So the day was finally here…All these months of planning were now going to actually take shape. First stop in my 15 days Eurotrip itinerary was Berlin.
I landed in Berlin at 9 am, after an 8 hour long flight. I had planned my arrival in such a way that I would actually have the whole of that day as well to explore the city.
With the zillion blogs that I had read about 15 days not being long enough to visit and explore 4 countries and 5 cities, every moment was going to be precious.
As soon as I landed at the Berlin airport, I felt lost.The reason for this was the confusing signboards.I could not read heads or tails of what was written on those boards and thus had no clue which direction to head to.
The good part was that I had saved some names which were checkpoints in order to ensure that I reached my hostel safe and sound. Standing at the airport, it felt like I was in a game of treasure hunt with the ultimate goal of decoding the signboards so as to reach my hostel safe and sound.
Well, to be honest safety was not my concern.I had travelled enough to know that Europe was not a place to be worried much about the safety angle, except obviously being careful about ones belongings.
I somehow managed to ask around a bit, and headed towards the train station. My hostel was closer to Alexanderplatz and now all I had to do was to find my way to the train which will get me there.
Except that it wasn’t that simple. Once in the station, I saw so many terminals, so many people and so many vending machines that for a moment I had to just stand back and take it all in.
I then headed to the vending machine, and purchased a single way ride for the AB zone. The AB zone is Berlin central and is where mainly all the attractions are. The airport is in the C zone by the way and in case you have to head to catch a flight, you might have to take the ABC zone ticket instead.
Okay, but just because you managed to get the ticket out of the vending machine, don’t go all prancing around. There is one more task to do before you actually board the train and that is to validate the ticket. I know that because I forgot to do the very same thing(darn it).
I had just boarded my train to the Berlin central when someone walked up to me and asked where could they validate their tickets from.And I was like, huh!!! Thankfully we had a train conductor around who just validated it for us on the spot instead of making us go all the way back to the machines or worse to the Berlin prison :/.
By now my backpack seemed to be getting heavier by the minute and I was just so glad to get it off my back once I settled on to a seat.The journey from the airport to Alexanderplatz took a total of 20 mins and then I was out finding the directions to my hostel which was to be around 10 mins walking. But obviously the 10 mins for me turned out to be 45 mins as I kept getting lost and kept asking around till I finally made it. Yippee… Am here finally…
was definitely a great one from the first looks of it. The reception area was plush with comfy seating areas, luggage room on one side, laundry area and a restaurant. The lodging were on the floors above and could be accessed by the lifts.
The highlight of Wombats hostel as per all the reviews was its roof bar which gave a nice view of the tallest tower in the city which was the TV tower. I had it in my mind to definitely check out the bar and the view soon.
While checking in, the receptionist told me that my room would be only ready by 2 pm and that meant I had a good 2 hours to whle away.
I had already anticipated this happening and had found out of this free walking tour which started at 1 pm from a hostel not too far from mine. I had an hour before that started and so I decided to freshen up, store my luggage, eat something on the way out before finally looking out for the address.
While by now I should have ideally learnt my lesson of pre loading the gps direction to the place I wanted to go but obviously that wasn’t the case. Again I ended up lost in the Berlin streets trying to figure out where Hotel Holiday Inn was because that was the only clue I had for this hunt of mine. At dot 1 pm I cracked the code and found myself standing next to the walking tour group..sigh…Nailed it…
This was the , again a find from the Internet and the aim was for me to hear about the history of Berlin in brief as well as get to know all the famous places in and around which I would like to explore later in a greater detail.
That is one major reason I feel about why we should do these walking tours right in the beginning when in a new city. The tour guides are experienced and can help you plan out your next few trips better while taking you around. Plus not to forget it’s the cheapest option to know all important stuff about the city in a 2-3 hour window.
My group had around 20 people and all from different countries. We started the walk with introductions, then went on to see Alexanderplatz, then crossed the huge TV satellite tower, went to the Berliner dome, then to Checkpoint charlie, remaining Berlin war and the jew memorial.
