Hooray! I’ve made it to Berlin. My flight out of Gatwick departed 10 minutes early, and with the help of some strong tail winds we landed at Schönefeld Airport 30 minutes ahead of schedule, at just before 9 o’ clock local time (that’s 8 o’ clock UK time).
After clearing passport control I found a small tourist shop in the terminal building where I got hold of the Berlin Welcome Card. Essentially, for €21 I’ve got a pocket-sized guide book which gives me discounts on a lot of museums and other tourist attractions, and I also get a 48-hour travel pass which is valid on trains and busses in Berlin and Potsdam.
I used the city’s S-Bahn and U-Bahn trains to get from the Airport in to the City Centre – I’m sure there’s a more direct route but I changed trains at Ostkreuz, Alexanderplatz and Potsdamer Platz until I eventually reached my hotel just a short walk from Anhalter Stn.
Officially my room wasn’t available until 15:00, but I had given the hotel at the time of booking details of my flight and asked if there was anywhere I could store luggage; in fact they let me in to my room straight away which was rather convenient. I got to my room, unpacked and had a look at my city map.
The first thing I wanted to do before doing anything else was to solve the problem of the lack of plug sockets in the room. So I headed to the shopping mall up at Potsdamer Platz to source a multi-socket extension lead. That means I can now have the TV, my radio and laptop plugged in all at the same time.
Next, I wanted to go for a walk to see what I could find. After leaving the shopping mall I accidentally stumbled on the Spy Museum, and was curious to see what it was all about. Lots of information about… spies. It also has a café, so naturally that was where I went for lunch.
I was also keen to get to the Brandenburg Gate fairly early on; it’s just 2 stops on the S2 train from the hotel, not more than a couple of kilometres away.
I quite enjoyed being able to do something which you couldn’t have done 30 years ago: I walked through the Brandenburg Gate from East to West. Then I went back from West to East. Then back again from East to West.
In the days of the Berlin Wall, Berlin’s most recognised landmark was right in the middle of the ‘death strip’. Now, tourists take photos of it and men drinking beer cycle past on the Beer Bike Tours (the bars on wheels really are a sight).
This is the government quarter of the city, with the Reichstag building very close by, along with the Bundesrat. I will be visiting the Reichstag building for a tour on Sunday afternoon, so I will save getting a proper view of it until then.
Right next door to the Brandenburg Gate lies the Embassy of France. On the pavement outside, a reminder of the events which took place in Paris last weekend. It is worth pointing out that the Eastern side of the gate is Pariser Platz or Paris Place.
Tomorrow I’ve got the morning free to time to visit another museum or two. Then, in the afternoon I’ll be going to Broadcasting House to visit the TV and radio studios, before going to the theatre to see a performance of Hinterm Horizont.
Tonight, I’m just going to take it easy – there’s a restaurant at the hotel which is open from 6 every evening, so I’ll make my way down in a minute or two.
Then, I shall return to my room and watch a DVD which I bought in the shops today. A Finnish film set in the 2nd World War. Should be interesting!
You’ll see some more photos in the gallery below – just click on them to make them bigger.
Bye for now.