Berlin. What to say. It really is flavour of the month at the moment, and there was a lot of HHLE (high hopes, low expectations) - but to be honest, perhaps a little too much HH and not enough LE. Therefore, I don’t think we liked it as much as we wanted to like it.
Meg managed to find us a pretty convenient location to park up and boondock for the 4 or 5 nights we were planning to stay. From the outset, a friend from The Rally had run the Berlin marathon the day before we arrived, so it was great to grab a few beers with him & his friends (ahhh, different people to talk to!). The bar we met was rather random, on top of a huge multi-storey car park, with a bit of city rooftop garden feel to it. Was this the feel of things to come?
The first day we took a long 5 hour walking tour around the city. Really interesting. You forget just how much Berlin has been through in modern times. From the headquarters of Nazi Germany and the destruction that that saw, to the splitting of the city between Western Powers and Eastern Communist powers (the Berlin wall being the symbol of such), to then the reunification, and the difficulties that that has caused. Much of the Nazi legacy had been wiped out/destroyed (Hitler’s bunker has been purposely covered up by a non-descript car park of a housing estate), but there is the distinct East/West divide to be seen (Trabant tours, East Side gallery, Checkpoint Charlie, etc). Much like a lot of the German cities, there is also a huge amount of graffiti.
What surprised me about the city, was the pretty liberal attitude to much of the buildings. There was a lot of abandoned, semi-abandoned hospitals/churches or equivalent that have now been taken over by permanent squatters. And been allowed to do so. This to me, seems totally against the German image of efficiency and so on? But, I suppose much like any modern city, you have such a diverse mix of nationalities, and income levels, that its actually pleasing that people are able to have some kind of roof over their heads before gentrification totally kicks in.
We had one day just wandering, and another where we went on an ‘alternative’ tour that was pretty disappointing, but one place we did go to, that made me feel very James Bond, was the Liquidrom. It was an indoor spa/sauna place, made out of concrete with music & lights to help create the ambience. I wasn’t quite up for the all naked sauna, or the naked Germans doing group stretching in front of me, but it was definitely something unique.
Overall however, I think Berlin was quite exhausting. I’m sure staying in Mike (under a street lamp on a pretty busy main road) meant we didn’t get great nights’ sleeps, so I think next time it will be in a nice centrally located hotel to really appreciate the place fully. There was so much to see & do, that in the end we probably just soaked up more of the ambience and feel for the place, so next time we need to hunker down and plough through all of the hundreds of worthy museums…
Even though we had booked our Euro tunnel for next week, the usual scenario of the, ’end-of-a-trip-fatigue’ had kicked in as I think Berlin had subconsciously worn us out. As such, we busted through Leipzig in an afternoon (bit of an antique market, and a warehouse district of art spaces), and before we knew it, we were pretty much at the French border. And then, to cap it off, one morning I had a distinct sense that Mike had leaked a lot of oil during the night. It was at that point, that a home countdown had begun and by Sunday night we were already in Dunkirk, and back in the UK by Monday lunchtime. Bosh. Summer Euro tour complete.