Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Europtrip 2011, Day 3: Self-Guided Berlin

Nine-thirty wasn't too bad of a start time for our first full day in Europe, and it was about that time that we got on the bus with our tour mates to spend the morning just outside of Berlin at the Sachsenhausen Concentration Camp. To be honest the camp was very eery and depressing, but it's also one of the most amazing things I've ever experienced. Sachsenhausen was a much smaller, less horrific camp than the likes of Auschwitz or Treblinka in Poland  - it was originally built to hold prisoners of war and didn't become a sort of "death camp" until late in its existence. I will say this - if you are ever in Eastern Europe, make sure you visit a camp like this. Of course, after spending a couple hours at Sachsenhausen and seeing the funk it put me in, I'm not sure if I could handle Auschwitz. I'm sharing a few pictures here, but none of the more disturbing aspects of the camp.

After our Sachsenhausen visit, we were dropped off back in the center of Berlin, at which point Steve, myself and the Natalies broke off from the group to do our own exploring. Thanks to my excessive guidebook reading, I had some ideas of where to go and what to see. Of course there's never quite enough time, but we definitely tried to make the most out of a dreary, chilly day :)
Marienkirche & TV Tower
Berliner Dom
I will say that one thing I really regret, is not getting the chance to go inside the Berliner Dom while we were there. If I ever get back to Berlin, that will be first order of business for me!
We snacked on currywurst from a sidewalk cart for lunch. I think I'm the only one of the four of us who really really loved this stuff. It must be my fondness for ketchup-like substances that did it for me.
Inside the Nikolaikirche
I was definitely very happy that we walked a bit out of our way to visit the Nikolaikirche. Built between 1220 and 1230, it's the oldest church in Berlin and the interior was simplistic and beautiful. Having been raised Protestant, I'm not usually fond of ornate churches, which is why I liked this one so much.

We did try to get into the Pergamonmuseum today...not sure if it was because it was a weekend, but the line was at least an hour long! We waited for maybe 15 minutes, when Steve overheard the French couple behind us talking about how long the line was...at which point we decided to go back the next day. More on that later :)

Now, we had been told to watch out for this little fellow called Amplemann...found on the crosswalk signs only in East Germany. Of course half of Berlin was West German territory, so if you're a first time visitor and simply wandering around, imagine how exiting it is when the crosswalk signs go from normal, to this!

I'm not going to lie, we got really freaking excited every time Amplemann popped up during our time in Berlin! Wouldn't you? I mean, "go" Amplemann is a friendly Comrade whistling his way to work. "Stop" Amplemann looks like he wants to give you a hug. Well, Amplemann, I want to hug you too.

Today was the first day I got to truly try out a guidebook-recommended restaurant on this particular trip. We chose "Restaurant Nolle" on Georgenstrasse (in the Antikmarkt Antiquitaten). This 20s-themed restaurant is known for its decent prices and delicious schnitzel, and personally I think it was one of the best meals of the trip!
Delicious German wine!
Unfortunately, I somehow neglected to take a picture of my food. But portions were huge and Steve and I were seriously impressed with his schnitzel and my German meatloaf.

We took our time eating (and drinking our wine) before deciding to jump on the S-Bahn/U-Bahn to go back to our hotel. We had to board at the...I want to say Friedrickstrasse train station, then make a change at Alexanderplatz. I was in charge of getting us home quickly and safely (our feet were killing us), so imagine my excitement when my limited knowledge of German and my good sense of direction worked together to accomplish that goal!
Hey, we got on the right S-Bahn!
...and we got on the right U-Bahn!
Next up - a night out on the town with the Berlin Eye Spy Tour & Pub Crawl!

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