We left Monday morning for Berlin. We hadn’t really planned to go to Berlin, but we had 3 days to spare and a train ticket to use! We used the German ICE(Inter City Express) trains for the first time, they are awesome trains. They get up to like 250-300KM an hour, everything outside is just flying by, but the train is completely still. We also found out that the tickets we had did not include seat reservations! Standing around the entire ride was annoying, but bearable since it was only 4 hours maybe. We learned our lesson quickly.
We pulled into the main train station late in the afternoon and used a taxi to find our hostel. It was some random place we found on the internet, 20 Euros a night. We showed up, called the manager, he showed up 15 minutes later, we paid in full, we got keys, and then he left. It was very sketchy, but we had our room for cheap, so we were happy. We walked around for a few hours while daylight was left, went to the giant Television Tower which was impossible to miss, and grabbed dinner at typical German beergarden. A beergarden is just an empty yard with lights, a bunch of collapsable tables and benches, and lots of cheap beer. You can just relax and enjoy your beer in the company of friends, they are great.
Tuesday morning we woke up early and headed up to the Television Tower first. We did some research on getting around the city and picked up a “CityTourCard” for 15 Euros which gave us unlimited travel on the subway and buses for 2 days. It also granted many discounts on touristy things, which was perfect because we immediately used the card to buy a cheap ticket for an all day bus tour of the city! The bus tour took us around, showing us everything of interest while we learned the layout of the city. The busses came every 20 minutes, so we could hop off at a location of interest, check it out, and get on the next bus! By 8PM we were pretty tired, but we had seen all the main tourist points, Checkpoint Charlie, the remains of the Berlin Wall, the Brandenburg Gate, Museum Island, and the Memorial to the Murdered Jews of Europe.
The Memorial was one of the most interesting things to me, it just recently built between 2003 and 2005 by Peter Eisenman. it consists of a giant grid of 2,711 concrete blocks of different heights and lengths which you can walk through and find your own way. I was just amazed and totally confused by this at first, but then I found that at the far back corner of this monument was the entrance to a museum! The ground beneath the blocks was hollow, with a museum underneath, detailing the unique lives and journeys of several different groups of Jewish people during the Holocaust. It has many different diary accounts from people, detailed family history, and stories that I have never heard of. This place was very interesting and one of the things I remember best about Berlin.