to see “SYSTEM ERROR” pop up on the screen, and for it to go back to the “Please insert your card” screen. Oh great. The same was happening to ME, now. Chris wasn’t going to be the only penniless one…

Luckily enough, I had enough to last me the rest of the day… Chris and Jonathan had a meal at the Kartoffelkeller, though I passed, as there wasn’t anything I really fancied. That is, at the first glance of the menu. It wasn’t until about halfway through the meals that I spied about three things on the menu I fancied trying. I felt too cheeky ordering late. Never mind. We head to the outside section of the “keller”, not before I sign the visitors book, and leave the URL to this website you are reading now, and adding “Jamie Rules!” to the end of it. It seemed like a good idea at the time. Sort of, like putting my website in history. In reality, it made me look like a cock. I didn’t realise this until after I’d taken a photo on my phone of what I’d written. I’ve not looked at it yet. Instead, I just shake my head and cringe each time it appears in the photo list, and skip over it, pretending it didn’t happen.

That was pretty much it for the evening. We returned back to the hotel just before midnight, and had a couple of drinks there, before calling it a night.

There were only two days left, and one day of the 72-hour train ticket…

Right, Day Four

It’s been almost two weeks, and I’m halfway through writing up my Berlin Holiday, Well I will be after I complete this particular entry.

I apologise for the length of these, and I’m fully aware that not everyone cares about every final detail. Tough, I do. Overall, I spent about a grand on this trip. I’m getting my money’s worth. I’m not going to forget it soon. I have, however, reduced the sizes of the photos, and reduced the number of posts on the front page. This should help ease the load.

Day four started off back at the same cafe (Barlier Republik) along the side of the river. I ordered another delicious pretzel, and this time, Chris ordered the currywurst. Jonathan ordered a breakfast the size of a canoe, all for a reasonable price.

The meals were scoffed, though Jonathan’s protein-on-a-plate took longer than ours, and as the day was getting on, we had to plan what to do. Earlier in the week, we planned a trip to Hamburg on the train. This wasn’t worth mentioning, however, as we soon cancelled the idea, after finding the train tickets were €200. Each. This was a little out of our price range by €190, so we decided to take a day out somewhere a little more local. We bought a 3-day S-Bahn ticket (which is their version of the Metro, I suppose… a snip at €22 for 72 hours) which took us anywhere in the vacinity of Berlin and the surrounding districts.

After a view of the S-Bahn map, a couple of places popped up straight away. Potsdam, and Spandau. We were all confused by a notice saying “Please validate your ticket”… none of us having any clue what this means. It turns out, you simply need to stick your printed ticket into a seperate machine which stamps the date and time on it. God knows why they couldn’t just make it simple, and have the ticket start from whenever you bought it.

After the initial confusion, we were in posession of three, slightly warm, fully validated train tickets. A train pulled into the station, with “S7 Potsdam” showing on its display. All of the S-Bahn trains used large backlit LCDs for their destination boards. Not that you needed to know that, but I found it interesting, as you simply don’t see those over here much. We boarded the train, and made ourselves comfortable, and watched Berlin pass us by, as we travelled the 17-mile journey (as the crow flies) to Potsdam station. This is where I take the first photos, as I couldn’t quite believe how many bicycles there were…

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We were held up slightly at this point, as Chris attempted to draw money out of the cash machine, only for his card to be “refused”. Thinking it was a fault with the machine, I put mine in, and managed to get money straight away. Chris disappeared with Jonathan’s mobile, while he phoned his bank back here, to find out why his card had been declined. Unfortunately, the bank didn’t find out why either. This left Chris worrying. What was he going to do for money? Either way, that was a worry for another hour, as I gave Chris the money I drew out, as I didn’t need it… I just wanted to test the machine.

As soon as we left the station, there was a tour bus straight in front, obviously touting for trade. As we didn’t have a clue where anything was, we decided to take the tour. After viewing the sky, and the pounding sun, I took the wise decision to stock up on water. This was going to be needed.

The tour was cheaper than the Berlin one we’d taken earlier in the week, costing €18. The bus itself was better too. it smelt new, and it actually had a guide. Unfortunately, he didn’t speak English on the bus, so we had to wear headphones if we wanted to hear what was going on. Thankfully, this one worked pretty much perfectly – the headphones looked new too, so I was able to keep up with the dialogue and where we were. We drove past various sights, such as Potsdam’s very own Brandenburg Gate…

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The first stop was Cecilienhof Palace, the location of the Potsdam Conference between July 17 and August 2, 1945. The palace is now a museum and hotel.

