September 11, 2013 – It’s been an eventful trip so far, and we have just one major city left – Berlin. Today is slated to be a travel day, with a five hour train ride and then a bit of time in the evening to explore Berlin.
We knew we’d be on the train through lunchtime, so we brought provisions for a nice meal. Including a mini bottle of wine that our first B&B in Ulm was kind enough to give us as a welcome gift. 😉
The countryside definitely gets flatter as you travel towards Berlin. And even though the wall came down over 30 years ago you can still tell when you cross over into what was once East Germany. Our train idled for about 20 minutes by a small house with goats in the yard as we waited for another train to pass on a single stretch of track (construction delays… uniting people the world over), giving us time to ponder.
We also discovered that Germans love Haribo gold gummy bears. On the longer train rides we were given small snack size bags, and the entire compartment immediately stopped reading or talking so they could eat the candies. The Berlin train station is very modern, very large (they have multiple levels of trains running through the center of the station), and has a Dunkin’ Donuts. They also have a bunch of other great food stalls, to make up for buying Dunkin Donuts in Berlin. 😉
Berlin was overcast and drizzly, though fortunately the bulk of the storm held off until after we reached our hotel, Arte Luise. The hotel is in two old townhomes in the former East Berlin. Each room is fully designed and decorated by a different artist, making the rooms life-sized modern art pieces. Our room was on the first floor (what people in the States would call the second floor), with wonderful high ceilings and a nice view down the street. It was also fairly quiet, except for that one night our upstairs neighbor probably had too much to drink and proceeded to stop and drag furniture around for the bulk of the night.
Another great thing about this hotel is we could easily walk to all the things we wanted to see. Despite the steady drizzle we managed to explore the Victory Column, see the Russian war memorial, and walk under the Brandenburg Gate.
By now it was dark and time for dinner. We tried walking into one pub in the tourist section, but it was so loud that we left. This actually worked in our favor since we found a restaurant about 10 minutes from our hotel that we would frequent over the next few days. The evening started with banana weizen – beer and banana puree, which tasted very similar to banana bread. They also have very good schnitzle and sausage, and one night we even tried their rice pudding as a treat.