Navigating the NYC subway: fine. Finding my way through the Paris metro: simple. Figuring out the Berlin s-bahn: no thanks! Pop Pop, who speaks a decent amount of German, even had a difficult time learning how to travel on the subway here in Berlin. Somehow, I guess with asking people and using a map, we did figure out where we wanted to go and we got on the train. In Berlin, there are two types of trains: the s-bahn and u-bahn. The first is mostly above ground, and the latter underground. Unfortunately, we ran into a bit more trouble when we realized we passed the stop we wanted. We called the tour company and luckily they said we could make it in time. With much sweat and determination, we found the group right in the knick of time!
We met the group at the T.V. Tower I talked about earlier, which is now a restaurant that spins three times an hour and a popular lookout point of the city. Our guide was American. After college he apparently moved to Germany for the music scene and has been here ever since. On our tour were people from the U.S., London and Australia.
We were on a dinner tour, so we were treated to a combination of history and food. A few things we saw along the tour include:
- A guard tower looking out on the “death strip” of the Berlin wall. This was the area between the Berlin wall and the second wall surrounding it (Yes, technically, the Berlin Wall was not just one wall). It was dubbed “death strip” because when people tried to escape and hop over the first wall, there would be obstacles in their way and guards waiting to shoot them. Apparently there was an overload of bunnies in this area, and guards enjoyed hunting them for fun.
- Markers that showed where victims were killed.
- Markers that showed where the underground tunnels were that went from West to East Berlin.
- A memorial dedicated to Kristallnacht, or The Night of the Broken Glass.
During our tour, we stopped at three places to eat. The first eatery was modern and artsy. We had falafel there. Falafel is popular in the U.S. and especially in NYC, which has falafel stands dotting its streets. I don’t usually like falafel, but for some reason, this one was quite tasty. At the next place we sat outside, which was lovely. We had an assortment of German food, including rouladen, a type of meatball, a flatbread with greens and tomatoes and many other small dishes. The last place we stopped at was for dessert. It had about a dozen types of cakes, but I ended up with frozen chocolate. This was basically cold hot chocolate with a scoop of chocolate ice cream. It was delicious. I tried some cheesecake, carrot cake and Danish apple cake that other people had, and they were all tasty as well.
Yes, you read that right. I tried other people’s food that I had only met a few hours before. During the tours I have been on, as I have mentioned, I have met incredible people. This group in particular was full of friendly, interesting travelers. Because this was a dinner tour, we were all forced to converse and get to know one another. However, these people all seemed genuinely interested in getting to know about each other and I loved that. I told them how impressed I was with the people I have met on the tours over the last few days, and they all agreed that to be traveling in foreign countries, a person is usually going to be open to new places, cultures and interactions. The mother and son I met from Australia happen to be from the town in which I may study abroad, and the mother gave me her card and the son added me on Facebook. I was so grateful that I was in Berlin with these incredible people.
It was an amazing and busy first day, and we expected nothing less of the next.