Wow.... It has definitely been a long 48 hours since I last posted. The good thing is I'm still alive and didn't get mugged. The bad thing is that I didn't get to my hostel last night until 6:30 a.m. But that story comes later.
First, the walking tour. NewEurope is a solid company that offers free walking tours in different cities all around Europe. They have other (not free) tours that they also do that go more in depth, but this was a great intro to all the sights of Berlin, which is exactly what we needed. Our tour guide was a great little Australian girl named Katie and she knew her stuff. We saw everything from the Brandenburg Gate, to the Holocaust Memorial, the sight of Hitler's bunker, what's left of the Berlin Wall, Checkpoint Charlie, various cathedrals, the site of a famous book burning in 1933 and Museum Island. There's so much history in this city and I'm pretty sure we learned a massive chunk of it in the 3 1/2 hours that we walked around with Katie. The Holocaust Memorial was probably the most striking of all the things I saw. It consists of thousands of concrete boxes of varying hights lined up in rows. Sounds simple, but when you get into the middle where the blocks tower above you and the ground starts to become crooked, it's a little disconcerting. You can't see what's coming around the corner and it gets quiet and cold.
The Berlin Wall was not at all what I expected. The part that's left is a strip right by the old Luftwaffe (air force) building. It's just a concrete wall reinforced with steel bars in the middle of the city. It has tons of holes in it from when it was being torn down. To keep people from messing it up more, they put a fence in front of it to keep people away. Ironic, huh?
After our tour, we went back to the hostel to relax a little before the pub crawl that New Europe also puts on. The idea is that you pay 12 Euro and the guide takes you around to five different bars where you get in free and get a free Jagermeister shot whenever you buy a drink. And there was free beer at the first bar for 45 minutes. Well, let's just say I heartily enjoyed myself (as did Thomas) until the last club. Matrix is a club basically in some train station. We had to take the train to get to it, and I was so lost by the time we got there. Thomas went in before me, but apparently they didn't let him in. I didn't know this and walked through with no problem.
I walked around for a while looking for Thomas, but after not finding him I just decided to go dance anyway. Techno does some funny things to me when it gets about 1 a.m. so I had a great time dancing by myself. Finally, about 3 a.m., I decided it was time to go home. I go back to the train station, but couldn't figure out how to get home. Assuming we hadn't gone far on the train, I decide to just walk. Bad idea. I ended up wandering around Berlin for just over three hours until the sun came up. I ended up down in South Berlin where all the factories are. Frustrated, tired and near tears, I finally found someone to help me.
There was a guy that looked just a little older then me sitting at a bus stop. I asked him if he spoke English in the best German I could muster. He said he did and I told him where I needed to go. He said he was going that way and that I should just follow him. He noticed my UNC jacket and asked if I was from North Carolina. I said I had just graduated. He proceeds to tell me that one of his good friends played basketball there: Surry Wood, a walk-on who graduated last year. Interesting. Random connection one. Then he tells me that he played basketball with him at Cary Academy. I told him I grew up in Cary. Random connection two. Then he says that he went on to play basketball at a Division II school in Hickory, Lenoir-Rhyne. My step-dad lived there for a long time. Random connection three. Talk about a small world.
He led me the 10 minutes ride back home and got me back to my hostel, which I was so thankful for. And I was glad to see that Thomas was already back and in bed. "Thank God," is all he said when I walked in. I only got a couple hours of sleep before we had to wake up and check out. I felt like I'd been run over by a truck. Not much was going to get done today. I promised myself that nothing like that night would happen again on this trip. After a good lunch and about 25 refills of Coke, we went to the train station to get tickets to Amsterdam on the Sunday night train. Then we went to the big park, Tiergarten, where we laid down for a bit while kids played soccer and dogs ran around. It felt great.
We started walking down to our next hostel (we had to move so much because there aren't many open beds. Busy weekend here with a festival and the German football final today). It took about two hours walking only to find out we were at the wrong one. But it was just a short train ride to the right one so we made it easily enough. Needless to say, I passed out quickly. Not much got done today.
Tomorrow we have a full day. We will be getting up and checking out, then heading to the Reichstag (parliament building) to climb up into the glass dome. Then we'll check out some stuff that we didn't have time to see yesterday. Then we'll take a train up to a concentration camp just north of the city that everyone says is worth seeing. We basically just have a lot of time to fill until the train leaves.
Though free, this internet isn't very good so I can't upload any pictures to the blog. I might can get some on Facebook but I'm not sure. They'll be up as soon as I can. I tried to upload videos but my computer just shut down. They might have to wait until I get home. I'll try again later though. I probably won't update again until we get to Amsterdam.
Until next time, cheers!