Overall, it was a great trip and I'm really glad I got to explore so much of the city. It truly seems like a fascinating place and I hope I get to visit again sometime soon. Alas, I had to head back, so I boarded my plane (apparently famous for being in some sort of mouse cartoon?) and 14 hours and several in-flight movies later, found myself back home in San Francisco.
27 April 2016
I saw David off, and then did some quick last minute shopping. Oh, did I mention the street lights? These "Ampelmännchen" figures only appear in East Germany.
The next day, my last full day there, the weather turned pretty bad. I had a goodbye lunch at a Austrian place with David and a couple of his friends, but after that, it started hailing! I had only a bit of time to explore
26 April 2016
Overall, I think Kreuzberg was my favorite neighborhood that I visited. There was a lot of vitality and diversity there, and I wish I had had more time to explore.
The tour continued through the park and ended at a big mosque. I actually went in and got to see the prayer room - it was the first time being in a mosque, so was pretty cool to see.
In this case, the park was repurposed from an old train depot and rail line. Some of the old buildings from the depot were still there and had been converted. I paused the tour to stop by the cafe there and read a bit.
After walking through the downtown and some of the residential areas of the neighborhood. The tour took me to the big park of the neighborhood. Part of what is interesting about Berlin is that a lot of these open areas are either scars from bombings or repurposed abandoned space.
The tour was pretty interesting. Kreuzberg has a rich history and a strong cultural identity. There's a also a lot of diversity there - it was one of the biggest areas of Turkish immigration, as well as where many artists and others in the bohemian settled. It's becoming more gentrified, but every May 1st there's still a huge celebration/protest thrown by the leftist groups in the neighborhood.
Afterwards, I continued heading over to to where the tour was supposed to start.
On the way, I happened to come across a place called "Runbase Berlin", which turned out to be a swanky gym for runners. I figured I would have to stop in for a coffee and check it out.
Fortunately, the weather cleared up a little before noon, and I hurried to get to Kreuzberg, the interesting neighborhood I had seen earlier, to take an audio tour I had found.
The weather was pretty bad the next morning. I had been pretty lucky so far on the trip, but was worried I would miss my last couple days in Berlin.
25 April 2016
I made a map of my run yesterday!
I got a closer look at the Berlin Cathedral and the "Old Museum". My main objective for the day was the Pergamon Museum because I wanted to see the Ishtar Gate. Unfortunately, when I got there, there was a note saying that the Babylonian Exhibit was closed due to water damage! I guess I'll try back later.
I walked back to museum island .
I just thought this was kinda funny.
Then I went to the "Topography of Terror" a museum about the crimes of the SS and Gestapo built on the site of their former headquarters. It was not very uplifting.
Then I visited Checkpoint Charlie. I thought it was pretty ridiculous how commercialized it is, but I guess it's something you're pretty much obligated to see.
I visited the Holocaust Memorial first - I had run by it on the tour, but it's far more powerful to actually walk though it.
I saw a few more pieces of the wall on the way.
This morning, I was really exhausted from such a long day yesterday, but I wanted actually visit a couple of the museums and landmarks I hadn't had a chance to actually go inside during the tours. First thinks first though: Dunkin Donuts!
24 April 2016
Finally, David showed up! We caught up for a bit and then met up with a few of his friends to check out a couple of his favorite places. We ended up going to an electronic music show that lasted into the early morning. It was a long and exhausting day, but was tons of fun!
I still had some time to kill before David arrived, so I explored the neighborhood some more. Eventually, I found a small studio that had a show on, so I thought I might as well stop in check it out. It was a few short experimental dance performances. I liked the first one, but these things are usually kind of hard for me to take seriously. I thought they were a bit random and over the top, but perhaps I'm just not cultured enough to get it.
It was pretty great Indian food. Supposedly I was supposed to order the Naan pizza, but I didn't know that until I had already ordered. Oh well, next time!
After that, I was pretty exhausted and lounged at the hotel for awhile, but I was getting pretty hungry. My friend David was coming in that evening from Copenhagen, and I went out to find a place he recommended on the other side of the city.
We finished up by running back though the Brandenburg Gate, past the Reichstag, and took another route back through the park. All in all, we ran for nearly two hours and twenty minutes, and covered more than 10 miles!
US Embassy Bear
I found out where the bears are reproducing...
We ran down to Potzdamer Platz. There's a giant canvas roof between the buildings that's supposed to look like Mt. Fuji from a distance.
We kept running along the river down to Museum Island, where I had been earlier, but I got to visit a few more interesting landmarks I hadn't seen earlier.
Then we ran down the river through the government buildings. I think the architecture is really cool!
Yesterday was a long day! I woke up early to go on a running tour. Some of the sights I had already seen before, but it was a great way to get better oriented to where everything was. Started out by running to the victory column and the park.
23 April 2016
The area across the river seemed like a pretty cool neighborhood for spotting art too. I'd like to head back there and check it out, but I'll have to bring a coat next time!
It was getting pretty cold and I was ready to head back to the hotel, but I thought I should cross the Oberbaum Bridge before catching the tram.
They really like their bears here.
I had already seen a small part of it on the tour a few days ago, but I thought I would take the opportunity to walk the whole length this time.
After I had some food, I walked over to the East Side Gallery nearby. It's a long, preserved section of the wall covered with commissioned art.
We ended the tour at YAAM - the "Young African Art Market" a sort of fake beach club along the Spree. It host a bunch of African food trucks, art, and hip hop and reggae shows.
