The alarm was very unwelcome at 4:55am but the excitement of going to Berlin hit me straight away so I was alright. Bus to the airport, spending the last of our Swiss Francs, flight to Berlin. We were at the hostel by about 9:30 which is right next to an U-Bahn station called Rosa-Luxemburg-Platz. The hostel is basically a bar with dorm rooms above, I'm assuming owned by Australians as there were Aussie flags everywhere. There are heaps of showers and bathrooms and stuff so it was quite a good place.
We just sat around for a while and used the Internet, skyped a bit and had a coffee. I think we decided to make a move about 11:30 and headed to straight to Checkpoint Charlie (without even knowing what it was). There's quite a good display with photos and a timeline description of the happenings around the intersection of Friedrichstrasse and Zimmerstrasse, the main checkpoint between east and west Berlin. It's pretty amazing to think it wasn't that long ago tha the Russians and Americans were facing off, it's all pretty modern now.
After visiting Auschwitz, Nova Huta, Munich and speaking to people from former Communist countries it was pretty fitting that I ended up in Berlin to complete the story. It just blows my mind how recent it all was.
We walked to he Brandenburger Tor which is a big archway that used to mark the city wall I think, but was also where the Nazis marched through when they entered Berlin (I think...lack of sleep is clouding my memory). It's pretty impressive but was partly ruined by the grandstands, big screens and stuff setup for the World Athletic Championships that are in here at the moment. The marathon ends underneath the arch.
Berlin is actually a really quiet (volume wise, not activity) city with heaps of space. There doesn't seem to be much traffic at all, I think about 60-70% of the time I could cross the road without needing a traffic light. I'm not sure if they don't drive much or if the public transport is good. Someone also mentioned that the city is a few million people under its capacity, not sure if that is true. In the residential areas it's also quite leafy, not as much as Australia but more than some other cities I've seen in Europe.
We got a U-Bahn to Oranienburger Strasse as there was a 2pm 'Alternative City' tour. It took us through artist squats, gay & lesbian squats, 'normal' squats, graffiti covered streets and far into the east of Berlin. It was a good tour, relaxing for me because it's what I do at home...minus the squats. It was pretty hard work on a hot day, but worth seeing the East Side Gallery being repainted. After painting the wall in '89 loads of people graffiti'd all over this 1.6km stretch, so the original artists are now re-doing their own works from 20 years ago.
After the tour we were pretty beat but headed back to the hostel and had dinner and bar hopped around the local area. Ended up getting free shots of Jager in the hostel bar when staffies started, got to bed about 2:30.