Thursday, March 8, 2012

A Weekend in Berlin

So, I'm a little late getting this put together but I have been wanting to share a few things with you about my trip to Berlin with Mohammad the weekend before last.

First of all, for those who remember the movie Snakes on a Plane, here's an even wilder alternate:

    Snakes on a Plane                       Snacks on a Train
 (*Snakes on a Plane still source:
 The 2 pictures evoke the same level of scary, don't they? I mean it looks like the "Snakes..." guy wants to eat the snake, and the "Snacks..." guy is probably overwhelmed by all the snacks he has to eat!
I'll try to put more info up soon about the making of my snack contributions: couscous poppers and banana walnut loaf. I don't know the secrets to Mohammad's sandwiches though...

As you can see, we spent most of the trip in a cold train car - it made catching up on our sleep much harder!
After arriving we had a few things to get done, including making our way to the hotel, then we decided to wander around the city for the evening and find somewhere to eat. We headed to the Friedrichshein-Kreuzberg area and ended up eating at Sadhu, a Pakistani restaurant with good food (although they were a bit shy about making it spicy), a cool atmosphere and awesome service. After dinner we stuck to this part of town for quite a while, just walking around absorbing a bit of the nightlife. It was then that we realized that in comparison to Freiberg we were both experiencing some culture shock, from both the number and diversity of the people that we were seeing, especially since we were out in the evening!

The next day we had planned to do some sightseeing and check out the city; Mohammad had never spent any time in Berlin before. Although we were hoping to join the New Europe Free Tour since there are so many historical landmarks in the city to learn about, they were either super popular that day (for a weekend in February) or just short-staffed because they turned us away saying they were already full. It was a good thing I had a map with me and had been to Berlin before (and been on the tour) so that I could at least lead Mohammad around the sights they would have taken us to and make him read whatever signs were posted there (historic facts, especially dates have never been very easily stuck in my brain so I couldn't really play the tour guide this time).

We took a break at Humboldt University and right in the main foyer we found this pretty entertaining:

Be Very Careful!
I know it may be hard to focus when walking up a marble staircase, but I still find it unbelievable that they needed to mark every single step with a sign saying Watch Your Step (Vorsicht Stufe) at the university.

Based on recommendations we went to check out Kunsthaus Tacheles which was originally built as a department store in the early 1900s but has since been taken over as art house used to create, display and sell independent works, despite previous eviction orders on the tenants.

What was left of the day was spent shopping and eating sushi!

Sunday morning started with a lovely run along the lake though the park right beside our hotel, then we got our stuff organized to drop off at the train station and ourselves organized for a bit more exploring.

In case anyone is heading to Berlin, there are no 'normal' luggage lockers within the central train station itself (although there are apparently some in one of the underground parking lots). Because they're afraid of us leaving our baggage in their wonderful train station (actually although I can find articles about watching your luggage and dangers of leaving it unattended at train stations,  I finally found a link somewhere that it's because of the threat of terrorists) they've opened a Luggage Centre (Gep├Ąck Center) where, for a mere 5€ a day they'll scan your suitcase, tag it and wait for you to return for it (they don't wait all night though - open 6am-10pm).

We couldn't be hauling our bags around when heading to the Deutscher Bundestag (German Parliament):

This building is pretty amazing and you can see how big the dome is both by seeing our smiling faces in the top-right photo and in seeing all the people in it on the bottom-left hand side. It's designed so that the citizens are able to watch over their politicians and the decision making going on in the chambers directly below. We were lucky to have such a beautiful day with a clear blue, meaning we could see all of the city from up there.

Lastly, we joined a group of CouchSurfers on a treasure hunt (Ralley) walk, following clues to lead us through the Zoological Gardens and back into the city centre area again. Although we weren't any help, it was nice to meet some people and explore a different part of the city. It was taking a long time to get through all the questions and eventually Mohammad had to leave to catch his flight and I accompanied him back to the train station.

After Mohammad left to head to the airport and I was alone with a few hours to kill I tried to meet with the CouchSurfers again at a cafe (which turned out to be closed that day) and although  I didn't mange to find them again, I did enjoy listening to the small waves of this pond hit the thin layer of ice on top of it. It was like the sound of sparkles or something.

Is there a word to describe that?

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