Thursday, June 19, 2014

[BERLIN] One Does Not Simply Take a Stroll in Berlin

You also have to bring a camera and take pictures, because you made it all the way here, right? While Berlin might lack the photogenic old buildings that most Central European cities would consider as the source of their touristic appeal, there is still this weird feeling present in this place. Unfortunately, it was all gloomy for me given the cold weather and cloudy skies.

Monday to Wednesday was spent attending the Polyglot Gathering, which meant I only had Thursday and Friday left for sightseeing. Friday was spent sleeping all day, and so I was left with nothing but Thursday. But then again, I was able to take a stroll on Tuesday afternoon, and saw most of the popular sites in just under three hours.

Coming from the Hauptbahnof, I think I spent around 15 minutes walking to get to that bridge area where you can ride a ferry to tour the river, which I no longer did because I prefer walking. I have low tolerance when it comes to cold weather, so I did not loiter anymore, but I could imagine that the place would be a lot nicer when the tandem of the sun and cool breeze is present.

The said area is just a few cartwheels away from the Reichstag, in front of which everyone feels obliged to strike a pose to prove that they have been to Berlin. If you are confused between the Reichstag and the Bundestag, the former almost always refers to the building, while the latter refers to the government. That means, yes, in effect they are symbolized by the same building you’re posing in front of.

Now there are many activities that can be done within the vicinity. If you saw the video, there is this group bike thing which looks really amusing, but let me see you try riding that thing when you are alone, huh. Again, you can take some sort of a mini cruise on the river. These activities can usually be booked online, and Google is your friend. Otherwise, just grab a picnic basket and be catatonic on the grass. I don’t know how many times I’ve used the term laid-back to describe this city. It’s contagious, really.

The other popular landmark, that one with horses on top, is just around the corner. Do not expect this area to be empty, although you can still snap a solo photo if you are resourceful enough. If you want to buy souvenirs, there is a souvenir shop next to Dunkin Donuts. I suppose it is a tourist trap given the convenient location, but sometimes you just have to get your key chain without having to torture yourself looking around for the cheapest bargain. Or maybe that’s just me.

My day and in essence, my whole Berlin sightseeing tour, sort of ended there. What happened on Thursday was that I woke up really late, like 4 PM-ish kind of late, which is why I just decided to go window shopping at KaDeWe and take a stroll around that area. It was fancy and all but kind of underwhelmed me anyway. But wait, there’s more.

My itinerary list and my Berlin album seem to disagree because I have photos of the Berliner Dom and Humboldt in there. Why were they not listed on my detailed daily itinerary, then? Or perhaps I considered it as part of the Brandenburger Tor tour? Whatever, let me just recall some of the details. This is what happens when you write about a trip that happened four months ago!

What I remember is that I really liked Humboldt from the outside, and I even felt a bit disappointed that I would be learning German for a month in Vienna instead of in Berlin, but then again the university’s language courses did not match my schedule. In any case, I think that area is my favorite place in Berlin. There was a lot of construction going on when I was there, but the old world feeling was still prevalent.

You need not go far away from Humboldt to end up at the Berliner Dom, but you will be seeing more impressive buildings and some museums along that less than a kilometer stretch. I have not been to Italy yet but the Berliner Dom, along with the statues on the bridge leading to it, is how I imagined the setting of Dan Brown’s Angels and Demons would be. You know, all those church hopping and shit.

For the record, I don’t really like churches. I’m agnostic, hello. What I do admire about them is usually the architecture, how grandiose everything is, which seems to be an irony in itself. As for the Berliner Dom, the green domes are what I really find to be appealing. Just staring at the façade is already a worthwhile activity. It is a pity, though, that I was not able to go inside and see if the interior design is just as jaw-dropping, although I bet that it should be.

There is another museum right across the cathedral and you are bound to find more people just lying on mats while having a picnic or just engaging in some serious PDA. Again, laid-back! No wonder a lot of my friends who have been here praise the city as much as they do.

While I am amused, the combination of jet lag, work, lack of sleep, the cold weather, as well as the overall shit-I’m-in-Europe adjustment feeling was just too much for me to bear. I guess I would have gained a different appreciation of the city had I visited it later rather than sooner. But there’s always next time, and Berlin is one city that I would love to visit again. When I’m sober. And with enough warm layers on.

[BERLIN] One Does Not Simply Take a Stroll in Berlin

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