Last day in Berlin, and our first night in Prague.
A latish breakfast, we have a Vitality Breakfast for 4.90€ each and it’s a good start – yogurt, muesli, fruit, tea/ coffee.
Packing is finished but we leave it to finish at checkout which is at 12 midday, very convenient. I’m not sure that Genelle is confident that I know what I’m doing, so as we leave I get the ” So you know where you’re going?” Sideways head tilt with glasses on the end of the nose. I respond, not showing great confidence ” I think so”, and get the hairy eyeball from her again, and say “Righto let’s head that way” and 100 meters later we’re at the Berlin Wall Memorial, just around the corner from our hotel. I’d walked there on my own last night, but we can’t appear too confident can we, only opens the door to challenges from you know who.
The Wall Memorial is very sobering, our hotel was in the old East Berlin, and it’s all very modern in this area now. We then wander up towards the Flea Markets, Genelle umming and ahhing whether to keep walking, then says bugger it let’s try the markets, what a surprise! It’s a really interesting market, in the old East Berlin, lots of 2nd hand stuff, lots of new stuff that we’ll see in Australia next year or 2, flowers, fruit, food stalls. She buys a few things, all the while mumbling about where is she going to carry it, mumble mumble, its more weight – mumble mumble, but she buys anyway and then says to herself ” that was good buying, I’m really glad we came here”. Luckily there is an M10 tram at the front of the market that takes us back to the hotel in a few minutes, so feet and tempers are saved.
We head down town on the U Bahn to see The Brandenberg Gate, we have to walk a little way beside the river but when we get there the area is packed, it’s a very popular area at the end of Unter und Linden ( close but not right I know). We walk to the memorial for the Murdered Jews of Europe, a geometric area of rectangular blocks, then back to the train and back to the hotel
W e drop some of Tim’s ashes into the River Spree, part of the travel ritual now
A coffee and a hot chocolate before we head to Hauptbahnof on the tram with the bags for the trip to Prague at 3.10pm.
We ask a bloke with a cap on, who looks like either a porter or a conductor, which end of the platform is First Class? The advice is that we should go to the area between A and B, Genelle isn’t confident he’s got it right, she’s checking the train on the other platform and says “There’s no Carriage 262, this doesn’t sound right!”, I respond with ” it’s a different train, don’t worry, it’ll be right?” I get the pursed lips and the death stare for being so impertinent. She reluctantly sits with me and waits for impending disaster that will cause us to miss the train, but it never arises.
The train leaves Platform 1 of Hauptbahnhof right on 3.07, there is a carriage 262, the ticket says 3.10, the original booking says 3.07, the board says 3.07 which Genelle thinks is early and maybe she would like to challenge, she restrains herself, this time anyway. A Japanese bloke has his bag on our seats 23 and 25, he gets the fu.k off look and words from Genelle and with a bit of a huff him and his skinny wife with a Yoko Ono cap on do fu.k off and find another 1st Class seat to steal or at least squat in. Clearly they got out of home (Japan) because of the fu..k wit in North Korea flying a few test missiles over their island nation and they still haven’t managed to find their smiles again.
The train heads out of Berlin, the country is flat, productive, green, pivot irrigators, small forrests of planted greets that look like birch trees, solar farms, sunflowers ready to harvest. We order honey cake, a Czech PilsenReally beer and Genelle has a coke, the beer is very good and the cake is excellent with layers of chocolate, cream and honey, Masterchef review = bloody yummo. Pretty cheap really about €10 all up.
Thee are wind farms spread through the farming country, as well as the odd solar array, clearly they embrace renewable energy and why wouldn’t they even when they have way less sun than we do. This train doesn’t travel excessively fast, not like the Eurostar or the TGV’s and the Frecciarossi’s in Italy but it’s very friendly. Our waiter is clearly a Czeck girl and is very pleasant, despite Genelle thinking she’d abandoned us with a menu and service. Jeez I’d hate her being my boss, wait, she actually bloody well is you clown Paul!
What did we think of Berlin;
- It’s a green city, lots of trees and the Germans know exactly how many, they are all numbered.
- The is lots of space in the city, the traffic is pretty light and lots of people ride bicycles. Not the 16 speed racers with wanker bars on them, practical solid sit up straight bikes, ridden by blokes, women, kids, at pace in designated bike lanes that you stay out of or face embarrassment or death.
