Tag Archives: Berlin

It’s a European Thing

A trip around Europe is a backpacker right of passage, especially if you’re an Aussie. Staying in hostels, bumping into the same people on same route and exploring the other side of the world.

Most enter through the gateway of Amsterdam, a city whose liberal attitude may appear shocking to most, intriguing to some and even normal to others.

I remember the flatness of Holland and the smallness of Belgium where you could pass through it and be in 3 countries in one day. There is the beauty of the canals of Bruges and the discovery of Italy, where every city is different.

There is the history of Rome and Pompeii, the craziness of Venice and the little gems you find along the way, like Verona. And then there are more ruins in Athens.

It’s the Asian culture of Istanbul that leaves you wanting more and the bleakness of Eastern Europe on the cusp of Russia. Closely followed by the opulence of Vienna.

Then there is the gothic wonderland of Prague, before finishing off with party time in Berlin.

My first trip to Europe still lives brightly in my memory, even though it was taken a lifetime ago. Each country had a different culture, language and even a different currency.

No matter how many times I go to Europe, there always seems to be more to see.

I have never been to Scandinavia, Liechtenstein or Poland. I missed Ghent in Belgium and countless other places in Italy.

Like Cinque Terre, Siena and the Amalfi coast. I never got to properly taste wine in Tuscany, see the fountains at Tivoli or go to the island of Sicily.

I missed out on visiting an island in Greece, I’m sure Eastern Europe is quite different now to what it was then; and the Cesky Kromlov seems to be the place to go now instead of Prague.

I know there is more to Germany than just Berlin, like Dresden, seeing Sleeping Beauty’s castle and shopping at a Christmas market.

I can’t wait for my next magical European experience even if it is not in the near future, because a continent this diverse is definitely worth waiting for.

Related posts: It’s an English Thing, It’s a Spanish Thing, It’s a water thing, It’s a French Thing, Europe, 2006, Europe, 2003, England, 2002, Berlin, 1997, Part 2: To the East

Berlin, 1997, Part 2: To the East!

Sarah and I headed to the Pinocchio Bar in the former East Berlin with Richard from New Zealand  and Krista from Canada. Along with Paulo from Brazil and a Japanese guy, we had a representative from almost every continent in the world.  We were all staying in a hostel close to the Brandenburg Gate. After we chatted, we went to a more lively reggae bar to continue our first night of partying in Berlin.

Unter den Linden, the main street of the former East Berlin, had street stalls where we tucked into the local speciality of hash browns with cinnamon sugar the following day. We saw Berliner Dom and the contrasting architecture of the TV tower.

We visited Marienkirche- the oldest church in Germany. We walked through Alexanderplatz which was the scene of many protests and was currently filled with lots of student protesters who were on a four week strike. They seem very passionate about their beliefs here.

At the hostel we met Simone and Kate from Adelaide and headed out to a bar with them, Monica, Paulo and Krista. Monica and Paulo spoke Italian to each other, then switched to French when Krista joined the conversation, but we all spoke English together.

We went to the Tacheles artist’s house which had a club in the garden house behind Pinocchio Bar. All the buildings were painted on and were falling apart. There were art displays and graphitised walls in the house and the garden had a wrecked bus, a rocket sculpture and one of a tower.

Inside the garden house it was like a warehouse with bashed through walls. It was very run down and very cool. We stayed until the early hours of the morning. There is a real party atmosphere in Berlin- it is feels like everyone is still celebrating the fall of the Berlin Wall.

By day, we went to the cobblestoned Nikolaiviertel in the old area of town and saw the new modern synagogue which looked like a block of flats. The old synagogue was burnt by the Nazis on Kristallnacht and there is a plaque in memorial of this on the new synagogue. Some of the rooms were rebuilt in the old design, but there is a new dome.

Back at the hostel, we said ours goodbyes and boarded the night train to Amsterdam which was to be out last stop before heading back to England after completing a full circle of Europe.

Related posts: Berlin, 1997, Part 1: The West SideCzech Republic, 1997Austria, 1997Hungary, 1997Romania, 1997Bulgaria, 1997Turkey, 1997Greece, 1997Italy, 1997, Part 2: Bella ItaliaItaly, 1997, Part 1: From Rome to FlorenceSpain, 1997, Part 2: Beyond Barcelona,  Spain, 1997, Part 1: Barcelona,  France, 1997, Part 2: The South of France, France, 1997, Part 1: ParisBelgium, 1997Holland, 1997England, 1997I first started travellingBy special requestHome is where you make itI first started writing

Berlin, 1997, Part 1: The West Side

Sarah and I started our sight-seeing of the former West Berlin with Checkpoint Charlie. All that is left is a tiny concrete hut with a broken tower on top.

I spent the most time I have spent in a museum on this trip inside the Wall Museum. It has the history of the Berlin Wall from building to dismantling with photos and videos.

There was a very moving video of the wall being torn down. I could remember when it was dismantled in 1989 and it really seemed like such recent history.

The museum had footage of demonstrations and escape attempts- most of them successful. People sneaked through tunnels, in speaker boxes, hot air balloons, underwater, flying foxes, suitcases and squashed in cars. They would do anything to get out.

There was an art section with the wall theme, some of the pieces using part of the wall itself, and video of worldwide non-violent protests.

We walked a block away and saw part of the wall. There is not much of it left. We looked through a gap in the wall and I bought a postcard with a “part of wall” inset into it. The buildings near the wall had their windows bricked up.

I didn’t know Berlin was actually divided into four parts- the East suppressed communist part owned by the Soviet Union and the West free part owned by the allies was split into three parts owned by France, the UK and the USA. What a ridiculous way to divide up a city!

We saw the Kasier-Wilhelm Gedachtniskirche which was bombed during war, rebuilt, then bombed again and left with its gaping roof as a memorial.

Potsdammer Platz, as with most of the former West Berlin, was under construction and I counted 20 cranes in the area.

We walked through the heavily wooded Tiergarten to the Siegessaule Victory Column. We entered through a tunnel in the bottom and walked to the top to take in the view of the city, Brandenburg Gate and Spree River. The exhibition inside had a very scary photo of the column with swastika flags running down both sides.

There was a monument to the victims of Fascism and Militarism for all the German soldiers who died fighting the Soviets.

We walked down Strasse des 17 Juni where allied military parades were held and reached the Reichstag Building next to the Berlin Wall which has visible bullet holes from the Soviet army. Lots of fighting took place here and there are also lots of crosses as monuments to the people who died trying to get over the wall.

Related posts: Czech Republic, 1997Austria, 1997Hungary, 1997Romania, 1997Bulgaria, 1997Turkey, 1997Greece, 1997Italy, 1997, Part 2: Bella ItaliaItaly, 1997, Part 1: From Rome to FlorenceSpain, 1997, Part 2: Beyond Barcelona,  Spain, 1997, Part 1: Barcelona,  France, 1997, Part 2: The South of France, France, 1997, Part 1: ParisBelgium, 1997Holland, 1997England, 1997I first started travellingBy special requestHome is where you make itI first started writing