Our last stop was the Branderburg gate from where we were now to find our way back ourselves…overall while he tour was okay, I definitely have been to better ones and would give it a rating of a 6.
By now my back, my feet, my shoulders, my head and everything else was hurting like hell.All I wanted was a hot water bath, clean clothes and a bed to go sleep my jet lag off.
I had plans to catchup with a friend for dinner and knew I had good 2-3 hours to rest until then.
My dorm room by the way was quite comfortable with the sound proof window glasses coming in as a gift from heaven. Also when I checked in, I was the only one in the room and so took my time taking a shower, playing music and just chilling…what a bliss I tell you.
I woke up half an hour later than the time I was to meet my friend for dinner and thus rushed to get ready and head out. The place was just a 10 min cab ride away and was super convenient to find. My friend had three local German girl friends of his and it was a blast to hang out with the group. In fact since I was by now well rested, I was fresh and in high spirits. It was definitely a great evening, the first of many I hope in this trip.
I had no plans of waking up early the next day and hence went to bed with all alarms off, my ear plugs on and the eye mask secured. Good night sweet people.
Next morning I woke up just in time for breakfast which was a 4 Euro buffet with a decent variety.I totally believe that breakfast is definitely the most important meal of the day and so I usually never miss breakfast and try having a nice heavy and wholesome meal which keeps me energetic for atleast half of the day.
Post breakfast, I lazed around a bit more before finally deciding to go take a shower and get out to go to the famous which happened to be just 25 minutes from the hostel.
It was already 1 in the afternoon by the time I finally managed to get moving. I was in high spirits with the weather being perfect and me being fully rejuvenated after a great sleep.
Taking directions from the receptionist,I walked towards the flea market which was just a 20 minute walk. The market was easy to find as it seemed that half of the city was heading there itself. Once I reached and entered, I knew exactly why the whole world was going. It was huge.
The market on one side had small shops which sold almost anything and everything. On the other side was an open ground where many people were just sitting or taking a nap or listening to the live bands playing for the crowd.
It was definitely a happy place to be and I was so glad I had decided to come here.I have no clue how I ended up spending close to three hours in this place but I did. There was just so much to see, to shop, to eat and to listen to. I highly recommend anyone who is in Berlin on a Sunday to go and visit.
Around 4 I decided to walk further ahead from the flea market as my hostel guide had mentioned there was a wall memorial and documentation just 10 minutes ahead from the market.
I wasn’t going to miss it if I had come all the way here right. Plus I was fascinated by the East and West Europe partition via the wall for a long while now.
Though I had read about it in school, but being so close to the real thing and reading the experiences was a different thing all together.
As you walk towards the memorial, you will see on your left a garden area with pictures and inscriptions on the walls.Thats where it starts from. You walk through the garden and can easily spend close to two hours just reading and listening(audio machines) to what exactly happened and how it felt to be a part of that time. Some interviews of the people were truly horrific. Hearing how kids got seperated from parents because of the wall, lovers got pulled apart and other such stories truly made me feel glad and lucky of being born at a different time and a different place.
One picture has stayed in my mind, which was a photo of a newly married couple looking up to a window across the wall where the brides old parents are waving and crying as they were happy for their daughter yet extremely sad that they couldn’t be a part of it. The tears in the brides eyes were so real that I almost reared up myself.
After the garden ends on the other side of the road you can see a memorial center with almost 2 floors capturing all the episodes of before , during and after the wall partition. The two hours spent here were very special to me and I felt so close to the real Berlin. Am so glad I had decided to visit.
It was already 7 by the time I started back to the hostel and after stopping by for dinner I headed back to the hostel to just relax there. Tomorrow I planned to wake up early and go on a tour of the concentration camps. It was going to be my last day in Berlin tomorrow and I planned to visit all the important must see places before I left the city.
