Tuesday 24th May, 2011
Arriving in Berlin
We left with Bruno at 7:15am to go to Orly Airport and catch our flight to Berlin. Everything was running on time and went smoothly except someone forgot to put the sunscreen in the suitcase and kept it in his hand luggage. Silly me! After having both my carry-on luggage bags searched thoroughly, I forfeited my sunscreen and was allowed through.
We had a good flight and scored seats in the front row with plenty of leg room.
We were met at the airport in Berlin by Vojo (more of Angela’s family) and headed to his place to drop off our luggage and then to his daughter Miriam’s place for lunch. We spent the afternoon chatting, catching up and I played with some Lego with their 3-year old daughter Olivia.
Somehow it came up in conversation that on my ‘Europe Bucket List’ I needed to try International KFC. As luck would have it there was one just down the road and it was decided right there and then that the Colonel was coming to dinner… Mmmmm…..
Wednesday 25th May, 2011
A trip around Berlin by boat
We left fairly early on Wednesday morning with Miriam and caught a bus to the Berlin Underground where we headed into town for a boat trip on the river. While on the train there was group of schoolkids who heard Angela and Miriam speaking Croatian, and me speaking English, who started quizzing Miriam in German about the other languages being spoken. As it turned out, two of them spoke Croatian, and most of them English.
To prove the point, they entertained up by singing us a song in English. It was a fun and interesting ride and we got off the train with a smile on our face.
We bought our tickets for the boat and jumped on board. The cruise was very informative (did you know for example, that Berlin has more bridges than Venice) and gave us a pretty good history of Berlin with an interesting perspective from the water.
We saw lots of Berlin, East and West, and all the major buildings were pointed out. There was a section of the Wall still intact that was a few hundred metres long which has been preserved as a monument to the events of 1989.
After our boat trip we called in to see Vojo’s sister and husband for the most amazingly decadent afternoon tea in their beautiful, tranquil garden.
After our delicious afternoon tea, we headed ‘home’ and called it a night.
Tomorrow we’ll have a bit more of an exploration of Berlin on foot which we are looking forward to…
Thursday 26th May, 2011
After a typical German breakfast of bread (different varieties), cheese and cold meats we were taken to Checkpoint Charlie which is the old border crossing for East and West Berlin. We spent time going through the museum which had an amazing array of pictures and memorabilia about the separation of Berlin in 1961.
We read stories about how some families became separated by the wall and other stories about incredible escapes back to the other side. Some made it, some didn’t. Apparently the barbed wire temporary barrier went up overnight and the wall was built over the next weekend. People trying to escape were shot on sight.
The wall was to last from 1961 until 1989. I still remember watching the news footage of the wall coming down in the late ‘80’s so it was great to visit this historic site. Also quite sobering…and sad…
It’s hard to describe but Berliners are still quite scarred by the events…
“Checkpoint Charlie (or “Checkpoint C”) was the best-known Berlin Wall crossing point between East Berlin and West Berlin during the Cold War (1947–1991), as named by the Western Allies.
East German leader Walter Ulbricht agitated and maneuvered to get the Soviet Union’s permission to construct the Berlin Wall in 1961 to stop emigration and defection westward through the Border system, preventing escape across the city sector border from East Berlin into West Berlin.
Checkpoint Charlie became a symbol of the Cold War, representing the separation of East and West.”
“The Brandenburg Gate is an 18th-century neoclassical monument in Berlin, built on the orders of the King of Prussia Frederick William II.
One of the best-known landmarks of Germany, it was built on the site of a former city gate that marked the start of the road from Berlin to the town of Brandenburg an der Havel, which used to be the capital of the Margraviate of Brandenburg.”
We saw a few more sights of the city and then went to the hospital to visit Vojo’s wife Andjelka who was glad to catch up.
We had a late lunch and then departed for the airport for our flight to Prague which ran on time despite the previous days disruptions due to the volcanic ash from Iceland. The flight was hell-noisy due to the plane being a twin-prop unit so we’re hoping for an upgrade for our flight to Frankfurt in a few days.
Heading for the Czech Republic
We caught a taxi from Prague airport to our accommodation and the ride with the driver was frightening. We actually saw him coming, but didn’t know he was our driver, and we were laughing as he pulled up to the boom gate with a screech and then accelerated from there to us with another screech and smoke coming off the tyres.
Old mate who had organised the ride motioned to us that this was our ride and Angela’s response was, ‘Really? Is this really our ride?”
There is no way to say this politely, so sorry Mum and fellow readers, but this guy was a f**king idiot! He drove at 170km/h while texting and taking phone calls and had a serious case of ADHD as he fiddled with his GPS, took more phone calls, texted a few more times and drove like he had stolen the car. About half way through the trip he dropped one of the smelliest farts ever. Angela and I looked at each other accusingly until we both realised it wasn’t us.
We were very pleased to arrive at our hotel in one piece and when we stopped the driver jumped out opened our doors for us, put our luggage on the footpath, acted like everything was normal and quietly said good night… go figure!
Welcome to Prague indeed!