After 5 months in Europe, this was it. Our final stop: Berlin. From Berlin we would fly out to London for a night and then board a cruise ship heading for the USA. We were determined to make the most of our time in Berlin but I was pretty much over it and ready to get on the ship and do nothing for 2 weeks. The 5 months of touristy madness had finally caught up to me.
Nevertheless, on we soldiered and see the sights we did. In our 6 days in Berlin we managed to visit the Brandenburg Gate, the Reichstag, Checkpoint Charlie, the remnants of the Berlin Wall, and many other sites. One of the highlights of our visit was the DDR museum, an interactive museum that recreated life in East Germany. We got to drive a Trabant (the horrendously designed cars that East Germans could buy after being on a 12 year waiting list), do our food shopping (where we could choose from only one or two State-sponsored brands of each product), spy on our neighbours (like good communist citizens) and cast our vote in rigged elections. It was a real eye opener into life under Socialism and something that I highly recommend - especially to the modern day touchy-feely lefties we have in Australia who really have no idea what their leftist utopia would look like in practice. In short, it looks like crap. But I digress…
Our Berlin visit wasn't all sight-seeing and buildings. We also managed to spend time with some friendly faces. The first of which was Kerstin - a German girl who had studied with Jess' brother, both in Germany and Australia. Kerstin caught the overnight train from Koln to greet us at the train station upon our arrival in Berlin. We then spent the first 24 hours in Berlin with her before she headed back to Koln for her mother's wedding. Yep, she spent 6 hours on a train to come and visit us just a few days out from her mum's wedding. What a girl!!
The other friendly face was my cousin Bianca. Bianca was in the process of trying to score a work visa in Germany and had just found herself an apartment in Berlin. It was great catching up with her on the other side of the world and hearing all about her dad's wedding which took place just a week after we embarked on this mammoth trip. I was shattered I missed the wedding. Uncle Mark is like my second father - he took me under his wing as a youngster and introduced me to KISS and Def Leppard. Anybody who knows me well will know that that's no small deal. I'm a KISS tragic! Again, I digress…
After our stay in Berlin, we few out to London for one final sight-seeing junket followed by a night of family fun. This time, we reunited with Jess' cousin Kate and her fella Dewy for a hearty Sunday roast. But before meeting them, we paid a visit to the iconic Tower of London (which we had failed to see the first time around in London). It was here that we came face to face with the Crown Jewells of England's Royal Family. I'm talking about their crowns and sceptres (what did you think I was talking about sicko???).
The time spent with family and friends was a great way to spend our final days in Europe. We had signed off from Europe with more of a whimper than a bang but we were quietly proud of all that we had done and seen in 5 months. It was time to embark on a new journey in the USA. Something totally different. But before that, we needed to put our feet up on a two week trans-Atlantic cruise.
Next stop: The Atlantic Ocean