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Michael’s Travel Diary

Thursday, 22 Jun 2006

Location: Berlin, Germany

MapEntry 40 - Berlin, Soccer Fever (13th-15th June)

Before we start..... GO AUSSIES

So, the long drive into Berlin was finally broken as we hit the Berlin Wall, or what is left of it on the outskirts of the city. I'm the first to admit that I had no idea of just how ther Berlin Wall was set up. But after WWII, with Germany being split between the USA, Brittain, France and the USSR, the soviets separated themselves under a communist program leaving to East (USSR) and West Germany (Allies). But the four countries all had a steak of Berlin too, which was located in West Germany, and as such, it was easy for those not wanting to be under communist rule to head to the other side of the city. With millions of people immigrating out of West Germany into East Germany, the West German's decided to wall in their people. In doing this, they actually walled in the East German's, as West Germany surrounded East Germany.

For you Aussies, picture it like this: Victoria comes under the control of the Allies, and NSW is under the rule of the Soviet communists. The ACT, being the capital is also split in two, despite sitting inside NSW. The people in the communist run NSW, or soviet side of the ACT didn't want to be there, so they
would simply cross the border into Victoria, or move to the other (Allied controlled) side of ACT. Overnight, the communists put up a barrier between Victoria and NSW, and a wall (THE Berlin Wall) surrounding the Allied controlled section of the ACT. Suddenly you became part of either the Allied section or the communist section over night. Families were split, lovers separated, and that
was the birth of East & West Germany, and the Berlin Wall.

Having said all of that, it was kinda unimpressive. Mind you, it hasn't been maintained since it was finally brought down in 1990. But the paintings on the wall were quite incredible in some parts and really quite moving.

From there the bus continued further into the city, dodging through World Cup traffic, as well as road blocks. We drove past the Brandenburg Gate, which was totally obscured by a monster sized soccer ball, as well Hotel Adlon, better known as Hotel Wacko Jacko hangs baby over balcony rail. Finally we arrived at
Zoo Station, which was reportedly the inspiration behind the U2 Zoo album, or whatever it is called. The line that runs thru the station is in fact the U2 line. I don't know much about U2, so someone can feel free to clarify. We had dinner just around the corner, and feeling as seedy as I still was, I passed up on a beer, Clint on the other hand bought his much loved and anticipated
scnitzel, and had a 1Lt stein, which was just about enough to knock him out, but managed to steal the stein, which is now on its way back to Melbourne!

The town was an absolute carnival atmosphere, with people singning and dancing in the streets. The 9pm game was Brazil vs. Croatia, and the Brazilian fans were out in force. But more than that, the eerieness that fell over the street at 9pm was amazing. One minute there is music, horns, dancing, and suddenly it is
silent, followed by the odd short lived cheer. I wandered into a shopping centre to try and find a new camera, and saw hundreds of fans sitting infront of an electronics store full of TV's showing the soccer - crazy. About then I really wished I still had a camera.

We headed to the hostel at 930pm, The Generator, which was full of soccer fans. Flags from all different countries hung from the windows of this 15 story monster of a hostel. It had something over 1000 beds in it! An early night, still feeling oh so shady.

The next morning we jumped on the Metro into Alexander Platz, underneath the TV tower, a pretty central monument of Berlin, if only because it's so high you can see it just about anywhere. The sphere at the top had been painted by T-Mobile in pink patches to resemble a soccer ball for the WM 2006 (German for World
Cup).

From there we went on a city walk tour, on what may have been the hottest day so far on tour, at least since Egypt. It hit 32 degrees, and the 4 hour walking tour in the concrete jungle was tough going. As I still didn't have a camera, I'm gonna have to take a stab at what we saw, cos I can't revert back.

Initially we met at the statue honoring the 'creators' of communism, Carl Marx and Friedrich Engels. We then walked to Museum Island, containing many of the cities museums. Much of it is being rebuilt to it's pre-WWII glory right now. Further along we walked past the Humboldt University, one of the most famous universities in the world in the 19th century. Opposite the university is Bebelplatz, site of the famous Nazi book burning, where 20,000 books written by Jews, communists, and basically anyone against the Nazi's were burnt. In the middle of the square is a window in the ground to a room with bookshelves, and no books. The 'library', with no entry or exit, is big enough to hold 20,000 books. Quite a clever monument, and very missable if you're not looking for it.

Continuing up Unter den Linden, we stopped into an underground Metro station to have explained the use of the stations during the separation of East & West Germany. Some of the train lines would zig-zag from West to East to and back again, thus providing the opportunity for people to get off at the wrong station and escape West Germany. They sealed up the exits of the East German stations, had guard patrols, turned off the lights, and ran trains express through the stations - would have been incredibly eerie.

