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Berlin & Prague Day1- Choc, Currywurst & Ladies of the night

Discussion in 'Trip Reports' started by Mags, Sep 28, 2012.

  1. Mags
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    Mags Serious Forum Regular

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    To be truthful 2012 hasnt been a great year for the family. After the disappointment of not being able to go to WDW this August and September, I decided to go with a short continental break, taking one or two of my grown up kids with me. The chemo and radiotherapy had exhausted me and to be honest there is no way I could have attacked the parks feeling the way I did. My consultant had worked out when the chemo and radiotherapy would finish and advised me not to go. Getting insurance, well that would have proved nigh on impossible so soon afterwards anyway. I had left cancelling the holiday right until the last moment possible and cant thank Val at Travel Counsellors enough for everything she did for me.
    So, it was time to annoy Val again. I had booked flights for my eldest David and my daughter Kathryn flying to Berlin on Sept 4th. The intention was to stay there for 3 nights and head down to Prague by train on the 7th. I had checked out the train timetables and it seemed easy to get between the two cities at a cost of around €65. Little did I realise that we were heading off on one of the most beautiful rail journeys in Europe right alongside the River Elbe.
    I must have sat for about 5 or 6 hours trying to sort out two hotels that would suit but gave up in despair. So, I emailed Val and of course she came up trumps within minutes. We were heading to the Mercure Checkpoint Charlie in Berlin, a hotel we had used twice before and the Novotel Wenceslas Square in Prague. I knew with Val on my side the choices would be good.
    I am lucky that I live only 20mins from Stansted, so on trips like this I always take the car and park it at the airport rather than hire a taxi. It works out around the same price but I like to be in control!
    I barely slept the night before, worrying about the alarm clock and whether it would go off or not. Up we all got at 3.45 and we were off at 4am for our 6.25am flight to Shoenefeld Airport, Berlin.
    This was a Ryanair flight and I hadnt been on one for at least a year. Off I shot to the exit seats (lots of space) only to be told that we couldn't sit there as I hadnt purchased our seats in advance. I think that all Mr O'Leary has to do now is put the coin slot on the toilet door and he will have drawn every drop of blood from his customers.
    The flight was very smooth and we arrived right on time. We had now to find where to purchase our 3 day Welcome Cards to use on the transport network so that we could travel into Berlin to our hotel. The ticket booth had moved, so we were wandering around like headless chickens until finally we found what we wanted. Three tickets validated and we were on our way. We only had one change to make on the U-Bahn and 45mins later we were at our hotel.
    The Mercure seems like home to us now and it is in such a great spot. It is right beside Checkpoint Charlie, close to the remaining section of the wall, the Topography of Terror, the beautiful Gendarmenmarkt (plaza with museums and churches) and the largest chocolate shop in Europe, Fassbender and Rausch.
    Our rooms werent ready so there was no way I was being kept back from the chocolate shop. We hadnt had our morning fix of coffee, so we were keen to find out what their new restaurant and cafe was like. I love looking at their chocolate models and before we headed upstairs to the cafe, I clicked the camera. They had a chocolate Reichstag, Titanic, church, Berlin Bear and the TV Tower. The display of chocolate was as fantastic as ever. Here are a few photos.
    Chocolate Brandenburg Gate
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    Chocolate Titanic
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    Chocolate Reichstag
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    Endless rows of chocolate
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    Next we headed upstairs to the cafe. It was waiter service and the displays of chocolate desserts and other goodies whetted our appetites. Kathryn had a chocolate mousse cake with gold leaf as well as a delicious cold choc mocha with cream and David went for a chocolate truffle torte. We both had coffee, which came with an individually wrapped chocolate. It was all so good and I loved it.

    Mousse Cake
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    Chocolate Torte
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    Iced Mocha
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    Coffee
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    After a lovely pit stop in the chocolate shop, it was time to hit the road.
    We then decided to set the GPS on the phone and head down to Potsdamer Platz which is really central Berlin. Just before we reach it we walk past the Bundersrsat, the second parliamentary chamber and a 'soldier' willing to stamp a passport with the old DDR stamp.
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    Potsdamer Platz is where Sony has it's European HQ and most important as far as my lot are concerned, this is where the Lego Discovery Centre is. There is a beautiful section of a preserved hotel in this area and it makes me think just how beautiful the city must have been before the war.I wasnt allowed to stop long though as my two had spotted Star Wars and Superhero key rings galore in the Lego Shop.

