I really enjoyed our time in Berlin! After an interesting start, the two days in Berlin were great.
The interesting start was the first hotel we were going to use, it seemed close to everything, and was very reasonable. As we drove into the neighborhood we started to worry a bit. The buildings seemed to not be well kept up and the folks on the street seemed to be more locals and fewer tourists. We found the building and were a little surprised when the door marked “Hotel” was firmly locked at 1600 (4:00PM) but we went ahead and parked the car in the garage, noting we were in a reserved spot so we would need to move after we checked in and got our bags in the room. We got inside the building, and walked through past a series of little shops, seemingly marketing to local population, which seemed to be mostly Middle Eastern. We found the other entrance to the hotel, and after climbing up several flights of stairs in the dark, a motion sensor finally turned on the lights, I’m thinking this not the best beginning to the trip, and it is going to be a long walk with our bags. We are confronted with a torn sign in German (Ilka knows German, but is much more fluent in French) and a locked door. We knock on the door and the man who answers is a guest and he speaks English. He tells us if we lift up the torn part of the sign we can read the phone number on it. Call that number, they will answer with a code for a lock box mounted on the wall, he found his key there. So we call, no answer. Hmm maybe we dialed the wrong number, so we try again, still no answer. We realize at this point we either wait until someone picks up the phone or who do we call if there is any other issues that arise after we get the key? We decide to cut our losses, we go back down the stairs (much darker now that the sun is setting) go out and look up a different hotel on Ilka’s phone. My phone is airplane mode since it is roaming in Germany. In the heart of the city with a pretty good rate is a Best Western. I know of the Best western chain from the US so we go there. So we go the Best Western, we park at the door to check in. As Ilka leaves to go inside to check-in, I notice a Polizei van nearby with several officers in it. As soon as Ilka gets to counter, two officers step out. I’m thinking I really hope they are stretching their legs because I do not speak German. Of course they start walking over and something a soldier I served with in Texas pops in my head “Whatever you do, don’t screw with the Polizei, they will mess you up. Police brutality does not exist in Germany.” So long before the officer approaches my side of the car the window is down and I am wearing my friendly tourist face. I say “Hello Officer” he then says in English “You need to move the car…” and looked up. His partner is speaking to Ilka in German and he joins in, explaining the car needs to be moved, now. So we get in the car, Ilka has directions to the parking garage we are supposed to use, a five minute walk from the hotel. We find it, park, and take all of our bags and start walking to the hotel. About 100 meters (yards) from the hotel a polizei officer stops us and tells us we cannot proceed any further. So after a minute of German, Ilka tells me we must wait about 15 minutes, the President of Ukraine is due to arrive at the building next to ours, the street is blocked for security reasons. As if on cue, we hear polizei sirens in the distance, coming closer. Sure enough in about 3 minutes the street is filled with polizei cars & motorcycles, plus black limos. We see several figures emerge from the limos and walk quickly into the building. Once inside the officer thanks us for waiting and hurries back to the van, I bet it was much warmer in there. I learned later that the building was actually the Ukrainian embassy building, their president was staying there while in Germany. So we checked in without an issue and got our room. It was small, very compact but exactly what we needed, a good clean bed, a room without a lot of frills, someplace to crash at night and plan our days. I’ll post all my photos below.
The border crossing into Germany. The buildings on the right were used before the EU as a customs house.
My photos of the polizei escorting the Ukrainian president. I didn’t get any shots of the 6 polizei motorcycles that are to the left of my photos. They I guess blocked streets as they came over.
This is an East German car, the Trabant. They are iconic of East Germany and are horrible polluters, also they are a 2 cycle engine that you must pre-mix oil with gas (like a chain saw or grass trimmer). This one was advertising for a restaurant. There is a museum that uses them as tourist cars, touring East Berlin, but we did not go there this time. That night, we were in East Berlin and found this tiny place called The Cantina, which is some of the best Tex-Mex I’ve found anywhere. The staff was friendly and to my amazement the owner is German. I thought maybe an American soldier had retired to Germany and started it but everyone there is German.
My photos of the Berlin Wall. Germany wanted to preserve some of the wall and hired artists from around the world to paint murals on the East Side of the wall, while leaving the graffiti in place in spots on the west side. They left about 2 miles up, but took out the watch towers, barbed wire, bare raked dirt, and guard dogs. We heard there was a section elsewhere that was left in place, but didn’t look for it. We also went to the Checkpoint Charlie/ Berlin Wall museum, Ilka has some photos from there I will post later.
A couple of random shots, the East German television tower built to show the West how great East Germany was. There is a restaurant and an observation tower, but we settled for photos of it for now. The other is a selfie at the cafe where we ate breakfast on the second day there. They had couches along the wall and nice padded chairs too. The breakfast was wonderful and our waitress was very good.
I put the Reichstag (Parliament Building) and the Soviet War Memorial together. In one of the photos you can see the bombed out Reichstag when the memorial was built by the USSR in 1945, just a few hundred meters from the Reichstag building. It is a cemetery for the Russian soldiers killed in the fight in Berlin at the close of World War II. the back of the cemetery property is across the street from the Reichstag. Clarification — Reichstag is the building, Bundestag is the German Parliament. (Capitol Building – Congress) I wonder how the US would react to a foreign cemetery in Washington DC? As you can see it is kept up by the German government.
My photos of the Brandenburg Tor (Gate). It was very cold that day, which is why Ilka bought a toboggan with ear flaps, the cold wind was hurting her ears. It is a beautiful gate even with the cold a lot of tourists and a few activists as well, but everyone was orderly.
This was an interesting moment at the Gate, several Middle Eastern Generals & Admirals came out of a hotel and got into limousines while we were walking past. So of course we took pictures! Ilka’s are much better as she saw them first.
Photos from the German Holocaust memorial. It was built on the site of the “Death Strip” (raked bare earth to detect escape attempts) for the Berlin Wall.
The Victory column from the Danish-Prussian war. I was surprised at how the gold gleamed, it is a gilded statue the locals call Goldelse (Golden Lizzie).
After 2 full days in Berlin, we were on the road across Germany to Luxembourg and Belgium. I got a shot of the zero emission car in front of us as we were leaving, and photos of the Black Forest before and during the snow that fell while we were driving. By the time we got to our hotel in Belgium, it was warmer there so no snow, just a misting rain.