I arrived in the Berlin Hauptbahnhof, which is some sort of amazing future-building where locomotive and man peacefully co-exist in a massive glass habitat.
It also has a Dunkin Donuts.
I was about three hours late due to my sleeping indiscretions, but Jackie and Melanie were very patient and were waiting for me in the hostel lobby. They had graciously agreed to meet me in Berlin as a stopover before their vacation to Greece. More on that disaster later.
Before I go any further, it’s absolutely essential that I point out that the hostel’s elevator was made by a company called “Schindler”.
Ah? Eh? yes?
…I’ll show myself out.
Given that I arrived too late for any sort of walking tour, we just walked around in search of stuff to see and do.
Using a map we grabbed from the desk, we plotted out a long plan which started with us making a fifteen minute trek to the Reichstag.
…which happened to be across the street. Clearly, the scale on these maps have some sort of fundamental deficiency.
The Reichstag currently requires a three day advance booking to enter, which we had no clue about, so we missed the chance to go up into the clear glass dome above the building.
However, we stumbled into a bit of a protest on the Reichstag lawn, which we nicknamed “Occupy Reichstag”.
They could just burn it again for old times sake.
After passing through the Brandenburg Gate, we did a good deal of souvenir browsing, mostly focused around what Berlin calls the “Ampelmann”, or traffic light man. But we just ended up calling him “The Little Man” for the duration of the trip.
He’s basically like the men in the cross walk signs across the world, except with one notable difference. He has a hat. Much like my hat. So I believe he and I share a special kinship. Also, apparently the only way to stop him is crucifixion.
We happened upon Checkpoint Charlie, which doesn’t really exist anymore, only in a reconstruction which doesn’t even resemble the original. So, really, kinda lame. I didn’t even get to meet Charlie.
With no particulars in mind, and our original itinerary exhausted in the first two hours due to faulty map scaling, we just continued to walk, for a few miles until we happened upon a great doner kebab restaurant.
For those of you who don’t know what a doner kebab is, it’s basically like a gyro in a pita pocket. And it really hits the spot after three miles of walking.
…so afterwards, we walked the three miles back to the Brandenburg Gate.
At this point, it was getting pretty dark, and we were treated to a sight we weren’t even aware of: Berlin’s Festival of Lights. Basically what happens is that every monument in Berlin is illuminated in bright, garish colors, making the entire city look like a tacky Caesar’s Palace.
The side effect that the Festival of Lights had on our group was that it drew attention to a large pillar-like monument down the street from the Brandenburg Gate. We figured that such a short walk wouldn’t hurt us any, and decided to check it out.
Y’know how “Objects in Mirror Are Closer Than They Appear”?
This was the exact opposite. The corridor of trees and roadway provided the illusion of a 5 minute jaunt, whereas reality provided us with a 40 minute trek.
40 minutes and lots of incredulous complaining later, we reached what we found was the Victory Column. To be honest, I don’t really remember what it was for, but I’m pretty sure it was made from stolen French gold, as probably everything in Germany is. Actually, we walked for so long, we may have actually been in France.
Thoroughly exhausted, we trekked the extra 2 kilometers back to the hostel and collapsed before our feet exploded.
Next: Day 2 – Museums and “Alternative Rob”