Thursday July 22nd
Warnemünde, near Rostock is situated on the N. German coast east of the Kiel Canal entrance and west of the Baltic Sea.
Originally a small fishing village, it was purchased from the Prince of Mecklenburg in 1323 and grew to be Germany`s fifth largest maritime centre for all of Germany`s shipping, shipbuilding and fishing industries.
During the Russian occupation after WW2, Warnemünde was a summer retreat for the Communist elite and government leaders.
The port is a gateway to the great city of Berlin.
Yet again I awoke early as the ship was approaching Warnemünde where we docked at around 6.30 am.
As we approached the dock, I noticed that the private train arranged by DCL was already in place very close to the ship`s berth.
We had to grab a quick breakfast at Topsider`s as our tour today was due to depart at 7.15 am. The tour we chose was “Berlin`s Turbulent History Tour” as opposed to the “Berlin Past and Present Tour” selected by our friends from LA, Doug, Michelle & Dani.
After meeting up at the Walt Disney Theatre we were then taken off the ship in small groups, each group being assigned it`s own lettered carriage on the train which had loads of carriages as it was to carry all of the Berlin tours apart from the one that we had chosen. By chance, our friends were actually given the adjacent carriage to ours.
The process of getting everyone to the train was a very organised process, top marks to DCL.
As we waited on the train waiting for the other passengers to board, I suddenly had a “Schindler`s List moment”, recalling the plight of those unfortunate souls on a similar train 70 or so years ago full of anticipation of being taken to a new location! [Michelle had the same thoughts as she told me later.]
At 8.00 am we were off on the way to Berlin, a journey time of around 3 hours travelling through the countryside of what used to be East Germany….no photos here, when you`ve seen one green field, you`ve seen them all!
Several young female attendants were on the train, around one to each pair of carriages, who gave us some information about the country and gave us all a prepared snack in a paper bag along with a bottle of water for the journey.
As we approached Berlin we spotted a small section of the Wall so I managed to grab a hasty shot.
At the train station in Berlin, we were met and escorted to where the bus was waiting for us by one of the entrances to begin our tour.
After a short while we had a brief stop to view the “East Side Gallery” which are the last remains of the Berlin Wall, and these have been decorated by several professional artists, and again the ship`s photographer was at hand if required.
We had been warned by our guide not to purchase any fragments of the wall from any street vendors as these would inevitably be fakes. She said that if they had all been genuine then the wall would have to have been four times it`s actual length!
I have visited Germany numerous times on business trips but I have always wanted to visit Berlin and I could hardly believe that I was actually here standing alongside one of the last remaining relics of the Cold War, totally awe inspiring.
We were told that although hardly any sections of the Wall remain, two lines of cobbles are laid on the sidewalks in Berlin where the Wall previously stood.
Yet again, I had to take most my photographs through the window of a moving bus but I managed to get a reasonable shot of a fabulous sand sculpture as we passed by on the opposite side of the road across from the Wall.
During the rest of the morning we did in fact make a few stops, visiting the Opernplatz [site of the “book burning” in 1933] and the war memorial along the Unter den Linden, but sadly I had to contend with a view from the bus of the Holocaust Memorial, one of those places that I thought worthy of a least a few minutes of visiting time.
It was then onto the Brandenburg Gate where we met up with Doug and his family who`s tour coincided with ours at this stage. We had a few minutes here and again the ship`s photographer was in attendance. This was another of my “must see” sights in Berlin, even though our stop was only a short one.
DCL had arranged for us to all have an excellent lunch at a 5 star hotel in the centre of Berlin , after which it was back on the bus for our next stop, Checkpoint Charlie, another icon of the cold war and the scene of what could easily been the start of WW3 not too long ago when Russian and Allied tanks faced each other in a "stand off".
It was then onto a brief photo stop at the Templehof Airlift Memorial commemorating the 1948 airlift of food and medicines etc. by Allied Forces to the people of Berlin.
From here we had a 40 minute stop at the Allied Museum which is on the site of an Allied Base and houses one of the British Hasting aeroplanes that took part in the airlift. [They had opened the plane up especially for DCL so that we could walk inside the exhibit.]
Apart from several exhibits inside the buildings, the real Checkpoint Charlie hut is a walk through exhibit…the one at the location we saw earlier being built just for tourists albeit at the correct location, so at least I can say that we saw the real thing!
A short journey then took us to the most famous boulevard in Berlin, Kurfürstendamm, where we stopped for 15 minutes so we could do some shopping or [as we did] visit the adjacent remains of the Kaiser Wilhelm Memorial Church which was severely damaged during WW2 and is now restored in part.
Nearby is the Europa Centre which has a Mercedes Benz revolving emblem on it`s roof. We were told that this emblem is driven by a motor manufactured by VW which I found quite amusing!
We passed by the Reichstag, and several other places of interest, arriving back at the station at around 5 pm in time for our train`s departure back to Warnemünde at 5.30 pm.
By now we were all suffering from “information overload”, reflecting on the sites we had seen during this hectic day as we journeyed back to the ship which departed at 8.30 pm.
Of all the cruises I`ve done, the send off we received from the people of Warnemünde during the port departure will stay with me forever, even the various CM`s we later spoke to said that they had never experienced anything like it.
It seemed like the entire population of the town had turned out to wave us off and they lined the dockside waving to us as we slowly inched our way out of the port.
Several hundred folk were also in numerous boats who sailed away with us, waving and cheering us on our way.
These small boats kept sounding their “toot toot” horns and naturally we gave them several “When you wish upon a star” replies, the most frequent use of our ship`s horn ever,and it really brought a tear to your eye, so emotionally charged was the occasion.
After Warnemünde had disappeared from view we returned to our stateroom to get ready for dinner. Tonight was the “show” night for us at Animator`s Palate and it was great to see the expression on the faces of the “cruise newbies” at our table as they saw this for their first time when the restaurant [and the servers] gradually became a riot of colour followed by Sorceror Mickey making an appearance.
Naturally the evening was rounded off in Sessions with us all finalising our secret plans for what we had in store for Tim Moss [the pianist] the following evening!
Back to our rooms around midnight, only to find another of those pesky cards advising us to move our clocks forward by another hour before retiring!
At least tomorrow would be a day at sea to help offset the effects of losing an hours sleep!