Day 106, 107, 108, 109 & 110
Berlin was yet another city that was absolutely packed. Between the 4 walking tours, two pub crawls and one techno rave we never stopped. Everyday was filled with something whether it was visiting the wall, going to Sachsenhausen, visiting the Jewish Memorial or exploring Tacheles (a abandoned building filled with squatters). I'm kind of disappointed we only had five days here as there was so much I never got to do. I will definitely be back but for now let's just get into it.
Each full day in Berlin we went on a different walking tour. Starting off with the free city tour we were able to see the main attractions in town including Brandenburg gate, the Reichstag, the Holocaust memorial, Checkpoint Charlie, the Berlin wall (which looked nothing like expected), the hotel were MJ held his child over the edge and the massive Tv tower. However they also took us to the not so common sights such as The Book Burning Memorial, the former Location of Hitlers bunker (basically just looks like a small park now), Museum Island and the SS headquarters. Our guide was awesome and it really gave us a good view of the city. We now knew what there was to do and how to get around.
On day 2 our tour was unlike anything we had done before labelled the alternative city tour. Here we explored the other side to the city, the grungy dirtier side filled with squatter settlements and street art. We started off at a settlement called Tacheles which was absolutely insane. It was essentially a building used during both world war 2 and the cold war that was abandoned, only to be filled with a group of artists. These artists have spent many years there and still live there today, selling their pieces of work to anybody brave enough to walk through the building. Our guide took us to places we would never have found pointing our graffiti and street art that he liked along the way. We visited the treehouse man of Berlin as well as the East Side gallery, a 1.3Km stretch of the Berlin wall that artists were commissioned to decorate.
Walking tour 3 was a bit of an educational one, taking us through "Red Berlin" highlighting the sights of the cold war. Whilst I was hoping they would teach us a bit about the war in a broader sense, it seemed to be very wall based and how that impacted Berlin. We saw a portion of the Death strip that had been preserved, former tunnels under the wall, the wall memorial as well as the wall museum. It was a bit too much wall for me. We did see a couple of other things including the Soviet embassy, the huge WW2 memorial (constructed during the cold war) and the ghost stations of East Berlin. It was a nice tour and our guide was very informative yet I walked away wanting more.
Our fourth and final tour included only Az and I and was to the Sachsenhausen concentration camp just outside Berlin. In a small group we travelled to the camp and were able to see one of the first concentration camps built. Not having been to a concentration camp before it was quite a big tour for both of us. However as it wasn't march or a Jewish based tour it came across as an informative tour rather than a very emotional one. Our guide was exceptional giving us a fantastic overview of the place. We saw the SS barracks, the watch towers, the Jewish section (as it was mainly for Political prisoners initially), the maximum security section, the extermination building (even though it wasnt a death camp) as well as the medical centre. It was a tough tour especially after seeing the gas chamber, the crematorium and the morgue. It was hard to believe that we were standing in the very spots that thousands of people were ruthlessly killed. I definitely in no rush to go see another camp but I'm very glad I went.
Berlin is known around the world for having some of the craziest nightlife. As such on 3 out of 5 nights there we headed out and had big ones. The first night was the standard pub crawl done with the walking tour group. It was pretty average and the people we were with weren't fantastic. We did however manage to meet some cool Israelis and went to a pub where you poured your own beers from taps on the tables.
Night two was a night that will certainly be remembered. It was my favourite pub crawl on the trip so far and probably will not be beaten. Named the anti pub crawl it was unlike any we had been on before. Rather than going to standard bars we went to the most obscure places in town, places we would never have found. We started off in 'Yesterday Bar' a room with mushrooms on the roof, pinball and foosball in the corner and a whole bunch of crazy crap on the wall. Bar 2, a goth bar was really creepy having coffins as tables, jars of eyes behind the bar and skull beer taps. The music was goth rock and the drinks were scarily named. From there to a ping pong bar in which everyone plays the game around the world. It was funny to see that some "pros" come on a regular basis even bringing their own bats. Next was the absinthe bar which as you can guess serves a huge variety of absinthe. Organized by alcohol percentage, you could choose which drink you would like served with a teaspoon of sugar that you caramelized and dropped in before you drink. Not only that but they had a version of the board game trouble made into an electronic game. It was fantastic! Our last bar was an indie rock bar that had some amazing music. Whilst we only got there late as we made a quick kebab run we still had a rocking time. The final destination of the night was a reggae club in an abandoned train station in the middle of nowhere. Whilst the music was pretty average we had an awesome time just knowing where we were. We even ran into the boys from Melbourne and back home, very appropriate because it was Eve Rosh Hashana. We decided to head home at about 5 once the trains had started again. On our walk home we found some people playing soccer an began to join. After on guy fell on his face attempting to receive an awesome pass from me, some random came and took the ball claiming it was his. We really didn't mind but the guys we were playing with seemed to care a lot yelling at the man "don't be such a Flupschlapper". A random but hilarious end to a absolutely fantastic night.
Our final big night was spent at a club, advised to us by our guide from the Alternative city tour. Called Tresor it was an underground techno rave located in a electricity plants basement. To make things even better it was their 20th anniversary. We arrived at 1 thinking we would make a late entrance. We walked in, saw that there was nowhere there and walked straight out. We tried again an hour later and it had gotten a bit better. We went into the basement in which we could only see about a metre in front of us. Lights were flashing everywhere, music was pumping and people were going crazy. We spent a couple of hours there and even that was too much. The intense music and dancing that goes with it really takes it out of you. It was an awesome experience never having been to a rave but was a bit to intense for me. I'd love to do something like that again but maybe a bit tamer.
Us being good Jewish boys and very intrigued by the idea we headed to a shul on first night Rosh Hashana. Chabad being on the other side of town we headed to a shul around the corner that turned out to be reform. It was a very different experience to normal having both a female Chazan and Rabbi. The Chazan seemed to think she was in the opera taking the 30 minute service and making it over an hour. Not only that but the rabbi delivered a 20 minute drosha... With every word in German. It was a bit more boring than usual but everything turned around when we got to the end and were given challah, apples and honey. You really start to miss challah when you haven't had it in 3 months.
I'm sure I've forgotten something as Berlin was just such a big city. We were completely wiped by the end of the five days and we are now heading to a pub crawl in Prague. Hopefully catch up on sleep the night after.
That's all for now