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A very pretty building, and I have no idea who that bloke is with the beard. He just got in the way when I was taking it. The guide showed us the grounds…

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… and that’s the guide. Whenever we stopped off, he did actually speak English, and explained where we were. He knew his stuff.

On the way there, and on the way back, we had to cross the Glienicke bridge.. a very famous bridge, as it was where the east and the west exchanged spies. It even has its own domain name… http://www.glienicke-bridge.com .

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Although it simply looks like a faded white line, this was the official border line, up until 1989. The bridge itself, as a memorial to this, is painted two different shades of green.

Next step was Sanssouci, which translates in french to “carefree”. This was a very pretty place, and to save on my typing, Wikipedia has a full article about it here. Here’s a photo of it though…

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The last stop was Park Sanssouci’s New Palace. Unfortunately, I didn’t catch much of what the tour guide said about this place, for some reason. I just remember very big, impressive buildings. I think I was more concerned about the fact that I was only on day 4, and I’d almost used all of my camera batteries. I’d changed to the final set earlier in the day.

That was the last stop, and the tour was over. We now had a choice of where to get off. We decided to get off where the Postdam Brandenburg gate was, which I photographed earlier. I had a feeling that getting off at a strange place would mean only one thing – getting lost… The majority won (Jonathan and Chirs), so we got off. Turns out that the main shopping street appeared to be right next to the Brandenburg Gate…

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Chris’s first concern was to find a cash machine, so while he disappeared into the distance, Jonathan and I (ooh, correct grammeration) sat around patiently. To my right, I spotted a perfectly normal looking clothes store. As I had now been wearing the same t-shirt for 3 days, I decided I needed to buy a new one, just in case my laundry didn’t make it back to my hotel room. The price was €12, and I had €15 in my wallet… didn’t fancy spending that, but I had already spied a credit card reader next to the counter. I delved deep into my wallet, and got the old bit of plastic marked “Visa” out… “Ahh, nein”, was the response from the (admittedly friendly) shop assistant, who I assume ran her own shop… bugger.

At this point, she must have realised as I was English, as I say, in best Hartlepudlian, “Er… what about this one?”, totally forgetting that “I wasn’t in Kansas anymore”…. I flap my wallet about frantically, pulling out my credit card, hoping that the Mastercard logo would bring a smile to her face, and allow me to insert my flexible blue plastic into her crusty grey slot. Again, she shrugged her shoulders, smiled politely, obviously realising that there was a 600-mile language gap here…

I had no choice but to hand over the last of my Monopoly Money (€’s) to pay for the t-shirt. I exited the shop with the t-shirt in a little plastic bag. Good stuffs. Slight problem was, that I was now completely skint. I had three coins to my name. Clearly, my cards were useless over here, which dismayed me somewhat.

Me and Jonathan stood around for what felt like an hour, waiting for Chris to come back into view. He did, eventually, clutching two boxes of chess-piece chocolates, and informing us both that we was also full of ice cream…. righty-ho. He was only supposed to be looking for a bloody cash machine.

We walked up the main shopping street, I took another load of photos, walked back down, and went to a bar pretty much next to the Brandenburg Gate for a quick drink. I visited the toilet, and froze on the spot…. I could see a door marked “Herren”, but where the fuck was “Himmen”? Suddenly, I remembered the scene in Auf Weidersehen Pet, where Dennis comes out of the bogs, and I remembered that “Herren” was the correct one. Two words about (some) German toilets… you have to flush the urinals yourself, and the taps are very confusing. I was amused to see that the paper towel dispensers were *exactly* the same as the ones we have at work. I didn’t expect that.

We finished our drinks, and headed for the bus back to the train station. The bus stop had very comfortable seats. At this point, let me give you some safet advice for visiting germany. CYCLE LANES ARE NOT A SERVING SUGGESTION. They take them very seriously. Me and Chris had claimed the comfy metal seats, and Jonathan was just loitering. From my left side, I hear a bike bell ringing… “Tringeling… Tring. Tringeling.”…. I see a biker approaching. He doesn’t slow down, instead he just keeps ringing his bell, louder and faster. I look to my right….

“Jonathan…. you’re standing on…..” [closeup to my face, wide eyes, blood draining from face] “…… RED TARMAC!!! JESUS CHRIST, MAN! GET OUT OF THE WAY!

