Photos by myself: Sony Nex 5N
Paul and I survived a cosy trip on a half empty bus over night and arrived in Berlin next morning to meet Olartia and Dani at Baxpax hostel. The staff there were helpful and very friendly. Our room was spacious and comfortable.
On day one we took a free walking tour through the Sandeman's New Berlin Tour which was very cool. One of the most surreal moments was when we were standing on a patch of grass in the middle of a Berlin apartment courtyard, for below us was the remnants of the bunker that Adolf Hitler and Eva Braun committed suicide at the end of WWII. We passed through iconic spots like Checkpoint Charlie, the Holocaust memorial and many other sites. Our guide was friendly and threw some good jokes around here and there. I was recommended to take the free tour by my dear friend Phoebe, and I further the recommendation onto you. They operate in most cities and usually ask for nothing more than a small donation.
Olartia and I ventured on our own to Sachsenhausen concentration camp through Sandeman's once more whilst Dani was at an Apple App conference and Paul was enjoying the Sandeman's East Side Gallery tour. This was a very heavy experience, it is obviously not bright nor uplifting. It is going to hurt you, shock you and re-educate you. The camp is 30-40 minutes outside Berlin and on our visit, was eerily misty. It certainly added to the feelings we were experiencing. This fortress of horror was the first concentration camp and was basically the model for all future camp construction. Behind it's inhumane bars, it held gays, jews, ethnics (particularly Roma) and political threats (particularly communists). Scientific tests on humans were undertaken here (see above pictures for the operation table), torture live executions and gassings was carried out at Sachsenhausen. Our guide was a very informative and friendly Aussie girl who spoke very clearly for everyone. I recommend this strongly for any war enthusiast, or anyone who needs a reality check.
The street art around Berlin was unsurprisingly great. I expected to see more, but I guess that comes with more time to see the city.The East Side gallery and Tacheles slum gallery were perfect eye candy for the grungy, edgy art Berlin is so famously known for - plenty of political statements that comment on past and present movements.
On our second night, Paul, Olartia and myself went to see Aussie band Rufus at a small bar downtown. They were absolutely killer and the lead vocalist was beyond impressive/dreamy. Surprisingly half the crowd were Australian so we met alot of people travelling around Europe, missing the weather back home, but loving the edgy life that Berlin has to offer. We spent the evening dancing and drinking before making our way back to a nice cosy bed. The following night we ventured to a gay club with Dani. This time without Olartia. Obviously not my cup of tea, but it was another interesting experience and again, met more Aussies.
On our last day we took advantage of a Weekday 50%-75% off sale. Paul left straight after and then we ventured to the East Side Gallery, browsed through the joyous Berlin Christmas markets and finally finished our Berlin trip at the Parliament house where we didn't get much of a view of Berlin amongst the darkness of the night sky, but instead got some excellent shots with the subtle and intimate lighting within the strange architecture of the building.
Despite the unpleasant nature of many of the German's who seemed to go out of their way to make foreigners around them uncomfortable, Berlin was a fun place, where everyone did as they pleased and shopping was more affordable.