As we continue on with the 49 day Topdeck Mega European Tour fast approaching is the end, but today we leave the Czech Republic and the city of Prague and continue onto our next country, Germany. Our destination is the capital Berlin, a city with a sad past that we will no doubt learn a lot more about.
13 June, 2012 – Prague to Berlin
This morning we depart Prague and make our way across the border in to Germany, our first stop this morning is the lovely town of Dresden which was virtually wiped out during the closing stages of World War II.
On arrival we all stood in one of the major open squares where we learnt about the history of the town and why many say the bombing of the city was not justified. From here we walked into the centre of town passing some of the impressive reconstructed buildings that make up the city.
We ended our walking tour outside the Dresden Frauenkirche, translated to the Church of Our Lady, from here we were left to fend for ourselves to go and organise lunch. Everyone in the group split up and when their own way, we went off to find a restaurant on the other side of town giving us the opportunity to see more while looking for a place to eat.
After lunch we then made our way back to the square where we started so we could then continue our journey to the capital Berlin, before arriving in the city itself we make a stop off at a Soviet Union war memorial.
Treptower Park is just south of the city and was built by the Soviet Union between 1946 and 1949 to commemorate the fallen soldiers of the Soviet Union during the battle of Berlin.
On arrival into the city itself we are taken on a driving tour, we take in all the main sights that make Berlin one of the worlds most famous cities. Some of the sites we checked out included the Reichstag, the Victory Monument, Checkpoint Charlie and the Brandenburg Gate.
We then went to check into our hostel for the next two nights called PLUS Berlin, a really nice place and very well looked after with all the facilities you need and virtually across the road from the East Side Gallery, probably the most recognisable part of the Berlin Wall in the modern era.
After checking in and before we were due to have dinner we had a bit of time up our sleeve and decided to go for a walk down the road to have a look at the East Side Gallery and the Berlin Wall. Some of the art work along this strip of the wall is pretty amazing and it was exciting to be standing in front of something that is known the world over and is very symbolic for what it stood for.
Tonight we had an included dinner at the hostel restaurant which was pretty good, the restaurant also has a big bar in the centre, so you could very well just spend the rest of the night here which is what most people opted to do. Some of us on the other hand opted to go for a walk and check out some of the bars around the corner from the hostel where we hung out for a few hours before heading back and calling it a night.
14 June, 2012 – Berlin
This morning we have an optional Topdeck extra, a walking tour of Berlin with a local guide, however this is our final city where we need to complete the final of four Fat Tire Bike Tours, so we joined the walking tour knowing we would have to leave half way through. The funny thing is that the bike tour pretty much went to the same places, but it’s on a bike and we get a free T-Shirt at the end for completing all four tours in London, Paris, Barcelona and now Berlin.
We left the walking tour after checking out one of the old train stations on the East Berlin side of the city which still looks as it did when the train station was under communist control and residents couldn’t use it. However guards were placed below to stop people escaping as the subway line was still being used by West Berlin.
Our bike tour meeting point was at the base of the large TV Tower observation deck, there were heaps of people joining this tour and was without a doubt the biggest of the four tours, it went for the longest and was probably the best one out of the four. There were so many people that about five different groups were formed of roughly twenty people, so a good one hundred people would have joined the tour but even with the masses of people it was managed really well.
The tour took in all of the main sights in Berlin and we learnt that despite how old Berlin looks, the city was completely destroyed at the end of World War II, since then construction has been on going to restore the city to its former glory with the idea of making it exactly as it once was. This means despite the buildings looking like they are a couple of hundred years old, they are no older than me being only twenty to thirty years old.
Naturally while in Berlin one of the main sights is of course the Berlin Wall, we checked out an untouched section of the wall that had seen better days, this was also the location of an open air museum devoted to the history of the wall itself.
From here we went to check out the location of Hitler’s Bunker which has been completely hidden from view and is now pretty much buried under a car park. Ironically just across the road is the very modern Jewish Holocaust Memorial called Memorial to the Murdered Jews of Europe, made up of all different height rectangle blocks, virtually a maze to get lost in.
We also rode our bike through a park where a restaurant is located within the grounds, here we had a bit of a traditional German lunch by a canal. The food was really nice and it was pretty cool sitting next to the canal as I don’t think I have ever seen a proper canal in operation, so a learning experience none the less.
The final part of the tour was to check our the Brandenburg Gate, from here we could look back at the TV Tower where we started and see the reflection of the sun on the tower forming the shape of a cross, something the communist regime wasn’t particularly happy about. We then rode back to the tower, turned our bikes in and collected our prize of the Fat Tire Bike Tours T-Shirt.
We then attempted to go to the summit of the TV Tower, however they have a really weird way of purchasing tickets, you go in a waiting line then depending on the colour of your ticket number that determines if you can then go up or not, with time running out and that process involving too much thinking we decided we would head off for some souvenir shopping and an early dinner as we needed to make our way back for a pub crawl.
After we were done we then caught the train from central Berlin back to the station just behind the hostel, we then got ready and met everyone at the coach to be taken back into the city for a pub crawl around the city, another Topdeck optional extra.
It wasn’t the best pub crawl in the world, it seemed like we were the only ones at these places when we arrived and then when we left they were deserted again, a bit of a downer. Most people arrived back at the hostel late and turned in for the night. Tomorrow we head off to our final destination on this epic 49 day tour, Amsterdam.
DOWNLOAD: Topdeck Berlin City Guide