Berlin in a Weekend

Saturday

Our 2 am arrival was no match for our 4am departure, leaving us just over 48 hours in Berlin, sleeps included.

Day one started slowly, as recovery from our dreadful journey the night before took precedence over sight-seeing. We jumped on the 2pm free walking tour (yes, another one). It starts at the Brandenburg Gate, and winds along a path through central Berlin’s monuments and historical sites, all the while our guide, Steve, dazzled us with his knowledge of the city, both historical and current.

 

Unfortunately, we lost Steve at lunch. Oh No! We lingered a bit too long at the portion of the Berlin Wall that can be seen on the tour, losing our tour all together! We tried to relocate them with guidance from the company’s representatives at the suggested (awesomely affordable) lunch spot, but it was no use. Though guideless, we did find ourselves at Checkpoint Charlie, the American pass-through during the walled-era.

From there, we Google Mapped our way to the last two spots listed on the tour pamphlet: Gendarmenmarkt (awesome square) and Bebelplatz, with the book burning memorial (under construction :(). Though a well-informed guide through the two squares would have been wonderful, equally wonderful was the ability to roam and move at our own pace. This freedom allowed us to see one of my favorite Berlin views, the observation deck of the Französischer Dom, an 17th century French church, with alarmingly functioning bells…a fact we learned at 5pm, as we stood in the windows next to them. They’re not subtle from that distance. It was only 3 euro and 264 steps to reach the top, and well worth every bit! While not as tall as the TV tower or the tethered balloon we saw repeatedly traveling up and down near to the wall, the old church really did offer a prime perspective of the sprawling city.

Sunday Funday

 A bit rundown, a bit lazy, we agreed to pursue our first hop-on-hop-off bus experience. First though, it was time for some German food at the equally loved and despised Hofbräu Bavarian restaurant. Okay, so first off, the side-eyed look I got when ordering the 8-rack of strawberry rhubarb liqueur shots was certainly unwarranted; they were weak as hell. I was not even slightly tipsy after 4.5. I’m not a heavyweight by any stretch of the imagination, my boyfriend will corroborate. Perhaps it was the ten-pounds of yummy German carbs I stuffed my face with that counteracted the alcohol…We’ll never know. The foods was abundant, though not amazing. It was all at least worth eating, with a few standouts. For 12.90euro/person it’s really hard to beat anyway.
Fully stuffed with potatoes-ten-ways, we waddled to the front of the Raddison Park Inn, where the purple route for City Center Tours’ HOHO begins. We chose the purple route partially because I like purple more than yellow, but mostly because it followed a route leading to the two most appealing Berlin attractions left on the list: the Mauerpark Sunday Flea Market, and the East Side Gallery: a beautiful collection of paintings that beautify remains of the the Berlin Wall, and occasionally act as social/political commentary.
The Flea Market was a very cool vibe, with musicians playing, people sharing a few beers and food-truck snacks in the park, and a royal ton of thrift-finds. We would’ve likely been stuck there all day if it weren’t for the time crunch we’d put ourselves into in order to make it back to Alexanderplatz on the last bus.
 
Though the HOHO tour clearly states that they end at 5pm, they don’t clarify where that is. After a bit of frustrating dialogue with a bus driver it became obvious that there is no obvious answer. It’s not that all buses end at the end of the route, or that the last full route ends or starts at 5, it’s that at 5, wherever any bus is, it ends. Paired with the inaccurate “20 minute rotation” estimate for each bus, City Center made our  plan for a 4:15pm walk along the East Side Gallery and ride home precarious at best. Though we’d hoped to stop at the “nightclub” YAAM, which more so resembled a Rasta camp, we spotted a parked HOHO bus, and figured it was our last shot to not schlep our cold, sleepy selves the 35 minutes back to the hotel.
I’m a little more than slightly annoyed by the lack of clarity in the timing and schedule, but the bus tour was a rather nice way to see the harder-to-reach sides of the city while listening to a recorded guide on headphones they provide for free. I’d guess it’s better to use these tours when they’re open later in the summer, and the boat tour can be included.
We returned to the hotel to some news that even got a couple tears out of me (rarely accomplished by a human, let alone an email): the topic of my next post!

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