On Saturday we started the day off with fresh strawberries in Chrissy’s flat, which by the way, overlooks a field of goats, bunnies and chickens! The train from her village (population 149 people), called Schape, to Berlin, runs only once an hour, so we took a walk down the road to her stables to pass the time. I have never seen such an incredible stable yard! I guess most of you would be saying, ‘it is just a stable yard after all, what can be so amazing’. Well, it looked like it came straight from an old English movie. The whole yard is a square, with towers on the corners and paved paths in the centre. They have a treadmill – i.e. Horse Gym – for the horses to train on, a Solarium so that the sweaty horses can dry quickly in the winter, and of course, an outdoor and an indoor arena so that they can ride all year round, even when it is snowing outside. There are about 65 beautiful sports horses in the yard, and many more mares and foals in the stud next door. Paddocks are big and some are grassed, but they all have troughs of lucerne and hay down one side. Needless to say, if I were a horse, this is the place I would want to be!
Anyway, enough about the horses… We took the train to Berlin and started our day sight-seeing at the Prime Minister’s house, although we can’t remember what its called…
There, we wandered the gardens for a while and made our way back along the river. Next up was Kurferstendam, a long road filled with expensive shops and global brands, much like the Champs-Elysees, Oxford Street or Orchard Street in Singapore! The final of the German Football league was held in the Berlin Olympic Stadium that day so everywhere we went there were scores of German tourists in their blue and white outfits singing and drinking in the streets. It was very festive, and the chants were pretty catchy too! We made a turn in at the Ka De We – Department store of the West – and marvelled at the millions of items sold in this 7-storey building. I think the most amazing was the Gourmet Food level. Here you could find food and drinks from anywhere in the world. From Sushi to Bratwurst to Ben and Jerry’s ice cream…you name, they had it. I was particularly drooling over the delicate cakes and pastries they had for sale, albeit I could never afford them!
After a refuel of Doner kebabs and Turkish pizza, we headed in the direction of the University building to see if we could get a free view of the city, but unfortunately they were closed. Instead, we headed to Potsdammerplatz to get ice cream (Sooo good!), see the Sony centre (gigantic!) and view more pieces of the Berlin wall, one covered in chewing gum pieces.
On our way to our last tour of the day, we walked through the Holocaust memorial, a series of different sized concrete blocks forming a maze in the square.
We got to the underground bunker tour just after the last English tour left, so we had to do the German version with Chrissy translating. She did a great job, despite the grumpy lady moaning because she ‘couldn’t hear the man.’ However, the tour itself was very interesting, and rather chilling to think thousands of people lived and died in those underground rooms while trying to avoid bombings above.
On the train we were having some fun with Mezoink, some of you may know the story… my mother collects pigs, so she gave me one to take with us around and take photos with him wherever we go! However, Mezoink enjoyed Berlin so much, he is still hanging around on the train to Schape and back! (We shall find a Mezoink (Merle’s Oink) the second at some stage.
We decided to cook dinner with Chrissy’s friends at the stables so we got some spaghetti and sauce and had pasta by the stable lights and to the sound of the horses nuzzling their hay. Fabulous!
On Sunday morning we took it slow, as you should, and went to Chrissy’s friends house down the road for breakfast. We enjoyed listening to them chat in German and putting in our two cents when we could The plan for the day was to head to Potsdam, which is another part of the city. We started at the Sanssouci gardens where there are many different palaces. The first one, Schloss Sanssouci, is a like a replica of Versaille, with sweeping staircases and fountains all over the gardens.
Then, the Orangerie, which is bigger but slightly more modern, and what was once a working Citrus orchard, is now used as wedding and function venues for the grandest of parties.The last one we visited, and bare in mind we walked about 4km in between them, was the Neues Palais… wow did these blokes have large egos (must have been making up for something) the new palace was even bigger than the others and more adorned with Baroque beautification than all of the others (this was a difficult feat to achieve)!
The town of Potsdam is pretty but also steeped in history, that’s what is so different about these places. The history doesn’t just go back to the time when Jan van Ribeek landed in the Cape but rather through Baroque and Renaissance times all the way into the Middle ages and in some cases BCE, thos Romans really got in everywhere!!!!
A quick blast down the Autobahn took us to the Bus Station on the outskirts of Berlin and about an hour later we were on our way to Prague via Dresden. Watch out for the next blog post on our first two days in Prague.