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3 days in Berlin

Berlin, Germany
Sunday, January 20, 2013

3 days 1 blog.

After 6 uneventful hours on the train we arrived in Berlin. The journey went quickly and even quicker for Sonya as she attempted to sleep from Amsterdam to Berlin.

After checking in we had a quick scout around the local area and found a great Italian and German restaurant out the back of the station. We visited both during our stay and both had generous portions, good service and at a reasonable price.

Day 1

We started our first proper day in Berlin with a free walking tour of the main sights. The tour was fantastic and covered masses amounts of history whilst we huddled together like penguins trying to keep warm. We would recommend the tour but it obviously depends solely on your tour guide as it is unscripted and seemed to just go with the flow. We were lucky enough to be put with Sophie from Wales who has been living in Berlin for two years and her knowledge was amazing. Free obviously means 'paid for by tips' and at the end we were happy to part with our EURO's as we were impressed with the tour and Sophie's knowledge, but don't get caught out or stuck with 'ebay bidding fever' as people seemed to be trying to out tip each other! The same company offers a full tour which covers more sights for just 12EUR (9 EUR with a welcome card)

After the tour we headed up the TV tower for a birds eye view of the city. Although it was overcast the view was still pretty amazing.

Day 2

-7 today so not a great time for Sonya to lose her gloves! When we find some more we are going to get some string and tie them onto her jacket like a little kiddie so we don't end up having to buy new ones every day! We don't want a repeat of our holiday in Florida where each day we would start at the market stall buying not 1 but 2 pairs of sunnies which Sonya would lose or break during the day... the guy running the stall almost knew us by name.

First stop - Reichstag

Before coming to Berlin we had planned to visit Reichstag (the Government buildings) but luckily on yesterday's free tour Sophie told us you have to pre-register for security reasons. So last night Sonya duly did so but when turning up bright and early at 9:15 were told in a very Germanic way 'today is not the 20th' D'oh...!

So 45 minutes later after waiting around in the cold (as nothing opens until 10am) we went to the visitors centre for the Memorial for Murdered Jews. This is situated underneath the memorial.

Words can't explain how moving this was, partly due to us waiting around for it to open we were first through the door and so the emptiness and quiet rooms seemed to add to the atmosphere. Even when a large tour group joined the silence continued as people read and listened to the exhibits. It was such a moving experience and although a sad story to tell it was done in such a compassionate way.

Next we headed to the Olympic Stadium and as the name suggests it was the stadium for the 1936 Olympics and more recently where the final of the World Cup was hosted. The tour was very good but we recommend you do it in warmer weather as there was a lot of outdoor stuff to see!

We finished off the day with our first Hard Rock Café of our big adventure. We didn't attempt the Nacho challenge as we will be visiting the HRC in Warsaw next week.... so watch this space! Sonya attempted a HRC burger like a scene from (wo)man vs food. We have been wanting to visit the Berlin HRC for a few years now as somebody brought us a shot glass many years ago which has been branded a 'fraud' ever since. The glass has stood in isolation next to our collection so when we get home we can reunite it with the other glasses!

Day 3

Waking up to a sense of deja vu, you guessed it... its back to the Reichstag! Today being the 20th we were allowed in :-) It's well worth a visit, you get to walk up the glass dome on top of the Government building which gives great views over the city and down into parliament, and best of all its free. Just note it isn't really indoors as the top of the doom is open so it is still chuffing freezing!

Next stop was Charlottenburg Palace which was slightly out of town but worth the trip. Great overview of life in the 17th Century and the surrounding gardens were a nice escape from the nearby hustle and bustle of the city.

Finally we visited East Berlin Gallery which we stumbled across by chance whilst looking at the map. It stretches from Warschauer Str. station to Ostbahnhof station right near our hotel so if we hadn't visited it we would have both been kicking ourselves. Approximately 1km of original Berlin Wall has now been turned into a gallery. Looking past the normal graffiti some of the commissioned work is fantastic. The stuff in the middle section is the best as the casual graffiti artists can't seem to be bothered to walk more than a couple of hundred metres from each end so the stuff in the middle is untouched. Well worth the stroll to see an iconic piece of history.

Tomorrow another train, another country, another currency and another language. We have been on the rails for a week already. Looking forward to what Poland has to offer.

Hotel review

As with all major cities Berlin has a mass of hotels ranging for the cheap to the blinking ridiculous! We chose the Ibis Berlin Ostbahnhof simply because it is located next to the one of the main railway stations in Berlin which is very convenient for our train from Amsterdam and one to Warsaw. The hotel is just across the street from the station and is only a couple of minutes' walk as long as you leave by the nearest doors! The station is massive and if you leave at the wrong end it is can easily double the distance you have to walk outside something you won't do twice in this weather! After getting off the train head for the main hall and then follow the signs or smell of Subways, go past Subways and use the exit at the end of the hallway you can't miss the hotel which is to the left.

The hotel is what you would expect from an Ibis, clean, warm and modern and only cost 45EUR a night. Based in East Berlin most tourist sites are a little further away but are easily accessible on the metro from the station right across the street. We would recommend this hotel to other travellers. 7/10.

Welcome Card

We purchased a 72 hours Welcome Card which gives unlimited travel with travel zones A and B. The card cost 24.50EUR but comes with a massive book of discount vouchers which covers most of the main sights. We didn't go 'coupon crazy' but most places we were going to visit did have a voucher and we got a decent discount... hey even HRC gave us a free desert! In total we nearly saved enough to pay for the card so basically got 3 days free transport.

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