November 13, 2014

Monthly Musings with Marc - November


The opportunity to travel has been great for us, and, because I am not working right now, I have more free time to explore Europe. So Swags put together a quick 3-day trip for me to one of the Crown Jewels of European destinations: Berlin.

The beautiful Berlin Cathedral in the fall.
When traveling, sacrifices have to be made. Packing less, sitting with random people, and getting outside of your comfort zone are the top three things you must be prepared to give up when hitting the road. Waking up early is not in my comfort zone. When I had to get up at 4:40AM to start my journey, I couldn't help but smile to myself (Swags was still sleeping) because I knew the sacrifice was worth it. Two buses, a plane, and a train later, I was in Berlin and ready to do some exploring.

After a long morning of travel I needed some food. With thirty minutes to spare before meeting my AirBnB host, I wanted something quick, but my desire for quality food will not be sacrificed for time. A little soup shop came to my rescue. The nice lady inside did not speak any English, and my German is nonexistent, but a large bowl of potato soup and a hot mug of green tea made its way to my table. It hit the spot and was so affordable, I decided to come back the next day. With a full stomach I was ready to see the city of Berlin!

Victory Column.
I dropped my stuff off in the room I rented and got some helpful info from my host. After living in Europe for three years, I love public transportation. While most tourists will buy tickets for tours and tour buses, I happily buy a day pass and cruise around on metros, trams, and local buses, all while passing people that paid too much. Berlin has a great public transit system. It was fast, well-connected, and clean.

Kaiser Wilhelm Cathedral.
I used the first afternoon to hop on and off a few buses and trams all while orienting myself to the city and seeing some cool sights.

As I went from one side of Berlin to the other on bus "100," I saw the Berlin Cathedral, Humboldt University (where the Nazis burned books), the Reichstag, the Siegessaule (Victory Column), and Kaiser Wilhelm Cathedral.

With that I had finished my day 1. I headed back to a warm bed to get a good night sleep in order to start early the next day.

Day 2 morning I wanted to get my outlier sights done. That meant jumping a few different trains and a little bit of a walk (until I found the right bus) to see the Schloss Charlottenburg and Olympiastadion. It was a cool but clear morning, and I got a great view of a beautiful old palace and the the sight of the 1936 Olympics and the 2006 World Cup.

Seeing Olympic buildings is becoming a must for me. I love the history; the emotions I feel as I walk around a site that held iconic athletes and the patriotism I can't keep down. I first felt this when visiting the gym in Barcelona that the Dream Team made history in. Here in Berlin it was breathtaking to walk into the stadium that Jesse Owens shattered stereotypes in front of Adolf Hitler as he ran away with 4 gold medals. Also some names that should not be forgotten are: Ralph Harold Metcalfe, Mack Robinson, Archie Williams and John Woodruff. These men were fellow African-American runners that won a lot of medals and helped Owens crush the idea of Aryan supremacy. 

The legendary Olympiastadion.
Remains of the Berlin Wall.
The afternoon took me to even more historical sites: Checkpoint Charlie and the Berlin Wall. Parts of the old wall are still up to be seen as a reminder of a time when Communism was trying to maintain its stranglehold on Berlin and Eastern Europe. Checkpoint Charlie was one of the gates that led from the Russian controlled side to the American controlled side of Berlin.

It was crazy to see photos from what the area looked like when the wall was fully constructed and to see the lengths at which the Russians went to to try and keep Berlin under its control.

Before and After: Checkpoint Charlie.

I spent the rest of my day walking the wide, clean, beautiful streets of Berlin.

The architecture of the city is very appealing, as is the food!

Brandenburger Tor.
My last day in Berlin, I revisited some key sites: Brandenburger Tor, Museum Island, and the Reichstag.

I also made sure to walk through the Holocaust Monument, past the site of Hitler's Bunker, and through the huge Tiergarten.

Scenes in the Tiergarten.
All the while I enjoyed some good food, talked to some nice people, and saw some incredible sites.

Berlin was extremely entertaining and exceeded expectations. A great city with an incredible history, definitely a must visit!
Schloss Charlottenburg, the only surviving royal palace in Berlin after World War II.