‘The best thing about Berlin was that I got to be surrounded by people
who pursue their ideas for themselves’ – Agnes Obel
Day 4: Amsterdam – Berlin 18.08.15
Plan of Action:
- Travel from Amsterdam to Berlin
- Find the Grand Hostel Berlin
- Explore Berlin
Look for the positive in every day. Whether it be big, small, or surprising, look for the positive.
We boarded the train from Amsterdam to Berlin at 11:01, our first train journey of this interrail experience. Considering that this was a 6hr journey you may have thought that there would have been a carriage selling food. Unfortunately this was not the case; more fool us!
So it was a journey without any food. Not the most ideal of circumstances but one off-set by some quite beautiful countryside.
Looking back at Amsterdam, it was quite an interesting experience and I met a variety of people, although we never exchanged names. I guess that is quite nice really, in a bittersweet way. They will always be fixed points, relative to the memories they are part of, but I’ll never be able to look back and think “where are they now?” which, I guess, is quite disappointing. That doesn’t mean I can’t write about them though.
There was a girl from New Zealand who was staying with her mother at the same hostel as Faye, Sarah and I. She had created an intricate, detailed plan of what she was going to do in Amsterdam and when she was going to do it. Her attention detail was outstanding. There was also an American couple who were travelling through Amsterdam on their way to Copenhagen. Without them, I probably wouldn’t have found Hotel Inner as easily as I did!
In a restaurant around the corner from where we were staying was a waitress with an infectious attitude; vibrant and full of enthusiasm. At a sports bar near Dam Square I met a couple who were originally from Sydney, but travelling Europe after spending some time living in London. Finally, I met two couples on the roof of the Heineken Experience talking about Brussels, Belgium. The older couple were from Toronto, Canada whilst the younger couple were from New York.
As we neared the end of our journey we received some unfortunate news that left a slightly sour taste in everyone’s mouth. Despite this, we found the Grand Hostel Berlin easily enough, but not before having schnitzel for the first time!
The evening passed inside the hostel’s bar. A couple of beers and some card games followed by planning activities for the next day, which included a Segway Tour!
Day 5: 19.08.15
Plan of Action:
- Berlin Segway Tour
Berlin. The city I have been longing to visit for so many years and, thanks to the Berlin Segway Tour with Fat Tire Bike Tours, I was able to see all the major landmarks in just one day.
Early morning saw Faye and I wave Sarah off to the airport as she unfortunately had to cut short her trip. Not wanting to let this get us down, we headed straight out to Alexanderplatz to find the tours meeting point.
It was when we arrived the we both realised quite how big Alexanderplatz was. It was also upon walking across the main square we got distracted by a group of break-dancers. To give them their due they worked brilliantly together combining solo routines with group combinations.
Realising that we were running late once they had finished, we quickly rushed to find the area where the Segway Tour began and (luckily) we got there just in time.
The tour took us to the “major” tourist sites around Berlin. Some for “better”, some for “worse”, but each with their own story to tell. Unlike in Britain, Segways are legal to ride in Germany and other European countries so our little group of 8 took to the roads… in style.
The tour began by heading over to the Old Royal Palace, which had been damaged during the war but showed signs of recovery work here and there. It was a rather delightful sight and the whole design just screamed of regality. This was swiftly followed by a visit to the memorial of the infamous book burning that occurred in Berlin in 1933. The next step in tour was a beautiful square that contained two near-identical Cathedral’s. However, it was the next few stops that really resonated with me. They got the history geek inside of me really excited.
First we went to Checkpoint Charlie, the crossing point where the border guards from both the USA and USSR were closest to one another. Just up from there was one of the last remaining strips of the Berlin Wall. For me, seeing it for the first time, I found it mesmerising. Considering its history that may not be the most “pc” way of describing it, but that was my reaction. It was something I had studied and piled more hours into than I care to remember. So, mesmerising it was and is.
After traversing some more of the so-called ‘death strip’ (which included passing a guard tower) we arrived at the place that was once Hitler’s bunker, but is now a car park. A short journey then took us to The Jewish Memorial before we stopped off at the Brandenburg Gate.
The Jewish Memorial was so simple and yet so complex, to the point where my words cannot even do it justice. As with anything, I imagine the experience is different for everyone. On the other hand, the Brandenburg Gate was a sight to behold. More impressive that I had ever imagined.
Day 6: Berlin – Warsaw 20.08.15
Plan of Action
- Visit the Reichstag Building
- Travel from Berlin to Warsaw, via Poznan
- Find the hostel
The whistle-stop tour of Berlin came to an end to soon for my liking, but not before it gave me the opportunity to visit my personal crown jewel of Berlin; the Reichstag Building. The government building. The building that provided one of the most pivotal moments in Hitler’s rise to power. Berlin will be sorely missed and I truly cannot wait to come back.
The rest of the day was largely uneventful and the transfer through Poznan, whilst brief, was simple enough. Faye and I arrived into Warsaw around 21:00, found our hostel and introduced ourselves to our new room-mate; ex-marine turned Brazilian zouk dancer, Jason. With the evening quickly escaping us we went for a quick walk before settling down for the night to a nice backdrop of music from the busy streets outside.