Jonathan takes a step back onto the paving stones next to the cycle lane, Herr Bikerren gives us all a dirty look, and continues on his way. By this time, the bus was due. It arrived something like 3 minutes late, and we were almost disappointed – after the train journey, we expected everything to run like clockwork. We boarded the bus, and thankfully it was air conditioned. Wonderful. We were stood under the cold air vents for the whole journey to the station.

It had clouded over by this point, and there were a few spots of rain falling from the sky. We entered the station, and were confronted by the awful fear of… “Um, where do we go now?” Jonathan hovered around the exit, clutching a map, trying to plot on the map where we would need to go. After almost going up to the platforms which allowed NATIONAL travel, we realised that the green signs with “S” printed on them are where we needed to go after all.

We boarded a stationary train (well, OK, I didn’t fancy boarding a moving train, but you know what I mean) similar to the one we got there. We sat down, and prayed that it would go in the right direction. The train door alarms bleeped, the doors shut, the train engine started up, and we were in the move….. in completely the right direction. Phew. The half-hour jorney back was entirely uninteresting, which is why I took this photo…

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See? Totally uninteresting. Great fun, though.

Eventually, the Friedrichstrasse station approached, and we disembarked. The station was literally only a hundred yards or so away from the hotel. In fact, this shows how close it is.

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This was taken from my hotel room – You actually exit the station underneath that bridge. Not far at all.

We return to the hotel, and Chris forces his chocolates into the minibar fridge. He does this by removing the entire contents, and leaving it all to stew on the top of the fridge. I’m not sure whether the hotel actually approved of this, but it’s better than carrying useless, melted chocolates for the entire journey back to England.

I return to my room, to find that the hotel elves had indeed washed my clothes, and they were conveniently hanging with the receipt stuck on top of them… the cost?

Forty-three Euros, fifty cents. That’s (according to xe.com) $59.59, £29.25, 7,104 Japanese Yen.

My jaw didn’t just drop, it almost fell out. Christ, that was more than what I paid for them originally. Though, it was done, my clothes were washed, and everything was A-OK… surely. You’d like to think so.

I slipped into my jeans, which I don’t normally need a belt for, only to find that I couldn’t go three steps without them falling around my ankles. Whether this was to do with weight loss, or the fact they’d stretched during the hotel laundry process remains a mystery. I’ll never know. Either way, I got changed, and put on a nice, clean shirt. I’d arranged with Chris and Jonathan that I’d meet them in 10 minutes, downstairs in the bar, so we could make our way along to the eaterie establishment that we’d chosen for that particualr evening. I think we’d arranged to go back to the Kartoffelkeller.

Unfortunately, during this time I’d lost my pass card for the room. I’d obviously left it somewhere in the room, but could I fuck find it. Eventually, I’d tracked it down to being in my wallet. Gah. I knock on their room door, and… got absolutely no response. No sign of life at all. Piss. They’d obviously gone without me – maybe I’d got the message confused, and by ‘bar’ they didn’t mean the hotel bar. Meh, I knew where external bar was, and I was a big boy, so I wasn’t too fussed. I walked round to the kartoffelkeller, expecting to see then tucking into masses of… kartoffel. Unfortunately, there was no sign of them, and by now, it was raining heavily. I returned back to the hotel room, slapped on the telly, and pouched some crisps I’d bought earlier in the week, thinking this was going to be my night in. Shortly after, there was a knock on the door. It was Chris, wondering where I’d been.

I explained the story, he explained how I’d already left before he knocked, and before we all went anywhere, we had a pint (rather, 500ML) in the hotel bar, and headed off to the chosen food outlet. We changed our minds, and headed to the Argentinian steakhouse over the road from the Kartoffelkeller. Personally, I didn’t have any major food – Chris got an extra portion of fries, whcih I helped demolish. In hindsight, I wish I’d ordered a proper meal, as it looked nice, though I’d pouched a (really) large bag of chipsticks only minutes before so I wasn’t really hungry. On the subject of crisps, they only have two real flavours of crisp in Germany… paprika and ready salted. This suits me down to the ground – I love both.

Anyway, we finished up, and headed off to the Karteoffelkeller, where we had another couple of half-litres. Someone nearby was smoking joints too. It smelled like my old college staffroom. Even weirder is that I think they were English.

We drank up, and headed back to the hotel. It was late by this time, and we needed another early start to make the most of our 72-hour pass… but where do we go next? Stay tuned, you might find out in a fortnight…

Day three!

OK, now we’re getting to the business end, and possibly a lot more photos to come.