    Preserved Hotel
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    Lego Centre
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  2. Mags
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    Mags Serious Forum Regular

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    When I saw them I just knew I had to buy one for a FB mate and fellow Disney fan, as he loves both Star Wars and guards his lego collection with avengeance. So, with my Darth Vader purchase and a few superheroes in the bag as well, we were on our way.

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    I was keen for my son to see the Jewish Memorial which is halfway between Potsdamer Platz and the Reichstag. En route we saw loads of these pink pipes everywhere. Later we found out that Berlin has such a high water table that any construction work carried out has to have these pipes installed alongside. Where the water is pumped away to, I havent a clue. This may be the third time I have been to the city but Berlin is still one massive building site.

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    I dont know when they intend to finish either! As we walked to the memorial we spotted our first Trabant of the holiday.

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    The memorial always moves me. The designer leaves it to the imagination of the public as to what interpretation they put on the structure. It is a huge set of rectangular stone blocks which increase in size towards the middle from all angles and then decrease in size as you go towards the four sides. As I walk through it, I get the feeling of unease and being hemmed in. It is a feeling of discomfort and ever decreasing space. Others may interpret it differently. I like the fact too that it is built almost alongside where Hitler's bunker was and the spot where he died.

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    Having been moved once again by this monument to the Jewish dead of WW11 we moved on for lunch.
    We went to a restaurant we had been to before just alongside the monument. David wanted to try currywurst, Berlin's answer to fast food. It is basically a frankfurter served with a spiced ketchup and curry powder sprinkled on the top. It was terrific value at €4.50 each. Of course we had to have our first German beer. We both love dunkel (the dark beer). Our bill for three meals and three drinks was less than €20 – an absolute steal and it was very tasty too.

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    Feeling full, we walked off our lunch heading towards the Brandenburg Gate. There are always street performers behind the Gate and today was no different. The Gate is a huge draw for tourists and today there was the Berlin Bear, Darth Vader and the Predator. As usual there were the pretend soldiers. A tourist shouted out,'Where are you from?' and in a thick Eastern European accent he shouted, 'Im from Michigan', at which point all the English tourists erupted laughing.
    We also spotted Mickey and Minnie having a chat with a few tourists. They get everywhere!:wiggle:

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  3. Mags
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    Mags Serious Forum Regular

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    [​IMG]


    We had had a lovely afternoon walking around it was time to go back to the hotel and see if our room was ready. However, as we hadnt wanted to carry the chocolate around in the heat of the day, a second visit to Fassbender and Rausch was in order to do some serious shopping. I bought a huge haul of chocolate bars as well as a bag for me. I wont say how much I spent.
    Our room was very nice indeed – not as big as the one we had before but big enough and plenty of space and a coffee machine this time.


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    We had a quick freshen up and then headed back on the U-Bahn to Potsdamer Platz. We were heading to the Reichstag for a tour around the parliament . I had done this last time with Michael but Kathryn or David hadnt done it before.
    Everything had changed at the Reichstag in terms of security. There were now security gates right around the building and it certainly didnt seem as welcoming. We were told that it wasnt because of terrorists that they had put up this ring of steel, rather some Greenpeace activists had lobed themselves by rope right down into the chamber so things had to change. It was a real shame.
    We just arrived in time for the tour and were taken by the English speaking guide to join the rest of the group. In some respects it was similar to last time but we were also taken to other sections of the building this time. The first thing we saw were the preserved sections of wall with the graffiti left by the invading Soviet soldiers during the storming of the building during the Battle of Berlin. It was fascinating.

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    We were then taken to the old library and taken through to the back to see the impressive new library across the River Spree. As we stood on the balcony we could clearly see the bullet and shrapnel marks from WW11.

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    View from the Reichstag old library

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    We then passed by the Chancellor's office - can you imagine being allowed that close to the PM's office here?

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    Our guide then took us to the basement where she showed us a very unusual shoe box structure which lists every German MP of the modern era up until the late 1990s. It is lit by dim lights which are left on all the time. Im not sure what the point of the display is but I managed to grab a photo.

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    We then headed upstairs again and were brought to the room where the Green Party meets and then on to the parliamentary chamber itself. I wont bore you with the details but it was a very interesting tour all round and my two certainly enjoyed it.

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    We were then left to our own devices and headed up to the glass dome with its spiralling walkway with our audio pack in hand. As we walked the stunning views over the city got better and better as we neared the top and the audio voice pointed out all the major buildings as we went.

