Day 18 – Berlin to Amsterdam
Dinner last night was down at a small restaurant on the Spree River, with the Berlin Dome, a Protestant church, it looks like a museum but it is actually a church, on the opposite bank. It’s a pleasant night, the food is good and we find it’s not more than 5 minutes from where we are staying, we just wandering in the long way.
A 6.30 rise, then a quick breakfast, shower and we’re out the door and checking out a little after 7. A little backerie (German for bakery I think) near Hackescher Markt provides some sustenance for the trip to Amsterdam. We pick up the M5 tram and we’re at the Berlin Hauptbahnof ( central station) way earlier than we thought.
The big board doesn’t tell us what platform yet so I walk to the Information desk where a surly bloke with a bit of a Sergeant Schultz type bloke tilts his head and looks at me with a “ this better be good” look. But it’s all OK, he tells me Platform 4 is our train and actually cracks a slight smile, “Danker” I say and mean it.
The wait until 8.34 when our train leaves, then mild panic from the navigator trying work out where Car 8 will come in is all eased when we are on board, bags stored and seats found.
The train moves quickly on to Spandau and Wolfsburg which looks like a large VW factory town.the country looks dry and in need of rain, a concept that we’re a bit familiar with. The train races through the flat farming country quickly at 150-200 kph, the wheat and barley in the small paddocks waving in the breeze and getting close to ripening.
When we get to Hanover at 10.50 it’s raining outside, today’s forecast is happening as predicted, the further west we go the darker the clouds look. Also, the further west we go the more I see of a maize like crop that’s just turning, I wonder if this is food, fodder or ethanol bound? My guess is ethanol. Oddly there are very few animals in the fields.
Berlin sum up.
Berlin is a happening place, spread out so you need to get a handle on the public transport system to handle it. Even then there is a lot of walking. There are still beggars on the streets and gypsies plying their scams like the piece of paper with sick babies or the peas under the cups scam, but there are also the funky ones with the twirly whirly mows and the way out skinhead types with shaved or half shaved heads, lots of body piercing, boots and knees out of their skin tight jeans, none of them are fat, and usually a dog with them. People walk around with dogs on leads everywhere, they get on trams and trains with dogs, we saw an Alsatian with a homeless type looking guy attack a guide dog in Hackescher Markt which was not much fun. People walk around with stubby of beer in their hands usually held by two fingers at the top – Berliner style I guess. The buskers are everywhere, lots of classical buskers. Peter our Urban Adventure man said Germans didnt have many poets but they had plenty of composers, I’m not sure what that means though, except maybe you don’t hear of many of the classic pop or rock songs ( poetry to music) written by Germans but there is a lot of timeless classical pieces written by German composers.
There is plenty of shopping, traditional at Alexanderplatz, the Mall of Berlin at Potsdamerplatz and many other areas, plus markets and fantastic specialty shops everywhere. The Saturn shops are huge electrical shops, nothing anywhere in Australia like this.
There are museums and galleries everywhere, young and old attend and look like they are interested. The streets are safe to walk pretty much anywhere, other than the odd stray remains of a vomit, there is little dog shit on the streets and strangely you see few police roaming the streets. Most toilets are pay to pee, 50c or €1 usually covers it and in the shopping centres you get a voucher that you can recover your spent penny from a shop if you actually do spend a penny.
Prices of coffee etc are about the same as Australia.
We cross into the Netherlands about 1.30pm, the fields have dairy cows and the odd sheep and the rain has got heavier.
A girl sitting behind me talks non stop, loudly the whole way from Berlin. Very inconsiderate, and rude, whatever she said the whole carriage heard, lucky for me it was Dutch and I didn’t understand a word other than “Mein Gott!!!!”
We arrive into Amsterdam Central on time, just after 3pm, we’re a little weary but work out which way to leave the train station ( nearly took the wrong way),set the hotel into Google Maps and walk, the navigator is a little whingey, but gets over the sore feet and shuffles along, Mark keeps and eye on her. Soon enough we’re at Hotel Sebastian’s, lovely area on the canals, and a nice unobtrusive little place, well decked out and friendly staff. Our room is nice but Genelle still has a little chip at the musty smell, I can’t smell it but she does.
A short rest and then our own orientation tour, a walk to Dam Square where some young people are doing a big dance thing, very entertaining. Observation – Amsterdam is dirty and grungy compared to Berlin but also more tourists I reckon, the place is chockers.
we have a quick fix dinner at a little place on the canals near the red light district, only the odd seedy looking sex paraphernalia shop around in this area, but the meal and the Grolsch beer is good. We wander deeper into the red light area and the odd girl is in a window trying to sell her wares, but it’s still early and a few have opened up shop early. Last time we were in Amsterdam was ten years ago in. Trafalgar tour, we had about 4 hours here so not much of a memory of Amsterdam from then about where things are.
We wander back through the alleys and across canals, Genelle doubting Google Maps and my direction but we’re back at Sebastian’s in about 15 minutes, I think her sore feet were impacting on her sense of direction, we’ll say no more.
Tomorrow we’re doing a walking tour of the city at 10.30, a boat canal cruise with food and drinks tomorrow night.
Ciao from Amsterdam