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Buzzing Around Berlin

Berlin

sunny 32 °C
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After many short city breaks, our Berlin trip was going to be slightly longer - four nights in total. However even that did not seem enough!

We started the first day with a delay on our early afternoon flight, meaning we didn't manage to arrive in Berlin until early evening. We stopped off en route at the East Side Gallery, where the longest stretch of remaining Berlin Wall was turned into an art gallery, with many different murals by various artists.

East Side Gallery

East Side Gallery

We then continued on to grab some dinner before heading to the hotel via the supermarket. By now it was already getting late, so we decided to stay put and carry out the rest of our sightseeing in the following days. Although upon arrival we did find an interesting policy by the hotel - in return for not having our room cleaned the following day, we would get a free drink at the bar. As we'd just arrived we decided the free drink was a better idea, so we headed down to claim it.

Upon ordering, I decided to have a wine spritzer, however the German barmaid had never heard of this! (despite being in the limited menu) and asked what this was in German - "Schorle". A little surprising, I thought, as spritzer is clearly a German word - although evidently not used in these parts! After a good night's sleep, we awoke the next morning and ate breakfast before heading out for our first day of sightseeing.

Today we would be seeing the sights in the city centre. We had prebooked entry to the Reichstag Dome, and so had to keep to schedule. We started by heading round the corner from our hotel, to the Kaiser Wilhelm Memorial Church. Much like that of Coventry, it was an old cathedral almost destroyed during the Second World War, with the ruins kept as a memorial and a modern church built next door.

Kaiser Wilhelm Memorial Church

Kaiser Wilhelm Memorial Church


Checkpoint Charlie

Checkpoint Charlie

Next, we headed out to the city centre, and to Checkpoint Charlie - the only foreign public crossing point during the days of the Berlin Wall. We then continued along the line of the wall towards the Topography of Terror, on the site of the Gestapo Headquarters, which detailed the history of the rise of the Nazis, and their rule, all in this geographical area of the city.

Our journey then took us to Potsdammer Platz, a modern business district built upon the old Berlin Wall site, before heading north past Tierpark and arriving at the Memorial to the Murdered Jews. This memorial is made up of rows of concrete pillars across a sloping field, which reach up to 5 metres tall and can be walked between.

Inside the memorial to the Jews

Inside the memorial to the Jews


Brandenburg Gate

Brandenburg Gate

After taking a walk around this memorial, we then stopped by the Brandenburg Gate, the iconic German landmark, separated on the line of the Berlin Wall, where we took lots of photos, before continuing on to the Reichstag - Parliament Building.

Reichstag

Reichstag

We first viewed the building from the outside, before entering through the security check and up onto the roof itself. The building is from 1894, but has been unused for most of the time since, with the inside being completely new, from the 1990s. The dome was a modern replacement for the original cupola and is open to the public as a viewing platform, and views of the surrounding area and inside the centre of the Bundestag (Parliament) can be seen.

Inside the Reichstag Dome

Inside the Reichstag Dome

After touring the roof, we headed back down and walked past the new government buildings to the north, towards the Friedrichstraße station. The station was unique as it was located within East Berlin, and yet functioned as a border post. The reason why, was that the city was divided after the existence of the underground transport network, which cut across lines in the city. Remarkably, it was agreed that lines that crossed the border would not necessarily have to close. Those that ran West to West, via the East were allowed to stay open, but with the stations in East Berlin closed and functioning as ghost stations.

Even more remarkable, was that there was one station in the east - Friedrichstraße, that intersected with both sides. Being a major transport hub, the East decided to fence off the station, with some platforms serving interchanges between lines solely for West Berliners, as well as interchanges for East Berlin lines. There was also a border post within the station that enabled those few who were able to cross sides a point in which to do so. easily.

Inside the present, fully open, Friedrichstraße Station

Inside the present, fully open, Friedrichstraße Station

To the north of the station, an entrance was built that would serve as the non-transport-connection border post for Easterners heading to the West. It was called the Tränenpalast (Palace of Tears) as for many crossing here it would be a sad event, leaving behind friends and family. It is now used as an exhibition for the story of this time, and even had a border checkpoint from the time for visitors to experience.

After taking a look at this exhibition, we got on a tram and headed towards Museum Island. Stopping first off at Bebelplatz where there is a monument to the burning of books during the rise of the Nazis, before continuing past the Cathedral and the Old Museum.

Berlin Cathedral

Berlin Cathedral

Stopping off for some refreshment, we then went inside the DDR Museum - a museum dedicated to the life inside East Germany, which included a recreated East German flat.

The living room in the East German flat at the DDR Museum

The living room in the East German flat at the DDR Museum

After looking around the museum, we then made our way over to Alexanderplatz, the heart of East Berlin, where after a bit of shopping, I went inside the Park Inn by Radisson Hotel, which has a balcony on the 40th floor open to the public, with views over the city, including the nearby TV Tower.

