Day 2 pt. II: ‘Hop On, Hop Off’ Berlin City Tour

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I got back to the hotel after Lunch Shopping on time around 9.40-ish am and we set off almost immediately for the pick-up point of our tour which was conveniently located only a couple of blocks down the road from where we were staying. So You see, how this tour works is that there are about 31 stops around Berlin where these ‘Hop On, Hop Off” Tour buses will stop at to allow tourists taking part in the tour to well… hop on or hop off depending on which sites interested them!

These special bus stops are marked with a special placard which would read: “BEX Sightseeing”, just like the one You’d see on the bottom left of the image below.

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The tour package I selected would bring us to 20 out of the 31 stops – a pretty good deal I must say!

We were a little early for our tour so we wandered about a little and visited a couple of shops in the vicinity. Our first stop was “BUTLER” – a shop that one could liken to a mini version of Asia’s “I wanna go home”. I couldn’t help but notice just how much more lovely stuffed toy animals (being positioned on walls) looked in comparison to the ones killed in the wild… Don’t You?

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There were also some pop-up shops along the streets that were selling some pretty snazzy things like vintage magnets, keychains, bottle openers, coasters, bags, caps, cloths and such. Oh and postcards too!

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Now here are some of my favourite shots from the duration of the tour. Enjoy!

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We drove past Postdamer Platz, which is an important public square (Europe’s largest building site!) and traffic intersection in the centre of Berlin, Germany. After the initial opening of the Berlin Wall on 9 November 1989, Potsdamer Platz became one of the earliest locations where the Wall was “breached” to create a new border crossing between East and West Berlin. To add on to that, the traffic junction at Potsdamer Platz has the most famous traffic lights in Europe. The first traffic lights in Continental Europe were erected at Potsdamer Platz on 20 October 1924, in an attempt to control the sheer volume of traffic passing through.

Speaking of traffic lights, Berlin has one of the most famous traffic light characters in the world. You can find out a little about the Ampelmännchen, or “little traffic light men,” *here* if You’re interested.

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This new Sony Centre located within Potsdamer Platz is an eye-catching monolith of glass and steel featuring an enormous tent-like conical roof, its shape reportedly inspired by Mount Fuji in Japan.

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Oh and this random slide-down-the-artificial-mountain-in-a-tyre/tube set-up was put up as part of the Christmas market by Potsdamer Platz. Absolutely out of this world if You ask me.

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We stopped by Charlie Checkpoint next. Oh wait I meant Checkpoint Charlie – I apologise, my bad! Checkpoint Charlie (or “Checkpoint C”) was the name given by the Western Allies to the best-known Berlin Wall crossing point between East Berlin and West Berlin, during the Cold War. Checkpoint Charlie was a crossing point in the Berlin Wall located at the junction of Friedrichstraße with Zimmerstraße and Mauerstraße (which for older historical reasons coincidentally means ‘Wall Street’).

In case You were wondering as I did, Charlie didn’t originate from someone’s name. Instead, it came from the letter C in the NATO phonetic alphabet. Ah yes, and because this is the most visible Berlin Wall checkpoint, Checkpoint Charlie is frequently featured in spy movies and books.

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There was a cheeky photobooth right smack in the centre of the traffic junction at Checkpoint Charlie and as You can probably tell from the way the Men In Black Green were standing, they were one sassy bunch. They called out things like “Hey sexy where are You from!?” to get potential customers to come over!

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Mum, Dad and I walked over to a little museum-like set-up dedicated to the part of the Berlin Wall which used to be situated at Checkpoint Charlie.

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These boards featured photographs and stories from the past.

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The stories had such a personal and raw touch to them…

they took me back in time. It was painful to imagine what the Germans of the past went through.

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This one reads: “Last crossing using transit papers before the Four Power Agreement took effect, reception at Friedrichstraße rail border crossing.”

Look at their genuine smiles and lovely display of love during their reunion.