- Berlin is spread out and so it takes a bit of time to get used to how it is all connected
- The public transport – the S Bahn , the U Bahn and the trams all work pretty well, and even better when you work out how they all connect up, we got better but didn’t quite master it as well as I’d hoped.
- The old East Berlin is now pretty modern but there is still a lot of evidence of the hard days pre Glasnost and the Wall coming down, the vacant area where the Wall was located is new funky building, mainly.
- The Wall is still evident, and where it has been taken down there are 2 cobblestones running along the streets and foot paths.
- Berlin grew on me. The first day I though this is a barren lifeless place, then I started to connect the dots, get the transport sorted and where things and places with life were located. I am now really liking it and would like to come back and do some things like a lot of the other museums, probably without Genelle – she can go shopping.
- Germans are very pleasant ( especially the young people) very helpful ( especially the young people) and the Berliners like life, like a drink and food. The Berliners consider themselves a bit above the other Germans, sort of like Melbournians do over Sydney siders.
- They check train tickets, so make sure you validate you ticket before you use it, normal tickets have a 2 hour life, we had the Berlin ABC Pass for 4 days €35 each, which gave us all free public transport around Berlin as well as discounted access to museums and the hop on hop off buses. Well worth the money.
Dresden station is at 4.55 pm, mostly modern with some old ones. From what I recall it was an industrial centre and was bombed repeatedly in WWII. A lot of people are getting off the train here, I hope the Japanese bloke and his skinny missus are getting off, I guess he won’t be game enough to back up here near Genelle.
We head East into the Czech Republic, a loud woman smelling of a week of 40 a day cigarette smoke, wearing a big silver bike type ring on nearly every finger, plus a weedy bloke comes picking up rubbish to recycle, speaking what must be Czech, it’s not German. I’m not sure if she’s a railway worker or a somebody who sells recycled cans and bottles. As they come back later they carry spare rolls of toilet paper and talking loudly, so I figure they are Czech Railway employees, without any customer service training. Her hacking cough reverberates around the first class carriage, wish I had my face mask and ear plugs. If I ever write a spy novel they’ll be 2 characters that I’d have, clearly as bad eggs operating under cover trying to detect chocolate and jelly bean smugglers like us, and spreading disease by coughing over western tourists.
The country turns to hills, and a beautiful river on the left hand side of the train with a magnificent bite grey cliff behind it, forrests and green river flats, quite different to the Berlin side. It looks more alpine, with camper vans parked along roads and near the river, no caravan parks like Australia where the wagons are circled like the OK coral every night.
Through the mountains and the fast flowing river on the left hand side we’re back into farm land and now definitively in the Czech Republic, the guard is now a young blonde Czech and our tickets get checked for the 3rd time. There are no border checks or passport checks, just “come on in and spend yer money folks”.
We pull into Praha (Prague) Hlavni train station exactly on time, our booked taxi is in front of Burger King to pick us up ( the hotel organised for €15). Thank god we did, the traffic looks messy and the crowds are bustling around the train station. Our Japanese friend and Yoko are battling with what look like 4 x 30 kg bags and trying to sort cab out, I wish them the best.
The hotel is a brilliant little old hotel (Hotel Pod Vezi) right on Charles Bridge with the castle and the city as views, we also have a roof top terrace with even better views. The check in is a lengthy affair with a friendly informative young guy on reception, very efficient and informative. Our room is on the 3rd floor, there is a lift, the bathroom is very modern and roomy, the bed comfortable, wifi works, 3 restaurants at the hotel that sound good, only 26 rooms all up, very old but very good where as Berlin was very modern and very good – nothing to complain about at all.
We get some money (Czech Koruna’s – 100 = $1 Aud) from a recommended ATM, head hack for dinner in the hotel and then a walk over the bridge. It’s like a Fairy land, the castle, the churches, the bridge over the Vlatava River, the old town and the new town ( built in the 1400’s), and lost of shops. I think we’re gunna be ok here.
Tomorrow morning we’re doing an Urban Adventures walking tour of Prague at 9am, so it’s early breakfast and a cab to the meeting point as we have no idea where to go.
Cheers for today