Sunday, September 16, 2012

Germany 2012

I don't know if anyone reads this blog anymore (as I have not been posting for quite some time). Nevertheless, I figured I would still post.

I just recently completed a trip to Europe. It was actually very spur-of-the-moment and unlike me (as you may know, I like to plan things to death...big things). This trip came about after a very awful, horrible, no good, very bad day at work. I called my friend Robbie to see if he was interested in taking a little trip and he said he was going to Europe and asked if I wanted to tag along (I may have prompted him to ask me). Anyway, I said yes and we got our tickets. However, during part of the trip, he would be working and I would be playing. He said he was going to be in Germany and Switzerland and that, afterward, we could choose to go to either France or Italy. We both decided on France and got our tickets. However, I chose to head to Berlin first and then meet up with him in Cologne (or Köln, as they call it in German). This was also unlike me as it meant I would be traveling alone again in a foreign country (and one where I don't speak the language). I did it anyway and decided I would worry later.

Anyway, I made some plans, got a hotel, and the magic date came quickly. I flew into Dusseldorf and then had to find a way to get to Berlin (train, obviously). Luckily, the train station is at the airport and I was able to buy a ticket to Berlin. Also, thanks to my paranoia and my OCD, I found out how to print an itinerary that listed if I had to make any transfers and what cities I would have to make those transfers in. Had this not happened, I would have gotten on the train and ended up in some small German town with no idea where I was or how to get to Berlin. Anyway, I arrived in Berlin safely and took a cab to my hotel. I checked in (thankfully, the hotel personnel spoke English) without problem and had about 6 hours before bed time, so I went out an wandered. I did get lost but found this neat little "platz"

Platz somewhere in Berlin
It was really pleasant, there were kids running all over, and people speaking in...German. For those of you who have not had the experience, it is very weird to hear people talking and not understand a word any of them are saying. However, it's all part of the fun of the cultural experience.

Anyway, when I finally found my hotel again (I was joined at the hip with my trusty city map), I wandered to a huge park and found the Freedom Tower (or Siegessaule). I saw people up at the top and so went to find the entrance. I bought a ticket and climbed the stairs to the top! It was amazing! Here is some of what I saw:
Yes, it is a roundabout (kind of like the Arc de Triomphe) 

After about 15 minutes of wandering, I found out how to get to the tower (there were no crosswalks and it was a very busy roundabout)

On a tour I had later, the guide said the only damage this tower got during the wars was bullet holes (they were throughout the park that surrounded the tower as well)

Another view from the top of the tower. And yes, that is the Brandenburg next stop in my wanderings :)

If you see that building with the columns on the right side of the street (across from the grass), that is a stair case that you take down to a tunnel, which leads you under the street and you come out at this staircase you can see immediately in front of you (where the people are standing). It was pretty neat.

Another view from the top

More of Berlin

This was a huge park!

Going down

Going up

I really liked this tower. This also started my first real German History lesson. I am embarrassed to say that I am 30 years old and knew very little about German History. In fact, all I knew was about WW2 and the Holocaust, but there is so much more to Germany!

Anyway, if you read the captions, you noticed that I spotted the Brandenburg Gate. It was straight down a main road, so I left the tower and started walking through the park towards the Brandenburg Gate. This is what I found on the way:
I'm not a fan of weeping willows...unless they are in huge parks by water. This was a perfect place for one and an amazing picture!!!

Another view...amazing!

Soviet War Memorial
I then found the Brandenburg Gate. If you are like me, I had no idea what the Brandenburg Gate was. Well, one thing it was known for was, after Berlin was split into East and West, and before the Berlin Wall, people from East Germany and East Berlin would walk through the gate to West Berlin (from Communism to Capitalism) and be free from the East. Initially, it was an entrance to Berlin and was an entrance that led to the city palace. It was a sight to see and I took many pictures. Here are some:

The Brandenburg Gate. And to your right, the American Embassy :)

This turned out well!
I am a huge fan of this attraction. It was so huge and absolutely amazing! The sad thing is that when the Berlin wall went up, this was right in the death strip, so nobody got to see it, except from a distance.

Anyway, I kept wandering and found out where I needed to meet the next morning for my first bicycle tour. I then wandered back to my hotel and had an amazing sleep (well, not really because it was pretty warm and I was too tired to try to figure out the AC). Here are some other photos that I took as I wandered:

Humboldt University

This is where the Nazi Book Burnings happened.

Cool shot of the cathedral and the TV Tower

I have a thing for churches

Memorial to the Murdered Jew (with the American Embassy right behind)

American Embassy

Well, this post is longer than I thought. I'll have to do Germany in multiple posts. Stay tuned for more fun!

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-Letters from the Jade Dragon Box by Gale Sears

"Who is such a reprobate as I! And yet it seems that even I am in Somebody's hand!'

-Mr. Henchard in The Mayor of Casterbridge

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