Germany 2008: Berlin, part the first

Berlin was cool. I was really expecting to totally fall in love with it and want to marry it. A couple of things conspired to head that off at the pass, but I did fall in serious like with it.

Thing one was a nasty sinus infection. I get them every now and then thanks to my horrible seasonal (four seasons) allergies. They get backed up, and I get all snotty and congested for ten days. This was no exception.

Thing two was having to herd cats (i.e., teenagers) around the city for three days. I’d pretty much gotten used to them by that point, but it was still a pain in the ass. Next time, I want to go back sans anyone under the age of 35.

That being said, I like Berlin. It’s a nice, clean, efficient big city. If I were going to live in a big city in Germany, Berlin is the one I’d choose out of the five-ish I visited.

We did touristy stuff (Reichstag, TV Tower, Museum Island, etc.) the first two days.

The two highlights of that sort of thing were the DDR Museum and the Stasi Museum. I’ve got a serious case of Cold War Nostalgitis, so these fed right into that.

The DDR Museum is a really cool, hands-on museum about life in the East, pre-wallfall. It’s a good place to spend a couple of hours. It’s right near Museum Island, and a good break from all that high-toned crap (Nefertiti? Feh. Give me a Trabbi any day).

The Stasi Museum was my most favoritest stop of the whole trip. It’s a museum dedicated to the East German secret Police, the Stasi, and is housed in their old headquarters. It’s full of exhibits on 80s spy gear (the east germans were pretty advanced), symbols of the love between the Stasi and the KGB (latch-hooked rug of the Kremlin, anyone?), and included a truck that was one of the Stasi’s snatch-n-grab wagons and an example of the sort of cell in which they kept political prisoners, which were, of course, the only kind housed in Stasi prisons. Our guide was a senior citizen who had lived through that era, and it was amazing to listen to her stories. Definitely a highlight.

More in the next post on trains, planes and hotels.

Germany 2008: Dresden

Dresden looks a little, um, run down on the way in on the train. Is this because it was in the East Germany? I don’t know. Maybe that’s just Dresden.

The Hotel Mercure was ├╝ber-swanky. Upscale modern accomodations are always welcome. The teenagers were in awe. We were merely pleased.

Snow. Cold. Rain.

Bus tour of the city included a stop at the super cool Volkswagen facility where they put the glass on their high-dollar Phaeton sedan (which is no longer available in the US because no one here wanted to pay $70k for a VW, no matter how swank).

Also toured all the historical stuff. The Zwinger museum has a nice collection of arms and armor. Dresden’s old buildings are impressive, even the fake ones that aren’t really 500 years old (rather they are rebuilt versions that the Allies bombed the shit out of in WWII — sorry about that).

Traveled.

I return, victorious, from my European conquest, whereupon I did indeed tour much of southern and eastern Germany (including the majestic formerly-walled city of Berlin) and managed to avoid doing any of the following to a teenager:

  1. wring neck,
  2. assault with a broken beer bottle, or
  3. throw in front of (ubiquitous) speeding U Bahn Train.

I did:

  1. call one (or more) “asshole” (sometimes repeatedly and with feeling),
  2. call one (or several) “dumbass” or “stupid-ass” (when dumbass started sound repetitive),
  3. swear off of leading stupid-ass asshole teenagers through Europe.

The rest of them weren’t half bad, though.

More to follow as I sleep and become less jetlagged.