Sunday, March 26th:
The hostel still felt like a tiny, cold prison cell in the morning but we broke out of there to join a segway tour that Sher had booked for us. Segway was a really good idea since it spared me walking a lot on my stupid sore toe.
We met the group at the Alexandraplatz station (a really modern area), right in front of the giant tower with a sphere on top that the communists built to show off to the westerners. Our tour guide, Kieran, was awesome- partly because he took us to cool spots and knew a lot of history but also because he was so very Irish- accent from Limerick (where Sher went to school before starting college in Dublin), red hair, freckles…. the whole Irish package! It took a while to get used to riding the segways but it’s a lot of fun once you get it- I recommend everyone to give them a try! We learned a lot about the history of Berlin, from WW2 and the communist occupation afterwards up until the collapse of the Eastern Bloc and the wall coming down in 1989… and how things have changed since then. Sher mentioned to me that he met people from Berlin on his last trip to Germany who said that there are still some perceived differences between people who grew up East of the wall compared to the West, since they had less access to media and quality education while growing up (I’m assuming).
Some of the sites that we saw included “museum island” with evidence of smog from the old cars that were still driven in East Berlin until the wall came down, a memorial for those affected by the holocaust, and lots of remaining wall pieces and checkpoints.
One of my favourite stops on the tour was near the museum for the popular currywurst dogs (I found a vegetarian one there! But it was disgusting)… there was “Checkpoint Charlie” which is more for tourists but it was an important checkpoint for Americans to cross from one side to the other and it’s been featured in some movies. It was fun there because they took pictures with us and for 5 euros, stamped my passport the way it was done back while the wall was up. Kieran had another guide who casually joined us, Felix, who grew up on the Eastern side and said he remembered that when he was young and the wall came down, each family received a chocolate bar and some money. He was most excited about the chocolate bar but many families used their money to buy colour televisions. I can only imagine what a culture shock they went through to be exposed to the wild 80s after being fed only communist-controlled information for decades. I think one of the craziest things they were told was that Hitler was still alive and well after the war, living a comfortable life in the fascist United States!
I’d definitely like to come back to Berlin someday and actually spend more time in the places that we learned about and quickly saw. For how little time we had in Berlin, we saw a lot with the segway tour since it’s so much faster than walking.
For dinner we found another Italian restaurant that was in a trendier area and more expensive but I think Sher wasn’t satisfied because he was missing the funny waiter with the exaggerated Italian flair. We didn’t end up having another club experience (or failed attempt) on our last night in Berlin… instead we went to a cafe and relaxed because we had a long day ahead for our trip to Bavaria (the southern province in Germany with a very different culture and feel) the next day.