Following a *restful* night’s sleep on the train, we awoke in Berlin, a city that provided a nice contrast to the refinement, seriousness, and high butter/pastry content of Paris. As in Paris, we’d rented an apartment in the city through airbnb and were pleasantly surprised at the high ceilings and hardwood floors of our little Wohnung. Granted, the entire kitchen was self-contained in a small wardrobe, but we weren’t there to cook, anyway.
Our first afternoon we explored our neighborhood and the fun shops north of Oranienburgerstrasse. We also became a bit more familiar with the metro system as we attempted to find Deutsche Bahn’s lost & found and recover a phone sadly left on the train. While the recovery was unfortunately unsuccessful, it did give me the chance to remember my German after four days of (not speaking) French and English.
(Incidentally, the Lost & Found Office in German cities (and there is one in every city) is called the Fundbüro or “Found Office,” which to me seems a lot more apt. After all, a Lost & Found office can’t really do much if you lost an item. They can only tell you what’s been found.)
Following an actual night’s sleep and waking without motion sickness, we began exploring Berlin via a free walking tour. Although the tour guide was fantastic, I’ve since learned that the company is less than ideal and requires the guides to pay 3 Euro per head even when they make less than that in tips. And while I do appreciate the concept of paying based on the value of service or goods you’ve received, I think their business model might have a few problems.
Nonetheless, we saw a bit of the city, learned a bit of history and did a fair bit of walking. One of the interesting aspects of Berlin is the visible demarcation of the East/West border that winds through the city. It’s set flush in the street but provides a good reminder of how the city used to be split.
The Eastside Gallery provided a three-dimensional understanding of just how imposing the wall was, as well as some beautifully moving art. Shortly after reunification, this portion of wall was painted and has since become one of the largest outdoor museums in the world.
As luck would have it, the paintings were recently restored after enduring 15 years of harsh climate and vandalism (albeit with a bit of controversy). And on the other side, the wall is left for anyone to tag.
At 1.3 kilometers, the amount of art is staggering and the content moving. I imagine in the summer it’s quite a bit busier with tourists and tour buses, but either way it’s well worth a trip to this part of the city.