Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Berlin - Germany

--Há uma versão em português logo abaixo--

When I first started to plan the route of this trip, Berlin was not included. I would travel through Germany but only in the south, on my way to Italy. However things started to change when some friends told me about their visit to Berlin. As someone who really likes history I did not need to hear much before I had decided I'd go to Berlin. Firstly because it would only add a few weeks to my trip and secondly because it's a once in a life time experience.

Now I'm so glad that I made the change. Visiting Berlin is something I'll always remember with fond memories.

The city has not the glamour of Paris nor the charm of Amsterdam, but it's a city with strong personality and of course, historical traits everywhere.

From Wustermark it was less than 40 kilometers to Berlin, so I left just after noon and got to Berlin before evening.

My first impression of the city was that it's far bigger than Amsterdam and people ride their bicycles in much more of a hurry. Due to the fact that the bike paths are not always wide enough, and there were some people trying to pass me as fast as they could, I fell off again within hours of first riding in the city (as you can see I have a problem with first days). Fortunately it was nothing serious, and it didn’t do any damage or sustain any injuries.

I slept 5 nights in Berlin, 2 in the west side and 3 in the east. In the west side my host was a nice lady, that had lived in east Berlin during the Soviet occupation. She had always a good story to tell, especially if it was about what I was most interested in hearing: the wall, and life in the east side.

The day I arrived we went to eat some pizza with her ex-son in law, who had come to the city from Wales to visit his daughter.The following day I went to visit her other son in law,  a Brazilian fellow who has lived in Germany for more than 20 years. I went with him and his wife to see the Berlin Carnival of Cultures. I was expecting a big party but it was raining and so it was a bit of a disappointment.

The day after I had my best experience in Berlin:  a guided walking tour that lasted 4 hours. At first I thought that it would be tiring and boring but not at all; the 4 hours, with a pause for lunch in the middle, went by in a flash.

I can only say that that was the best and most amazing history lesson I've had in my life. The tour started in the Alte Nationalgalerie (Old National Gallery), talking about how Berlin came from being a provincial town to a imperial capital almost overnight.

Walking through the most important places in the city we had a chronological view of the history of Berlin, with the large part being dedicated to the wars and the Soviet occupation.

The three more impressive places we went to were the place that once was Hitler’s underground bunker where he committed suicide (today an outdoor parking), the Berlin Wall, that during the cold war split the city in two, and the Memorial to the murdered Jews of Europe.

I think that in four hours I learned more about Berlin and Germany than I had in my entire life, and understood things that I have never been able to understand before, especially about the division of Germany and the division of Berlin, and many other details that only in a circumstance like this I was able to hear about.

The next day I went to my other big deal in the city: seeing Nefertiti, the Egyptian queen. A 3.300 year old bust that is the “Mona Lisa” of Neues Museum. Her name means “the beautiful one has arrived”, and I must say, for a 3.300-year-old lady she’s really in good shape.

Even though I was pleased to be able to contemplate such piece of art, and enjoyed every minute I spent around the bust (it’s surrounded by a glass protection) I’m a strong supporter of the Egyptian cause, that for many years has been trying to get it returned back to Egypt.

I understand that not only Germany, but many other countries have “legally” acquired thousands of pieces that were discovered in the past centuries in excavations led by private dealers, however it doesn't change the fact that those are millenarian treasures that belong to Egypt.

But I was very glad to have had the opportunity to see the beautiful queen, as well as having had a great time in Berlin.

Yesterday I took the day to relax and to do some boring stuff related to my trip, such as sorting out numbers, routes and things like that. But definitely no walking or cycling - I still have some pain in my legs due to the fact that I started out too hard in my first days. I cycled here from Amsterdam too fast, and the 4 hours walking didn't do anything to improve the situation.  So I will take more time to reach my next stop.

Until now my bike has been heading east. Today (22/05) I’m leaving Berlin, my map changes direction and I travel only due south.

So  let’s kill some more miles..