How I Spent Christmas In Berlin : Part II
We got a fairly good first night‘s sleep in our hostel even though it wasn’t the most comfortable bed I’ve slept in. We put on our full winter battle gear and away we went to wander the streets of Berlin.
DAY 2 | Walking Tour & Reichstag Building
My friend booked us a free walking tour with Sandemans New Berlin for our second day in Berlin. I highly recommend taking 2.5 hours off your trip to get to know the city, learn its history and understand why is it how it is now.
Our meeting place was the Brandenburg Gate, the last surviving one in Berlin. This famous landmark actually has a very interesting history.
The Quadriga, the sculpture at the top, was once seized by Napoleon and taken to Paris as a trophy. It was later returned after his defeat and was redesigned with an Iron Cross. In the 1930s, it was used as one of Nazi Party‘s symbols. Now, it is a symbol of freedom, solidarity, and union of two separated parts of Berlin.
We were divided into groups of around 30 and we went with the Aussie tour guide, Lucy. She fell in love with Berlin and decided to move there and now works as a full-time tour guide. That’s her feet by the way, one foot on East Berlin and one on West Berlin. #twoplacesatonce
We visited the parking lot where Hitler’s underground bunker used to be. It was actually surreal to be standing where one of the world’s most evil regime used to operate. But life goes on. Now there are lots of apartments built around the area. They closed the bunker off though due to the possibility of attracting Neo-Nazis.
During the 15-minute break, we went to a nearby food stand where we met currywurst, this modest dish of sliced sausage bathed in a rich curry-ketchup sauce.
My favourite spot in our walking tour might be the Holocaust Memorial. I think it’s a beautifully-designed, thought-provoking exhibit in memory of the murdered jews under Hitler’s regime. There were no information or signage around it. It was all left to interpretation. I wanted to stay longer and experience this concrete maze but we were only given 10 minutes.
Lucy told us both incredible and depressing Berlin Wall stories while we stood in front of it. She told us about how people tried to climb over the wall and how some people, who surely knew their Greek mythology, managed to cross the borders by hiding in a hollow cow.
The tour lasted about two and a half hours. It was free and the guides let us tip how much we thought it was worth. Well, she did a ruddy good job of keeping us entertained and making sure nobody got left out. (I don’t know if she was just fake-counting, though).
Souvenir shopping while waiting for Reichstag Building 4 PM appointment.
Posing hard for those new profile pictures.
And we just couldn’t get enough of currywursts.
The Reichstag is home to the Bundestag, or the German Parliament. It was great that the Reichstag dome is open for public but they do have airport-level kind of security. This seemingly old facade is actually very modern and even quite futuristic inside. The reference to the landmarks outside the building would have been best seen on a daytime visit.
Although we finished touring the Reichstag at around 6 PM, it already seemed really late and the grandma inside of me wanted to go back to the hostel to take off my shoes and connect to the interwebs. It was a 20-minute walk to go back and my legs and feet were already having their lowest moment. When we finally got to the hostel and actually got to eat something, I regained the energy to reflect on how interesting Berlin’s history is and how I was weirdly excited to go to a concentration camp the following day until exhaustion set in and then I went out like a light.