At this point in time, my parents got pretty hungry and we decided to stop by a Vietnamese restaurant (yes, Mum was missing Asian food quite a bit) where my parents would have their lunch.

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As we sat down in the little cosy Vietnamese restaurant, I looked up and saw this road sign vandalised to the point of hilarity! Told You Berlin was pretty artsy fartsy…

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Then I got hungry and so I fished out my lovely Mexican Burrito which I had bought earlier that day. More from that adventure *here* if You fancy a read!

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It was absolutely amazing and my taste buds enjoyed every bit of this wonderful Vegan treat!

“One cannot think well, love well, sleep well, if one has not dined well.” – Virginia Woolf, A Room of One’s Own

Oh life is so endlessly delicious!

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Before heading back to the bus stop where we had gotten off from the tour bus,  we passed by another (this one was much larger) Berlin Wall museum! What a pity that time wasn’t on our side and we had to get a move on in order to be able to see more of Berlin…

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We also whizzed past the Berliner TiergartenTiergarten (Animal Garden) is a locality within the borough of Mitte, in central Berlin. Notable for the great and homonymous urban park, before German reunification, it was a part of West Berlin.

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Next up was one of my favourite stops during the tour: WeihnachtsZauber Gendarmenmarkt! It was by far one of the prettiest Weihnachtsmarkt (Christmas Market) I’ve seen around Berlin and I found it to be on par with Marienplatz’s Christkindlmarkt in Munich. There were rows after rows after rows of magical-vibes-exuding pop-up booths snuggled together in the vicinity of a regal Konzerthalle (Concert Hall) which You can see in the background of the picture above. I think the stars sitting atop the booths’ pointy roofs add such a whimsical touch!

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Cheeky Dad had Glühwein in his hand, cheeky Mum had just finished a serving of Käsebällchen and cheeky me was still feeling blissfully full after the Mexican Burrito I had for lunch.

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I spotted this rather out-of-place character who had his head resting atop his hand and thought, “How could anyone feel bored in a place as happening and as celebratory as this?!”

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Mum and Dad posing with a funky version of the iconic Berlin bear!

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Oooooh yes and we had fabulous live music too! Loved the bit when the saxophonist performed his solo. It was so beautiful I even had goose pimples pop up all over my arms!

Moving on, here are a few shops along the way which caught my eye. Perhaps You’d manage to get a good impression of the (non-food section of the) Christmas market too!

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There were funky asymmetrical birdhouses, …

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… lovely ceramic/ porcelain hanging ornaments and flowers (Yes! Flowers made out of porcelain!), …

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… (okay fine one food item) Pretzels, …

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… beautifully hand-painted traditional lanterns, …

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… cosy scarves/ shawls with lovely patterns, …

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… and gold-plated vases filled with heavenly scented lavender.

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This was a little firetruck I spotted as I made my way out of the Christmas Market. Something tells me this wasn’t for anything more than an artsy touch to the already very artsy city.

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Next stop was the Reichstag! *cheese*

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I loved trailing behind my parents because I’d get lovely shots like this.

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The Reichstag building is a historical edifice in Berlin, Germany, constructed to house the Imperial Diet of the German Empire, which was succeeded by the Reichstag of the Weimar Republic. The latter would become the Reichstag of Nazi Germany, which left the building (and ceased to act as a parliament) after the 1933 fire and never returned; the term Reichstag has not been used by German parliaments since World War II.

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Two words: Unbelievably grand.

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<< These two pictures (above and below) where taken a bit later. Hence, the slight darker colouration. >>

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The roof terrace and dome (the semi-circular structure at the top) of the Reichstag Building can be visited by members of the public, and offer spectacular views of the parliamentary and government district and Berlin’s sights.

