December 7, 2005

A bit more about Berlin

Filed under: Travels, Germany — Alex Ravenel @ 7:14 pm

I feel like I left a lot out of my Berlin post, but rather than keep editing that monstrosity, I’ll just post the random points here.

-I met several cool people. Joseph, an Australian, I met in the bar the first night, and again on the walking tour. Cool guy, with a razor sharp wit. Living in Dublin and working there for a while, in Berlin on vacation. Also, several other Aussies. There are more Aussies in Europe than Americans I think. And Japanese. Tons of Japanese there. And for some reason, they couldn’t work any of the locks in the hostel. Maybe the keys turned the opposite way from what they were used to? It was kind of funny to watch them try, it’d take them about 3 minutes to open any locked door. It’d be interesting to know what was so different…
-Everyone spoke perfect English. It was maddening, I couldn’t get in a word of German. As soon as I opened my mouth (and I like to think my accent is pretty good), they immediately knew I was American and started speaking perfect English to me.
-Unfortunately, I didn’t get to sample any of Berlin’s infamous nightlife. I was tight on funds, and paying €10 cover to get into a place and pay for overpriced drinks isn’t gonna stretch that money too much. Besides, clubs sketch me out, and I had tons of stuff I wanted to do during the days, not spend the days sleeping off a hangover. And not too many clubs are likely to let in a lone guy in jeans with unkempt hair.
-I really can’t recommend Brewer’s Berlin Tours enough. This tour rocked. The guy was funny, witty, knew everything, and the tour was cheap, to boot. I was very impressed. But what should I expect? The guy has been leading foot tours of Berlin since before the wall came down, and worked for the British embassy in Berlin for a long time. Be warned though, it ran on longer than the advertised 7-8 hours–we were out there for 10. Worth every minute though.
-Berlin is surprisingly cheap. Especially for a city. Pleasant surprise…
-I wasn’t impressed with the Berlin subway system, despite the good things I had heard about it. It was slow, there weren’t enough lines, and it was impossible to change lines. It took 20 minutes to get somewhere that you could walk to in 20 minutes. And expensive–single tickets cost €2.10. London and Paris have it whipped, though Rome is lightyears behind.
-There were lots of good international restaurants, especially Thai or Vietnamese restaurants. I ate in this one that was incredible, and cost me €5 for an entree. And they had this wonderful sweet and sour sauce that was unlike anything I’d ever had…
-The Döners in Berlin were different. Different kind of bread, more of a focaccia and less of a pita. And the Sharfsoße was curry based, not chili and garlic based. I’m not sure which I like more…
-Both the American and British embassies were guarded like fortresses, especially the American. They had massive concrete roadblocks blocking every road near it, with guardhouses and police all over, not to mention a serious wall surrounding the embassy proper. And this is right in the middle of Berlin. The British embassy was a little more classily protected, with these cool retracting roadblock posts in the street that would sink into the ground to let a car through if need be. But whoa, you’d think this was Saigon, 1975. They were building a new American embassy right next to the Brandenburg gate, complete with 18 inch thick reinforced concrete walls.

That’s it for now–I’m off to bed so I can catch a train to Nürnberg tomorrow morning to see the Christmas market and such…


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