I think the best way to describe my day would be that it was very productive. I got up at 4AM (jet lag!) and also because my cousin was pinging me with the latest on what would be happening to my debit card problem. Then I drifted in and out of sleep, chatting with people online, until 8:30AM when I began to plan out my itinerary. When you buy the Berlin Welcome Card, it comes with a little booklet that has info on discounts it provides and places of interest. I used one of the suggested tour itineraries and decided to do the typical tour route on the famous Unter Linden street.
The self-guided tour began at the TV Tower. You can go inside it, but I didn’t because I don’t care for heights (and I’m cheap and lazy). Rather than a set route, I just traveled to whatever the next closest landmark was. That’s probably the typical thing to do anyhow. I saw the Red City Hall, took some photos at Neptune’s Fountain, and headed over to the Berlin Cathedral (Berliner Dom). I felt that this would be worth the admission price, plus I could get a discount with my Welcome Card. I go in and it turns out that if you show student ID you get a discount that lands you the same price as the discount from the Welcome Card. Welcome Card, you are not paying off right now. FYI admission was 4€.
The cathedral is well worth seeing; it’s absolutely beautiful inside, with the murals and general architecture. It is, in a word, grandiose. Flash photography is not allowed, but it wasn’t necessary anyhow, plenty of natural light was shining through the windows. I took a lot of photos that I probably will never end up showing anyone, because you can only take so many angles of a church pew before it gets repetitive.
I got there around 10:30. Lines weren’t so bad, maybe a 5-10 minute wait to pay for admission? By 11AM tour groups were starting to fill up the empty church. You can take stairs that take you high up to the top of the building, no extra charge. The view is beautiful, and torturous for someone who has a fear of heights (me).
There was a small outdoor market next door, so I did a quick pass and saw quirky little works of art on canvas. I then came upon the giant street that’s just full of big old buildings (I think that’s the term they use in history of architecture 101). I wanted to get to the Brandenburg Gate, so I didn’t bother to stop and take pictures. What I did notice was that the only Berliners around were the waiters and shop people. Everyone on the street was a tourist. Were tourists? Was.
Although I try to dress discreetly and look like a local (and by that I just mean not having my camera hang around my neck) I know I’ll stick out anyhow because I’m Asian which makes me a definite minority in this tall, blonde country. However, if you want to blend in with other tourists and not stick out even more, I suggest two things: no hat, and no shorts. Despite the outrageously sunny weather, there were very few hat people, and the ones who did wear hats were either the other Asians in the vicinity or Americans. Another way to blend in? Be old and hold hands with your significant other.
So I strolled for a long, long time and finally found the gate. Of course, hundreds of tourists are already milling around, some raising their arms to make it look as if they were holding up the gate. Preposterous, I think to myself, the columns are right there supporting it. Secretly wishing I had a friend with me to take a picture of me holding the gate too. I snapped a couple of photos and notice a shiny thing in the distance. It’s the citadel. Just beyond this big ol’ gate is also Tiergarten Park.
Perfect, I’ll just make my way through the park then land at the citadel. Stupid me, it was an optical illusion. The same way the mountain seems so close to you when you’re driving to Reno that you feel like you’ll be there any second… and then another hour passes and the mountain doesn’t seem to have changed in perspective. TIL walking a kilometer versus running one is much more tiring.
So there I was, getting beautifully lost in this UNESCO Heritage site. The most frustrating part was, there were hidden treasures throughout the park so you couldn’t even stay mad at the place for being a beautiful maze of death. I would take a wrong turn then see something that would compel me to continue in the wrong direction. This went on for at least an hour. Finally, I got so tired I had to sit at the bench like an old lady and stare at the beautiful Venus water thing.
I finally did reach the citadel, but by then I was so frustrated that I resentfully snapped a few pictures then took the next bus back to the Brandenburg Gate (woot woot Welcome Card, public transportation included!). I discovered that the Memorial for the Murdered Jews in Europe was right next door, so I went straight to that.
Before I left, I decided to reward myself for surviving the Fourth Task of the Triwizard Tournament with some cheap ice cream (1€), cookie flavor. It tasted nothing like any cookie I’ve ever eaten. Nonetheless, it was nice to have a cold treat, and I headed over to the memorial with high expectations that I would be hit with the solemnity and sadness of it all. Instead, there were kids running around on top of the blocks, and people judging them as benches. It was disappointing. There was a line, too, to see whatever was underneath, so I decided not to go into the museum portion. I’ll probably regret constantly missing out on things because of my refusal to stand in line, but unless it has a shoulder harness and runs on a rail, there is no way I’m standing in line for over an hour.
I was getting hungry but I didn’t want to eat at an expensive restaurant, so I settled for a small sandwich shop that was slightly off the beaten path. Once again, the meat was very salty, but at 2.50€ it was a bargain. I decided to try and find the famous Gendermarkt, with hopes tha they would be selling Christmas trinkets despite it being nearly summer. On the way, I had to step into a chocolate shop, apparently famous, called Fassbender and something. The shop is wonderful to look at, with chocolate models that looked unappetizing from being exposed to everyone’s nasty breath but cool nonetheless. The real highlight were the chocolates on display underneath the glass. I felt like a street urchin staring through a window at a pastry shop, enviously watching other people buy mountains of expensive and overpriced chocolate while knowing that I’d never be able to taste it.
I finally found Gendermarkt Square and though beautiful, there were no hints of Christmas. Crestfallen, I looked around to see people lounging on chairs, sipping beers or coffee. I want to do that as well, but it’s expensive and not within my budget. But it looks very cool and gives off (at least to me) a very high class feeling. Apparently I’ll be using the word “cool” a lot in my musings because I have a short vocabulary range despite being a literature major. Cool beans.
I did see Checkpoint Charlie. Really rather underwhelming, but that’s probably because I’m not letting the history of it seep into my bones.
I was pooped at this point, so I looked for the closest Bahn station to take me back to my hostel. I got some wurst, cheese, and bread at the market so I could save money on meals. I don’t remember the name of the wurst I got, but it smelled slightly like throw up. I was able to get over the smell (texture was weird too, big mistake) and manfully finished my poor man’s dinner. It will be my lunch and possibly dinner for the next day. The cheese really helped make up for the nasty meat, but really, all I crave right now is some fresh fruit. I need some healthy nutrients in my body.