Leaving Denmark, we crossed farm lands and harbors before reaching the edge of the country. Our train conductor mumbled something in Danish or German – we weren’t sure – and all of a sudden our train boarded a ferry boat bound for Germany. Yes, an entire train on a boat. It was an odd sight but super cool because we got to ferry across the water from Denmark to northern Germany.
We hopped off our train and onto another local commuter train before arriving at Alexanderplatz station in east Berlin. We then walked a long 25 minutes to our hostel, EastSeven in Prenzlauer Berg. We had a private room, with a garden view. According to our guide book, Prenzlauer Berg has come back to life after years of neglect. Small cafe’s and shops line the graffiti covered streets. Rick Steve’s says it’s known as “casting alley” because of it’s share of beautiful people. It’s trendy and comfortable – we both decided this is where we’d want to live if we were locals.
After dropping off our packs, we walked around the quiet neighborhood, exploring the walls of graffiti and leaf covered parks. It wasn’t unnerving graffiti like you would find in sketchy areas. It was cool – if that makes sense?
We had asked our front desk where a close grocery store was in relation to our hostel – right down the street. It was cheap. Crazy cheap. We opted for our favorite meal, pizza but instead of getting just one, we purchased a three pack for $3 Euro and a bottle of wine. While cooking dinner, we befriended a group of travelers and ended up drinking beer and playing cards until the wee hours. It was nice to relax, let our guards down and hang out with new friends.
The next day, we didn’t get moving until mid afternoon.
When we did get moving, we headed out of our trendy little neighborhood to join the rest of Berlin passing Alexanderplatz and onto Unter den Linden, the long touristy street leading to Museum Island and the Berlin Cathedral. The Berlin Cathedral and outdoor markets surrounding the park were alive and full of tourists. Berlin sees more tourists than Rome supposedly.
After walking about half way down the main drag – we decided to head back to the hostel and cook another great pasta/wine dinner. We also tried to watch Anthony Bourdain episodes but the internet wasn’t great so we did some trip planning, mapped out our walking route for sightseeing the next day. Lucky for us, it was sunny and clear the next morning.
With the guide book in hand, we started our self-walking tour, opting to save $10 euro each by doing a self-walk tour instead of a tour group tour. We began at the Reichstag parliament building. The building had been bombed, burned and rebuilt. Due to it’s history, they have a very strict entry policy whereby you need to purchase tickets in advance and go through a series of security checks. As we approached we noticed protestors with signs and speakers, chanting something in German – we thought it was just another protest at a government building. Then, as we walked closer, they started yelling in English, “What do we want?”, “Pasta!”, “When do we want it?”, “Now!”, “Eat more pasta”! It was national past day.
Everyone was joining the cheers and it was great. Oh, and of course this meant we were doing pasta for dinner again tonight. From the parliament building we walked to the Brandenburg Gate, in central Berlin, walking along the cobblestone path where the Berlin wall once stood.
It was now about 1:00 pm and we headed toward the German memorial for the murdered Jews of Europe. If you can’t tell by now – our days revolve around meals. : )
We sat at a German restaurant across from the memorial and enjoyed beers, brats and a pizza. Warmed up and with our second wind ready to go, we walked throughout the memorial, hiding in the giant pillars and climbing on top of them. There 2,711 gravestone like pillars – the number of pillars doesn’t mean anything, we learned, it’s just how many could fit on the lot. We disappeared into the pillars, some ten feet high. We actually lost each other for a good ten minutes inside the pillar forest. One thing we thought was really odd, was that the pillars are coated in a graffiti-resistant coating that was produced by the same company that produced the chemical gas in concentration camps. So, it’s a German sponsored memorial for the murdered Jews of Europe and they used the same company? We may have understood it incorrectly, but that’s just messed up. It was beautiful and a must-see if you’re ever in Berlin.
The real remaining sections were quite a ways a way, but we were determined to see it. Also, the real section was past Check Point Charlie so we had to push on. We cut through a park and took a wrong turn and got lost for an hour and it was now getting dark. Tired, we wanted to abandon our quest but we knew we’d regret not pushing on. Eventually we crossed a bridge and found the intact section that was now covered in graffiti and artistic displays of political implications. It’s hard to take in that the wall was in our lifetime and how it took so long to reunite Germany.
We caught a train across the street and headed back to Alexanderplatz and our hostel. It was a long day of walking but worth it in every way. Gnocchi, bread and wine was on our dinner list and we joked throughout that we were doing our part for national pasta day.
We were off to Amsterdam in the morning! Prost!