After 5 years studying German, that’s all Ms X could really recall and there’s not a lot of opportunities to tell people “I am a girl”!
The train ride to Berlin was an interesting one, because half an hour after leaving Malmo we were directed on to a ferry bound for Germany. The whole process of loading the train on to the ship took nearly and hour, and once aboard we were able to make our way deckside to join in the festivities above the water line, namely restaurants, poker machines, cinema, sightseeing and shopping. Not enough to engage our tastes at this stage, as we were dog tired, so we retired to the haven of our personal cabin. However, it seemed we had only just closed our eyes when the alarm sounded at 5:00am for us to get ready to alight at 6:00. As it was such an ungodly time, we stored our luggage at Berlin’s main station, grabbed some breakfast then jumped on an internet cafe machine. By about 10:00 we decided we would get our luggage after all and trudged our way along the strasses, following the remnants of the Berlin Wall to our houseboat, situated right on the Spree River and within about 20 feet of the wall. Once onboard, the young fraulein gratiously let us check in extremely early, which gave us the opportunity to do some washing and catch our breath. The room was great, looking out over the water and practically within touching distance of the graffitti-covered Berlin Wall. Even the water surrounding us was full of fish that would have individually caused the water level down at Grumpy to rise, such was their size!
First port-of-call was the obligatory Free Walking Tour. This time mein host was another Pom called Matt, who took us on a four and a half hour extravaganza of sightseeing and story telling, such were his talents. Such sights as the grand Brandenburg Gate, the Lufftwaffe headquarters, Hitler’s Bunker site, the imposing Reichstardt and the Stassi headquarters. (Somehow I wonder what the tourist trade would have been like if it wasn’t for the Nazis!). The memorial to the jewish Holocaust was a moving and impressive one, and tastefully done. It was also good to see that Hitler was not glorified in any way, and in fact the german people have gone to extreme lengths to nerase all memories of the monster dictator. Even his bunker had been exploded and flooded. it is now an apartment block carpark.
We rang the girls, had a very relaxing drink in deck chairs along the river’s edge, then joined the one-hour queue to enter the Reichstardt (two women behind us were Australian, and one had taught at Altona Meadows PS), where Ms X made her way to the very top to experience a glorious view of Berlin. Chicken-shit Mr X kept his feet firmly planted on the ground floor, such was his continuous inability to cope with heights. An exhaustive trip back to the boat saw us dining beside the wall and indulging in a few convivials whilst aboard. Mr X was so tired and hungry he even ate the only two things left on the menu….vegetarian lasagne and chile concari! The weary travellers had covered an enormous 20.7 kms over the course of the day.
next day we dragged our slightly refreshed bodies down to breakfast, then caught a train to the Sachanhausen Death Camp. This camp was set up by the Nazis as a ‘perfect model camp’ for all other camps to follow. 300,000 political prisoners and jews were sent there at one stage or another. To walk around the place was eerie. It covers an immense area, with haunting guard towers still spying across the now vacant areas where once so much misery occurred. There was no admittance price, again an appropriate and pleasing aspect of how the present day Germans view what once happened. Even the souvenir shop only contains books and DVD’s on the subject. There’s no sign of tacky key-rings, fridge magnets or the like. The part that hit Mr and Ms X was the latrine and shower block. We really don’t want to go into detail, we’re sure the imagination can probably fill in the blanks, but it was a feeling that needed few words. without admitting it to one another, we both had tears in our eyes. Even typing this makes one feel emotional once again. Let’s hope we notonly learn from the past, but that we never, ever let anything like this ever happen again.
On the way back, we stopped off at a classy looking restaurant advertising weiner schnitzel, which started Mr X’s jaw glands salivating. But what a great disappointmet. Straight out of the freezer from the Baron’s table. Deep fried and with french fries! Ms X decided she wanted to see Checkpoint Charlie, which we did, but again was a bit of a disappointment. 90% of the museum was about successful escapes from East Germany, which was interesting but probably not enough to satisfy our combined curiosities. made our way back, and by the time we did arrive at the Houseboat, we had literally hit the wall, which is pretty appropriate considering we were in Berlin!