Our tour has officially ended with most of our tour mates leaving today. Russ and I still have a couple of days left to enjoy the city and since museums are closed on Mondays we thought it would be a good day to check out a museum.
Russ really loves Egyptian artifacts and has gone to Egypt before so and our main goal today was to head over to the Egyptian Museum to view their artifacts. The museum has 4 levels of great artifacts throughout the many history of Egypt from the 4000BC up to the Roman rule and up to rule of Akhenaten (around 1340BC). The main highlight of the museum is the famous Nefertiti colour bust which is guarded and on the top floor.
I was really amazed at the quality of the collection and how it was showcased. Seeing Nefertiti’s bust was amazing. Truly a work of art and truly a beautiful piece. The bust is said to be a true likeliness of Nefertiti and lives up to all the hype around it. She was a beautiful woman with amazing features. Well worth the €10 price.
On our way to the museum we encountered an open air concert from the Berlin Symphony outside the Humboldt University on Unter den Linden. It was amazing to see people of walks of life enjoying the music, from young and old, it was a great experience. I just wished we would have had more time to enjoy the music, but we wanted to make the most of the museum itself.
The day concluded with a nice dinner out to an Argentinian Steak House (which really wasn’t Argentinian at all 🙂 ).
It’s not often that you get to experience a huge event in another country, and on our third day in Berlin, we got to experience one of their most popular events – Christopher Street Day (Berlin Gay Pride). We ended up catching the parade in front of the KaDeWe department store.
This parade was huge, with many huge floats hosting people dancing and drinking in celebration. Everyone seemed to have a fantastic time and the spectators where all enjoying themselves. The parade continued well into the afternoon and ended up at the Brandenburg Gate.
What I did find interesting was that people were opening up champagne bottles and drinking in celebration, even the floats themselves where selling alcohol to anyone that was following along. Unlike here in North America, there were no fights, there were no riots, just people enjoying a good party. Granted the mess that is left behind is huge, but the cleaners do a fantastic job of cleaning it up quickly afterwards.
Today was a free day for us, which meant we had no schedule tour plans from the company and we can go out and explore Berlin as we sought fit. Our tour guide the night before did mention that he was going to get on the “hop-on, hop-off” bus and see if there was anything of interest that might be worth seeing. Both Russ and I thought it would be a good way to see the city as well as I had a few places I wanted to stop off at, including the Parliament building with this glass dome.
Luckily one of the stops for the “hop-on, hop-off” bus was just outside our hotel. One bus that stopped, offered a day pass for €15, with a €5 more to have the audio accompaniment but only until 10pm that night. Another bus stopped and offered a 24 hour pass for €20 which included the audio accompaniment. Since it was for 24 hours we opted for this company. (Alas on further inspection afterwards we did notice that bus stops at 10pm also.)
With map provided, we were on our way to tour the city. We stopped at several places where we stopped the day before during our half day tour so those places were off our list. I made notes of places to hopefully stop off again on the return trip. We ended up getting off just near the Berlin Cathedral which is surrounded by several other museums.
We continued to walk down along Unter den Linden which was surrounded on both sides by more museums and we got to the Humboldt University where they were setting up for an open air concert in a couple of days.
We continued on our way toward the Brandenburg Gate where we got back on the “hop-on, hop-off” bus to continue on our way. Realizing that we promised to meet some fellow people from the tour to head to the Bauhaus Museum, we had to rush along and not stop at any other stop. There were some interesting other stops we wanted to see, but we might have to wait until our other free day on Monday.
The Bauhaus Museum was just down the street from our hotel (yes the hotel was really well placed) where we got to see some examples from Bauhaus and learn more about the school and some of their famous teachers. Overall I wasn’t too impressed with it as I found the exhibit to be fairly small. We completed the exhibit within an hour.
The evening was completed with some of the tour group getting together for a dinner our near by. Fun was had by all this day!
After a 2 hour bus ride from Dresden, we finally arrived to our new home in Berlin at the famous Hotel Berlin Berlin. It was nice to be greeted at the Hotel door by the Berlin Bear that throughout the city. This is similar to the Orcas and Eagles that were throughout Vancouver. It was great to see other cities doing the same thing.
Once we got settled into our hotel rooms, we headed out on 1/2 day tour of the city. It was amazing to see that we were given such a huge bus for only 14 people.
Our first stop took us to the famous Brandenburg Gate. The gate was commissioned by Fredrick William II of Prussia in 1788 and was the entry point to the city palace in the boulevard of linden trees. It was also an important entry point when Berlin was separated into the East and West sides. Now the Brandenburg Gate is a European landmark and is surrounded by many consulates.
Our tour continued through the city where we got to see a section of the remaining Berlin Wall where famous artists where asked to paint the wall after the wall came down in 1989 to form a huge graffiti wall. Most recently the artists where invited to come back and repaint their section and update them with their signature.
We continued our tour around the city seeing all the old section of the former East Berlin and seeing the new architecture throughout the city including the famous Sony Centre.
Our next stop was the famous Checkpoint Charlie. This was the crossing point between East and West Berlin during the Cold War. Here you can pose with some people dressed in US, French and Russian soldier uniforms (at a cost of 4 Euros) or get your passport stamped with replicas of the original stamps for about 5 Euros. I opted out not to get my passport stamped as I felt it was too “Niagara Falls” for me.
It was very odd being such an area where there was a division of the city. If it wasn’t for some of the monuments currently around the city, you wouldn’t know there was an old wall. I even got to step over the old line.
An amazing day with lots of information provided by our tour guide. The evening we got together as a group for an amazing dinner. The next couple of days we will be on our own and I’ll hopefully get to go back to some of the sites we saw our initial tour.
In just 3 weeks time, both Russ and I will be on another trip. This time we decided on a different route and signed up for a tour in Europe. This isn’t a typical tour that most would find and is more of a specialized tour called the “Go for Baroque!” tour because of the many 16th century to early 18th century architecture we will be seeing.
The tour will begin 3 weeks from now and cover three magnificent cities – Prague, Czech Republic (3 days); Dresden, Germany (the Free State of Saxony)(2 days); and finally ending in Berlin, Germany(4 days). Russ and I have extended our visit with an extra day in Prague, before the tour, and 2 days after in Berlin.
As I’ve never been to this part of Europe before, I’m very excited to see what it has to offer. I’m also scared about it as well. This will be the first time in my many trips that I haven’t spoken the native language at my destination. Yes I do understand that English will be wildly spoken, but it is still hard.
As the trip begins in Prague and ends in Berlin, we had to decide if we wanted to book our flights arriving in Prague and leaving in Berlin, or book our arrival and departure from the same city. After much searching we decided to book our arrival and departure from Berlin, which means we had to book transportation from Berlin to Prague. We opted for a nice train ride through the country and since the train is accessible from the Berlin airport, our decision was easy.
As usual I’ll be document our journey via this blog as well as posting photos on my Flickr page.
This will probably be the last big trip for us for the next foreseeable future. I do have one dream vacation that I want to do in the next 5 years and that will require saving up for.