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Old 14 Dec 18, 09:49 PM  
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smithlane
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Christmas Markets and more! Berlin Nov/Dec 2018 - Day 1

Day 1 - Saturday 1st December

Woke up at 7.30 and got ready to leave the room just after 8.30. We walked up Unter den Linden to Starbucks for breakfast.













I didn’t fancy anything in here so I popped next door to Dunkin Donuts for 2 donuts and a Coke Zero. Went back to Starbucks where H had a breakfast bagel and mum a croissant.
At 9.45 we went outside to meet our Sandemans walking tour guide. Bit of confusion to begin with as we were first sent to the Spanish group but we soon found where we were meant to be and our guide Chris.




Once everyone had arrived we split into two groups, us and about 25 others with Chris and the rest with a guy called Sam.
Chris was Canadian but had lived in Berlin for 5 years now and this was his full time job. He was very funny with a wicked dry sense of humour which is great.
We started outside the Amstel Hotel. Lots of celebrity guests have stayed here including Barack Obama amongst other world leaders, Justin Bieber and most famously this was the hotel Michael Jackson dangled baby Blanket outside!



This Square is full of Embassy’s including France, UK and the USA. Chris explained the history of the Brandenburg Gate and the importance throughout history.





We walked under the Brandenburg Gate towards the Memorial of the Murdered Jews.



This memorial of these huge grey blocks was designed by New York architect Peter Eisenman and opened in 2005. It came under some controversy from Berliners as to whether they should be built. One reason for this is out of the 10 million people murdered by the Nazis, 6 million where Jews so what about the other 4 million ‘minorities’ including homosexuals and the disabled and how they were remembered? Quite thought provoking. He also said that the blocks were sprayed in an anti graffiti coating. Interestingly the company who invented and produces this spray were the same company who manufactured the gas used in the chambers and responsible for the deaths of millions. The company was ordered to pay the total €25 million that it cost to build the memorial as penance!

















We crossed the road and just around the corner Chris stopped us in a small car park. He explained that the ground we were standing on had Hitlers bunker underneath. This was where he hid until he committed suicide on 30th April 1945. I liked the fact that it’s not advertised in anyway and not glorified. They didn’t want any Neo Nazis or other sick idiots to have a memorial place for him. You honestly wouldn’t know where you were unless someone told you.
From here we walked south towards part of the remaining wall.



Real bullet holes!







Chris spoke about how there was actually 2 walls dividing the East and West with a gap of 15m to 100m wide and in between known as the death strip. This was manned with security who were ordered to shoot to kill. This meant that if you even managed to scale the first wall the chances are you would get shot before you managed to climb the second. However 5000 were successful but most of those were border guards themselves wanting out of East Germany! 10 out of 10 to the family that zip wired themselves over and another family that spent years gathering pieces of material to sew together and made a hot air balloon to get themselves out. 159 weren’t so successful and died trying however that number is wildly believed to be a lot higher.





We now stopped for a break over the road in a Cafe called Typisch Berlin. Chris said we had 15 minutes in here and would give us a 5 minute warning. Also explained that there were Sandemans representatives upstairs in the cafe if we wanted to book on any other tours that they offer. We wanted to go to the Sachenhausen Concentration Camp which is North of Berlin so thought it would be a good idea to book through them as they had been great so far.
It was manic in here but we actually got served quite quickly. A tea and donut for H and a Hot Chocolate and mozzarella filo pastry for Mum and I. We went upstairs as there’s more seating and also booked the tour for tomorrow. €16 each which we thought was reasonable, it was also with Chris so knew the guide would be good. We needed to be at the Brandenburg Gate at 9am.
Once finished with our snack we met back up with everyone outside.



We now walked around to Checkpoint Charlie which is very underwhelming and isn’t even the original checkpoint. The original is quite a few kilometres south of here! Quite tatty and touristy.





We now headed north to the Gendarmenmarkt where the Christmas market is held but more famously the French and German cathedrals. This is a very pretty square. The French Cathedral was built after an influx of Huguenots who were escaping persecution under King Louis XIV in 1705, it was for them to practice their religion.
The Germans who didn’t want to be left out built a near identical version exactly opposite only 3 years later in 1708.
The 2 cathedrals were both bombed very heavily during WW2 so the buildings we see today are reconstructed using only a few of the original bricks.







Our last stop was the Humboldt University that is very famous in its own right for producing 28 Nobel prize winners but notably more famous for the Nazis burning 20,000 books by authors they deemed a ‘minority’.









There is a simple memorial underground showing a small room with the walls lined with empty bookshelves. These have been made the exact size that would have fit 20000 books. Very moving.



Our tour was now over. It had taken over 3 hours but was so enjoyable and Chris had really helped make it fun! He did the usual spiel about tipping but we felt he had definitely earned a good tip so gave him €30 for the 3 of us. Most were leaving 10 Euros per person.
After thanking Chris we walked East on Unter den Linden towards Alexanderplatz to find the Christmas market there.









We walked over Museum Island but didn’t stop. We were in desperate need of a sit down and a refuel so found an American diner that had seating. Mum got a large glass of wine and H and I a large Diet Coke. We then shared a platter of mozzarella sticks, chicken wings and onion rings and a bowl of fries. Not doing too well on the German food front, must do better!



Food was very nice, just what we needed.
Now we had refuelled we walked across the road and into the market. It was very busy in here you just had to go with the flow of the crowds!