I was awoken abruptly at 7AM by the building site across the road from the hotel drilling away. And, considering I was hungover, I decided the best thing to do was take a little walk. Chris and Jonathan were obviously still sleeping, and I couldn’t understand the telly, so I thought I’d pop out and see some of the sights on my own.

Now, if you remember the picture I’d taken from the hotel window, there were some cafes and bars across the river. We hadn’t been near these at all, so I thought I’d start my walk by checking these out. I noticed the menus were also printed in English, and the meals actually looked reasonably priced. Somewhere different to eat. This WAS a good sign.

I decided to follow the river for a bit to see where it goes. Despite the fact that we’d taken a bus trip less than a day before, I’d forgotten where any of the sights were. Imagine my surprise when I followed the river for no more than 10 minutes, and ended up standing in the grounds of the Reichstag, the German parliament building In fact, it was the big glass dome visible from the hotel window. And I didn’t even realise! I broke out the camera.

Unfortunately, during my exploration of the grounds, I came across the most harrowing part of the entire trip. Around the edge of the grounds are large concrete blocks which double up as seating, and prevent cars from entering the pedestrianised bit. Next to one of these blocks was a large, fresh bloodstain on the ground, with a swastika scrawled in permanent marker next to it. I suddenly felt very uneasy, and strangely cold. It hit me for a few seconds, that I was in a strange country where I couldn’t speak the language, and entirely on my own. It was intimidating to say the least. I even felt like I needed to look over my shoulder a couple of times.

I took my mind off it by taking yet more photos, all of which are on my flickr. On the subject of my flickr, I realise that several hundred photos are a lot to look through. Therefore, my Personal top 20 is available, including 21 of my favourite photos so far. I *still* haven’t got through them all, so this may change as I upload more images.

Anyway, back to my walk. After taking shots of the Reichstag, I walked over to the train station, as to my surprise, it was simply a few hundred yards from where I was standing.

The trip on the previous day made it feel much further away. I had three reasons to visit the station. The first was to take photos of it, the second was to buy some bottled water (I noticed they had an offer on it while Chris was buying those big cans), and thirdly, to take better photos of the sandcastle sculpture things.

You could take closer looks at the sculptures if you really wanted to… for the “measly” sum of €6. But, considering you could take photos of it from a nearby road bridge, like I did, there wasn’t much point.

I took some pictures of a nearby historic bridge, and began to head back to the hotel. Hopefully, Chris and Jonathan would be awake by this time.

No, they weren’t.

I retreated to my hotel room fora while, and flicked through the German telly. I was amazed to see something I recognised, straight away.

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Yes, it’s CASH CAB! But entirely in German! As they don’t call them cabs over there, it was known as “Quiz Taxi”, but from what I can gather, the idea of the show was exactly the same. Shortly after, Jonathan knocked on my room door, and explained that they’d finally woken. I explained to him that I’d found some good eateries over the river, and pointed them out to him. Chris eventually surfaced too, so we headed over to them for some brekkers.

We sat outside, as it seemed to be the thing to do. Everyone else was. Me and Chris opted for a hot fresh pretzel with butter, Jonathan decided to go for the currywurst. We ordered our stuff by pointing at the menu, and stating that we would like TWO pretzels. TWO. Quite clearly. TWO.

After about 20 minutes, my pretzel arrived. Jonathan’s Currywurst arrived. And Chris ended up with… something… wrapped in foil, covered in what looked like sick. Clearly, this wasn’t a pretzel. As I demolished mine, Chris sat there, looking at his monstrousity, wondering how to say “I didn’t order this” in German. Eventually, we called the waitress over, and told her that we simply didn’t order this. In English. Grudgingly, the plate disappeared back into the building and a few minutes later, it was replaced with a pretzel. Hurrah! We eventually had our order, and we had a waitress who looked like she was about to commit suicide. Everyone’s a winner!

After checking the receipt carefully to make sure we hadn’t been charged for whatever that thing was, we paid and left. Despite the waitress’s error, I still enjoyed the pretzel, and decided I would go again at some point.

At this point, we began to plan the day, and what we would do for the rest of it. Checkpoint Charlie was only up the road, so we deicded to visit that. On the way there, we spied something rather amazing.

Yes, this IS a Bugatti Veyron. I think it’s the first time I’ve ever felt humbled in the presence of a car. It’s like a work of art. Ever since I saw it on Top Gear, I always wondered if and when I would ever see one in the flesh.

The building it was in was actually like a shopping centre for new cars. Each manufacturer had their own shop, with their latest and most expensive models on display… most of them you could sit in, and play with.