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We then made our way to the Brandenburger Tor (Brandenburg Gate). Along the way, we (along with many others) were blocked by a barricade of policemen preventing us from crossing the road. We had been seeing so many policemen all over the city since the earlier hours so at this point we had confused for a good three to four hours and I guess curiosity got the better of us so Dad walked over to a guy standing beside us and asked, “Wissen Sie, was its hier in Berlin passiert, dass es heute so viele Polizisten gibt?” (“Do You know what’s happening here in Berlin such that there’d be so many policemen going around?”) He replied with a little shrug before pointing over to one of the entrances of the Reichstag and mentioning that the Israeli flag was being flown that day. He assumed that perhaps a member of the Israeli parliament was in Berlin and that the policemen would be required to escort him around.

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This is it! The Brandenburger Tor! A beauty, don’t You say? It is an 18th-century neoclassical triumphal arch in Berlin, and one of the best-known landmarks of Germany. Throughout its existence, the Brandenburger Tor was often a site for major historical events and is today considered a symbol of the tumultuous history of Europe and Germany, but also of European unity and peace.

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The gate consists of 12 Doric columns, six to each side, forming five passageways. Citizens originally were allowed to use only the outermost two on each side. Atop the gate is the Quadriga, a chariot drawn by four horses. The new gate was originally named the Friedenstor (Peace Gate) and the goddess is Eirene, the goddess of peace.

The gate’s design is based upon the Propylaea, the gateway to the Acropolis in Athens, Greece, and is consistent with Berlin’s history of architectural classicism (first, Baroque, and then neo-Palladian).

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I left a little space on the left side of this image to photoshop my sister in but then came the accidental photobomber who I feel makes a funny addition to this picture, especially with that cheery smile of his. Perhaps I’ll keep it this way.

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I find it so endearing how Mum tilts her head slightly to the side in pictures. I find it even more endearing how Dad loves taking pictures of Mum – candid or posed.

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On the way back to the bus stop beside the Reichstag, we got such a terrible scare when we saw someone on the other side of the road collapse on his back. A handful of passersby rushed over to his side to pull him up onto the pavement from the road’s asphalt. No sooner than You could say “supercalifragilisticexpialidocious” came the ambulance and off he was to the hospital! Gott sei Dank!

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Then something peculiar or rather strange happened to us…

When we reached the bus stop where the buses should have stopped for us, we saw the buses simply driving past us. One after another. I began questioning my memory. This was where we were dropped off, wasn’t it? I was becoming worried too because they began whizzing past us faster… and faster. After a while, I figured that they wouldn’t be stopping there anymore and I decided for us to walk over to the next bus stop on the route.

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Following the route led us to the Berliner Hauptbahnhof (the Berlin Main Train Station).

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That was where I spotted a fresh juice bar and I bought a large-sized smoothie cup’s worth of Copa Cabana (made out of a mix of Mango, Banana, Pineapple, Oranges and Coconut Milk). I mean, how could I have not?

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Es schmeckte mir sehr! *thumbs up*

When we finally got onto the next bus arriving at the bus stop located by the Hauptbahnhof, Dad asked the driver why no buses stopped at the previous bus stop. He said that there had been a bomb scare at Unter den Linden (where we were during an earlier part of the day!!) and all buses purposely missed the few stops along that stretch.

I stood there rooted, unable to move. I couldn’t believe it had hit so close to home. I couldn’t believe that something I’d never imagine to happen to me/ my family… actually did.

Time is precious, it really is. No one ever knows when it’s their turn to say goodbye.

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The sun was setting fast as we made our way back to the hotel and by the time we got back into our room, the sky was already pitch black. No stars were to be seen though… light pollution proved to powerful in a city like Berlin.

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Later that evening, Mum, Dad and I visited a family friend’s humble apartment where we shared a very lovely dinner. We talked about everything under the sun – from the utterly conspicuous art scene in Berlin to the fact that Berlin is made up of 24 different villages, thus resulting in this city not actually having some place the people could call the ‘city centre’.

Oh and it was also there that we found out that it was the president of Afghanistan who had visited Berlin that day! Hence, the city-wide police presence earlier on!

“Old books that have ceased to be of service should no more be abandoned than should old friends who have ceased to give pleasure.” – Bernard Baruch

What a splendid day it was.

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