I'll admit it. This trip was NOT Plan A. Our first idea was that we were going to the Ukraine. There is certainly no shortage of things to see that were left behind by their former Soviet occupiers. Unfortunately, as the plans were being formed, Russia decided to repossess the Crimean Peninsula, and looked like perhaps they had their eyes on the whole damned country. In light of that, we decided to re-examine our choices.
Instead, we decided on Germany. The longer I stared at the map, the more I decided that this could also include a side-trip into Poland. Before long, it was all coming together nicely.
July 4 / 5
As we got ready to drive to Toronto for our flight, there was some small concern about whether anyone would be there to put fuel in the plane. Due to a labour dispute, some flights were being delayed, but thankfully, our flight was ready to go on time.
We boarded the Lufthansa Airbus, put our legs in the upright position and settled into coach for the long flight to Munich. It was there that we learned that the Germans don't seem as infatuated with air-conditioning as we in North America are. As we walked the long, winding corridors of the airport, making our way to customs, we felt the heat, but assumed there had been a breakdown, or renovations... or something...
We landed in Berlin at last and set out to find the car rental office where I had already reserved a car and a GPS. We walked along the concourse, convinced it was just a little further until we realized we were back where we started. The Berlin airport was circular, and after some broken-English inquiries, we determined that the car rental was, in fact, located outside the terminal.
The heat was oppressive now, and I'm driving a Czech car on German roads with German traffic signs taking directions from a British GPS. How multi-cultural! The car, at least, had excellent air-conditioning, so after a surprisingly gentle learning curve, driving here became a snap.
We made our way to where we were going to stay for most of the two weeks. We parked in one of the few available spaces on Eisenzahnstrasse and looked at the unremarkable architecture of the Soviet-era apartment building. Despite it's unassuming appearance, it would prove to be perfect for us. A complete one-bedroom apartment with balcony, kitchen, shower, etc. No air-conditioning.
Though exhausted, and having largely missed a night's sleep, we chose to have only a brief nap and ride out the rest of the daylight hours, figuring this would be the best way to adapt to the six-hour time difference. When we finally did bed down for the night, the heat was still surprising and we hoped for a break the following day.
We awoke and decided that we would spend the day being tourists and checking out this beautiful city. I had read that parking rates in Berlin were based on their location and desirability. Seems practical. Looking at a map, I was able to find a parking lot that, while being inexpensive, was still a reasonable walking distance from the things we wanted to see. I plugged the address into our British GPS and, tally-ho, we were off on our way.
We found many fascinating sites and sights as we walked the streets, but I was especially taken with the architecture of one building in particular. When we approached, a sign told us it was the Berliner Dom, and perhaps most importantly, it was open for tours!
The history here impressed itself through the architecture, of course. But nothing impressed that span of time on me like visiting the tombs of the dead kings below the church. With dates going back before the 1500's, one couldn't help but feel overwhelmed.
We eventually continued our walking tour of Berlin, taking in other sites such as the Reichstag and the Brandenburg Gate. By that point, we were feeling the length of the day, our jet lag, and our hunger, so we decided to go back to the apartment.
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