Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Berlin & Checkpoint Charlie

Started the morning out with a shower and a visit to the hotels buffet breakfast. I heard more english than german in the hotel's breakfast room, and the food served was a mix of american and german. They did have all you can eat bacon so i helped myself to that.

After breakfast and a quick trip to berlin hbf, me and jim did some train watching. Saw several long distance arrivals from the czeck republic, and a a double deck all sleeper train as well as an ICE Train. After that we took a U-bahn to the ZOO station (which before the division used to be the main train station on the west side) to get our berlin passes validated. After wandering around that neighborhood we found the information shop to validate our berlin passes. After that adventure, we decided to try the #100 bus to get to the brandenburg gate. BVE has installed next scheduled bus displays at many of their bus stops, however this one was not giving the correct time. After waiting around for twenty minutes and no bus (even though 2 were scheduled to come by - a route 100 and 200) that plan was abandoned as the crowds kept growing, in favor of taking the S and U bahn. We took the S bahn back to Berlin Hbf and transferred to the U55. The U55 is an isolated line running from  Berlin Hbf to Brandenburg gate, although consruction on the piece to link it to alexanderplatz and the rest of the U5 line are under construction now. It apparantly has 4 sets of 2 car trains (2658 - 2661, 2668 - 2669, 2674-2675) perminatly? assinged to it as 3 sets are stored at berlin hbf when not in use. Only one train is active on any one time running on one of the two tracks. The other track is out of service right now, either being used to store cars not in use or fenced off at the platforms.

After arriving at Brandenburg tor we walked to the gate itself, In the plaza at the gate there were serveral people dressed in costume (2 darth vaders, a mickey and minny, a couple sets of soldiers, etc.) i paid the 2 euro or whatever the scam was to have my picture taken with darth vader. a kinda short darth vader, but a darth vader. (see picture on facebook). Afer visiting the gate, we decided to take a bus tour of the city. Our berlin passes have a bus tour built into them through one of the tour companys. there are several in the city, and most appear to run ex berlin city buses that have been open toppped. most were MANs of some sort. The coach we were on was a MAN of some sort and it appeard to be a former city bus of some sort as well. The tour was good, the bus took us around and showed us many spots in the city. The tour guide narrerated out where the wall was, and in many spots its now represented by a row of brick pavers along its path. It would appear that many sections of the wall have been removed with construction or simply by vandals. The bus dropped us off at checkpoint charlie, that place is a tourist trap. They have a replica booth in the middle of the street, and for a few euros you can get your picture taken with a guard or have your passport stamped (that was something like ten euros). Theres also a mc donalds there, so we stopped there for lunch. After lunch we went and saw the checkpoint charlie museum, which was a real wordy museum. The walls are covered in information, in 3 diffrent languges. They have displays of various cars and stuff people have used to smuggle people through the border crossing, and even mini submarine.

After visiting the museum, we started walking towards the remants of the berlin wall, stopping by the state ran stasi museum. The stasi were the east germany secret police. They had a nice display of information about the stasi and their activities (including how they spied on their citizens, and how their citizens were constently watched) and various artifacts on display. A modern museum, and being state ran it was free admission.

The next spot we visited was a section of the berlin wall itself. This section is uniquie, becuase not only is the wall standing (albeint heavy vandalized by souviner seekers) it also has a display about the former gestappo headquarters that used to be on the site. When the gestappo building was destroyed after WWII all that remained of it was the the basement wall. Which has been preserved and now features walkway along it and a very well done (and leinthgy) narrative of their activities as is reated to controlling the people, and social clensing (killing the sick, disabled, and the gypsies).

After visiting that museum we decided to go to the DDR museum, so we boarded the tour bus again and headed back to its layover spot near the brandenberg gate. We got back on the U55 to Berlin Hbf and transferred to the S-Bahn to head towards the Hackescher Mark bahnhof and walk over to the museum.

The DDR museum was intresting, it was full of displays about life in the DDR, including a Trabi you can sit in. The trabi is an extremly basic and rather uncomfortable car to sit in. The rest of the displays were about life in the DDR, the economic situation, the lack of goods to buy when you did have money to spend, the state police and border crossing, a display about the arts, and about the nude beaches (the DDR dident like it, but many germans went nude on the beach in defiance of the state, appearnaly there were more nude germans on the beach than ones who were covered up). The museum featured a lot of a hands on exhibits and was a real fun place.

After visiting the museum, a quick ride back to berlin Hbf for dinner at pizza hut and back to our hotel to round out the evening.

Still planning the events tommorw, but possibly a visit to the S and U bahn museums and a boat tour before heading to wernigrode to ride the HSB.

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