We had a great time in Berlin over the weekend. I love the German rail system (when it works, not when it strands Jenny overnight). We took a fast 90-minute train there Saturday morning, and another fast train back Sunday evening. It made the transportation for the weekend trip work very well.
I visited the city in 1997, and it was interesting comparing those memories with my current observations. The biggest change is that the old downtown has regained the feel of a downtown. The city center had been part of the East Berlin, cut off from the West for forty years. In 1997, the split was still apparent, and the downtown seemed like a center without a city. The separation has disappeared. With the move of the capital from Bonn in 1999, many embassies and businesses have moved downtown, public transportation has become more organized, and the Reichstag (the parliament building) has been released from its old scaffolding.
The Reichstag now has a new glass dome, and visitors can go to the roof of the building and even up into the dome itself. As long as it wasn’t raining, the views were impressive.
Saturday afternoon and evening we toured the city with the Fat Tire Bike Tours. We highly recommend these as a way of seeing a lot of the city quickly without being stuck in a double-decker tour bus (I did a similar tour with Mike’s Bike Tours in Munich in 1997). We rode for almost five hours, seeing many of the sights of the city, including Alexanderplatz (which I recognized from The Bourne Supremacy), City Hall, the hideous communist parliament building, Checkpoint Charlie, remnants of the Berlin Wall, the new Holocaust Memorial, a Turkish festival in the middle of the Tiergarten park, the Reichstag, the Cathedral, and more. It was nice to be on a bike, getting some exercise while seeing the city.
What made the ride interesting on a different level for me is the shocking realization that I’m not a college student backpacking across Europe anymore. Instead of seeing eight major cities in four weeks while trying to hit great bars every night and maybe meet some nice attractive women, I’m traveling with my wife to a few different cities occasionally on weekends while we livfe here. It’s a very different mindset, but I’d like to hold onto more of the backpacker mentality than I probably should at my age. Perhaps looking forward to riding a bike in a city with a bunch of strangers is keeping that spirit alive.
Then again, I hope the spirit for me was was never about riding a bike around a foreign city with my fraternity brothers trying to find the local Hard Rock Cafe. Aye Carumba.
Here are a few pictures (several of the links above go to other new pictures stored in my Gallery):