here it is our last day in berlin, and it’s been quite a time. this might ramble a bit because i’m exhausted, but i want to write things down before it all becomes too much of a blur….
we were unexpectedly welcomed in berlin by a posse of friends of friends, via our friend melvin, which has kept us busier and on the more local tip than if it were just the two of us sightseeing. it has been very nice meeting up with friends of friends in both in amsterdam and berlin and getting the inside scoop on everything from transit to shopping to clubs. we’ll be meeting up with justin in prague tomorrow (right justin?), but since he’s a tourist too we’ll probably be doing a lot of wandering lost together there. after prague, as far as i know it’ll just be me and jay in vienna and budapest. maybe then we’ll get some sleep!
but back to amsterdam and berlin: we’ve been lucky finding our way around – no missed or wrong trains or getting too lost as of yet, but amsterdam and berlin have both been very easy for traveling, so we’ll see how it goes when we get to more distant places that don’t have excellent public transit or speak english. as for food, i found it a little tough to eat in amsterdam, as they have kind of weird schedules for restaurants (they close earlyish) and during the day mostly eat only bread and cheese. but here in berlin it’s been just fine as it’s a huge city and there are all types of restuarants everywhere.
as noted, amsterdam was much more provincial than i thought it would be; reports are that they’ve been cracking down/weeding out the types of things that the city is famous for (besides windmills and tulips) like the red light district, hash bars, etcetera, and what remains of those things has become just touristy and from my perspective less decadent than vegas or even some of the things we have in SF. so the nightlife there was fairly uninteresting, at least what we could find, but the city itself is beautiful and fun and we spent most time just touring around in the daytime, enjoying the parks and canals and historical buildings. the last day in amsterdam (wednesday) we went to Vondelpark (like Central or Golden Gate Park) and rode around on bikes and it was a beautiful autumn day and sunny and a perfect end to our stay in AMS.
we took an early train out of AMS to Berlin on thursday 9/24, and the day after we arrived in berlin we were greeted by a facebook message from our SF friend melvin, who was also visiting, and who has friends living here, and so then instead of being total tourists we’ve been doing more local things like going out to bars and clubs and hanging out in the park, and haven’t been too much doing the historical sights thing. friday day we went up in the super tall TV tower (asparagus TV!) and took a look at the city from 300 meters and also did some shopping – best store in berlin is a shop called Born in Berlin (even though the clothes are made in Italy?), and we went back there twice during our stay.
friday night we hooked up with Melvin and went to see Modeselektor at WMF (club), which was very much like going to 1015 in SF except there was zero security and everyone was white, which was kind of strange. we were there until 5am, went to bed around 6, and slept in as late as possible. later saturday afternoon we tried to go shopping but everything closed early, and so then we went to the Berlin Wall then met up with the posse again that evening, first a bar, then a whiskey bar (Madonna Bar), then to Berghain, this crazy amazing former-powerplant-turned-disco that was insanely beautiful inside with the a minimalist interior and an open vaulted ceilings and cement pillars and pipes and knobs and iron grates and suspended platforms that you could swing on. the music however was house-y, and we were getting tired and so we didn’t dance much but were still there hanging out (i loved the atmosphere so much i could have stayed there for days, really, and some people apparently do, as once you get stamped in you can keep coming and going for like 48 hours or something like that) until 4/30 am and got to bed at around 5/30am.
then yesterday (sunday) we had to get up at 9:30 after 4 hours of sleep to check out of one hotel and into another (moving around the city gives you more of a chance to see different neighborhoods, but it does come at the expense of being a pain in the ass), but it was beautifully warm and sunny and not to be wasted on napping and so after we relocated we met up with the posse for brunch, which lasted all afternoon with us wandering through parks (Sportsplatz!) and a very awesome squatter community (Lohmuhlen – map) that was a cross between the domes at UC Davis and a trailer park and the more cyber-punk parts of burning man, punk rock blaring from the sound system in the make-shift bar and a flea market of goods for sale, and ended with us drinking on a floating raft in the river at Club Der Visionaere (map), a sort of river-front cafe and disco, where we sat on large wooden rafts drinking until it was dark. there we met a dutch man who did a burning man installation in 2008 (the American Dream year) called Dreamyourutopia that was a border-crossing checkpoint, where once people entered they might be detained for hours and hours before being allowed to exit or pass through to the other side, if successful with a passport to the land of their dreams. he said the role-playing guards sometimes detained (willing) people for up to 8 hours, interrogating them about their lives and dreams. he is going to be putting that interactive installation up here in Berlin for the 20th anniversary of the wall coming down, i think it might be a little intense. we had dinner, then promptly passed out in the hotel and slept for 10+ hours last night.
woke up this morning to a cold and gloomy day, but went to the Memorial to the Murdered Jews of Europe, a stark and haunting labyrinth of undulating cement monuments of various heights on rolling ground, causing you to feel disoriented and lost and once you step inside, and the Brandenburg Gate, a gate to the city built by the Prussians in 1788, the statue attop stolen by Napolean and taken to Paris in 1806 and later returned, and where Ronald Reagan stood in 1987 and famously stated:
General Secretary Gorbachev, if you seek peace, if you seek prosperity for the Soviet Union and Eastern Europe, if you seek liberalization: Come here to this gate! Mr. Gorbachev, open this gate! Mr. Gorbachev, tear down this wall!
it’s the 20-year anniversary of The Wall coming down this year, and so the city is preparing for many festivities and celebrations and tourist attractions. i got a fake passport page with all the various DDR (Deutsche Demokratische Republik) border-crossing stamps from a fake checkpoint attendant on the street. it’s sort of weird though, being here now, trying to imagine what it must’ve been like. we have stayed in east berlin almost the entire time, yet it feels like anywhere else in the modern world in a city, and where the wall used to stand, where the dividing line used to be so definitive, so intense, so extreme, so present and seemingly immovable, it is now nearly disappeared underneath new buildings and shopping plazas and only the scattered memorials and tourist sights remind those of us who are too young to remember that there it once was a hugely different world here. i’m sure it must be even stranger for those of older ages, who were here during WWII, to see the city now, to see it modernized and rebuilt into a whole different place.
we’re on our last day in berlin here now, leaving for prague early tomorrow morning, and i have to admit that we’re both pretty exhausted. it’s 5:00pm here now and we’ve come back to the hotel after a 1/2 day of shopping and sight seeing because we’re just too tired to keep it up. i’m pretty sure jay’s upstairs sleeping as i sit in the hotel lobby writing this. i know there are a million more sights to see in Berlin, but the crowds are pretty big to get inside a lot of the more famous places and it’s physically and emotionally exhausting to keep doing it all. i guess that just means we’ll have to come back.
3 more weeks of this….wow. who knew doing nothing could be so exhausting?
not sure how much internet we’ll have in prague and other places, so the updates might get fewer…..i think jay will post some of our berlin photos later today, so keep checking flickr.Filed in autobiographical, travel | Tagged with amsterdam, berlin, europe, wanderlust | Comments (3)