We hit the ground running in Berlin, mostly out of necessity.
Our train arrived roughly 4 hours before we could check into our hotel. Luckily, we packed light and just had our backpacks with us.
The good news was that Brandenburg Gate was on the way, as well as the Tiergarten.
The bad news is that a protest had happened there only a few days before and the police had roughly the half mile around the gate completely blocked off.
Not speaking German and not being connected to German news, Sal and I had no idea. We just thought maybe there was a way you had to go in. So we wandered around the perimeter of the police blockade for a solid 45 minutes before giving up.
This did however allow us to walk through the Mall of Berlin, which is a huge grouping of very old buildings. After eating a quick lunch and getting some coffee, we gave up and went to the hotel hoping we could check in early.
That did not happen. However, I asked if we could get a beer at the hotel bar at noon and the guy smiled at me and said, "But of course, this is Germany."
We sort of got the layout of the city the first night we were there and went by Checkpoint Charlie. It was cool seeing the Checkpoint... but it's also the most miserable place to deal with tourists. It's situated in the middle of a very busy street. The sidewalks are very narrow, and at least 20 nationalities all speaking different languages are fighting to get a picture of the Checkpoint station.
That night we found a great craft beer and German food spot called Das Meisterstück. Our server was a really nice guy that helped us choose from the 130 beers they had at this place. We chatted him up more and he knew St. Louis because of Urban Chestnut. Also turned out that he was a brewer, having done a 3 year apprenticeship, his first designed beer was going to be tapped the next night. He wrote the address of the place on a coaster and told us to come on down.
The next day we hit Museum Island. It's a convenient place with 5 of Berlin's best museums and the Cathedral all located on the same grounds.
These museums blew us away. There weren't ropes holding you back from exihibits. There weren't tons of tourists or field trips. You just walk into rooms and there's ancient Greek and Roman statues just in the room with you.
One of the museums had rebuilt an entire Greek temple entrance and a huge piece of a Babylonian city gate.
It was as if they were throwing Egypt in your face. The museum had just dozens of sarcophagus and papyrus just laying around. And then there was the bust of Nefertiti, one of the most treasured Ancient Egyptian pieces of art. You could feel it in the room. Things were just heavy in there. Everyone immediately went silent when they entered the doorway. (That might have something to do with the 4 armed guards stationed in the room as well)
It was an unbelievable day that we didn't think we could top.
Then came our last day where we wandered the Tiergarten (huge park in the middle of the city) and went to the Berliner Dom. This was one of the most unexpected tours we did. At first, it looked like a larger version of what we saw in Dublin. I was slightly disappointed at the 7 Euro entrance fee.
Then we started going up stairs. And up more stairs. And more. Every now and then there would be an little exhibit showing the construction of the Cathedral. Then, after the 26th flight of stairs, we opened a little metal door and found ourselves on the roof of the cathedral looking out onto the entire city. It's cliche to say, but we were breathless at what we were seeing.
In America, the fear of litigation would keep most places from even considering this part of the exihibit. But as a German told us on the first night, "I don't get why you put leashes on your children. We just trust our people will do what's right and if not, they will learn a lesson." That seemed to be the philosophy for every place we went. Trust that people won't be idiots. It made the experience much better.
Food and Drink
We had several more doner kebabs and sausages, but one thing that surprised us is the Italian food. Apparently Berlin is a hot tourist destination for Italians and you can find really great pasta everywhere. Fantastic pasta at Rosengarten am Engelbecken and Fontana di Trevi.
We did end up going to Hopfenreich to try the debut from Lenny's Artisanal Ales, a delicious smoked India dark ale and hung out with the brewer for a bit more.
Beyond that, I had so many beers, most better than the last. This was sort of a dream trip for a beer drinker like me who really enjoys German beers more than any other flavor.
Leaving Berlin to go back to Osnabruk
We had planned on doing souvenir shopping on our last morning, but didn't realize there was some sort of German holiday. From what was explained to me, it sounded like Easter. Something about "Christ has risen to heaven." Either way, this meant just about every store in Berlin was closed.
It was also around this time that we realized that 15 days was too much. We were starting to hit a wall and we still had 6 days left.
The train ride back was fairly uneventful. Slightly more full than our way there, but we still were able to secure seats.
3 years ago