Berlin…the Set Meravelles

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My time in Berlin was all too short, and it’s a place I still have a lot to discover.  Berlin is the capital of Germany and has a population of 3.5 million people, making it one of the most populous cities in the European Union. It dates back to 1192 and is filled with history, most importantly in the 20th century with two World Wars and the Cold War dominating its recent past. It was once capital of the Kingdom of Prussia and the German Empire and in the 1920s was the third most populous city in the world. It would take much more than the 36 hours I had to explore the city to truly discover all its wonders, but I tried my best! Without further ado…Mi tiempo en Berlín fue demasiado corto, y es un sitio donde me queda mucho para descubrir. Berlín es la capital de Alemania y tiene una población de 3,5 milliones de personas. Es una de las ciudades más pobladas de la Unión Europeo. Fue fundido en el año 1192 y tiene una historia grande, especialmente del Siglo XX con dos Guerras Mundiales y una Guerra Fría domaniando su historia reciente. Fue capital del Reino de Prusia y el Imperio Alemán. En los años 1920, fue la tercera ciudad en población del mundo. Tardaría mucho más que los 36 horas que tenía para explorarlo para descubrir todos sus maravillas, pero hice lo que pude. Ahora toca…

Set Meravelles de Berlin

1. East Side Gallery
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The East Side Gallery is a 1.3 kilometre stretch of the Berlin Wall that separated Berlin into East and West for nearly 30 years. It is a series of 105 paintings from artists around the world, and it is the largest open-air art gallery in the world. The paintings were first completed in 1990. Some have been restored after receiving damage from graffiti artists and weather. La Galería del Lado Este…East Side Gallery, es 1,3 kilometros del Muro de Berlín que separó Berlín a Este y Oeste durante casí 30 años. Es una serie de 105 obras de artistas de todo el mundo, y es la galería de aire abierto más grande en el mundo. Las obras eran completadas en 1990. Algunos fue restaurados después de recibir daño de artistas de grafiti y el tiempo.

2. Checkpoint Charlie

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Checkpoint Charlie was the most famous crossing point between East and West Berlin. Today there is a museum and the original checkpoint. For a small fee, you can have your photo taken with people dressed as soldiers from the time.  Checkpoint Charlie era el control de fronteras más famoso entre Berlín Este y Berlín Oeste. Hoy hay un museo y el control original. Para unos pocos euros, puedes hacer una foto con personas vestidos de soldados de la epóca. 

3. Brandenburg Tor

DSCN1171The famous gate is an 18th-century starting point of the road from Berlin to the town Brandenburg an der Havel. It was commissioned by King Frederick William II of Prussia as a sign of peace, and it was damaged during World War II. The Berlin Wall caused the gate to be isolated. It was restored between 2000 and 2002. La famosa puerta era el punto de inicio de una carretera de Berlin hasta el pueblo Brandenbburg an der Havel en el Siglo XVIII. Fue mandado por el Rey King Frederick William II de Prusia (Federico Guillermo II) como un señal de paz. Fue dañado durante la Segunda Guerra Mundial y fue aislado durante los años del Muro de Berlín. Fue restaurado entre los años 2000 y 2002. 

4. Potsdamer Platz

The square Potsdamer Platz is one of the most important traffic intersection and plazas of Berlin located in the centre of Berlin. It was destroyed in World War II and left desolated until the German Reunification, where it has prospered since. The Sony Building at night is a highlight I missed. La plaza Potsdamer Platz es uno de los cruces de tráfico más importante de Berlín y uno de sus plazas más famosas. Está ubicado en el centro de Berlín. Fue destruido durante la Segunda Guerra Mundial y era desolada hasta la reunificación de Alemania. Ha tenido exitó desde entonces. El Edificio Sony durante la noche es algo que perdí. 

5. Gendarmenmarkt

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Another square in Berlin makes the list. Here visitors can see the French and German churches, a statue of German Poet Friedrich Schiller and the Konzerthaus music hall. It dates back to 1688. Otra plaza de Berlín en la lista. Aquí se puede ver las iglesias francesas y alemanias, una estatua de poeta alemán Friedrich Schiller y el auditorio de conciertos Konzerthaus. Fue fundido en 1688. 