We walked down the neighborhood to an old hospital that's now host to several artistic communities and art spaces. We also walked by a couple of squatter communities, with people camping out of old Cold War era military vehicles. However, these are long established communities that have existed at least since the fall of the wall, so we were asked not to take photos out of respect for people's homes. We also passed by and got to wave to a 90 year old Turkish immigrant in the squatted garden space he was able to claim and maintain throughout the separation, due to a technicality in the way the line of the wall was drawn. When the wall came down, the new government tried to get the land back, but he had become such an established member of the community the neighborhood banded together to fight for him to keep it.
We hopped on the tram again and headed over to another part of town. Despite being grittier and having uglier architecture, rent is actually more expensive here, since it apparently has a more up and coming scene.
Berlin is pretty well known for its street art and has a long history of alternative artistic movements. We first stopped by a little alley that had some mostly commissioned or "semi-commissioned" pieces, as well as an independent cinema, art installations, and a couple historical museums. Our guide discussed some of the techniques the artistes used.
Today I got up to take a walking tour of some of Berlin's counter culture and street art. We started out under the TV tower and then hopped on the train.
Well, you're all caught up now with the first part of my trip! I'll try to update more regularly from now on. I miss and love you all!
22 April 2016
I collected my bags and checked into my new hotel. My accommodations are a bit smaller now that the company isn't paying for it...
On the way back to the hotel, I also passed the gates to the Zoo.
I walked back the same way, but this time I stopped by the Europa Center, a pretty gaudy mall right next to the church. I don't know why these things are on the guidebook lists.
I decided to get some dinner at a restaurant that serves traditional Prussian food.
After the museum I decided to keep walking down the street just to see what's there. Mostly it's just swanky brands in fancy but probably not really old buildings. It's supposed to be like the "Champs-Élyseés of Berlin" but I probably wouldn't enjoy the one in Paris either.
The Museum was called "The Story of Berlin" and was a sort of multimedia walk through of the city's history. I don't have any pictures of that, but some of it, especially the parts about WWII and the Cold War era were pretty interesting. It's built above a Cold War bunker and you get a tour of that too. It was actually a pretty interesting experience. 3,600 people were supposed to be crammed in row after row of cots in every available space from the floor to the ceiling. Supposedly, the bunker is still usable if needed.
Plenty of bears along the walk
Found the little bookshop/cafe. I don't know much about it, but it seemed like a cool place to drink coffee and read. It looked like they had some events, but unfortunately, I can't read German.
I kept walking down the street, since there was a museum and a book shop I wanted to check out. This is apparently a big shopping district in Berlin. It gets swankier the farther down you go.
I noticed what turned out to be the Kaiser Wilhelm Memorial Church a few blocks down. The church was destroyed in the war, and they've left the damaged ruins as a reminder. They built a modern church around it as a couple of other structures. I'm hoping I can make it to a concert there tomorrow.
It happened to be right next to what is supposed to be the biggest department store in Europe, so I thought why not check it out. It was seven floors of boring, but it was kind of cool to see the 6th floor which was a food market. They even had a marzipan Brandenburg Gate!
I wandered pretty aimlessly at first. My priority was finding somewhere for a late brunch.
The buddy bears are all over the city. They all have different names, themes, and are paint schemes.
This morning I slept in a bit, and then had to check out of my hotel. I asked them to hold on to my bags for me while I went around explored a bit. These two "buddy bears" and (I'm pretty sure fake) piece of the wall are in front of the hotel.
21 April 2016
By the time the third day came around, we were all pretty exhausted by all the trainings and presentations, but were sorry to see everyone to go - you never know when or if you'll next be able to see your foreign colleagues in person. We split up into a few groups to a have a final dinner together. Mine was on a boat in the river!
20 April 2016
In the evening, we also had a nice dinner in a skybar with a pretty great view!
On the afternoon of the second day we had a short bus walking tour around a few of the more historic areas of the inner part of the city. It was a quick orientation more than anything else - I'm hoping to go back these places in the next few days.
19 April 2016
Then the conference got started. I don't have many pictures but you didn't miss much.
The next morning, a few of us got up early for a quick run to try to burn off some of the jet lag.
18 April 2016
We decided that was enough for the day - we had already walked farther and climbed way more stairs than we were expecting. We turned around and started back, briefly stopping by the Soviet War Memorial and some other parts of the park on the way.
We walked through the park until we reached the Brandenburg Gate.
We were pretty exhausted - none of us got much sleep on the flight, but since it was still early afternoon my coworker Eric and I decided we should explore a bit. We first walked over to the Victory Column which was nearby. It was taller than it looked, and though we were even more exhausted by the time we reached the top, it was a great view. We also got our first glimpse of some of the many reminders of WWII intentionally left preserved - you can still find bullet holes in many of the older monuments throughout the city.
After a much shorter flight, we checked into the "Hotel Berlin, Berlin" I got the room right above the entranceway.
A while back, I was invited to participate in our eBay Analytics Summit, where eBay analysts all over the world get together in one place to discuss their work, share knowledge, and get to know each other a bit better. The summit was scheduled to be held in Berlin, so I decided to take advantage of the opportunity and take some time off to explore the city after the three day conference was over.
Azitta and I were hoping that she'd be able to come meet me after the conference as well, but unfortunately her class schedule didn't allow it this time :(
Several of my coworkers were on the flight out on Sunday afternoon. We had a brief stopover in Frankfurt, and by then it was already Monday.