Monday, May 13, 2013
Today, we cover central Berlin in a walking tour.
But before we get to that, we have to start on the bus! Today, the first person was late! Pierre, a lovely South African fella on the trip with his sweet-as-sugar girlfriend, Erin, had run back up to his room to retrieve a camera and was approximately 2 minutes late. He was kindly forced by Lucien to sing a very soulful rendition of “Hit Me Baby, One More Time”, by Britney. Now, I like Pierre. He, full on, committed to this song. Contikioke is no fun if you’re bashful. Pierre won everyone’s respect that morning for not only taking his penalty, but for doing it with optional flourish!
Lucian is sick. He can’t just force you to sing karaoke. He makes you do it with earbuds in so that you are, effectively, tone deaf. He’s sadistic. I would have been mortified. As my tourmates can vouch, I’m not the least bit shy, but I’ve never been down with public humiliation. Pierre was a champ. I won’t upload the video, because Contikioke is for our group, and our group only.
Lucian warned us on the way to the walking tour starting point about Berlin’s gypsies. I don’t remember the specifics, but basically they will hand you a leaflet with a sob story printed on it or directions written in English asking you to explain them and while you are distracted reading the material their small children will pilfer things from your bag(s). He probably saved me some serious heartache, because I was pushed back to the remedial street-smarts class and happen to be quite easily taken advantage of.
We hit all of the major sites: Starting at the statue of Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels, ironincally moved to face West after the fall of communism in Berlin,
we saw the Reichstag, Museum Island, Humboldt University (where Einstein taught), the memorial in Bebelplatz to the 20,000 books burned by the Nazis,
the Memorial for the Victims of War and Tyranny,
the Brandenburg Gate,
Hotel Adlon (where Michael Jackson dangled Blanket over the fifth floor balcony railing,
the Memorial to the Murdered Jews of Europe, (maybe, should have looked more somber for this one…)
the site of Hitler’s famed and mysterious bunker, another preserved section of the Berlin wall outside the Topography of Terror,
and we ended at Checkpoint Charlie. Anyway, at checkpoint Charlie, this lady came up and asked me if I spoke English. Since I had just been conversing at my normal volume, which is loud, it was quite obvious that I did. I smiled at her and asked what she needed. When she asked me to explain something written in English, I started reading the paper. It made no sense. It was like someone opened up a dictionary and pulled words at random. That was when Liam took the paper and handed it back to the woman, kindly reminding me that I do not, in fact, lese die Englisch. My lesson in avoiding gypsies was already long gone from my mind. Thanks, Liam
After the tour ended, Liam, Tavis, Daniela, Katherine, and I walked to go find some food. (at least that is what I wanted) We found this cute little deli, called Mr. Beans Deli, where I got to practice my German food ordering skills again. I got some kind of mozzarella and tomato sandwich and a walnut pastry. The sandwich was AWFUL and the pastry was the stuff fat kids dream about. I saved it, and ate it after we went back to the hotel, where no one would be present to witness me morphing into full foodie mode.
After sitting in the cafe for a while, Katherine and Daniela headed off to shop or explore (I’m not sure as I was still quite tired from the night before) and Tavis, Liam and I walked a couple of blocks, back in the direction we had come, to see the Topography of Terror. The TOT is a museum with both permanent and temporary exhibits centered mostly around the progression of the propoganda in Germany and the treatment of the Jews and other ‘undesirables’.
After a little over an hour in the museum, we were all falling asleep on our feet so, we decided to take the U-bahn back to the hotel so that we had some down time before dinner. All three of us fell asleep on the train, missed our stop and rode around for hours until we were woken up by a policeman checking to make sure we were, in fact, not dead. Just kidding! But it was close to that. I remember my head lolling back and smacking the window, quite forcefully, at one point. We hopped off at our stop and went back to the hotel. I ate my pastry and took a shower and a quick nap. Leaving ALMOST ZERO time to fix my hair… (which is why I look HORRID in the pictures at supper, don’t you judge me.)