6. Potsdam (yet to discover)

The capital city of the German State of Brandenburg, population 161,000, is located 24 km (14.4 miles) southwest of Berlin on the Haver River. Until 1918, it was a residence of the Prussian Kings and the German Kaiser. It is a historical centre of European immigration and today features many palaces and three universities. La capital del estado alemán Brandenburg, población 161,000, está ubicado a 24 kilometros desde Berlín en el Río Haver. Hasta 1918, era una residencia de los Reyes de Prusia y el Kaiser alemán. Es un centro histórico de inmigración europea. Hoy en día hay algunos palacios y tres universidades. 

7. Schloss Charlottenburg (Yet to discover)

Located in the Charlottenburg district of Berlin, the Charlottenburg Palace is the largest palace in Germanyand was  built in the 17th century. The Amber Room was once known as the 8th Wonder of the World. Hey, each place only has Set Meravelles!  Situado en el distrito Charlottenburg de Berlín, el Palacio Charlottenburg es el palacio más grande de Alemania y era construido en el Siglo XVII. La Habitación Ambar era conocido como el 8ª Maravilla del Mundo. (¡Sólo hay Set Meravelles de cada sitio!)

Honourable Mention: Berliner Fernsehturm (Yet to discover)

The tallest structure in Germany at 368 metres (1207 feet), the Berliner Fernsehturm is a television tower built in the late 1960s that has come to represent Berlin. I saw the tower but wasn’t close to it. It is close to Alexanderplatz. La estructura más alta de Alemania, con sus 368 metros, es un torre de televisión construido en los años 1960s que representa Berlin y se llama Berliner Fernsehturm. Lo vi, pero no estaba cerca ni lo he subido. Está cerca a Alexanderplatz. 

Berlin 101.

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Berlin never seemed that attractive to me as a city to be honest. As I get older (not that 34 is old, mind you!) I am more attracted to nature and smaller cities. However, the more I read and researched Germany, the more I wanted to pay at least one visit to Berlin. I’ll delve more into the history and stats about the German Capital when I do my SetMeravelles entry for Berlin. Berlín nunca me llamó la atención mucho para ser sincero. Aunque solo tengo 34 años, como los años pasan, me atraen más la naturaleza y ciudades más pequeñas. Sin embargo, lo más que leí y investigué Alemania, lo más que quería visitar al menos una vez Berlín. En la entrada con las Set Meravelles de Berlín, escribiré más sobre la historia y hechos de la capital alemana. 

My trip to Berlin was short for many reasons. I had planned on two nights and two days in the city, but due to a French air traffic controller strike, my flight into Berlin Schönefeld got late, about 9 PM at night. The ticket machines were only accepting coins to buy train tickets, so I risked buying one from a street vender. I wouldn’t recommend this, but I was tired and stressed. I lucked out as no one checked my ticket, and I was pretty sure it was a used one. I got off at Alexanderplatz and caught the U-Bahn, buying a for sure legal ticket, and I felt much better. Mi viaje a Berlín fue corto por muchas razones. Tenía pensado en dos noches y dos días en la ciudad, pero dado de un huelga en Francia de controladores, mi vuelo a Berlín llegó tarde, sobre las 21. Las máquinas de comprar billetes de tren solo aceptaron monedas, y arriesgué comprar un billete de un vendedor de calle. No recomiendo eso, pero estaba cansado y tenía mucho estrés. Tenía suerte porque no había un controlador de billetes, y creo que he comprado un billete usado. Me bajé en Alexanderplatz y cogí el U-bahn (metro), comprando un billete verdadero, y me sentí  mucho mejor. 

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A part of the Berlin Wall that still stands

I got to my hotel about 10:20, and the owner had already left but gave instructions to one of the long-term guests to give me the keys. I would recommend Guesthouse 21 to any single gay traveller. It’s in the heart of the gaybourhood, and the owner is super friendly and fluent in many languages. Llegué al hotel sobre las 22.20, y el dueño ya se fue por la noche pero había dado direcciones al otro huésped para darme las llaves. Recomiendo Guesthouse 21 a cualquier viajero gay soltero. Está ubicado en el centro del barrio gay, y el dueño es muy majo y habla muchos idiomas. 

