Another quick pitstop in Madrid and Barcelona to see an old Uni friend was JUST what I needed after the very emotional farewell from Toledo. It’s amazing just how much better you can feel seeing some familiar faces and hearing some familiar accents. I, of course, took Grant and Jess to my fav fav fav pintxo bar in Barcelona, and a delicious seafood dinner in Barceloneta, after drinks on the beach and stumbling across the Barcelona Swing Dancing Association. It was amazing. NEXT STOP. BERLIN.
BERLIN! More Australians! Birthday! What a week. I had been to Berlin many moons ago with my sister, and as such, I wasn’t overly fussed with doing TOO many touristy activities. I had for many weeks been explaining the complexity of Laura and my relationship- as non-godsisters, because I have adopted her parents as my godparents (as they are in fact only officially my sister’s godparents), but also how my parents were made redundant as her godparents when her parents decided to baptise her. Very confusing. But not all THAT important. My first morning in Berlin, and I was spoilt rotten to a sleep in, a skype date with family back home and the most delicious breakfast and coffee I have had in a long time! It was at the cafe, upon a trip to the bathroom that I stumbled across a little museum in the basement about the history of the area through the Second World War and the Soviet Occupation. Crazy. This is what I love about Berlin; history EVERYWHERE. Then headed out to the Lakes, where I was only told AFTER swimming deep in its waters, that there is rumoured to be a Nessy-style monster lurking in the depths of the Lake. Apparently it’s just a giant catfish, but STILL, it hospitalised someone! I then had my first Berlin Birthday Beer at Laura’s local craft beer tavern and whisked away to dinner at ChiCha (a Peruvian gastronomical delight), and drinks by the canal. How very Berlin.
Day two in Berlin and I was off to explore. I was recommended the Otto Weitd Museum, or Blindenwerkstatt, which commemorated the factory owner who employed, supported and saved the lives of numerous Jewish people living through the Holocaust. He employed largely blind and deaf Jews and protected and even hid Jews in the windowless room at the back and the cupboard under the stairs. Factory owners like Otto Weidt were apparently few and far between, and while there were, of course, successful and unsuccessful stories told, it was refreshing to see that not everyone submitted to the Nazi regime.
I wandered the city, and stumbled across Hakeschermarkt, fully equipped with a craft and food market, wandered along the river, Museum Island, Raigstach, Checkpoint Charlie, and Tiergarten. I ended up with meeting Laura and Laney in the beer garden Cafe Am Neuen See for beers and pretzels! YES! Pretzels! So German. It was such a pleasant evening watching both tourists and Germans alike submit to wearing oversized fluro life jackets and paddle the rowboats backwards, that we stayed for dinner, actually stayed for almost five hours. Was such a pleasant summer evening in Berlin!
Day Three and I wandered to the Underground Berlin tours, and experienced the Dark Worlds, World War II tour, into the makeshift bunker in the space above the U8 train line. It was interesting to note that the bunker would not have actually survived a direct hit but was one of the most popular public bunkers as the war progressed. They believe this to be due to the presence of the Flak Tower across the road, which was equipped with guns ready for the Luftwaffe to take down the Allied bombers and prevented them from flying too close. Funny fact about these Towers. They were built for defence as said but also housed thousands of civilians in the 364 bombing attacks on the city throughout the duration of the Second World War. The walls and roofs were thick, the structure sound and solid. When the war was over, the Allied Powers decided that they needed to demilitarise the city. As such, the towers needed to come down. But. In typical “Made in Germany” Style, they were stubborn. Each responsible for the Towers in their own designated section of the city, the Americans shipped in thousands of kilograms of dynamite, and after the dust settled, excited to see the pile of rubble they had created, they were disappointed to see the Towers still standing strong. Inside the bunker in the train station, there was this special paint that lit the room when the electricity went out, they had earth toilets, they had systems to determine how much oxygen was left in the room and when they had to go from floor to chairs to standing to standing on chairs, simply to stay alive. One of the exciting discoveries made by the Underground Berlin team was an address card cupboard for employees. There were many German companies who were later taken to court for improper treatment of ’employees’ during the time of the Second World War. The big problem was the Soviet prisoners, who, upon return to their own country, were tried for treason and assisting the Germans by working for them and sentenced to further enslavement and punishment. If they survived the death of Stalin, they were likely pardoned, after many years of torture, however. Those who were clever had destroyed all evidence of their employment/association/enslavement with any German companies, and often never spoke about it again. However, this meant that they gave up their claim on any compensation money later, as they had no proof of involvement. This discovery of the address locker changed that for many Soviet ’employees’. Members of the team personally were able to take proof and compensation money to these people and sat and listened to their stories told for the first time. It almost brought me to tears. There was so much more to see as a part of this tour, such as the Industrial Beer Boom (when beer was brewed because it was safer to drink than water), and the pressure-powered communication and transport system, often still used in some establishments (banks and hospitals etc) today. But you’ll just have to go and see it for yourself!
TURKISH MARKETS. Ever since my sister and I trekked through a snowstorm to find the Turkish Wraps, only to be disappointed that they were in fact closed because of the SNOWSTORM, I have been dreaming of the Turkish Markets again. They did not disappoint at all. It was absolutely delicious and I even treated myself to some Turkish Delight. Yes, I love Turkish Delight. No, I’m not an Irish Grandmother. Deal with it. One of my favourite things that happened here, was the sight of this HUGE black labrador stopping at the front of a sausage stall, sitting and demanding a tasty treat. Yes, he received one and it was brilliant.
Later in the evening, it was time for a picnic on the river, to watch the Blood Moon. A few interesting sights other than the moon this evening; a woman walking naked through the park being filmed and photographed (weird as anything), German “Gangsters” with their amp blasting music and taking our requests for PRINCE seriously, a man running over and trying to steal a glass of wine (UM no.), a man standing über still and paying homage to the blood moon werewolf style. It certainly was an eclectic mix of people down by the river! So we had wine at this picnic. But someone accidentally bought corked wine bottles and no corkscrew. So, I won MVP of the picnic by taking a fork and managing to push the cork into the bottle without spilling too much wine and without splitting the cork. Adding that to my resume.
Saturday in Berlin and we were slow to get going. We made our way out for lunch, picked up some treats for our HP Marathon on Sunday (apparently supermarkets still don’t open on a Sunday in Berlin), and off to a new Lake. After another couple of naps at the Lake, we were on our way back to GLITTERFY for a Saturday night glitter party. I felt like a Spice Girl Mermaid.
Sunday was perfect- the 20 year anniversary of the release of the first Harry Potter book is the 31st of July, 2018. If you didn’t celebrate it, shame on you. In showing our respect to the religion that is HP, we had a MOVIE MARATHON. I poorly made some butterbeer fudge that wouldn’t set properly, but the crepes, M&Ms and ice cream definitely got the blood sugars jumping about like a kid dosed up on red cordial on a trampoline. It was the perfect end to the weekend and perfect end to my time in Berlin with Loz and Laney. Again, I know where to turn when I need an Aussie fix, and that’s not just because of the amount of vegemite they have in their cupboards.
Next stop. CROATIA.