Finally here comes my post about Berlin! I’m sorry it has taken so long but when you start to travel with someone else you find it hard to say “I’m going to chill for a bit while I write, you can go explore” I feel as though I’m letting my Mum down if I do. It is actually my last full day in Hamburg and I have now been here for 8 days, the longest stay in one place. However I have been moving around a lot but I will tell you more about my stay in Hamburg and Northern Germany later.
Berlin is such a massive city and it is spread out over such a large area. Makes sense because at one time it was two cities, East and West Berlin. The city of Berlin unlike other European capitals is not very old. For those of you who don’t know Berlin after WWII fell completely within East Europe but the leaders of the US, UK and France believed that the USSR would use the city as a launch pad for communism into Western Europe, and that “who ever controls Berlin and Germany controls Europe”. So they demanded that although it fell in the USSR controlled zone that they should have half of it.
We have all heard of the Berlin Wall and it was a wall that East Germany built to wrap around West Berlin not to stop Westerners from going east but to stop the flow of people into the west. When I say flow I mean flow, the one downfall of communism is to justify that doctors, engineers and well educated people should be paid similar wages as a factory workers, or garbage men. So a brain drain occurred shortly after the establishment of East and West Germany, people wanted to make more money and the place to do that is in the west.
The wall is now a major tourist draw to the city. Any tourist map you get will show you where the wall once stood and different places to see reconstructed parts. Funny thing about much of the reconstructed wall is that parts where built backwards. The tallest part of the wall was the last line of stopping people from entering the west after what was known as the “death strip” a number of obstacles like spikes, sand, dogs, guards and their towers and tunnels. The tall wall was designed to be self-righting if someone tried to run a tank through it, however when they rebuilt it they put the self-righting part of the wall in the west.
When it comes to food it is nearly impossible to find a place that serves German cuisine in Berlin. Why? Well it’s because Berlin is a major international city much like Toronto or New York. There are so many cultures in the city it’s impossible to find the home cuisine. A little fun fact about Berlin and Turks is that after Ankara and Istanbul, Berlin is home to more Turks than any other city in the world. After WWII Berlin was nearly destroyed and they needed cheap labour so they brought in Turks and the population has since exploded. You can find a kebab shop on nearly every corner and a Turkish wedding speeding through traffic and nearly killing people everyday.
Germany is also my first stop on my trip where they use the Euro and all I have to say is I’m not a fan! In Eastern Europe your Canadian Dollar can go a far way, not when its matched up with the Euro. I felt so poor when you take out a stack of money and then check your bank and see how much it costed you… It really sucks, but I guess it makes up for living like a king in Eastern Europe.
I’ve probably said this before and I will say it again take advantage of free walking tours when ever you can! You can wander the streets of a city, and I do that a lot, but these help you understand the importance of things you can look and say “Yes that building looks important but I don’t know why” the walking tour will tell you. In Berlin there is a company called Hostel Culture that runs four free walking tours and I did them all and enjoyed each one. There is a general history of Berlin tour, Communist Berlin tour, Berlin under the Third Reich and the Alternative tour which focuses on Berlin’s street art which is everywhere.
Berlin is also the first capital city where I found a Canadian Embassy. I’ve seen many embassies through my travels but none Canadian. I even found the Quebec Mission in Berlin before I found the Canadian Embassy. I think it’s a bit funny because the Government of Quebec thinks it is furthering its cause for independence by increasing trade with their province, but that’s still business brought into Canada! Thanks Quebec! The mission is also in the same building as the French Embassy, wonder if they got a deal.
Berlin is such a big city I would highly recommend utilizing public transit, which in Berlin is excellent, or renting a bike. I rented a bike after it took me an hour to walk from my hostel to the centre-ish of Berlin on my first day. Not only can you get around faster but you can explore more which is always good!
Well that’s all I have about Berlin and I apologize that it took so long. I will try to stay more up to date with my posts. Like I said I’ve been in Hamburg and Northern Germany for over a week so expect a few post about my stay here. I’ve hit up Hamburg the major city in the area and numerous smaller cities and towns and even went to Denmark for a day! So stay tuned!