Berlin, Germany

This one was practically free thanks to a years worth of air miles.  Gotta love British Airways! So it would be a sin against travelling not to squeeze in a little 10 day Eastern European city jaunt. Any excuse.

Berlin is another SanFran/Melbourne/Luang Prabang, i.e I challenge you to find a single person who doesn’t love it. Given most of them at some point mention famed techno superclub Berghain/Panoramabar – it opens at 12pm Fri and goes right through until Sunday morning, attracting Israeli and European weekenders. And yes I know to write about Berlin and not be all up on the nightlife scene is major blogging faux pas, but your clue really is in the word ‘techno.’ Best left for the cool kids.

Instead I spent a slightly more sedate Wednesday evening watching a duo of Scottish buskers charm the crowds under the railway arches of Alexanderplatz – the central plaza from the Bourne Identity, which in real life is just crying out as a meeting point for Jason Bourne to leap a tram. It’s a tiny bit retro.  It’s flagship store is a C&A, last seen in England in about 1985. However even this can’t dint a Berliner’s reputation. They are undeniably cool, aided by either: A dog, a bicycle, or a skateboard. Dont even think about living here with out at least one.

I stay about 20 mins from the central TV Tower icon, along trendy Schonhauser Allee which alternates organic delis, frozen yoghurt shops, and intriguingly, a store that sells cobwebbed 1920 typewriters. It’s one of those – still light at 10pm August evenings – hence everyone (and their skateboards and dogs) line the streets on Parisian style cafe furniture and British seaside striped deck chairs. It’s kitsch heaven.

One & a half packed days was enough to see the major sights: The East Side Gallery – A 20 min section of the Berlin Wall which still stands. Cue some graffiti appreciation.

Checkpoint Charlie – the old East/West Army checkpoint that divided the city. It’s home to the famous ‘You are now leaving the American Sector’ sign, which comically is now impossible to photograph without McDonald’s golden arches glowing in the background. Oh, and this next bit excited me greatly. For a 1 euro you can get a ‘checkpoint Charlie’ passport stamp. Is this legal, I’m not sure? But I of course I did it, most likely leading to some future drama on a far South East Asia border where they will no doubt be confused by my 1945 time travel.

Whilst wandering from CC to the super modern Potsdamerplatz, you pass the Topographie des Terrors –  a free outside photography museum of the Nazi rise to power. Except heading West along Niederkirchner street I managed to read from the 1980’s fall of the wall, backwards. So it’s possibly advisable to approach it the other way. There’s interesting sections in there about the German Resistance, and various Hitler assassination attempts, if like Mark and I you are obsessed with the film Valkory (watch it!)

To round off the wartime theme we touristed it up on Tour One of Berlin Underground Tours. Tour 1 takes you underground to abandoned tube station wartime bunkers. Much like being transported back to a GCSE History lesson, it’s striking to see it from a German perspective. Plus there’s a really cool bit with glow in the dark paint and shadows. I won’t spoil it!

Well worth the hassle of pre-registering via email is the Reichstag Dome. It’s free but you have to sign up for a time slot. It’s open skied dome is designed to let in water when it rains, but on a cloudless day you can just lay and stare out a while.

Where I stayed: Pfefferbett Hostel / Agon Litchtburg am Kurfurstebdam

Liked: 1) Lush delis with salad rolls for 3 euros, the food is great & so cheap. 2) The Agon hotel, really decent despite mixed Trip Advisor reviews 3) The bars around Oranieburger, especially cheap Desparado beers in the sunshine.

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An.an.tas.in : The Anantasin is the name of a shipwreck just of the coast of the Sensi Parasise, Mae Haad Bay, Koh Tao, Thailand. It’s one of my many favorite places.

Lit.tle: Just because it’s cute.

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