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The rarely updated blog of Joel Dixon

Viewing blogs tagged Berlin

Monday, September 03, 2012

Berlin, Germany - 2012

# Posted by Joel Dixon at 03/09/2012 06:27:35

Wanting to make the most of my three nights in Berlin, I had booked myself on a tour for the first afternoon I arrived. On the advice from a friend that had just returned from Europe (thanks John) I decided to go for a Segway tour instead of the Fat Tire Bike Tour I had enjoyed while in Barcelona. Thankfully the Segway Tours were actually run by the same company so the same level of quality was enjoyed. Firstly, Segways are a crapton of fun - I can see why they are Gob's preferred method of transport. It feels very similar to skiing, but with a motor attached for those pesky flats. I would consider going into professional Segway racing - if I wasn't already planning a career in competitive cat grooming.

The tour was excellent for me - as I was the only one doing the full four hour tour, my tour guide could take the time to explain the German history that most intelligent adults would already know. She was excellent and very knowledgeable in all things Berlin and WWII - I feel I actually know a little bit about that era of history now (for example, did you know that "The Iron Curtain" wasn't just metaphoric, but also referred to the physical wall erected between East and West Germany?). We went through the lead up to the second world war, the rise of the Nazi party, the bombings of Germany, a post-war divided city and the more recent reunification. All of these subjects were extremely interesting to me, and having the actual monuments and scenery as a backdrop illustrated the point perfectly. I saw the site that 20,000 books were burnt, Checkpoint Charlie, parts of the wall itself and so many more reminders of a very dark time. I was quite struck by the fact that Germany and certainly Berlin are not hiding from the past - but trying to apologise.

Checkpoint Charlie - 100% authentic and in no way changed (that was the McDonald's Goebbels himself used to eat at - fun fact, he preferred a caramel sundae over chocolate)

Some of the remaining Berlin Wall. They had to erect a fence to stop people from stealing part of the wall - I am unsure if people started to steal bits of the fence that protects the wall

On the lighter side of the tour, I was introduced to Ampelmann - the traffic light man. I had already noticed that Berlin's traffic light men looked really cool - almost certainly attributable to their stylish hats. I had planned on getting a photo of these traffic light men, knowing I would probably look like a fool while doing so. Then part way through the tour I was introduced to the Amplemann shop - a whole store dedicated to traffic light man memorabilia. Ampelmann has a long history not too dissimilar to Berlin as a whole. Once East and West Berlin was separated the GDR felt that East Berlin needed more differentiation in regards to traffic signals and designed the new traffic light man. Once Berlin was reunified the city went about returning the traffic light men to their original design. Obviously, the people revolted and protested the move - Ampelmann had already earned the love of the Berlin people. So today pretty much all traffic men in Berlin wear stylish hats - and I was able to purchase Ampelmann magnets.

The Ampelmann store - even Mr. Green is walking towards the store looking for a Ampelmann bathmat

Ampelmann in action - look at him commanding respect. I sure as hell wouldn't walk through that intersection!

Towards the end of the tour I overheard someone talking about going to a Green Day concert later that night. I haven't heard anything from their new album (I haven't bought a single CD while over here, which is rare for me) so I figure what better way to listen to their new material than live. I went directly from the tour to the concert venue - turns out it was an outdoor event. A ticket was pretty easy to come by - and before too long I was enjoying the tunes with a beer in hand. Even from my somewhat limited sample size, I can safely say that German audiences are weird. Billy Joe had to work all night trying to rev the crowd up - but they wouldn't have a bar of it. They seemed to be really enjoying the music - but just didn't seem to want to clap or yell for too long. It was one of the quietest gigs I've been to - which was strange considering it was quite packed.

Billy Joe yelled out phrases in German to get the crowd on-side - didn't do much for me. At least I knew the lyrics better than most of the people standing around me

I had planned on going to Berlin Zoo on the next day, so I perused their website and checked out the feeding time schedule. This turned out to be incredibly useful, as the animals were always so pumped up right before their feed. The polar bears appeared to be doing the Lindy Hop and the seals were clearly playing up for the crowd. They alternated between a really cool slide along a rock and a really lame attempt at a jump out the water. I think they were proud of their crappy little jumps, which made them enjoyable. The primates were ... monkeying ... around but the penguins on the other hand were just standing around waiting for fish to be forced down their gullet. Seems like I may have chosen a boring animal for my favourite.

The polar bear did not polish off this delicious slab of meat with a Coke - like the media has promised me it would

The seal on the right was quite impatient and seemed to be trying to figure out how to get the fish quicker - reminding me of another animal I know

After an enjoyable lunch (the zoo was based around kids, so the Slurpee machine was appreciated) I walked to Berlin's "new downtown" Potsdamer Platz and finally got to see the new Batman movie (the ending was pretty cool - but I wasn't a fan of Bane at all, regardless of his cool Sean Connery voice).

My third day in Berlin was less busy than I had planned (as I suffered my third migraine in as many days - hopefully it is just the Berlin bed that has been causing them and not the start of some more cluster migraines) but I did manage to visit the "Topography of Terror", an installation that goes into great detail regarding the Holocaust. Not the easiest thing to read at times, but extremely interesting and head scratching. Thankfully my next stop is Legoland - presumably there'll be slightly less Holocaust exhibits there

On the way to Denmark I had only two hours in Hamburg (a city that I had originally set aside two days for). This short stopover would probably still allow enough time for a single tour around the city on an open top bus - or I could grab lunch. I made the right decision.

That's right - I've now had a hamburger in Hamburg. All that is left on my life's to-do list is eating some ice-cream in Icecreamlandia!

This is the 13th in the EuroJoel - 2012 series
City 1 - Lisbon, Portugal - 2012City 2 - Porto, Portugal - 2012City 3 - Madrid and Toledo, Spain - 2012City 4 - Valencia, Spain - 2012City 5 - Barcelona, Spain - 2012City 6 - Naples, Italy - 2012City 7 - Rome and Vatican City, Italy - 2012City 8 - Florence and Pisa, Italy - 2012City 9 - Milan and Bologna, Italy - 2012City 10 - Venice, Italy - 2012City 11 - Prague, Czech Republic - 2012City 12 - Dresden, Germany - 2012City 13 - Berlin, Germany - 2012City 14 - Legoland, Denmark, 2012City 15 - Edinburgh, Scotland - 2012City 16 - Nice and Monte Carlo, France - 2012City 17 - Lyon, France - 2012City 18 - Dijon, France - 2012City 19 - Provins, France - 2012City 20 - Paris, France - 2012City 21 - Ireland - 2012City 22 - London, England - 2012City 23 - Killarney - Ireland, 2012City 24 - Amsterdam, Netherlands - 2012City 25 - Brussels and Bruges, Belgium - 2012City 26 - Warsaw, Poland - 2012City 27 - Krakow, Poland - 2012City 28 - Vienna, Austria - 2012City 29 - Budapest, Hungary - 2012City 30 - Bucharest, Romania - 2012City 31 - Nile Cruise, Egypt - 2012City 32 - Cairo, Egypt - 2012

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