Ships, Planes, Trains and River boats taking us through Asia, Middle East, Africa, Baltic, England, Paris and Amsterdam through to Budapest...

Wednesday, May 21, 2014

47 Rostock - Berlin , Germany

We docked in Rostock at 6 am this morning..... and no we didn’t get up for sail in this time.  When we did go out we found ourselves very much in the middle of an industrial / cargo area.

Today was going to be a long full day as the drive alone to Berlin was three hours.  We booked a package with TJ Travel of Russia which gave us 6 tours in 5 of the ports we were visiting (two in St Petersburg).  You book with them and they make up a group from other passengers that book as well.  Today we had 16 people joining this tour.

The Mercedes bus looked nice and new and probably seated around 22 people...   That is of course if they were all the same size and height as me.  For someone like Garry long legs were a problem.  The aisle down the middle was very narrow and the overhead lockers were very low so you had a real sense of being in a confined space.

There was a young girl that took a roll call and made sure we were all on the bus, then left us under the care of the Bus Drivers who knew enough English to say “toilet, back here 10 minutes”.

The drive into Berlin was long but easy as it was all Autobahn.  The countryside was very much like ours with timber plantations and crops of what I think is canola (you know the yellow flowers)... It was very lush and green all the way.  Now the man who invented those wind turbines must be a very rich man, as every port that we have been to seems to have them..... you will even find a plantation of them growing out of the ocean at some places.  Here it seemed like every farmer has them with their crops growing right up to the base of the turbines.

About halfway into our trip our drivers got to practice their English with a toilet stop, which everyone was ready for.  At least there were not shops so everyone was back on the bus on time.

As you drove into the outskirts of Berlin you could not help but notice how leafy the city was.  Our first stop was at Charlottenburg Castle.  This is a palace dating back to 1695 by the king, and built for his wife who he named it after.  Here we met our guide Polly, who was very knowledgeable and gave us a great history on how Germany and Berlin were divided, and what happened after reunification. This is where we thought that it is a shame that a guide was not provided right from the start as this information could have been given to us during the 3 hours drive into Berlin, and not have 45 minutes spent in one spot with so many things to cover in Berlin.

This is when we realised that the bus was really too small and inappropriate for the type of tour we were doing.  Berlin’s highlights are large and spread out over a great area.  You cannot stop so a lot of the sights were just drive by’s... now that is ok if it was on your side of the bus.  If the highlight was on the other side, the windows were so low and seats so high there was no way you could see around the other passengers to get any view out their window.  She would say “look at the lovely church” on your left and all you could see was the foot path... no use looking out the back windows as those seats covered them, and the funniest part was “look out the front”  - if you tried to look out the front window all you could see was the backs of the front seats.

So we have some lovely pictures of all the sights that are on the righ hand side of the bus....

Most of the touring was in the Eastern part of Berlin which was under control by the Russians. This is where the old town was. Finally we have a stop and luckily it has a few sites that are all walkable.  First we saw the Reichstag, the German Parliament and then over to the Brandenburg Gate.  You can tell where the wall used to be as two rows of the coble stone foundation have been left along the roads.  In this square we also saw the Hotel Adlon, made famous by the late Michael Jackson when he decided to dangle young Prince over the balcony when he was just a baby.

It was amazing to hear how East and West was always separate but you could still freely move from one side to the other... Problem was the repressed young and educated easterners wanted more,so they would cross to the west where the Americans offered them a new life if they agreed they did not believe in Communism.  The Russians didn’t like this so they decided to place a barbwire fence on the boundary to prevent people fleeing .  Now Berlin is in the middle of the east but within Berlin it is still divided into its own east and west... so people would just cross over and the Americans would fly them out....  Then literally overnight a new barrier was placed in Berlin blocking all access and eventually the wall was built.... the rest is history...

Across the road from here there is a Memorial to the Murdered Jews of Europe.... now this memorial has not avoided controversy... firstly some Jews were uncomfortable that there were many atrocities and that many others should also be acknowledged.  Then there is the design itself which actually looks like a grave yard with the blocks of many sizes arranged symmetrically within the square.  Then there is the controversy over the coating on these blocks... Being prone to graffiti they decided to protect them by coating them with a substance that prevents the paint from sticking to the surface.  The company that was to supply the paint turned out to be the same company many, many years earlier that manufactured the gas that was used in the chambers.  Well you can imagine the uproar.  This company said hey that was  a long time ago and under a different management, and probably at a time that there was no choice.  They compared other companies that also had involvement such as Siemens for building the Gas Chambers, Adidas who made the boots  or IBM who created the system that catalogued the names of the Jews sent to concentration camps... the list was endless.... In the end the paint was still used, and as restitution, the company supplied it free of charge.

We passed many points of interest, some we saw, some we didn’t, but regardless we found Berlin to be a very interesting place once its history was put into perspective.

For lunch we stopped at a Bier Haus for a typical lunch which included schnitzel, and beer of course.

One of the final stops was checkpoint Charlie, the point where you crossed from Russia to the US controlled section of the city. Here they have recreated what the checkpoint would have looked like, complete with US soldiers and all.... well not real ones and rather camera shy until they saw the colour of your money.  The next stop was in an area where a section of the wall was rebuilt as a reminder of what it was actually like.

Here we bid farewell to our guide and we were back on the road to Rostock.  Today’s tour ended with mixed emotions we enjoyed what we saw and disappointed on what we missed... If there is a next time maybe getting to Berlin and driving around in a more custom built bus like the Ho Ho would be better.  Docking at 6 am and leaving at 10 pm makes the option of training it in more appealing.

We arrived back at the ship for an Oktoberfest. The Lido Deck was decorated with bunting, balloons and long tables set up.  There was a German Brass Band and more sausages and pretzels than you could poke a stick at... There was suckling pig, salads and sauerkraut and the German beer flowed, at a price of course!!!...

Finally at around 10pm the ship slowly started to glide away from the pier passing our partner in crime, the Norwegian Star, who was parked in our original spot in Warnemunde.  Now we have another day at sea to regroup and ready ourselves for Tallinn Estonia.


1 comment:

  1. Berlin is a wonderful vibrant city, with a fascinating history, which deserves a longer visit. Suggest you travel by train next visit.

    With first class train service in Europe, we travelled by train from Paris to Berlin, then back to Frankfurt (to fly home).

    Enjoying your blog, as always. You have excelled yourselves with this year's travels - enjoy!