I have been without a decent map! For a normal person in a big, foreign city that’s ridiculous unless aimless wandering is the point. With my abysmal sense of direction, it’s absurd. My natural state is aimless wandering. I need physical help to stay on course.
My lack of direction dates back to my childhood. My parents have a well-loved story from my 8th grade year when we lived in Guatemala and every day for weeks we walked to and from the language school. One day I got sick and had to go home alone and I couldn’t. Literally had no idea where I was. Cried… wandered… asked for help… and truthfully I don’t remember who helped me but I finally made it home.
As an adult I’ve learned to pay more attention but directions are still a mystery to me. In the US I depend on my GPS but here in Berlin my phone doesn’t work. I’ve done an awful lot of backtracking and looking at street signs and checking my terrible maps that lack important street markings. Sometimes I’m only a block off but it takes me about 10 minutes to figure that out.
I have other skill sets. I promise. But getting around in the world without backtracking and time wasting isn’t one of them.
Anyway, I finally got a little moleskine city notebook for Berlin, which I LOVE because it’s tiny and compact. But around this same point yesterday I realized that I also had no real scope of the city of Berlin. I’ve gone a few places and walked around but Berlin is gigantic and sprawling. I wanted a quick way to orient myself so today I got on the hop-on hop-off bus.
I know. I know. SO touristy. But you know what, it did the job. I hit all the major landmarks in an afternoon. And while I only got off a couple of times, I took copious notes about the stuff I want to see later.The nice thing about being here for so long is that I don’t have to see everything today. That’s such a luxury that I rarely get while traveling.
Also, the Hop on/off buses in Berlin get scads of hate online but I had a great experience with City Sightseeing. I would just caution future bus riders to choose the live commentary option. The recorded commentary was wretched.
Here are some high points from today :
Of course you know I’m going to start with food that is completely unrelated to the bus. But come on! This is a German sausage on a tiny bun cooked by the guy in the background who is also wearing his sausage grill! That’s an unbeatable combination. The New York Times thought so too. The sausage was great but needed more condiments, a complaint I have about most food.
Moving on to the TV tower:
Tall. Pointy. And for some reason a photo op. You can go up inside it to an observation deck if you want to pay 12 Euros (!) and there’s a revolving restaurant in that glittery disco ball that serves allegedly mediocre food. I don’t know. It’s kitschy, it dates from the Soviet reign, it’s one of the tallest things in town and the East Berliners call it the Tele-asparagus. Now you know everything I know.
And speaking of food, Berliners call this fountain the wet meatball… They’re good with the food funnies.
Here’s an actual destination, The Brandenburg Gate
Also known as the Arch of Peace and formerly part of the Berlin Wall. The square on the other side is called Pariser Platz, which is notable for ritzy Hotel Adlon where Michael Jackson dangled his baby Blanket over a balcony …
See? Never say I never gave you nothin’.
And finally, a moment of peace known as the Tiergarten
Also called the green lungs of the city. In the middle of the park is the Victory Column
You can climb up the column to that little cupola and behold the wonders of Berlin for only 3 Euro. It’s 285 steps but whatever, right? It’s not a trip to Europe unless there’s an unreasonably tall tower to climb for views of the city.
The views are stunning
In the far off background you can see the TV Tower. See how I brought you full circle?
Except for one last thing to reward everyone who’s gotten this far.
Yesterday while waiting for the subway I definitely saw a guy wearing a green silk burqa.
Yes, a guy. Yes, a burqa.
He had his whole face covered but he was 6′ tall and he walked like a cowboy so I was relatively certain of his gender. Plus, under his burka he rocked a pair of black satin leggings and knee-high stiletto-heeled snakeskin boots. It was a pretty sweet get up. I should have asked for a picture because maybe it was Banksy?? But even though I was 97% sure he was male, there was still that 3% chance she was a Muslim call girl in between gigs. And who knows the proper etiquette for that situation? Certainly not me.
So, there you have it: Meatballs, grill walkers, baby dangling and Muslim call girls. That’s a day right there.
More tomorrow. XOXO