Begin in Berlin

The train from Flensburg via Hamburg to Berlin took four hours. Day one of our Interrail pass.

Getting around Berlin is easy. The Interrail pass includes access on the ‘S’ line but only on the day of travel (that is, our Flensburg to Berlin trip allowed us to get to our hotel that same day). We bought a 48 hour Welcome Card which allowed us to travel all around Berlin. The Interrail Pass also gave us a 25% discount on the cost of a Welcome Card.

Searching AirBNB, Hostelworld and Wotif a week or so before our trip, I found a reasonable ‘pension’ with a shared bathroom some 6kms south of Berlin. This posed no problem and took 18 minutes to reach Brandenburg Tor station.

During our two full days in Berlin, we visited the Brandenburg Gate, the Reichstag, Checkpoint Charlie, the East Side Wall murals and the Berlin Story Museum near Anhalt Bahnhof. The Memorial to the Murdered Jews is larger than I expected at almost five acres. Walking through the grey tunnels of cold concrete blocks is thought provoking.

Thirty years ago the Berlin Wall came down, and it only stood for twenty eight years. The stories of escapees from East Berlin are amazing – hot air balloons, tunnels, and flying-fox are just some of the methods. Two guys even fashioned windsurfers and sailed from the north coast of East Germany to Denmark. Hard to believe!

Nowadays tourists flock to the East Side Gallery to look at the artwork painted on the once bare side of the wall. Some paintings are well known. The small East Germany built Trabant cars are available for hire and can be seen loudly rattling their way around Berlin.

Thirty years since the reunification of Germany and the square concrete buildings of East Berlin and shadowed by construction of new buildings. The amount of graffiti is hard to ignore and paint is sprayed on any spare space. It’s hard to imagine Berlin will ever be an ‘pretty’ city like Prague, but the restoration of buildings that once were bombed to smithereens is amazing.

But looks aren’t everything – Berlin still has a heartbeat and is going ahead in leaps and bounds. Berliners are proud of their city – as JFK said “Ich bin ein Berliner”.

The train is about to depart: next stop Prague.

Below are before and after photos of Brandenburg Gate and the Reichstag Building.