I feel like I half my brain was taken out, mushed up on the ground and thrown back into my head. Arriving in Germany is such a huge shift for me because I do not understand a single thing I hear or see. I don’t know French, but I was so much more comfortable staying in France. This is going to be interesting.
Our flight to Berlin was smooth and we arrived a bit before noon at the Tegel airport. It was surprising to find out it was not necessary to go through customs or get a stamp in our passports. We quickly hopped in a taxi and were on our way to the hotel. Upon arrival, my Pop Pop filled out a paper and discussed sightseeing opportunities with the hotel manager. Feeling extremely dumb and ignorant, I awkwardly sat there until I knew I could go back to my room. We are staying at the Hommage-a-Margritte, which is a modern, yet dainty and charming boutique hotel.
No more than 30 minutes after arrival, Pop Pop decided we would go on a boat cruise on the River Spree. It was extremely hot out, but once the vessel started moving, we welcomed a nice breeze. We passed through parks, trees and very modern buildings. Berlin surprised me like Dublin did. Although I did not know exactly what I expected of each city, both were different than I subconsciously expected. Then again, I have to remember that much of Berlin is fairly new because World War II was not long ago.
We passed several important buildings that the tour, which was recorded in English and German, pointed out. Here are a few things I saw and learned:
- Berlin has a greater water surface and more bridges than Venice, Amsterdam and Stockholm combined.
- We passed the Charlottenburg power station, which dated back to 1900 and is one of the oldest surviving power stations in Berlin.
- The Royal Porcelain Manufactory (KPM) is one of the longest-standing businesses in Berlin and was founded in 1751 by a Swiss entrepreneur.
- The Victory Column commemorates Prussia’s victories in the “unification wars” between 1864 and 1871. It is a gold-plate sculpture of Victoria, the goddess of victory.
- The House of World Cultures picked up its nickname “pregnant Oyster” due to its roof structure, which was designed by an American architect and given by the U.S. for the International Building Exhibition in West Berlin.
- There is a T.V. tower that rises tall above the city. It was built between 1965 and 1969, and is the second-tallest free-standing structure in Europe after the Moscow T.V tower.
- The most beautiful bridge in Berlin is the Oberbaum Bridge, built in 1895. Its name means “upper tree,” coming from the historical tree barrier placed on the river as the sun would set to prevent barges from illegally entering the city.
- The Berlin coat of arms is a bear.
- There is an island between the River Spree and Kupfergraben Canal called “Museum Island” that houses five museum buildings including the neo-baroque Bode Museum.
- The Berlin Cathedral is referred to the protestant counterpart of its role model, St. Peter’s Basilica in Rome.
After the boat turned around to head back to its beginning point, Pop Pop and I hopped off at a rest point near where we would begin our planned bike tour. However, first, we would have to figure out the s-bahn, the subway.