Arriving in Berlin, I began to think that Laura and I were World Cup good luck charms. While we were in Brazil, they won all their games. The day we got to Amsterdam, Holland beat Brazil. And then, literally moments after we got off the train in Berlin, Germany beat Argentina. It was weird but cool that it happened that way because we got to see three countries partying. (The area of Berlin we visited that first night, while exuberant, were still more subdued than Amsterdam or anywhere in Brazil.)
In Berlin we decided to stay in the easyHotel. It was the among the cheapest options and after the Amsterdam hotel adventure I wanted something simple and, well, easy. It doesn’t have any character, but it was better than running all over the place trying to find something better.
On our first night in Berlin we walked down from our hotel and ate a picnic dinner at a park near Museum Island (where five of the cities most important museums are located). The evening really made me like Berlin. While London is a pristine city with a lot to do, it’s also filled with tourists. On almost every street we went to someone was always pulling out a camera to snap a picture of some quintessentially British thing (buses, phone booths, cops, statues, etc.). (And yes, sometimes that was us.)
Amsterdam was even more filled with visitors. In some ways, it felt to me like Las Vegas, if Las Vegas was located in a beautiful old city instead the searing desert. So while London and Amsterdam were great, it was hard to feel like anything but the average tourist/vacationer there.
But Berlin felt different. There were still a lot of tourists, but fewer of them. Plus, most of the people we saw in the parks and on the streets were locals. Basically, Berlin immediately felt more lived in. It seemed like a place where people were doing other things besides sightseeing and escaping regular daily life (things we’re obviously doing).
Anyway, our first night in Berlin was one of my favorites of the trip. After dinner we walked along a canal until we got to the Brandenburg Gate and the Reichstag building.
The next day we went back to Museum Island and got passes that allowed us to enter all five museums. We visited three of them, which reminded me just how much work it can he to walk around museums all day. By the time we left I was utterly exhausted. However, we had seen some incredible things. First we went to the Neues Museum, which has a lot of ancient Greek and Egyptian stuff (like a somewhat smaller version of the British Museum in London). One of the highlights was the Nefertiti head that is famous. Like most people I’d seen reproductions before, but this museum has the real thing.
Then we visited the Pergamon Museum, which has a Greek alter/temple rebuilt from original pieces in its main gallery. It also has the gates of Babylon reconstructed (also from original pieces), which were made from a striking blue brick. Though the museum currently has fewer rooms open, the historical artifacts that are on display are unparalleled by anything I’ve seen elsewhere. (The artifacts aren’t without controversy either. The countries there were taken from reportedly want then back.)
We also visited a couple of art museums before heading back to the Reichstag building. Everyday until 10 pm visitors are allowed to go up into the neoclassical building’s modern glass dome. We got there around sunset at 9 pm, but the line took nearly an hour, so it was mostly dark before we got to the top. Still, we got to walk around the roof, go up in the dome, and look down into the chambers of the German government.