View over Alexanderplatz

View over Alexanderplatz

Our final place for today was further north, at Bernauer Straße, where part of the Berlin Wall has been recreated, with a viewing platform across the road. After taking a look at how life would have been just thirty years ago, we travelled back to our hotel via the underground station, which had information about the ghost stations on the network.

Bernauer Straße

Bernauer Straße

After stopping off at the supermarket we then went out for a German dinner in the restaurant around the corner. After surviving being hounded by wasps, we then went back to the hotel for an evening chill after the busy day before we would continue our adventures tomorrow.

Tips

Posted by kmmk17 10:48 Archived in Germany Tagged church city museum berlin cathedral parliament wall border war Comments (0)

The Viennese Wetz

Vienna

all seasons in one day 26 °C
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Less than a month after having visited Salzburg, Chris and I were heading back to Austria, and this time to the capital - Vienna. Although I had been to Austria three times previously, this was the first time I would be actually flying in, as all previous times had been en route via a neighbouring country.

After taking an early morning flight, we arrived in Vienna mid morning, and made our way to our hotel, where we hoped to be able to check in early, or at least leave our bags before exploring.

Upon arrival our room was being cleaned, and so we waited for ten minutes, whilst being offered a complimentary drink, despite being two hours before official check in - brilliant customer service!

With the weather at home being terrible (rarely above 20C, despite it being the middle of summer), the hot and sunny 35C Vienna was welcome. However as a storm was to hit tomorrow, this would be our only day with these kind of temperatures, and so we made the most of it going out in shorts. Did we need a raincoat? Not today we didn't!

We headed over to the Schönbrunn, where our first sight was the zoo, where one year old pandas and koalas lived - something unique! Beginning with the panda talk, it became clear that for many of the animals the prolonged heat had worn them out.

Panda Cub

Panda Cub

As we toured the zoo the clouds started to darken and noises could be heard. Hoping it was just lorries, it soon became clear this was impending thunder. Hoping we could avoid it was too much to ask, and as we were almost done in the zoo we headed up a wooded hill when the heavens opened. Without raincoats or umbrellas we ran from tree to tree to avoid the rain, before entering a farm animal building along with many other visitors who had the same problem as us.

After hanging about for 10 minutes, the rain looked like it had eased a little and so we decided to carry on anyway - we were far from the metro station and still had a few things to see.

Gloriette

Gloriette

Leaving the zoo we entered the Schönbrunn Palace Gardens and ran between the trees viewing the Gloriette before heading down towards the Palace building itself. Even in the rain it was pretty but it was a shame the rain prevented us from spending more time enjoying the area.

Schönbrunn Palace

Schönbrunn Palace

After having taken photos between the trees and under what little shelter we could find, we headed back towards the metro station as the rain stopped - typical!

Having grabbed food we headed back to the hotel where we could dry off and have a good night's sleep after the busy long day. However not long after we had fallen asleep, the bulk of the storm arrived and in the midst of over thirty flashes of lightning we went off back to sleep.

As the storm had arrived early, it did mean that the following day would be almost entirely dry, despite being over 10C cooler. After having had breakfast, we headed into the city centre to view the old city.

St. Stephen's Cathedral

St. Stephen's Cathedral

Beginning with the St. Stephen's Cathedral, we then headed via many souvenir shops to the Hofburg Palace, the Royal Palace and where the Spanish Riding School is based.

Hofburg

Hofburg

By now we had made it to the Ringstraße, the ring road where some of the grandest and most important city buildings are located. Beginning at the Burgtheater, we crossed the ring outside the City Hall, where the Vienna Film Festival is held.

City Hall

City Hall

Walking around the building, we then went past the Parliament building and headed down to the Museum Quarter and the Maria Theresa Square, where many of the buildings were in the same style.

Charles Church

Charles Church

We then diverged from the ring road and made our way to the Charles Church, before arriving at our last destination in the city centre - the Heroes' Monument. This monument, a Russian language Soviet War Memorial was completely out of place in the imperial city, but highlighted the mid 20th century reality of this Central European city.

Soviet War Memorial

Soviet War Memorial

Having seen the sights of the city centre, we headed back to the hotel for a rest before we went for an evening walk to the Danube, not far from our hotel, where we could see the UN buildings over the mighty river.

The Viennese Danube

The Viennese Danube


The Prater

The Prater

Heading back our last sight was the Prater, where we would grab dinner in the Rollercoaster Restaurant and tour the amusement park.

Rollercoaster Restaurant

Rollercoaster Restaurant

After a busy day we went back to the hotel and chilled before our final full day tomorrow in Bratislava.

