The Prussian Capital

Day 2 – 18th Jan 2009, Berlin

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It was our last day here in the German capital of Berlin. BBC had predicted heavy rains and sub-zero temperatures for the day …..but as it turned out, they were wrong on both the counts !

We checked-out of Hotel Agon following breakfast, and walked across to the TV Tower at Alexanderplatz.

The Berlin TV Tower

From Berlin – 2009

The TV tower, known as Berliner Fernsehturm, was built by the Communist rulers of the East Germany (GDR) during the late 1960’s as a show of Communist Power. Standing at 368 metres, it is a cool 40 metres taller than the Eiffel tower….and can be seen from almost anywhere in Berlin !

Tickets to go up to the viewing gallery would normally cost 10 euros, but with our Berlin Welcome Cards, we got them for 7.5 euros apiece. The elevator, though cramped, took us to the top in just under 40 seconds…and being a clear day, we were presented with some spectular views of the city of Berlin.

The view from the TV Tower

From Berlin – 2009

When the communists originally built the tower, people had doubted the quality of its construction….and often joked that if the tower were to fall, it would have spanned across the Berlin wall into West Berlin …and then East Berliners would only have had to take the elevator to escape into the West 🙂 But thanks to
German engineering, that was not to happen !

Next, we headed off to visit the largest palace in Berlin – the Schloss Charlottenburg ! About half an hour’s ride in the S-bahn and a short walk later, we were standing in front of the gates to this marvellous Prussian palace !

The guys in front of the Charlottenburg Palace

From Berlin – 2009

The Palace was commissioned by Sophie Charlotte – wife of the Prussian king Frederick 1 in the 17th century, and had been inspired by the Palace of Versailles, though only a fraction of its size. The palace had been heavily bombed by the Allies during WW2, and most of what we saw, was the result of painful reconstruction. There were photographs displayed inside the palace, depicting the extent of the damage caused by the aerial bombings ….Having been used to seeing reminders of the German bombings back in England, it was interesting to finally see the other side of the coin !
After a quick tour of the impressive baroque interiors of the palace, we proceeded to the large gardens at the back – which again had been inspired by the Royal Gardens adjoining the Palace of Versailles !

Being the peak of winter, the trees had all shed their leaves, and the pavements & lawns were covered in thick ice. What was most impressive though, was the completely frozen lake at the end of the gardens !

The frozen lake behind the palace

From Berlin – 2009

It was just amazing !  There was a small kid blissfully playing across the frozen lake, and seeing that, I was quite tempted to take a stroll on the ice myself. However, the one thing I wasn’t quite sure of, was whether the ice was strong enough to bear my weight?

Well, there was only one way to find out ! I immediately called on the ever-ready-to-pose Shiva and offered him the prospect of a spectacular solo shot of him standing on the frozen lake ! He was skeptical initially, but the offer was too hard for him to refuse….He precariously balanced himself on the edge of the lake … “Go further inside, mate …nothing will happen”, I encouraged him 😉  A few feet into the frozen lake and the ice seemed as solid as concrete ! My safety thus guaranteed, I moved in 🙂

Walking on ice

From Berlin – 2009

On our way back from the Palace, we took a bus towards the ‘Zoological Gardens’ stop, rather than taking the S-Bahn trains. This turned out to be a wise decision, as we got to witness the glitz and glamour of some of Berlin’s poshest streets.

Kurfuerstendamm boulevard

From Berlin – 2009

The Kurfuerstendamm boulevard that we passed through was perhaps the Champs-Ellysees of Berlin. Designer stores and swanky malls lined the entire stretch of the street. Gucci, Espirit, Tommy Hilfiger, BMW – you name it, it had it all ! We had a late lunch at Burger King, strolled the avenue to buy some souvenirs, and stopped by to admire the awe-inspiring ruins of the Kaiser Wilhelm Church.

Ruins of the bombed-out Kaiser Wilhelm Church (in the background)

From Berlin – 2009

The church had been bombed to this state during WW2, and being right in the middle of a swanky, upmarket district, it stood out like a sore thumb, as a testimony to the true horror of what the Great War had inflicted upon this city !

We had a few hours left for our flights back to Britain, but it was already getting dark and the shops were all closing down. Armed with our Travel Cards and nothing else to do, we spent the next couple of hours wandering the length and breadth of the city by all modes of transport that our Travel Cards would take us on – the S-Bahn, Trams, bus and the underground U-Bahn !

Finally, later in the night, Shiva and I boarded an Easyjet flight back to Bristol, while Krishna and Adarsh headed off to London Luton.

And thus ended, what could possibly be the last Euro trip on my current Schengen Visa, before it expires in Feb. Not bad at all, considering that since I got the visa in Sep 08, it had seen me wandering across France, Belgium, Czech Republic, Austria, Slovakia, Hungary, Netherlands and Germany !

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