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Tuesday, March 22. I awoke about 8:30 to hit the road, but I had breakfast at the hotel when I found out about the attacks in Brussels. I was stunned. Belgium is one of my favourite countries, as one of my best friends lives in Antwerpen, and the attacks just hit close to home. My mom was worried about me travelling to Berlin, but I wasn’t too concerned. My heart broke for the victims though, but I tried to put it behind me as I explored the city. Martes, el 22 de marzo. Me desperté sobre las 8.30 para empezar a explorar, pero desayuné en el hotel y me enteré de los atentados en Bruselas. Estaba asombrado. Belgíca es uno de mis países preferidos, y tengo un buen amigo de Amberes. Los atentados estaban demasiado cercanos para mi. Mi madre estaba preocupado sobre el viaje a Berlín, pero no me preocupé mucho. Me sentí muy triste para los víctimas. Intenté no pensarlo para explorar Berlín. 

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I had a MilchKaffee at Romeo und Romeo, a nice café in Schöneberg before navigating the U-Bahn. It wasn’t too complicated. My first stop was Postdamer Platz, as I had to change trains anyway and I had a 24-hour transport card. It was very modern, and I missed the blue light dome, which would’ve been my favourite part! Me tomé un MilchKaffe en Romeo und Romeo, un café en Schöneberg antes de navigar el U-Bahn. No fue tan complicado. Mi primera parada era Postdamer Platz, como tenía que cambiar trenes y tenía un bono de transporte de 24 horas. Era muy moderno, y perdí ver la cúpula de luces azules…¡habría sido mi parte preferido!

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I next went to Checkpoint Charlie. It was cool seeing that sign everyone always talks about, and I must comment that there is a McDonald’s right before you leave the American Sector. I ran into some Spanish travellers and asked them to take my photo next to a part of the Berlin Wall. Próximo destino…CHECKPOINT CHARLIE. Me emocioné ver el marcador que todo el mundo habla. He de comentar que hay un McDonald’s justo como sales del Sector Americano (estadounidense). Crucé con unos viajeros españoles y les pedí hacer mi foto con una parte del Muro de Berlín.

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I also toured the panoramic Berlin Wall tourist trap. Normally an exorbitant 10€, but I got in half price using my student NIE (Spanish ID). It was rather interesting and a beautiful portrait of a not so beautiful part of Germany’s history. También fui al panorama del Muro de Berlín para turistas. Suele costar unos 10€, pero me han dado un descuento…5€ con mi NIE de estudiante. Fue interesante y un cuadro bonito de una parte de la historia alemana no tan bonito.

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I walked down a few minutes to find a stretch of the wall that was still standing and bought some souvenirs on the way back. I took the U-bahn metro a lot to avoid getting lost, as I could never really orient myself. I tried currywurst, Berlin’s typical sausage, and fries/chips at a stand in the beautiful Gendarmenmarkt, a plaza with two churches. Caminé unos mintos para encontrar una parte del Muro que todavía existe y compré unos regalos por la vuelta. Cogí el U-Bahn para evitar perderme más. Nunca pude orientarme bien en Berlín. Probé “currywurst”, una salchicha típica de Berlín, y patatas en un kiosko en la plaza bonita Gendarmenmarkt, donde hay dos iglesias importantes. 

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After lunch, I made my way to Brandenburg Tor, but I got lost, which gave me a view of the town hall at least. I found my way, and just as I arrived, the skies opened up with a torrential rain. I didn’t spend much time at the famous gate, opting for a Spanish siesta. Después de comer, fui a la Puerta de Bradenburg, pero me perdí…lo cual me dio la oportunidad ver el ayuntamiento al menos! Me encontré y justo como llegué al Brandenburg Tor, empezó llover fuerte. No me quedé mucho tiempo y fui a echarme una siesta. 

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River Spree and the Oberbaumbrücke Bridge not the Bradenburg Gate!

After the siesta, I made my way to the East Side Gallery. The nearby Oberbaumbrücke (bridge in German is brücke)  and the East Side Gallery were by far my favourite part of Berlin. The East Side Gallery is a part of the wall that has been painted with street art. The paintings were beautiful and captured this time of German history. I walked along the gallery at sunset, enjoying the art and God’s art of a sunset. Después de la siesta, fui al East Side Gallery. El puente Oberbaumbrücke (brücke es puente en alemán) y el East Side Gallery era lo mejor de Berlín para mi. El East Side Gallery es una parte del Muro que ha sido pintado con “street art”, arte de la calle. Los cuadros eran preciosos y capturó esa epóca de historia. Caminé por el río Spree y la galería al atardecer, disfrutando del arte y el arte de Dios de una puesta del sol. 

