Sunday, November 16, 2008

Day 17: Ich ben ein Berliner

The train ride up to Berlin was horrible. The couchette was sweltering hot, and the two other people we were sharing with had 2 oversized bags a piece. There was no room to move and too hot to sleep. Worst part of all though was that all the chocolates I had bought were all melted. What a bummer. We were kicked off the train early and were told we needed to take a different connection than planned. When we finally arrived in Berlin, nearly half the day was gone.

I had made reservations at the same hostel chain that we had stayed at in Austria. Who would have thought a chain hostel would be drastically different from one place to the next. Upon entering our room we found what looked like a tornado had passed through. It was worse than my teenaged brother's bedrooms and bathroom which, anyone in my family can attest, is saying something. We took the opportunity to change clothes, then took our suitcases with us back over to the front desk. 'There's no way we're staying in that room', we told the receptionist. She made us take her back to the room so she could see for herself. 'I guess the room hasn't been cleaned yet', came her response, as if we were too dumb to figure that one out on our own. After talking it over, we put our luggage into the storage area, since there was no other available room. My mom and I decided we'd look for another place to stay later, because we were on a time crunch.
But then after greater hesitation we decided to quickly look online and found a much better hostel to stay with. We had enough time to check into the other hostel before our tour of Berlin started. Just as I was getting my money back from the hostel, a herd of young people piled into the reception area. We managed to squeeze our way through the teenagers and their luggage to find that the elevator down to the storage area was blocked by the herd as well. So we took the stairs, which unbeknown to us had been mopped within the 5 minutes we had stored our suitcases. My poor little mom, not knowing the floors were wet, started down the stairs, slipped and landed on her arm. It immediately started to swell and bruise. I grabbed the suitcases, and helped her carry hers up the stairs and left the hole of a hostel as quickly as we could through the back door.

The metro dropped us off at the doorstep of the hostel we changed to, which was located in once was East Berlin. It also happened to be a stones throw from most every place we wanted to visit, which made the change even more convenient. Gratefully we entered our private and wonderfully clean room, dropped off our things and left for the designated spot for our tour. On the way we stopped at a pharmacy for my mom to get pain and swelling reducing medicine. When she returned home she found out her arm wasn't broken like we suspected, she had a blood clot instead.
We made it to our tour, and even had time to get doner kebabs to eat along the way. The tour was fantastic. The guide was an expat studying German history at the University of Berlin, and was a plethora of knowledge. For nearly 4 hours she led us on a journey through the history of East Berlin. We stood at the river and learned of the city's beginnings as port, we went to the museum island and learned of the history of the Kaisers, we walked down Unter den Linden street where Hitler had cut down all the trees to have a better view during his dictatorship.
We walked by a free standing piece of the wall, she explained to us stories about Checkpoint Charlie as we stood in front of it, we walked through the Jewish Memorial, and stood on Hitler's rightfully deserved memorial... a parking lot.

After the tour ended, we loaded up on more delicious chocolates at a gormet chocolate shop, before going over to the Opera House. As we entered the concert hall, we looked like homeless people among the rich. Everyone was dressed in their Sunday finest, except for us. We soon discovered that the concert had to be a school run production when the first 30 minutes faculty were being thanked, and 2 minutes of clapping followed each name that was read aloud. We stayed for the next hour listening to the symphony and left after the intermission when more speeches began.
When we finally made it to the hostel I was famished. So my mom and I ate a curry worst and fries at the downstairs restaurant of the hostel and finally crashed for the night.

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