Vienna, like all the other Central European capitals of Prague and Budapest is very grand and has beautiful buildings. However despite it being on the Danube, the river flows on the outskirts of the city and with very little hills I personally prefer the others, who also have the river, bridges and hills to see, whereas the focus on Vienna is simply it's grand buildings. Nevertheless it's a beautiful city, and was a lovely place to visit.

Tips

Posted by kmmk17 11:13 Archived in Austria Tagged rain architecture culture palace zoo city parliament vienna&bratislava Comments (0)

The Canadian Capital

Canada - Ottawa

overcast 18 °C
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When planning this trip I felt it would be interesting not only to visit Toronto and Niagara Falls, but the capital - Ottawa, and the French speaking area of Quebec, and therefore make a whole trip out of the holiday.

After having a final breakfast with Halina, we said our goodbyes, and boarded a five hour bus crossing southern Ontario towards Ottawa, eventually arriving in the city by mid afternoon. After checking in to our huge room, we then headed out for a short walk to the heart of the city.

What had struck us most in Canada was just how shabby much of it is, and Ottawa was no exception. Even though we were just a five minute walk from Parliament, the whole area was very shabby, with signs falling off, paintwork needing maintenance, and broken pacing slabs everywhere. And yet, as we walked past the city hall and entered the very heart of the city it was very well maintained.

Parliament

Parliament

The city centre was rather pretty, and Parliament Hill's Gothic architecture was a welcome sight against the bland and typical North American architecture of the suburbs. Walking past a protest against FPTP, we headed towards the back of the complex for views over the Ottawa river that separates French speaking Quebec from English speaking Ontario.

Parliament Hill

Parliament Hill

It is for this reason that Ottawa was made capital - being neither Toronto, nor Montreal, yet between the two and therefore a good compromise for a united country. Although with the Parliament buildings overlooking Quebec, it's a good job their independence never happened!

Château Laurier

Château Laurier

After walking past some beautiful buildings and the Rideau Canal, we made our way to the Alexandra Bridge to cross into Quebec. What would we find on the other side? Would people be speaking in French? Well... yes... in fact everyone we heard was a French speaker, and as we headed back from what appeared to be the same city, we followed some French speaking ladies and were intrigued to find out if they would revert to English by the time they reached Ontario.

French before English was one of the few differences

French before English was one of the few differences

Unfortunately our illusions were shattered as they continued their conversation in French as we dispersed back towards our hotel for the night.

Posted by kmmk17 11:14 Archived in Canada Tagged city canada capital parliament Comments (0)

An Evening in BA

In Search of the Penguins - Buenos Aires

sunny 27 °C
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After 10 days on the MS Expedition, this morning it was all coming to an end. With an early start and breakfast, by 8am I had already said my goodbyes and headed on the coach back into Ushuaia. Dropping my bits off in the storage facility, I then went for another walk around the city, before waiting in the information centre using the free WiFi (which died once the bus load of Americans turned up) before finally heading to the airport.

Leaving the South

Leaving the South

At the airport I sent my baggage straight through to Montevideo for the following morning and headed into security and the departure lounge, where several others from the boat trip soon joined.

Having bought a drink for the plane, I was then ready to begin boarding, when all of a sudden I heard an announcement with my name. As the airport was small, there was no one to speak to in the departure lounge and so I realised I was going to have to head back down to the entrance. Great, what would happen to my drink? "It's ok" they said....hmm, they say that now....

Arriving at the help desk, I was then told I needed to go to the check in desks. Waiting again in the queue behind those who needed to check in their bags, I was still hearing my name being called over the tanoy despite being there and having to wait in a queue. Ridiculous. Eventually she dealt with me. Oh, she wanted my future flight plans once I reached Montevideo. Why? Urgh. Nevertheless I told her and was allowed to pass.

Now I had to go back through security. I had already checked in so I just walked past, but they still made me go through the scanners. I was ready for them to bin my drink, for which I was about to get riled up. However when attempting to take off my belt, they told me it was ok. Hmm...

Picking my bags back up they had let me take the drink though anyway, so it seemed fine. I headed back to the queue ready to finally board when I found I had now lost my phone. Great. Where had I left it?

Worrying I'd have to go back through security I headed back and found someone to finally talk to. However I then noticed the security people had it. In the panic to get through I'd left it behind on the belt. Proving it was mine, they let me have it back and not long after I finally boarded my flight.

Nevertheless, it was a pretty building

Nevertheless, it was a pretty building

Ready to fly off, some people had moved their seats around, and so swapping for the row behind so the Andorrans next to me could sit together I arrived three hours later in Buenos Aires.

Falklands Memorial at the Airport

Falklands Memorial at the Airport

After making my way through arrivals I bought a ticket for the bus into the city, and then waited outside the warm summer weather for it to make it through the traffic. Whilst waiting, Teeny from the trip walked past on her way to another bus, and with that my Antarctic trip had now truly come to an end.