Woke up nice and early as I planned to join the tour which was to start at 9 from the Brandenburg gate. By now I was pretty familiar with the directions and so it took me less than 15 minutes to find my way there. Once there, I looked around for people in red shirts which said Sandemans so that I could go and get myself a ticket. Unlike the last few days, it was pretty chilly today and I was glad to be appropriately covered. Soon I spotted the tour people and walked up to them to get my tickets. Since I hadn’t booked in advance I was told to wait and only if there was space in the group would I be taken along.Hmm…Please let there be some place for me. I wouldn’t want to have woken up early for nothing.
I guess I did turn lucky, as they did have space and I was given a ticket after all.Yipeee…
The tour had around 15 people and the guide seemed to be pretty friendly as well. We were to first take a metro ride up till the Oranienburg for which we needed the ABC zone tickets. I had bought mine in advance and hence went straight up with the group to the station and on to the metro for a 40 minute ride. The public system in Europe is fab by the way. So simple and so efficient. One can easily find their way in the city relying completely on the public transport.
Once we were at the station we all got together again as a group and followed our tour guide all the way to the main entry of the camps. The walk through the gates was very intimidating itself. To think about all that had happened inside these gates was beyond imagination. Till now, I had only read about the horrors,but today I was going to be actually a part of where and how these horrors were actually executed.
The strange part was that outside the gates of these camps were the residential areas of the guards and their Nazi seniors. They stayed their with their families in order to showcase normalcy to the outside world. What their little kids playing outside in the garden on a usual day wouldn’t know, was what was actually happening just a few blocks inside.
Once we were inside the gates, we walked up to the training grounds of the erstwhile Nazi military. This area is now the training grounds of the police force. Irony is that they are being now trained in the same grounds of what was the most hated army of 1930’s. When I asked this question to the guide, she told me that this was exactly why they had chosen these grounds, so as to remind the police force never to let power get to their head and to instead be the force which helps the people and not the one which forces them to despise them.
The training grounds were attached to the officers mess where all officers of that time would come and have their meals. This was the place which had abundant food in contrast to the barracks for the prisoners which barely had enough food to feed even 1/3rd of the actual people who were to be fed. Thus the prisoners who were chosen as the servers in the mess were slightly better off than their companions as they always had the opportunity to sneak some food while no one was looking.
Further ahead we entered through the main watch tower area, which was also where the commandant of the army of guards would sit. The barracks in front of the tower was made in such a way that all the towers were visible from the top of the watch tower. The formation of the barracks was in the shape of a T. In front of the main tower there was an empty ground where all the inmates would have a roll call every morning and evening. Morning before they left for the work assigned to them and evening after they had come back. The idea was to check that none of the inmates had escaped. In case someone had died because of the several reasons they could have for, the body had to be bought in front of the guards so that they could confirm that that actually was the case.
Imagine standing out in the cold, with just a thin layer of clothing, with no food in the hungry, empty stomachs and being forced to stand still else being beaten up by the guards.
The area perimeter of the camp was corded off by a electric wire and then a high wall thus ensuring nine escaped. In fact there was a strict rule that anyone who was in the proximity of the wire would be shot by the guards with no explanation whatsoever. Many a times if a guard did not like a particular inmate, he would just force him to go close to the wires and then shoot him down.
We then went inside some of the barracks to get an actual picture of how the inmates lived. The place was build for around 200 people, but in time the barracks actually housed 500.
The living conditions were so poor and terrifying that there was an instant gloom which hit all of us. The beds, the place where they were expected to bathe or do theirmorning routines and even the eating area were horrible.
We quickly got out of the barracks and went about to see the rest of the camp. By now, I had started feeling depressed and was just glad when the tour finally came to an ed. Such horrific experiences the prosioners would have had, I cannot even begin to imagine.
Once out of the camp, I took the metro back to the city where I decided to make a quick stop to the colorful Berlin wall with all the grafitti on it.
After such a drab start, I was just glad to get some colour into my day with these beautiful pieces of art which all had the same story to say.
I finished my day with early dinner nearby to my hostel and headed back to pack y belongings as tomorrow I was off to my next pitstop ad that was Prague.
Thats all of me from Berlin. Hope you enjoyed my travel experiences.Keep reading to hear about how my Prague trip went.