Believe it or not, the train trip to Berlin took 30mins more than expected due to, you guessed it, work on the track.
Also, we had been told that there was no need to reserve seats on this train but there were many people who had done so at various boarding points along the way. We had to move compartments at Dresden as a group of 20 students from New Zealand had booked 4 compartments which included the one we were in at the time.We arrived at Berlin Main Station and discovered that we had to take 2 Metro trains to get to our hotel on the other side of the city where we would be spending the next 3 nights.
My blog by-line is not “Expect the Unexpected” for nothing. 4 days of delays due to work on rail tracks and places of accommodation stating that they are a few minutes from the station but it is not clear which station, were definitely unexpected. In 2006, when we were in N. Italy and had to walk the final 2kms to our apartment in deep snow due to a sudden change in the weather, our daughter sent us a message saying, “See it as an adventure.” One can only do that when the ‘adventure’ is over!
We finally found Hotel Gat Point Charlie which was very modern at 20:45 and we experienced real German efficiency in checking in. Everything was ready for us and it took less than 10 minutes before we were in our room. The setup was spotless but minimal. With the exception of 3 hooks on the wall and a couple of drawers fitted to a wall, there was no space for clothes. The coat-hangers were moulded plywood and very short. Definitely not made for our shirts and blouses. We guessed that it was probably aimed at the younger guest but it was a very clean and friendly place.
Outside the entrance to the hotel
The 3 hooks for our clothes
Once we had freshened up we popped out to a local restaurant where we shared a large pizza. The only time we ever eat pizza is when we are travelling as it is always available and definitely better than McDonalds or KFC! Two things good about the room were very comfy beds and good reading lights. One of my biggest irritations with most hotels, B&Bs, Time-share units etc is the fact that bedside lighting is so often useless for bedtime reading. The lampshades are usually very beautiful but completely cut off the light. There are times when I have removed the shade and left the bulb bare. Nice, bright light! That reminded me of a time when I did this in a UK B&B as we were staying for 3 nights. Unfortunately when I tried to put it all back together on the last morning it fell apart completely. When I reported it on checkout, expecting to make a penalty payment, the owner apologised for not having repaired it before we arrived as it had been reported! Talk about unexpected.
When we discovered the cost of a very basic breakfast we decided to see what was available nearby and found a lovely little Bistro where we had delicious fruit and muffins for breakfast. We were very pleased to confirm that the name of our hotel, Gat Point Charlie, did mean that we were in the Eastern part of Berlin and were able to walk to the all those places we had learned and heard about over the years – the Wall, Check Point Charlie, Brandenburg Gate etc. We stopped first at Check Point Charlie and watched as US soldiers invited tourists to have their photo taken with them for €5. This rather surprised me and I thought that it was rather unprofessional. It did not seem to matter to dozens of people, many of them American, who took them up on the offer. For me, it took away the seriousness and importance of this historical point. We took some of our own photos and then visited the small Check Point Charlie Museum.
American soldiers at Checkpoint Charlie
Entrance to Museum of Checkpoint Charlie
We walked around the area where there were a number of parts of the former Berlin Wall. Paradoxically, that wall has been down for almost 30 years and now we hear of the plan to build a dividing wall between the USA and Mexico. Interesting.
It was very painful to read the short stories of many who had tried, unsuccessfully, to cross over the wall into West Berlin. There were also some happier stories of people who got through but under incredible circumstances.
At the end of the street we were on we came upon a fairly newly completed museum, The Topography of Terrors. There is a lot to tell of this museum and so I shall leave it to the next blog.
While walking we met up with a lovely young lady, Maren, whom I had met at Diakonia Council of Churches in Durban where she had worked as a volunteer for a year. It was really special to see her and we arranged ot have dinner together that evening. It was great fun.
and so good bye from Vicky & Maren