The second day started with us having to go out hunting for breakfast. As the hotel breakfast would have been €12 each we thought it better to try and find a café nearby. Fortunately it was only a 5 minute walk down the round before we found somewhere. It was a nice little café with various types of coffee lining the wooden fascias of the wall and a nice selection of croissants for breakfast.
I went for a nice hot cup of Earl Grey tea and an almond croissant with apricot jam – an amazing combination which I would recommend to anyone. It felt like an old fashioned coffee shop where you could go to buy coffee beans and tea leaves.
In this part of Berlin the metro stations are fairly frequent, there are three along the same road which are all around 5 minutes walking distance from each other. The one we used was Nollendorfplatz where we discovered what the guide book meant about the ticket machines being temperamental at times. When a machine which vends good goes wrong it’s usually a case of it “eating” your money and not dispensing goods – this was the opposite, it kept refusing to accept notes no matter how many times they were fed through.
Eventually we got lucky and it finally decided to accept our money just moments before the train pulled into the station which gave us time to get the ticket validated too. Tickets have to be validated at the start of every journey to show when the ticket is valid from, anyone found without a valid ticket will be fined – however in the time we spent in Berlin we did not see tickets get checked with the exception of once on the way back to the airport.
The first stop of the day was at Eberswalderstraße, a place which according to Google Maps was the site of a Berlin Wall memorial – which in all fairness there is one there, just there isn’t any of the wall there. We walked around that area for around an hour with the sun beating down on us before we decided we’d be better off to find a piece of the wall elsewhere after finding a tourist map. We walked alongside some sort of sports stadium through a park and headed back through a market as it was in shade.
After having a quick look at the information about the wall we started walking in the direction of the Fernsehturm (the TV tower) as it didn’t look that far away. As it turned out it was a fair distance away, an hour of brisk walking later we’d finally made it to Alexanderplatz and the tower. Looking straight up from the base of the tower is quite impressive and you get a real sense of just how tall it is. Inside you have to get a ticket for €10 which will allow you up at a particular time as they don’t like too many people to be up the tower at the same time; you also don’t get a huge amount of time up there either.
Before going up the tower you also have to either leave your bag at a desk, or have it checked for food or drink. It may seem odd that they don’t allow this, but they have an expensive bar and restaurant at the top so obviously they want people to eat and drink there instead.
We spent about an hour up the tower taking photographs and recording some video. At 365 metres (about 1,197 feet) above sea level you can see an awful lot of the city – it also gave us a good indication of just how far we’d already walked and how much further we had yet to travel. We could just see the Reichstag in the distance along with Tiergarten. It seemed so surprising to see the stadium we’d walked past earlier that morning so far away. Back down at the base of the tower there is a fountain with a statue of Neptune (Neptunbrunnen in German) and four others representing each of the four major rivers: the Rhine, Elbe, Oder and Vistula. Before continuing on we decided it was time to eat and so there was no other choice really, we had to try one of the many sausages that Germany is famous for and so tried a Berliner Bratwürst. It was actually a very nice sausage, and I recommend anyone visiting Berlin tries one (unless of course you don’t eat meat).
After lunch we started once more upon our trek around the city passing a large cathedral called the Berliner Dom, the Neue Museum, and Neue Wache to name a few. It was amazing how few signs there were to point tourists in the direction of the sights – for such an organised and efficient country I did find this quite surprising. Eventually we had to ask in a souvenir shop how we could get to Checkpoint Charlie only to find it was 700 metres to the south of us. So we turned around and headed away from the road we believed was heading in the direction of the Brandenburg gate and made our way down the Berlin streets to Checkpoint Charlie.
Checkpoint charlie was built during the days after the end of the Second World war when Berlin has been divided into 4 parts and were controlled by the US, UK, France, and Russia. It was one of the few crossing points between the East and West after the erection of the Berlin wall and was famously the place where American and Russian tanks faced each other at the start of the Cold War. Today, after the fall of the Berlin Wall, the site is now a tourist attraction where costumed actors pose for photographs with willing tourists. It’s a place you can also get your passport stamped for a fee to “prove” that you’ve been there.
By this point in the day we’d already walked a considerable number of miles, but it wasn’t over yet. We walked back along the road we’d used to get to Checkpoint Charlie and headed in the general direction of the Brandenburg gate. By accident we stumbled across a large holocaust memorial consisting of thousands of massive concrete blocks. From the other side of this memorial we could see the Reichstag and the Brandenburg gate – we’d finally found them.
The Brandenburg gate was once one of the gates into the city of Berlin, but is now the only one left standing. Atop of the gate is a statues of Victoria, the Goddess of victory riding a chariot. Victoria is the Roman version of the Greek Goddess, Nike. The gate itself has only been accessible again since it was refurbished in 2002 after it had been made inaccessible after the erection of the Berlin Wall and the start of the Cold War. By mid afternoon in the Summer months it can become tricky to photograph from the front due to the sun being positioned immediately behind it. I would recommend visiting the gate before midday or late afternoon to keep the sun way out of the shot.
From the Brandenburg gate it’s a very short walk over to the Reichstag and the amazing glass structure at the centre of it. Whilst there I didn’t actually go inside due to the size of the queue for people wanting to get in but even from the outside it looks quite impressive. We also stopped for a cold drink in a small café that had a view of the Reichstag. One thing to remember about this area is that food and drink is more expensive than it would be in the centre of the city, but it’s to be expected really.
To finish off the day we then headed through Tiergarten, a large area filled with trees, to a tall gold statue called the Siegessäule. By this point it was becoming extremely uncomfortable to walk with the tens of miles we’d walked that day. Had I known how far apart some of the places actually were I would have been tempted to get a day ticket for the metro and to use that between each place. Of course though, it doesn’t necessarily mean I would have seen everything I did as some places were found purely by accident. Yet it was still another 2 miles back to the hotel. Oh joy. As part of the evening meal I had a very traditional German meal with various types of sausage, including one called a currywürst.