Tuesday, April 19, 2016

Backwards in time to Berlin.

,Shall I tell you a tale or two?
A tale that encompasses both good and bad, great experiences, mediocre experiences and downright unpleasant experiences.

This trip away of ours, like most good holidays, has gone so fast. We are nearing the end and now I am really into the swing of travelling around Germany I cannot help but feel a little sad.
Mind, if we were to have a longer time, I would be advocating to stay right where we are now in Regensberg, one of the prettiest towns I have had the pleasure to come across.
Following our trip to Greece, we returned to Düsseldorf, if only to wash, rest and prepare for this segment of our holiday. We had the pleasure of Merryn's company still and so the three of us travelled to Berlin for two nights via train. The train travel over here is head and shoulders far superior to what we have in Australia. Our seats are clean and comfortable, we are offered food and drink (at a cost of course) but we imbibe as one does to break up the journey a little. I must say the coffee is not too bad and neither is the food so I cannot complain about that either.
We arrived in Berlin and found our way through a succession of UBahns and SBahns thanks to Merryn, to our destination....Hotel California. We were actually prepared for a dingy dive with a name such as this that harkens back to the 1970's but the reception is genteel and quick and we are up in our room before we know it.
The room itself is smallish but that's because it accommodates three beds as we are all sharing. The room is clean, the beds are ever so comfortable, we are safe in a strange city and there is a bathroom which is generous in size also.
Whilst we were in Santorini, I was trimming my toenails one day (gross I know) and managed to cut the side of my left large toe. I didn't worry too much about it at the time, despite it bleeding just a little, presuming my toe cleaning habits would help it heal.
Unbeknownst to myself, some nasty bacteria decided to enter, and consequently, a nasty little infection has occurred in my toe, with it being rather swollen, red and painful by the time we reach Berlin.
We make an executive decision the day after arriving for me to pay a visit to a local doctor which I thought would end up being a very costly exercise. Merryn and I asked at the hotel desk and they recommended a GP clinic just a few doors down from our abode.
We go in, me limping quite significantly by now. I register my details, and we wait all of 10 minutes. The clinic is squeaky clean, with a delicious fresh perfume wafting through the waiting area. I am called by a young woman, tall, thin and wearing a white shirt and white pants, obviously the medicos uniform as all the doctors appear to be wearing something similar. She is polite, apologising in advance if she has mispronounced my name and asks me my problem. I tell her, she inspects my toe then suggests I need a surgeon to lance the toe to drain it. I explain why this is not possible so she prescribes me some pretty strong antibiotics and I am out the door and paying my bill all within 20 minutes of entering the place. The cost of all this you ask...not 50 euros, not 30 euros, but a whole 21 euros, less than what one would pay in a non bulk billing GP clinic back home!
I am most impressed with this Germanic way of life.
Great health service, great trains, food is cheap and easy to come by. Merryn tells me also that everyone has to have private health insurance over here also, even those like herself and Kieran on visas, so if they are unwell, they are covered.
So, once that was sorted, it is time for tourism. 
And what more could you ask for, our very own tour guide who has been to Berlin before and loved it.

Merryn was able to show us her highlights and also what we were wanting to see as a consequence.
We found remnants of the Berlin Wall, and can you believe, just as we are taking these photos, my bloody camera battery dies!!!
We found Checkpoint Charlie, 

We found the Reichstadt, looked at amazing shops, bought gloves and caps because it was so cold. We ate pizza and pasta and cake and ice cream despite the chilly temperature too but the highlight of our gourmet appetites are the doner kebabs purchased from a street stall. 

We waited a whole hour in a queue for these kebabs and just as we got to the head of the queue we were informed they had literally run out of chicken, which was Murray's preference, so, it was vegetarian for everyone that evening! 
We visited the Jewish Museum that details the history of the Jewish population from before the Middle Ages and learn about the effects of war on this oppressed religion. 

We hunted for, and found brass plaques embedded outside a number of buildings which actually bore the names of the people who lived there, before being carted off by the gestapo and eventually murdered all in the name of war. 

I learnt the history of why the wall was built and its eventual demise and how it divided a city devastated by World War 2, we found the Brandenburg Gate also and inspected a protest about the treatment of women in Iraq. We listened to a man as he played his music box too, expecting to see a dancing monkey but alas, his monkey was literally stuffed and hanging on the side.
Like everyone says, there is so much history here with so many hundreds and thousands of stories.
Mine is but one collection of words that merely skims the surface of life here.
There are so many beautiful people in this city which, because of the devastation of war and division is now so young. The buildings are made to appear old, but most had to be rebuilt after the war and many were then rebuilt once the wall came down in the 1980s also.
Everyone appears to have a purpose here, but there are still beggars in the street. Old women who implore you in a language I do not understand, their hands outstretched. We see police accosting what appear to be possible refugees...young boys with backpacks, young women who look resigned and tired with a baby or two in tow. Berlin is an amazing city but before too soon it is time to say farewell and leave on yet another train journey, this time to Munich.

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