We went to the Eastside Gallery of the Berlin Wall before dinner. Unfortunately, I didn’t have my camera so I have ZERO pictures. I guess I’ll steal someone else’s pictures of the parts that I liked… Except that I can’t remember which murals I liked the best. I made Liam take pictures of those parts. Maybeeeee ONE DAY IN THE FUTURE he will upload his pictures and I will steal them and plug them in on here. *hint to Liam*
Anyway, off to dinner. Luce raved over and over about the ‘pork knuckle’. It’s a dish common in Bavaria that consists of roasted or fried ham hock, served with potato dumplings and cabbage or sauerkraut. It is basically a child-sized hunk of crispy meat on a bone. And as shocking as this may be to my dear readers (knowing that I’m from the South and obligingly fond of fried things)… it didn’t really sound appealing to me.
I know this will sound a little melodramatic, but this is the night that absolutely MADE the trip. Tonight at the table were some of my same companions from earlier: Liam, Tiana, Tavis, Kendra, as well as Daniela and Katherine whom I did not introduce earlier: Australian, bffs, both working in marketing at different universities. Katherine is very collected, intelligent and witty. Daniela is silly, sassy, personable, and easily distracted. I love Daniela and Katherine because they not only tolerate the ridiculous words that come out of my mouth, they enjoy them. This was the first night that the 5 of us came together in all of our glory. It set the rest of the trip two notches past awesome.
So we order dinner and our beers… The fun thing about the bierhaus is that ‘a beer’ comes in this MASSIVE 1 liter stein. Everyone else got light, I got dark, because I’m difficult. For dinner, everyone got the pork fist except for me. I got two pretzels. I only wanted one, but the waiter made fun of me. I can’t be expected to eat a massive dinner if I am also expected to drink a beer the size of my head.
I would relive this dinner… It was so much fun. I wish I could remember the specifics of our conversation. I do know that I laughed so hard that night that my stomach hurt the next day. We learned to say “Prost!” and that eye contact is absolutely essential or quite dire consequences could befall you. There were some lovely Germans in there with a teeny little puppy. Pretty sweet. I bought a glass with the bierhaus logo.
We left the restaurant on the coach and headed back to the hotel. On the coach on the way back to the hotel, Lucien informed us that he had a third nipple, completely out of the blue. Seriously, he walked up to us and said, “Hey, not to be weird or anything, but I’ve got a third nipple”. Then, he wouldn’t show us, so Daniela and I began a sick obsession with finding a way to make him show us. No, I’m not kidding, we had strategy meetings. You can’t really blame us, though. You don’t drop that kind of a bomb on someone and not expect to back it up.
We got back to the hotel, and everyone was full of giggles and not quite ready for bed. A big group of us decided to go hangout in the hotel bar until we were tired, including, but not limited to: Daniela, Katherine, Liam, Brianne, Tiana, Kendra, Jacqui, (insert fuzzy memory, so forgive me for inaccuracies) Anup(New York), Greg(Boston), and Candice.
We just sat down there and laughed, talking about stuff that has since escaped my memory. I know this though: I love these people. All of them. It’s funny how I was so upset when I had to push my trip from February/March to May. I had to spend over $700 to change all 3 of my flights, and far too many hours of my life, that would have been better spent cutting the tags off mattresses or poking myself in the eye, on the phone with Travelocity’s incompetent customer services representatives, so conveniently located in Bombay or Calcutta. I would do it all over again: spend the money, the frustrating time. I wouldn’t change a single thing. My closest friends on this trip became Daniela, Katherine, Liam and Tavis. Each for their own amazing reasons. We were like the breakfast club: incredibly different people that fit together like a puzzle. There are so very many others on the trip that I love, as well. This particular group just happens to have a special place in my heart. Prost, you lot!