… Berlin. Day 1

Today was the first day to do some serious exploration of the city. However, in order to be able to do, a nutritious breakfast was required. It was a buffet style breakfast and served right in the hotel. Indeed, the selection was broad: from cereals, to crunchy buns and various kinds of bread; jam, cheese as well as ham were some other choices followed by stuff I could hardly treat my empty stomach with, such as eggs, pickles and olives. I bet I will discover few more things tomorrow when I have even closer look on what is offered.

We decided to take a hop-on-hop-off bus tour as a mean to see quite a part of the city. It seemed as an easy task to get to the Berlin Hauptbahnhof (Main station) at the time of leaving the hotel. Well, things changed dramatically over the following minutes. There was a construction work and as a result of it, it was not possible to take a city train directly from Charlottenburg station to the Hauptbahnhof. Once the city train stopped in the Tiergarten (ZOO) station and started returning back, it was a sign to get off, which we did. To find which train to take next was sort of challenging. After going up and down few staircases and minutes of thinking, we discovered an information board regarding the construction work. I noticed those boards before and to read one of them was truly a great idea. It helped us to take the right regional train. It was pretty crowded, so I appreciated the ride was only to the next station.

Once we got off the train and out of the station, it was not so hard to see the tour buses, even though we were limited to take a white one (the tour seemed to be the best). The lady selling tickets spoke fairly good English but did not have only good news for us. Because of the great success of German soccer team a huge celebration was taking place today. As a result, the tour could not follow its regular route and, together with a traffic accident, it took us quite a while before the tour actually started. On the other hand, because of the celebration we got children tickets, which seemed as a good deal. Due to the accident we had to change the bus, which also meant the change of a tour guide. This was highly appreciated over the course of the following two hours. The guy was funny, had a very strong command of English and was easy for me to understand. He actually made the tour bilingual, so I was even able to catch few German words or phrases from time to time.

Berlin Bus Tour

German Soccer Team Fan's Car

As I indicated above, the usual number of twenty stops was somewhat reduced today but it still did not prevent us from seeing a lot. Some of the sites we passed included the famous landmarks such as Kaiser-Wilhelm-Gedächtniskirche (Emperor Wilhelm Memorial Church), Fernsehturm (TV Tower), Checkpoint Charlie and Mauerreste (the remains of the Wall). We also rode past Nikolaivirtel, Rotes Rathaus (Red City Hall) built from red bricks, Alexanderplatz, Berliner Dom, Humboldt-Universität and economically priceless shopping boulevard of the name of Kurfürstendamm with world famous department store KaDeWe.

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Having seen all the places, it was nourishment time. A tour through the four levels of the Berlin Hauptbahnhof (Main train station) brought us to Upper Crust, where we got a nice baguette each. That was – for some time – the end of funny part of the trip and we focused on some duties in the afternoon. First, we had to buy train tickets (for me and the bike) to go to Hamburg on Thursday. Fortunately, we took care of it at the Zoologishergaten city train station, where the line was supposedly much shorten than at the Hauptbahnhof. Nevertheless, it took as a good hour until it was our turn. I would expect it to be slightly easier to communicate in English, moreover at the train station and in the capital of such a huge country as Germany is. Nonetheless, my limited German skills seemed to make quite a difference. Another test of our patience was the Deutsche Bank, which we choose to exchange some money. At this point I set to go for a postage stamp hunt. It was a good choice for a number  of reasons: I got two more changes to speak German, it was better then just waiting in a line and – most importantly – I was successful.

With two important tasks on the list being accomplished, it was time was something more exciting again. It happened to be a walk down the street Kurfüstendamm (Ku’damm). We hoped to make it to the Berlin’s famous department store we saw earlier from the bus. Although we did not bump into it, we still got a chance to see some expensive stores (e.g. Channel, Rolex and Dolce & Gabbana) as well as several nice places to eat. We narrowed the list of them down to two: a Greek restaurant and a pizza place. The latter one won this small competition of ours. One of the waiters’ English was good enough to provide us with assistance while trying to understand the menu. To make us satisfied, he offered us a vegetarian pizza with some sausage which was not on the menu at all. With this great offer, we hoped good a balanced diet containing both vitamins and proteins. To support our digestion, a glass of dark beer was chosen. I kinda liked the pizza except for it was way thinner than what I am used to. I could also imagine some more attractive vegetables on top than eggplant, zucchini and spinach. Surprisingly, the pizza was not cut at all, so we had some fun at that point. The Paulaner dark beer was somewhat bitterer than Czech beer of the brand of Kozel (my favorite) but still pretty good. Though I liked the place and the service, we agreed on a C+ grade.

Dark Paulaner

Back at the hotel, the very end of the day was sacrificed to the modern technologies – we tried to make WiFi work on my tiny, slow computer. Dealing with this issue provided me with another opportunity to use the leftovers of my German language knowledge.

To sum up, it was a great day that enabled us to see a huge portion of the city. To me, the few situations I could use the leftovers of my German knowledge were important, too. Honestly, these were rather easy issues to take care of but still helped my fragile self-esteem a lot.

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