My hotel is just around the corner from Tegel Airport (of Berlin Airlift fame) which means it is not in the center of Berlin so a 30-40 minute U-Bahn ride would take me to my first stop of the day. The U-Bahn was a bit confusing to me. (I think my experience with Tokyo’s subway this April has spoiled me on all other transit systems) I was able to purchase a Berlin Welcome Card at the station from a kiosk.
For 32.50 euro I get unlimited public transit lines for 4 days plus lots of discounts at tourist spots. If you plan on going to many sites that have fees, you will make your money back pretty quickly. There is an optional Museum Pass that you can get that gets you free admission to many of the big museums. Since I did not buy my museum pass with my Berlin Welcome Card, it costs more, but will still save me money once I’m done with seeing everything on Museum Island. You can order both in advance, but I didn’t due to the high cost of shipping to the US.
I decided to see the Brandenburg Gate first thing in the morning because I figured it would be less crowded. What I did not count on was the Berlin Marathon being this weekend, so while there may not have been as many tourists there were quite a few competitors and crew there getting ready. It was impressive.
I walked around and then headed towards the Reichstag because it was so close. I did not tour it, but did take some nice pics. Walking back through the gate, I stopped in by the Berlin Tourism office there to get some info and buy a museum pass.
I headed east down Bundesstraße 2 to by some postcard stamps and get a few souvenirs. En route I came across a giant building that looked interesting.
I grabbed my camera and took a few photos through the gate. It was while zooming in to the top I saw what this place used to be. The old Soviet embassy in East Berlin.
As I walked along it became clear that the old USSR embassy was now the Russian embassy. It only made sense.
They had at least two rose bushes behind the walls. I was kind of impressed to see the softer side of Russia.
I decided that chocolate makes the best souvenir to bring to people back home so I went to Ritter Sport Bunte Schokowelt. It’s kind of like an M&M store but for Ritter Sport. You can get custom mixed bars that are done in about half an hour. Of course during that half hour you get to wander through the rest of the store and buy more chocolate. They do have Ritter Sport in the US, but this place had many types we do not see there and at a much better price.
Looking at all that candy made me hungry so my next stop was The German Currywurst Museum. I’ve never had currywurst before but had read about it and figured that was as good a place as any to have lunch.
The museum was small but interesting and had lost of info on the food itself as well as convenience foods in general. The admission came with a sample of currywurst, but I ate before going into the museum so I passed.
I only recently learned about the East German auto called Trabant, or Trabi. Turns out there are Trabi fans out there and there is a Trabi Museum in Berlin. For the very resonable fee of only 2.50 euros (with the Berlin Welcome Card discount!), you can tour it. It has a few different models of Trabis to see and lots of info on the cars and thier place in East German society.
I exited through the gift shop and noted a giant balloon across the street and made a note to check it out later. After strolling along one of the last remaining stretches of the Berlin Wall, I rounded a corner to see the last remianing East German guard tower.
I friendly lady at its base will tell you in German or English all about it and for 3.50 euros you can climb up the ladders inside to the top. I am old and out of shape, but decided that there may not be another chance to do this, so I paid my fare and up I climbed.
Today it is surrounded by trees and development instead of the barren “death strip” they were guarding so it is kind of hard to picture what they were doing up there.
Climbing up was one thing, but like a cat who climbed up into a tree, I was not sure I could get down.
As I was descending all I could think of was slipping and meeting my grizzly death at the bottom. Killed by a desire to see what was up top and a total lack of climbing skills in what might have been one of the last and certainly the dumbest casualties of the Cold War. Obviously I made it since I don’t think you can blog from the afterlife.
I hopped the U-Bahn back to the hotel and too tired to go to dinner, ate snacks and drank German wine all purchased from the vending machine in the lobby. I do feel some shame about this, but it’s my vacation so if I wanna drink vending machine wine I will.