Day 63 – 65: Getting Acquainted with Berlin

We left Bamberg at and took a train to Berlin. We’re lucky to be staying with a friend Hilarey and her awesome roommates Richard and Sonja while in Berlin. We arrived and just relaxed the first night.

Berlin definately has this appeal and creative vibe. It definately helps that we’re staying in a house of artists.

Day one in Berlin we had an easter breakfast with Sonja and then tried to catch an alternative Berlin tour to learn about the street art, but we got left behind… instead we walked to the east side gallery and enjoyed the sunshine. The gallery stretches 1.3km along the River Spree and features the work of over 100 artists.

The we walked over the Oberbaum bridge – our new favourite. There’s a food fight here every year between the 2 districts across from each other. It also has a neon rock/paper/scissors sign so that you can never be bored in the city.

We explored the Kruezberg neighbourhood a lively area with plenty of street art. It was originally a popular place for counter culture, and after the war, Turkish immigrants moved in to help rebuild the area, and ended up staying. Today 1/3 of the inhabitants are from elsewhere. There are interesting details everywhere, like little yoga figures on street signs, and photobooths everywhere.

We walked the very long way from here to the apartment, wandering through museum island and the Mitte neighbourhood.

We had dinner at the apartment and learned more about the city from Richard.

The next morning we managed to catch the tour and were taken through the Kreuzberg neighbourhood in more detail.

We saw the property that had been a triangle of East Berlin, left on the west side. During the entire time the wall was up a nearby resident used it as a garden. After unification the land became his and now has a tree house and an address – zero.

We passed one of the few remaining squatters villages. These have been destroyed rapidly for new developments over the past few years, especially along the river.

We saw some awesome street art, with different techniques, including a fire extinguisher. We learned the rules – never get paid and never cover someone else’s work – and then saw these rules broken all over the place.

After, we tried unsuccessfully to find an abandoned amusement park, but at least managed to make good use of our transit passes. The train system here is great – you can get anywhere in the city, you just need to transfer frequently between the 20+ lines.

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We had lunch in an Egyptian place in Kreuzberg, then saw some of the main sites – the Brandenburg Gate, the Jewish Memorial and the Reichstag.

The memorial is very evocative in its simplicity. Several thousand slabs are arranged in a grid pattern. Their height varies, creating an undulating topography along the top, and below the ground plane also varies, resulting in spaces where the slabs are twice your height. The effect is a disorienting maze, easy to feel lost and confused. Of course also popular for hide and seek.

Then we went to the gas lantern gallery, in the Tier Garden. Here they had old ornate lanterns used throughout Germany and Europe. Some of them had been stolen, and many others were used as birds nests.

We headed back to the apartment for dinner, then to a great little place in Neukolln for a drink with Hilary, returning from a weekend in Switzerland.

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