We lost Chris for about 20 minutes at this point, as he went and sat in some of the cars and twiddled with the buttons of various expensive cars. eventually, he reappaeared, and we continued up Friedrichstrasse towards Checkpoint Charlie.

The subtle hints that we were approaching it came thick and fast. I couldn’t help but laugh at a hotel sign which read “Check In, Charlie!”.

Moving on swiftly, the site of Checkpoint Charlie is now surrounded by 10 foot high boards with detailed descriptions of the history of both Checkpoint Charlie and the Berlin Wall itself. Very informative, and very interesting. This was the point where I realised my bank card worked in bank machines here, which I was thankful about, because at that point, I probably had about €80 to last me the rest of the week.

I took more photos (as usual), and we started the long walk home, but not before Chris bought an old Military police cap, and a piece of the Berlin Wall embedded in a postcard as a souvenir.

We returned back to the hotel and got changed. Well, Chris and Jonathan got changed. It was hard for me to get changed, as I’d handed all of my ruined clothes into the reception to get cleaned. More about that later. I knew, however, that tomorrow evening I’d at least be able to get out of the manky t-shirt I was wearing, and get some decent clothes on. Still, I had to wear it for one more day.

Either way, back on to the evening. We went across the river again onto the cafes to get something to eat. We stopped at one place on the corner which was a bit expensive and didn’t really have anything I fancied, so while Chris and Jonathan had a meal, I decided I would go back to the indian later, and pouch another curry. Which I did, and it was very nice. Chris and Jonathan both tagged along, and I must admit to feeling a little greedy having a curry on my own while they just had drinks. Either way, I paid for the drinks to make up for it. I really, really enjoyed the curry.

During the meal, however, I explained that I knew where the Reichstag was. As the evening was setting in and the sun was going down, we decided to take a walk over to it, following the path I’d taken earlier in the day.

I took another load of photos, including this particularly nice sunset.

Weather-wise, this sums everything up, except for the last day.

After visiting the Reichstag, Chris told me that the Brandenburg gate was only a few hundred yards away. I was surpised, as even though we’d apparently passed it on the tour the previous day, I had no idea where it was.

We got there, and it appears one hell of a lot smaller and less significant than it does on telly.

Acer Image
Acer Image

You can tell how much of a tourist attraction the place is though. Some unknown guy pulled up in his Ford Mustang, and began to take pohots of his car (and his poodle in the back seat)

He seemed to be less than happy that everyone else in the surrounding area also seemed to be taking photos of his car too. Including me.

By the time we’d finished walking round and dropped some more freshly purchased souvenirs back at the hotel, it was about 10:30. We headed along the same bars and cafes for a couple more drinks. We ended up in some place called the Kartoffelkeller… the literal translaton of which, is “Potato Cellar”. We’d already eaten, so we didn’t order food, but we picked up a menu, and intended to visit later in the week. By this point, I was shattered more than the other two, so I was happy to call it an early night… at 1AM.

Day two…

The day was Tuesday, and I was awoken by the sound of the building site directly outside of the hotel. it was 7:30. I was less than pleased. Still, it gave me the chance to view exactly what the place looked like in the daytime.

Well, apart from the mass of mud and machinery, it’s not too bad. the River Spree is the stretch of water in the background, and the row of cafes and bars behind it were where most of our Euros went. I’ll mention more about these as the days go on, as we didn’t venture down this way on the first couple of days.

At approximately 10:30, it was time to find breakfast. Not easy in a place you dont know too well. The plan was to head northerly up Friedrichstrasse (the long street the hotel sat on), and hope we come across some kind of shop.

Within seconds, my dream came true. There was an indian no more than 100 yards from the hotel. I almost dropped to my knees in floods of happiness. Even better, we found what looked like an Irish bar too. So, that was the night sorted, and my food sorted for the week. Grub at the indian, along to the Irish bar to drink. Hurrah!

We kept walking, and eventually came across a little internet cafe, though I decided not to use the internet. Chris and Jonathan, however, opted for a sarnie and a cuppa, and I enjoyed a bottle of coke I’d bought earlier on, though it does taste different over there.

So, the sarnies were eaten, and we carry on with our exploration of the city. At this point, there was no particular plan to the journey, so we picked a direction, and continued walking. According to Google Earth, we were heading along Oranienburger Strasse. This seemed to be the old part of East Berlin, with many old tall buildings. Clearly, it was my first chance to appear in a photo in Berlin….

