Welcome to my travel blog! Over the next 10 weeks I will be travelling throughout Europe and will share my adventure here. The name of this blog is a Latin phrase which translates roughly to mean 'to gain, understand, perceive'. It explains perfectly what I hope to experience in this trip; a sense of understanding and appreciation for life all around the world.

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Ich bin ein Berliner

I spent a marvellous day in Berlin today. The first thing I noticed when I went outside was it is colder here than anywhere else I've been so far. For the first time I think I may need to wear my thermals!

I decided I'm going to avoid taking the train if I can help it - seeing the sites by walking is by far the best way to go. And I like walking in the cold air - I soon warm up and you also get to see normal people walking around, going about their daily business which I enjoy seeing. I'm not just travelling to see buildings or monuments - I want to see the people too!

Anyway, I went to see Checkpoint Charlie, which was one of the crossing points between East and West Berlin during the Cold War. It is quite plain to be honest - there is a museum next to it but all that really stands there now is the small booth where the person would stand. There were many, many souvenier shops around it though. And there were also a lot of beggers - they don't speak English (and they don't have German accents either so I'd be interested to know where they are from) but would ask "Speak english?" and if you even looked like you understood that then they would shove a piece of paper at you which detailed their request for money. I soon learned to keep my face blank so as to not give away that I did understand english.

Checkpoint Charlie, with a rather lovely Christmas tree to spice it up.

I kept going and noticed there was a lot more snow here than in London or Holland. The snow next to the road isn't very attractive as it is mixed with dirt but the snow that's fallen on the parks away from the footpaths looks beautiful.

The next thing I discovered on my walk were the Christmas markets. They are simply beautiful. To an Australian, gingerbread houses are something only in stories but I the little houses that had been errected with the goods at the front looked just like them! I could barely contain my excitement as I wove in and out of the various stalls. There were cakes, gingerbread house, lanterns, Christmas decorations, wooden sculptures, clothes, bags, jewellery - so much beautiful handmade stuff. I found it quite hard to retrain myself from a) trying all the various food and b) spending all my money on the different wares. It was a good lesson though - sometimes just looking and appreciating the beauty of something is quite enough. I did buy a few little things for people back home though :)

It's a bit hard to see the individual things but I was most impressed with the handmade wooden objects. I wasn't sure if I would be able to bring wooden things to Australia so I didn't buy anything, but they were exquisite.

I resisted the temptation to elbow the kids out of the way and get on myself!

By this time I was feeling a little cold and there was a warm looking shopping centre coming up so I went in and had some fun browsing the shops. Everything is decorated for Christmas so beautifully!

I came accross an Aldi store in the shopping centre - it's exactly the same as in Australia. There are the dodgy looking fruit and vegetables, the fantastic German chocolate and Christmas goodies and the random objects like leather jackets and bed sheets. The check-out chick even threw all the items to one side as she put them through the register just like back home!

Next stop was the Brandenburg Gate. It's quite impressive. In summer it must be beautiful as it's in a huge square and there's a park nearby, but it looked a bit bleak against the snow and people all huddled around, all trying to be interested in this piece of history but eyeing off the cosy cafes nearby!

I'm not sure why Darth Vader was present but hey, it's a good photo!

I kept walking and found myself in the main section of Berlin where a lot of the museums and theatres are - they are all very impressive buildings. My next destination was the Berliner Dom - the Cathedral. It's also very impressive! The next pictures are its exterior and the interior also.

As I was there a whole bunch of young school boys arrived and started their choir practice. It was a joy to hear them in such a beautiful surrounding. However by this time the light had almost gone as it was past 4 o'clock and I knew the temperature would start falling fast. I didn't have enough clothes with me to be able to stand it so I walked back to the hostel. On the way I passed an op-shop and had the nifty idea of stepping inside to pick up a new beanie - I had lost mine somewhere today. I managed to pick one up for 50 cents - score!!

One last little note - it's amazing how much Geman is coming back to me after having studied it at school and never had the need to speak it for about 4 years. It's a great feeling being able to understand signs and even speak a little bit with shop keepers.

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