From there we ended up at Brandenburg Gate for some morning tea. Next stop was the Holocaust Memorial Site, which is quite an incredible piece of art, consisting of 2,700 concrete columns of varying height. Only it makes no reference to the Hollocaust, and could be mistaken for a childrens playground, or a massive out-door laser hunt ground.

Further on we passed over the former site of Hitler's bunker, where he committed suicide, which has since been filled in, so not much to see there. Further on we headed to the Topography of Terror, which was the site of the former Gestapo
Headquaters. It runs along side the site of the former Berlin Wall, and has been turned into a temporary museum for something like the last 20 years. They are finally building a new permanent museum. Just around the corner we arrived at Checkpoint Charlie. After being told a number of incredible escape stories, our tour ended. Needless to say I was pissed I didn't have a camera.

After some lunch, we wandered into the Checkpoint Charlie museum, which was full of more incredible escape stories. Some of the art work, particularly done by the school children when the Berlin Wall came down was incredible. On the outside Clint (god bless his soul) comes out with the pearler, 'I thought
Charlie was a bloke', as opposed to the phonetic alphabet word for the letter 'c'.

After the museum we headed to the shopping centre and I bought a new camera - missed too much already. From there we headed home to get ready for our big Berlin night-life tour. Given it was still 30°, motivation was low, and personal presentation was also minimised. First stop was dinner, in a restaurant without
air-con, so was close to unbearable.

The next stop, after a couple stops on the train, was a pub that had been set up to show us the soccer - Germany vs. Poland, a HUGE game, remember the war? We had walked past a number of PACKED places at about 850pm, 10 minutes to kick-off. Arriving at our EMPTY pub, we took our free vodka shot and watched the
projector for 90 seconds before I grabbed Clint and left the pub. Matt followed us, and we walked across the road to a pub full of Germans. It was incrrdible.

The pub sat on a corner and it was so busy that they had a 2 TV's set up outside on the corner, one facing down each foot-path, with seats set up on the foot paths, a bar at the back, and a guy cooking Bratwurst. Every time Germany had a shot, the place went nuts, and it was hard not to get into, but it was still 0-0
at the half.

We saw our group moving to the next ppub, and sadly said goodbye to our great pub. The second pub failed worse than the first, again being empty, and having only two small TV's. We forfeited our shots of vodka and walked next door, we the sign on the door said 'Privat'... Good thing I don't speeak German very
well.

We, Joey the tour guide had joined us by now, walked into one of the most incredible memories of the trip. We stood at the back of the crowd, watching the biggest projector screen soccer game ever, again in a place full of Germans. Eventually a girl came up and started talking in German, and we simply said 'Spechen sie English' (Speak English?), and told her we were from Australia, and
she was happy to have us there.

She had rented a small art gallery for the duration of WM 2006, and set up a projector screen. The place had a kitchen which served as a make-shift bar, and the highlight, a seating grand-stand made entirely of empty plastic beer crates! Phenomenal. But best of all, in the 91st minute, already in injury time, Germany
broke the 0-0 deadlock to win the game 1-0. The place went crazy, and nobody sat down for the next 3 minutes until after the game had finished.

The 3rd stop was little better, at least this time there were 5 locals there, and Clint spent a bit of time getting spanked by a freak fussball player! It was the last stop that broke the camels back. Walking to the club, the town was still buzzing frothe soccer result, people singing, car horns tooting, and we were getting into it as well. We were told to behave as 'the night club is one of the most exclusive in town', but when we got inside it was full of 16 year olds. Turns out we were told to shush basics because the club was in a residential street. Nobody stayed long, maybe an hour or so, and then ventured home on the Metro. Luckily the TV tower was glowing and we could find our way to
the tram stop we needed. Another beer at the hostel, and a night was called officially around 3pm.

The following morning, we were up early for another long, and uneventful, drive day from Berlin to Copenhagen, which included a two hour ferry crossing. Back at the hostel that our adventure started at, Clint and I did our washing before Clint started cooking a feast for the people not going to the final dinner - the
un-stuff-up-able spag-bog, and garlic bread.

I headed into town to try the all you can eat Mexican Buffet at an Irish Pub - traditional Danish cuisine? Don't think so. At least I went home satisfied which was a rarity on Contiki optional dinners. A few drinks back at the hostel, and a bit of website updating, I called it a night at about 2am, well and truly after
Clint, nothing unusual there.

After a 3.5 hour sleep, we were up to catch our 545am taxi to the airport. After a lengthy check-in process, with bags still under weight, though Clint must have carried 20kg on board, we sat inside the airport waiting for our flight, and had breakfast with Beccy and Ami from the tour. Then, at 820am, we were on our way to Amsterdam, landing at 940am after a sleep filled flight.

Next issue - Entry 41 - Joints, sex, soccer, bikes, fungi, locals from Chirny & Croydon, and lots of red lights: Amsterdam