    The Cone In the Dome
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    Brandenburg Gate from the Dome

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  4. Mags
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    Mags Serious Forum Regular

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    One of the four turrets from the Dome representing the four provinces of Germany. Behind it the ever present Die Welt balloon

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    We had had a fantastic day so far and all that was left now was to plan our evening meal. As ever, I had been busy on Tripadvisor. We all decided that we would like to do something very different this evening. We were going to eat at an Ethiopian restaurant.
    Now this was where it all went a little bit skew-whiff. David's GPS let him down big time and we found ourselves wandering in a fairly poor part of the city. Finally (20mins after getting off the train) we found the restaurant.
    The menu was a total mess. There were two dishes translated into English but it looks like the translator just gave up and stopped. We hadnt a clue what was on the rest of the menu. We got the owner to help us and we decided to go for a meal where we could all share. We had a meat and vegetable platter, which consisted of a bed of pancakes on which was placed a spicy chicken dish, a meat dish, several lentil dishes as well as one wit spinach and another with potato. We also had a separate dish of beef with rosemary as well as a huge dish of sour pancakes to mop it all up. It was an amazing meal. No knives and forks were involved – just pieces of pancake broken off to pick up the food. It was one heck of an experience and the restaurant certainly deserves its rave reviews. The platter may not look very appetising but believe me it was great!

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    Full of food and beer of course, we paid (€45) and headed back to the station. I could hear David and Kathryn in stitches laughing and thought it was because David had got his directions so wrong we were in fact just minutes from the U-Bahn. No, it was for a totally different reason. I looked over to my left at the main road where their eyes were fixed and saw a line of 'ladies' with brightly coloured clothes and shorts up to their armpits leaning down and gesturing at the line of Mercedes and BMWs going past. My mouth nearly hit the floor and I was genuinely in shock. My kids thought it was hilarious and for days on end they talked about my shock and reaction to what I'd seen. Still, I didnt feel in any way unsafe in the area and that may have something to do with the fact that prostitution is legal in Germany – Im not sure.
    We made our way back to the hotel and had a late night cuppa before hitting the sack and passing out pretty quickly. What a fab fun filled first day we had had.
    Tomorrow – Discover Berlin tour, Alexanderplatz, Hofbrauhaus and a Vietnamese feast.

    Mags
     
  5. Britchick
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    Britchick Serious Forum Regular

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    what a trip! thanks for sharing. I didn't know that you'd been unwell Mags :hug2:
     
  6. Tink
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    Tink Cead Mille Failte! Staff Member Administrator

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    Wonderful report, Mags! :hug2: So pleased for you that you were able to have such a lovely holiday. One complaint though. :sorry:

    I gained TEN POUNDS with those chocolate photos! ;) :hug2:

    Thank you for sharing this with us. :yes:
     
  7. foreverducky
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    foreverducky Addicted to Mickey

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    Thank you so much for sharing your trip with us! Between Alaska, Berlin and Disney I feel like I've been around the world recently.
     
  8. Wendy
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    Wendy A hui hou kakou makuakane Staff Member Administrator

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    It looks really nice Mags, we never think of going to Europe, but there are some great places to visit over there.

    I'm glad you were able to get away :hug2: Thank you for sharing :)
     
  9. Mags
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    Mags Serious Forum Regular

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    Thank you everyone. I was SO glad to get this break and to go to a city that I especially enjoy. Berlin is not pretty but it is such a favourite with so many people I know because of what it has to offer in terms of its past and the amazing history. I dont know anyone who hasnt come away and not loved it. Prague on the other hand is stunning and beautiful but if we were all to make a choice as to which city we prefer it will always be Berlin.
    Julie, Yes, it has been a tough 9 or 10 months and I have not been a very forum friendly person as I wasnt able to go to WDW but now Im back. Yeah!:yes:
    Wendy, it was my son who started me on this European break lark. He must have visited almost every major capital but said Mum,'I think that you should start with Berlin'. I did and I love these little jaunts. Just like with WDW, a little planning makes it easy and getting from city to city by train is a breeze.

    Mags
     
  10. catrancher
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    catrancher Assistant Cruise Director Forum Host

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    What a wonderful report! Thanks so much for sharing it.

    I'd dearly love to be able to travel extensively and see sights like this. Perhaps once I win the lottery? :unsure:

    Tom :)macwave:... now. Where did I put that lottery ticket? :unsure:)
     
  11. Slowhand
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    Slowhand Cruise Director Forum Host

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    Thanks for a great report Mags.
    I`ve only done a whistle stop visit to Berlin as part of our DCL cruise a few years ago and I would love to spend more time there.
    We only drove past the Jewish Memorial, and sadly I couldn`t even manage to get a decent photo through the window of the coach, so your excellent shots and description have made up for that!

    Looking forward to hearing about the rest of your trip.
     

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