Torre Monumental

Torre Monumental

Heading into the city I walked from Retiro towards my hotel, noticing how much different Buenos Aires felt compared to Rio, Brasilia and Ushuaia. Much more European, laid out in a grid form like Barcelona. Although not having had much interest in visiting Buenos Aires to begin with, having heard interesting things and having to transfer here twice anyway, I scheduled in a brief evening visit before I headed to Uruguay the following morning.

Walking around the city, the anti-British propaganda following the Falklands War thirty years earlier was immediately evident. However it seemed directed towards the British Government, as despite all this, there was not one moment I felt any hatred towards myself, despite clearly being British.

Tango

Tango

Leaving the hotel I headed down the main shopping street, past Tango dancers, towards Plaza de Mayo, and the Casa Rosada, the home of the Argentinian president.

Casa Rosada

Casa Rosada

I then carried on down Avenida de Mayo, crossing the huge Avenida 9 de Julio, towards Plaza del Congreso where the parliament is.

Parliament

Parliament


Avenida de 9 Julio

Avenida de 9 Julio

Heading back towards the hotel, I then made it to Avenida 9 de Julio itself. The avenue is the widest in the world, 20 lanes - 5 in each direction along the main avenue, 3 each in the parallel roads along the avenue, and 2 each in the bus lanes in the middle of the road. Whilst in the middle of the avenue is the icon of the city - the Obelisk on Plaza de la Republica. Originally I had planned to go to a local hotel to get a rooftop view of the avenue, however when I transferred here on my way south, we already got great views from the plane window, and so I decided this was unnecessary.

I then had a McDonald's overlooking the obelisk whilst waiting for it to get dark, before enjoying the area by night with the Obelisk lit up.

Obelisk by night

Obelisk by night

After walking back along the long avenue, I then stopped off in a supermarket to buy some bits for the following morning, before heading back to my hotel to finally sleep.

A very busy day with just one left to go...

Tips

Posted by kmmk17 17:00 Archived in Argentina Tagged airport city parliament penguinhunt Comments (0)

The Concrete Capital

In Search of the Penguins - Brasilia

overcast 27 °C
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Well over 18 months ago I booked myself the trip of a lifetime to the Antarctic. However in order to get there I would need to get to the bottom of South America - the other continent I had yet to visit. And so after much planning I decided it would be a massive shame to literally fly in, past some cities I really wanted to visit, and thus I planned to go via Brazil en route.

After taking an overnight flight from London, and transferring in São Paulo, I arrived in my first destination on a warm Thursday morning, excited to explore the Brazilian capital of Brasilia.

Brasilia was built from nothing in the final four years of the 50's to replace Rio as the Brazilian capital. And as with many new cities of the same era, it was heavily planned, with sectors and grand avenues. The city is shaped like an aeroplane with all the governmental buildings located around the fuselage.

Arriving at my hotel in the Hotel Sector, right off the main boulevard I quickly grabbed my bits and headed off for a walk before the imminent rainfall expected this afternoon drenched me.

As Brasilia was built for the car it's scale is huge and there is a distinct lack of pedestrian access - crossing Eixo Monumental meant literally running across the 7 lane highway in a gap through the traffic.

Entering the Cathedral

Entering the Cathedral

Beginning by heading past the Central Terminal I made my way past the National Library and Museum to the Cathedral - a concrete and stained glass building that is entered from below, whilst a pool of water surrounds the building at ground level. Whilst interesting from the outside, it is inside that the building is truly beautiful, with angel sculptures floating above the pews.

Inside the Cathedral

Inside the Cathedral


National Congress

National Congress

Continuing down Eixo Monumental, I made my way to the Esplanada dos Ministérios for views over the National Congress, with it's iconic bowl, and built into the ground.

Three Powers Plaza

Three Powers Plaza

Behind the Congress is the Plaza of Three Powers, where the highest branches of government - the Congress, Supreme Court and Presidential Palace are located. Unfortunately like most of the city, the concrete is in a state of disrepair and makes the whole area look shabby, despite the best intentions and interesting architectural designs.

Supreme Court

Supreme Court


Palace of Justice

Palace of Justice

Having already walked two miles from the hotel to this end, it was now time to walk back, past the Palace of Justice and National Theatre, to the TV Tower, where free views looking over the whole city can be found.

Brasilia

Brasilia

At this height, the scale of the city's planned layout can be seen, as well as the JK Bridge over the Paranoá Lake in the distance.

JK Bridge

JK Bridge

After a lot of walking and having luckily dodged the heavy rain, I grabbed dinner and settled in for the night, before my onward flight to Rio the following day.

Tips

Posted by kmmk17 17:00 Archived in Brazil Tagged lake cathedral capital parliament penguinhunt Comments (0)

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