Some lovely stalls however. H and I bought some divine caramel almonds each, I also bought a lovely hand painted bauble. They were painting them there and then. Mum and H bought a couple of lace tree decorations too.











































Once we had done a full lap we headed on out and walked over towards the TV Tower.







I found a Starbucks and bought 4 YAH mugs to add to my enormous collection.





We were flagging a bit by now so decided to head back to the hotel for a sit down and drink.
Walked past a craft type shop so popped in. Randomly I needed to buy Hope a compass and folding ruler for her mocks that start next week. Also got Boris our lab an advent calendar!
We now walked straight down Unter den Linden to the hotel.






I think this guy was promoting peace!










I didn't realise the Dibb had headquarters in Berlin


Sat in the lobby bar again and had a drink. Cosmopolitan for me, Mojito for H and a Campari and Orange juice for mum. Was lovely to rest our weary feet!









Mum was getting tired and wanted to go up to the room for a rest but H and I wanted to go and explore a bit more.

We walked down to the Brandenburg gate where there were a couple of protests going on. The first one we think was something about Brexit but as it was all in German we couldn’t be sure then the next seemed to be protesting the murder of people for organs in China . Again we couldn’t be 100%!







From here we turned north towards the Spree river. We walked along the river to take us back to the road our hotel was on. Effectively completing a big circle.





We stumbled across this tiny Christmas market which was just charming and full of locals enjoying their evening.

















We had a quick look around promising to come back with mum.
We now turned right down Friedrichstraße which is the road the Weston Grand is on. Walking down we passed 2 absolutely fantastic shops called Butlers and Depot. I can only describe them as a cross between The Pier/Heals/Habitat/Tiger/Ikea! They had the most brilliant Christmas decorations at really reasonable prices. Again after having a look round both shops we made mental lists of what we wanted to come back for.















Time was ticking on so walked back to the hotel and up to the room to collect mum. Had a quick freshen up then headed out for some dinner. I wanted us to try Maximilian’s after reading Abby’s (Goldia) report from their recent trip to Berlin. It was only down the road from here so a quick 10 minute walk.







Bit of confusion as to where the front door to the restaurant was, it turned out you had to walk round the corner and go inside an office building.
There was a really long queue but we figured it’s a Saturday night so most restaurants would be busy. Ended up waiting about 20 minutes. We took a table ‘outside’ as we just wanted to sit down. Ordered some drinks, wine for Mum and Diet cokes for H and I. Becoming a running theme! We ordered the pretzel and bread starter which comes with 3 dipping sauces. A horseradish one, a pumpkin one and sour cream. I’m not keen on rye bread so I stuck with the pretzel.
Even though it’s inside a building there was no heating and as it’s such an expanse of space it was really quite chilly. They provide blankets but H was freezing so we asked if we could get a table inside which luckily there was one available. Much warmer in here but also much louder!







We ordered the Bratwurst and mash for me, Beef goulash and dumplings for mum and some kind of weird meatloaf with potato salad and a fried egg for H
Took a little while to come but was really yummy when it did. Couldn’t quite finish it, the sausage was enormous







It was nearly 10.30pm by the time we were done so the plan of going to the Gendarmenmarkt Christmas Market was well out of the window. H was flagging so headed back to the hotel while I waited with mum to get the bill.





Straight back to the hotel now and into bed with just enough energy to type up some notes before getting some well needed sleep
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Old 15 Dec 18, 11:31 AM  
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CrispyA
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Another busy day but looks like you had fun. Berlin is a really good city for walking around and you can see lots that way. We also really liked how Hitler’s bunker is easy to miss so that nobody makes a shrine there.
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Old 28 Dec 18, 01:22 PM  
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You made it to Maximillians! I bet it was chilly outside, I'm glad you were able to get a table in the restaurant.

It seemed like a brilliant day. The walking tour sounds really interesting. I didn't know about the anti graffiti company and the memorial. You did a lot of walking today, but it's a lovely city to walk around. The buildings are so impressive, your photos are fab. Stumbling across the little market was great luck.
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Old 4 Jan 19, 09:22 PM  
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a full busy day
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Old 9 Jan 19, 10:02 PM  
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smithlane
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Originally Posted by CrispyA View Post
Another busy day but looks like you had fun. Berlin is a really good city for walking around and you can see lots that way. We also really liked how Hitler’s bunker is easy to miss so that nobody makes a shrine there.
A very busy day but so interesting. Berlin is such an easy city to navigate, walking is the best way to see everything
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Old 9 Jan 19, 10:08 PM  
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Originally Posted by Goldia View Post
You made it to Maximillians! I bet it was chilly outside, I'm glad you were able to get a table in the restaurant.

It seemed like a brilliant day. The walking tour sounds really interesting. I didn't know about the anti graffiti company and the memorial. You did a lot of walking today, but it's a lovely city to walk around. The buildings are so impressive, your photos are fab. Stumbling across the little market was great luck.
I knew we HAD to go to Maximilian's after reading your report. It's so popular in there but we can see why it was a lovely meal but much better that we sat inside, it was really cold!
Our guide Chris was honestly so informative we wouldn't have learned half of what we did without him
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Old 9 Jan 19, 10:09 PM  
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Originally Posted by disney owl View Post
a full busy day
Yes it was a really busy day, we loved every minute
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