After arriving in Berlin, I quickly set out via the bus and subway to the Axel Hotel where Karan had booked a room. After a long layover in Istanbul, I was pampered on my flight to Berlin by the flight attendants on Turkish Airlines.
After arriving at the hotel, I went out and walked around to explore the area as I usually do when I travel. In a stark contrast to Italy, Berlin is very quiet, very orderly, and very clean. It looks like a well kept modern city.
It just so happened that it was Karan’s birthday that day so I stopped by a liquor store and got him a bottle of pink vodka. I figured it fit his personality well. It tasted great too. He let me have a taste. It had a berry flavor to it.
I set out to explore the city after an early morning lay-out on the rooftop terrace. I first got on the subway and then walked about a half hour to the Brandenburg Gate.
The Brandenburg Gate is a historical site completed in 1791 near the city center. Many historical events, both good and bad, have taken place at or near this location. Today, it is a symbol of peace , progress, and prosperity. When photographing the gate, I used an extreme wide angle lens to capture the whole scene. That made the monument look a lot smaller than it really is. In person, the Brandenburg Gate is a tall, prominent structure.
After leaving the Brandenburg Gate, my intention was to go to the Berliner Fernsehturm via the subway but I ended up walking all the way there. It wasn’t that far. I kind of enjoyed it.
The Berliner Fernsehturm is a television tower that was completed in 1969 by the German Democratic Republic (Wikipedia). It was built as a symbol of communism and oppression but like the Brandenburg Gate, today it is symbol of the progress the city has made over the decades. Like other towers I’ve been to, the Berliner Fernsehturm has an observation deck and a revolving restaurant at the top. I have, on occasion, dined that the restaurant of these types of towers, but I usually don’t because I don’t find the quality of the food they serve to match the price they ask for. You mainly pay for the view.
In the late afternoon, after more walking around, I stopped for dinner at a Mexican restaurant in west Berlin. I ordered a frozen strawberry margarita and a vegetarian chimichanga. I suppose the margarita was as good as you could get at a Mexican restaurant in Germany, but the owner of the establishment should probably re-evaluate his/her knowledge of Mexican cuisine. A chimichanga is a deep friend burrito. That is NOT what was served to me. A more accurate description of my dish would be a soft shell taco filled with onion, zucchini, jalapeno, and other vegetables topped with red tomatillo sauce. The presentation was beautiful. It tasted delicious and I would definitely order the dish again……..but it was not a chimicanga.
I set out to East Berlin to explore that side of the city. Drastic efforts have been made to unify both sides of the city since the fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989. Though much progress has been made, visually there are still large differences between East and West Berlin. East Berlin has a darker, less vibrant appearance. It has a lot of character, but the differences between the two sides of the city are, at least visually, still apparent.
I walked to the East Side Gallery in East Berlin. There is where a section of the Berlin Wall still stands. Not as physical barrier, but as a symbol of how far along the city has come. The Berlin Wall was a barrier that physically separated East and West Berlin between 1961 and 1989.
In some ways, despite it’s complicated past, Berlin could be used as a role model for cities and countries in political turmoil. There is no doubt that Germany has some dark areas in it’s history. But Germany doesn’t hide from it’s past or pretend it doesn’t exist. Germany acknowledges it’s dark past and has made great efforts to not repeat it. As a result, today, Germany is often considered one of the best countries in the world to live.
I stopped for dinner at a burger joint in West Berlin. I had a vegetarian burger and a Coke Zero to drink. I tend to drink a lot of soda when I travel. I wish I didn’t do that because I rarely drink soda when I’m at home in Hawaii. It’s just a habit I have to break I guess.
I got back on the subway and went to the Berlin Mall. I wanted to see what kind of stores they had. I didn’t buy anything because I didn’t see anything there that I couldn’t buy in North America. I did buy some German chocolates to bring home with me.
At night for dinner, I stopped at a pizza joint for a margharita pizza. I’m realizing that I eat a lot of pizza when I travel. It was alright. Unlike in Italy, the pizza served to me in Germany was cut into slices. I ate it the same way I eat pizza back home.
After dinner, I got on the train one more time and made my way to Berlin-Tegel airport. I was flying back to Hawaii the following morning and decided to just sleep on an airport bench than pay for another night in a hotel. Often those airport benches are just as comfortable as a hotel bed.
I travel because I have a constant curiosity of what the world has to offer me. Down the road when I am older and unable to travel any more, I don’t want to look back and regret not having gone somewhere. A lot of this trip to Germany and Italy didn’t go as planned, but all that did go well far outweigh what didn’t. I’m thinking that the next few places I go to will be colder countries, and though I love company, I might consider going on my next trip by myself without a travel partner. But no matter what happens, I will always look back on this trip and smile because of what a great time I had.