September 19th (cont.);
We arrived in Berlin at around 730PM. Berlin Hauptbahnhof (Central: Haupt, Station: Bahnof) is the craziest train station I have ever seen. It is 5 floors with open air walkways crisscrossing up, down, and all around. On the bottom floor are 8 tracks for trains North/Southbound. 3 Floors up are another set of 8 tracks going West/Eastbound. You could stand in the middle floor and watch trains pass by above and below you. Coleman and I guessed the size was comparable to the entirety of SeaTac terminals.
I couldn’t get a picture that could encapsulate it’s scale. So here is a Google image search.
Our hostel was right around the corner. Both Coleman and I were antsy to just walk around. A short distance away was the Brandenburg Gate. It was built to commemorate the restoration of order after the Batavian Revolution. As I read aloud the summary, Coleman rightly corrected that it was built to commemorate the failure of the Batavian Revolution. History is truly written by the victors. On the other side of the gate was a huge park. I thought it would be best if we had the morning to enjoy the nature.
German McDonald’s! We backtracked a bit and found a McDonald’s in a train station. Less impressive than any of the other McDonald’s we’ve had thus far. We both ordered something called the Big Tasty and it wasn’t anything special. So far nothing held up to the French McDonald’s experience.
First full day in Germany! Coleman barely can read some of the German so it was fun constantly poking him about what everything said. He was not helpful. Augsgang; Exit, Eigang; Enter. We figured those out pretty fast.
The S-Bahn took us to the other side of the park that we had briefly seen last night. As big as the park was, it wasn’t as nearly as pleasant as the ones in Paris. It was more heavily wooded with and felt more like the pacific northwest wooded areas. Perhaps I had been spoiled by Paris’s gardens and parks. We ended up ignoring a lot of the scenery around us and enjoyed our walk and talked.
With two of our biggest touristy cities behind us, I had guessed that the rest of our trip was going to be more down tempo and therefore give time to reflect. This is why I came on this trip in the first place. After graduating college I continued my work with Tack as a full time employee. I don’t regret the 3 years I spent doing Tack but I was starting to feel trapped. I’m an ambitious person and I couldn’t see where I was going anymore. Coleman perhaps needed this trip for a similar reason. He explained that he felt like he came out of college without the education that he wanted. Not getting in Informatics was something that had set him back professionally and he now had to seek alternative, more resistive ways to learn what he wanted to do what he wanted. It made me realize that I had been lucky to have the opportunities I did and connect with truly amazing people. I had been feeling all my friends are moving in a direction that I’m not quite ready for. I wasn’t sure what my future amongst my peers was going to look like. Before this trip, I was set on finding my next adventure in another city. Now I wasn’t sure if I was ready to strain those connections. This was the first time I had questioned that intent.
On our way to Museum Island we happened by the Raichstag building with a huge glass dome on top of it. Apparently it is free to go to the dome and we just needed to reserve a timeslot in advance so we hopped in line and got a slot for the next morning. I had theorized because it is to discourage malicious acts as it is right above their state chambers. Museum Island, as it’s name suggests is an island with the cities museums on it. We got a half price day ticket for 9 euro and toured the island for about 4 hours. We saw what was apparently the reconstruction of the Gates of Babylon; the Ishtar Gates.
Besides that, I think the Louvre ruined this experience for me. How could any other museum compare to the largest collection of art and artifacts. I was unfortunately for the most part underwhelmed.
The only thing in Berlin that both Coleman and I wanted to see was the Berlin Wall. We visited the Berlin Wall memorial which was only one stop away from our Hostel. The memorial was broken into three parts. The two outer parts were both parks surrounded by the wall with plaques and displays explaining the state Germany was in with the walls up.
The middle part was a preserved section of the wall as it was in the past. It was only viewable from an observation tower across the street as the preservation was completely walled off on the ground.
It was a surprisingly somber experience standing on that tower looking at a piece of what stretched across the entirety of Germany. To think that our parents were alive when the events transpired here and only shortly before us was it torn down.
KFC! We were hankering for some chicken. European KFC had way more chicken sandwiches than fried chicken itself. It’s fascinating how these fast food chains outside the United States change their menu. It’s one of those things where you are confident you know everything about but actually haven’t got a clue.
Our time slot for entry into the Raichstag dome was 10:30PM so we took our time in the morning. We packed, checked out, left our stuff at the reception desk and made our way to the dome.
The top of the dome overlooked most of the city and a walk way that spiraled upward to the top and then back down.
Around the base of the dome a series of panels explaining the history of German politics. The dome was constructed with glass to symbolically represent the transparency of German democracy. An audioguide was given to us when we entered the base and it responded to sensors in the walkway. It gave a pretty detailed description of all the buildings directly in your line of sight as you walked. The top of the dome offered a sprawling view of Berlin from all sides.
We had just enough time to eat lunch before our train was to depart. We headed back to Alexanderplatz, which I had nicknamed Alexstraszaplaza (reference), and had lunch. After that we went back to our hostel to grab our stuff and head towards the train station.
Next stop prague.