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I had dinner nearby with a friend at an Italian place, then drinks in Schöneberg. Cené con un amigo en un sitio italiano y después fuimos por copas en Schönberg.

I had my train to Prague at 11, so I didn’t have a lot of time the following morning to explore more unfortunately. I was left wanting to explore a bit more of Berlin, like a trip to Potsdam. However, Germany ranks high on my list of places to return and explore further.  Cogí el tren a Praga a las 11 de la mañana el miércoles y no tenía mucho tiempo para seguir explorando. Me quedé con ganas de ver más de la ciudad y hacer un viaje a Potsdam. Sin embargo, tengo muchas ganas de volver a Alemania en el futuro y explorar más de este país magnificente. 

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Kafka, German films and the Unbearable Lightness of Being.

Before travelling to a new place, I like to immerse myself in popular films and books from the places. I didn’t have anything related to Bratislava or Slovakia unfortunately, but I did a ton of reading for Prague and a ton of film watching for Berlin/Germany. Here is what I saw and read: Antes de viajar a un sitio nuevo, me gusta ver las películas y leer los libros que se trata del sitio adónde voy a viajar. No tenía nada para Bratislava o Eslovoquia, pero leí mucho para Praga y ví muchas pelis relacionada con Berlín y Alemania. Aquí es lo que me leí y lo que vi, en inglés. 

Prague:

Metamorphosis and Other Stories by Kafka: Like many university students, I had read The Metamorphosis in university. In the collection I picked up at the Bilbao Alhóndiga Azkuna Zentroa, there were many other stories just as fantastic as The Metamorphosis. I was quite pleased, and The Metamorphosis remained just as great as it did in 2002.

The Castle by Kafka: I had not read this novel by Kafka though, and I enjoyed the tale of a man running a “castle” in a city that may or may not be Prague. Great reading.

The Unbearable Lightness of Being by Milan Kundera: I had asked for some recommendations on what to read to prepare myself for Prague, and someone suggested this book and film. I am over film adaptations, so I read the book and enjoyed this philosophical romance.

Berlin:

Goodbye to Berlin by Christopher Isherwood: The book that inspired Cabaret and introduced us to Sally Bowles is, of course, better than the film (although I did enjoy seeing the musical on stage in Broadway in 2002 with Jane Leeves as Bowles and John Stamos as the M.C.)  Several short stories about Berlin in the days just before Hitler and the Nazis took over the city.

Goodbye Lenin! I watched this film in 2005 and loved it, and I loved it just as much when I rewatched it. Daniel Brühl, son of a German father and Catalán mother, plays a son whose die-hard Communist mother has a heart attack and falls into a coma on the eve of the Berlin Wall fall and unification of Germany. When she awakes, the West has entered the East with all their commercial activities and Coca Cola products, and the son, fearful what the shock might do to his mother, tries to make believe East Germany is doing strong and well. Amazing.

Lola Rennt (Run Lola Run) Another one I had seen before, and another amazing one that holds up on rewatching. Lola (Franka Potente) has to save her boyfriend (my new fave German actor Moritz Bleibtreu) from making a big mistake by getting him a major amount of money. She has three chances to do it. Incredible rush of energy from the awesome soundtrack.

One, Two, Three Billy Wilder is one of my favourite directors, but I hadn’t even heard of this comedy from 1961. It was made in the days before the construction of the Berlin Wall, and on set they suddenly found the wall going up where they wanted to film, so production went to Munich. A Coca Cola executive is trying to get a better job while preventing the President from finding out his daughter has married an East German communist while staying in Berlin.

Das Experiment A psychological experiment to see what happens when ordinary men are placed into prison like circumstances. Of course, it goes wrong. Moritz Bleibtreu stars.

Cabaret The classic 1970s film works better on stage for me, honestly.

Die Welle (The Wave) A teacher uses unorthodox methods to teach about dictatorships and autocracies, and the school sees an uprising called “The Wave” as a result. Could Hitler happen again?

Lammbock. Germany does stoner films…starring Moritz Bleibtreu. Nothing special about it for me, but they are making a sequel.

The Edukators: Two friends try to teach the rich a lesson by breaking into their houses and rearranging furniture. When they are caught, things go out of control as they try to protect themselves.

Shout out to a Spanish film I saw last year called Perdiendo el Norte, about two Spanish friends who go to Berlin to try to find a job. They find Berlin to be cold and themselves not living the life they thought they would.