As we didn’t have a clue where we were, and found these posters rather odd, we reached a landmark (a railway bridge) and headed back. We noticed that street also had a lot of nice looking bars and eateries on there too, so we decided we’d also visit there later too.

One thing that became clear, however, is that we were not going to make it far in the blistering heat. Seemed that every few minutes, we were stopping off for drinks, which were small and ludicrously expensive.

I think that bottle of water cost me 2 euros. Bah.

They say that mad dogs and Englishmen go out in the midday sun. But only Englishmen go out in the midday sun, walk into a random chemist and buy a bottle of suncream for €13.50… which is exactly what I did. Or rather, Chris went in and bought it for me. I gave him a tenner. My jaw *dropped* when he came out asking for more money. Still, at least it was a worthy purchase.

On the previous night, I failed to mention that after we arrived, we had a very short walk around outside the hotel, and noticed that during the day, there were bus tours which took you round Berlin. This was going to be our next activity.

The bus trip cost €20, which seemed like a lot, but the ticket lasted for the full day, which meant we could get off at any of the stops, and look around. The guide was provided by a pair of headphones mounted in the seat, and a button on the seat itself where you could choose the language. Amusingly, the only place we stopped off was the main train station, or the Hauptbahnhoff. At least I think that’s how you spell it. The main reason we stopped off, however, is that I’d noticed some sand sculptures, which seemed interesting.

As can clearly be seen by that, I didn’t take my main camera on this trip, instead I opted for my camcorder. Disastrously, the battery didn’t last more than 20 minutes of filming, as I kept forgetting to turn it off. Therefore, it was up to my trusty cameraphone to catch most of the photos. Due to the fact the headphones attached to my seat were broken, I don’t really have much of an idea what I was taking photos of, though there were some impressive buildings, such as this brick towerblock.

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So, with the trip completed, we had a little more idea of what was on offer, and the best places to see. And, the fact they were all pretty much in the vacinity of the hotel.

We decided to complete our full day in the land of Sauerkraut by getting ready and going out for something proper to eat. And where did we go? Well, would you believe it, we ended up in the indian. Hurrah! Now, something I was surprised about was that the majority of the food places have most of their seating outside. This was certainly a new experience for me. So, we were sat down, in wicker chairs, under large parasols advertising some kind of German Pilsner. We ordered food, and didn’t have to wait too long for it to arrive. While we were eating, a red squirrel scurried across the floor next to us. That was odd. Not only was this the first time I’d seen a squirrel close up, it was a red one too. These are rare as fook here in England, so it was a nice and welcome surprise.

The food was magnificent. Large portions, good rice, nice soft naan breads. It was better than most places at home, and it wasn’t too spicy.

After the food was pouched, it was time to go out and experience some German beer. Of course, we couldn’t resist a stroll into the Irish bar, seeing as it was only a few metres away from the indian. Strangely enough, drink-wise, this happened to be the low point of the trip. I got a pint of Fosters (well, 500ml of Fosters) which was warm, and tasted like a mixture of cider and wine, and Chris and Jonathan got a pint of Newky Brown, which tasted equally as bad. After 1 drink, we simply couldn’t stay there any more.

We returned down the same route we’d taken on the morning, in order to check some of the bars they had on offer… we found this little place with a courtyard. It was rather empty, and rather nice. Pils flowed like water, despite it being expensive. I think it was €4 for 500ml…

Suddenly, the poster I was leaning against in the earlier picture made perfect sense – we were walking down the red light district. It’s funny how the majority of them asked if we wanted a good time in perfect English, as if they could tell just by looking at us. We refused, and kept walking to the final bar of the evening. a mock American diner… now, I’m sure if any of us at this point had actually been sober, we’d have enjoyed it, but all the barman (who wasn’t German either) wanted to talk about was football. Ergh.

What I remember more than anything about this place was the “bar” itself. It was apparently made from some kind of translucent resin, with fluorescent tubes underneath it. The heat from the tubes, combined with the years of drinks spilled on it, caused your arms, glass and everything that touched it, to stick to the bar.

None of us fancied a conversation about football, so we made our excuses and left. Quickly. We, once again, had to head through the red light district on the way back to the hotel.

Something which I failed to mention is that whilst at the train station, Chris bought two 1 litre cans of lager, one of which he gave me. I enjoyed immensely. I attempted to go to sleep, listening to a radio station on my mobile – BRF 91.4 . The first song I heard was Mike Oldfield’s “Shadow On The Wall”. I’d never heard this played on the radio before. I was delighted.

After listening to some classic songs, I rolled over, and went to sleep. Day 3 was only a few hours away.