Berlin – Poor but Sexy!
Berlin exceeded everyone’s expectations.
It was a long tour day but a terrific one. We gathered at 730am and returned to the ship at 9pm. Berlin is a 3 hour drive from the port of Warnemunde.
I booked our Berlin groups excursion through a company based in St. Petersburg, Russia. After a great deal of research I was confident this was the best choice – we were not disappointed – excellent in every way. We saved hundreds of dollars (in comparison to the ships excursions) and our guides were superb (very well educated, professional), excellent coach drivers (we had 2) and we travelled in deluxe Mercedes brand coaches. I was very impressed!
The drive to Berlin went by quickly. The countryside scenery was beautiful. The highway we travelled on was in excellent condition – well kept, no garbage. We noticed a few very small (in comparison to home) combines harvesting corn and the winter wheat has already inched out of the ground. We spotted many deer in the farmers fields. Everything is kept up so well.
We stopped for a break in both directions at a highway rest area – in Germany there is a 50 cents charge to use the restrooms in most places.
Our guides met us in Berlin. The Jewish tour guide on coach 1, has a PhD
(philosophy) and is an accredited lawyer but his full-time job is leading tours. As you can imagine he was a wealth of knowledge and his presentation was fascinating. I was captivated by what he presented to us.
There are 3.5 million people living in Berlin. It’s impressive that 40% of the city is green space (parks).
Our Berlin tour fell on Oct 3rd – a national holiday celebrating 30 years since Germany was reunified. Almost everything was closed except for a handful of tourist shops.
Berlin has been in an influx since after WWII – our guide stated the city is poor but sexy. It attracts musicians and artists because its reasonable to live here – its now a trendy place to live. I noticed billboards promoting upcoming concerts by the Jonus Brothers and David Hasselhof.
Tourism is the #1 industry in Berlin – over 13.5 million visit per year.
Berlins tourism sites are fascinating but sobering at the same time. It’s suffered a very tragic and sad history.
Highlights – We visited a place where the Berlin Wall still stands
– We saw the hotel where Michael Jackson held his child out the window
– We walked through a Jewish Memorial (so meaningful)
In the adjacent museum the names of the Jews that were murdered are read out with a brief description of that person but there are so many names it takes 7 years before a name is repeated)
– We enjoy free time at Checkpoint Charlie (its the only attraction that is tacky touristy with American fast food restaurants and poor quality souvenir shops surrounding it but Starbucks provided free wifi)
The reunification celebration did not go off without a hitch. Some organized groups held demonstrations. One small group still supports Hitler but this is an illegal act so they need to be careful of what they preach or they will be jailed. There was a problem – so police released tear gas and instantly blocks of streets were closed with police swarming. We had finished our touring and were in our motor coach on our way out of the downtown core when this happened. We could see the clouds of tear gas and slightly smell it – as we tried to exit the core our tour coach was caught in the middle of the closures. A policeman forced our motor coach driver to turn around in the middle of the street so we were out of the way. Our guide scrambled to find an alternative, out-of-the-way route for us to meet the other coach while avoiding the unrest.
Making a return visit to Berlin is now high on my bucket list. It’s such an amazing destination!