I always wondered why it’s called Germany in English. One visit and boom! I found out soon enough.
You learn a lot about a place when you visit, and as a result of this, our first ever visit to Germany, we found out why it was called the “Land of Many Germs” (or Germ-many in the old dialect). It’s because they have so many germs of course! Here’s our proof: after we landed in Berlin and began walking around, we developed colds. That means every single time we’ve gone to Germany, we’ve gotten a cold. What other proof do you need?
By the way, in Portuguese the word for cold is “constipação.” Don’t ask us why. Maybe way back when the official Portuguese Language Translator got confused when he had both a cold and, uh, a case of the clogs.
Since that word got used up, they decided the phrase for “constipation” would be “prisão de ventre,” which literally translates to “prison of the belly.” Go figure. I thought they might’ve just used “cold” to make it even. Although that really might’ve messed up a lot of travelers when they asked for cold medicine.
I think it actually makes a lot more sense to call a cold a “prisão do nariz” (prison of the nose). I’ll try that phrase on the next pharmacist we visit when we have a cold. Why not? They can’t understand us anyway.
But we didn’t let lousy constipaçãos interfere with our sightseeing. So take that you germy Germans!
Berlin is a fascinating city. It impressed and interested me more than I thought it would. Being something of a casual student of World War II, it was interesting to see all the remnants of that war (and the aftermath, especially with the Soviet occupation of most of eastern Europe) still present and commemorated. I really think many Europeans’ worldview is still affected by that horrific time, as it should be.
So we set out to see all the sights Berlin has to offer. Being the savvy travelers we are, we usually travel by Commemorative Plate. I know a lot of people use Fodor, or Rick Steves, or Google. But we like to use the Commemorative Plate Travel System (CPTS). It’s a fail-safe way to see everything you need to see.
So here we see the Commemorative Plate telling us that the most important places to visit are the Berlin Dome (“Dom”), The Kaiser-Wilhelm-Gedachtnis-kirch, the Siegessaule, The Brandenburger Tor, the Reichstag, the Mauerfall, the Alexanderplatz, and the ketchup.
Whoops. He he. We used the plate for some french fries, you can ignore the ketchup.
First and foremost, we had to figure out transportation. Since it is Germany, we expected to see Mercedeses and BMWs barreling about like jet cars in a Star Wars city. There were some of those, but there were also a fair amount of Japanese cars as well, which surprised me just a little. Unfortunately, we tried to rent a car from a place called “My Last Name is Hitler But I Promise I’m Not Related to That Bastard Rent-a-car Company.” And all they had left was something Hitler might have driven when he was a starving artist. Or maybe that’s Mr. Bean’s old car.
Since I wanted to drive while my entire body occupied the car at the same time, we opted to mostly use Uber. Which isn’t completely legal in Germany because the Germans don’t put up with the abusive shenanigans Uber has engaged in to get their foot in every country. The app basically just hails a cab for you. But that came in handy actually, so despite Uber’s corporate nonsense, that’s usually the way we traveled. That, and a lot of walking. My calf muscles pretty much had a cow by the end of our two-week visit to Berlin, Dresden, and Prague.
By the way, I also have to say that most of the cars we rode in had very impressive dashboards. I often felt like we were actually in a jet car in a Star Wars city. I halfway expected to hear R2D2’s distinctive whistles and chirps, or Princess Leia offering directions in 3D.
Well, hell. I’ve got almost two pages done and you still haven’t seen any of the Berlin sites! Sorry. I definitely don’t have prisão de ventre of the fingers. I can only hope my readers have at least five or fifty, minutes to spare, depending on how much you skim. But beware! Skimmers miss my best jokes! Which isn’t saying much, because they’re all bad. But hey, it’s free, so quit your “jammern,” (that’s “whining” in German).
Okay, now I realize it’s going to take a few entries just to get through Berlin. So consider this Part One. And I’ll try not to ramble so much. Full disclosure: I still will.
Let’s start with the Brandenburg Gate, which is one of the most iconic buildings in all of Germany. Truth be told, perhaps because of its iconicity, as well as the impressiveness of so many of the other iconic buildings we’ve seen so far around Europe, I expected a little more out of the Brandenburg Gate. It was smaller than I imagined, and simply not all that impressive. Which is probably what a lot people thought about Hitler after meeting him for the first time.
The Brandenburg Gate was built in the 18th century, by order of Prussian king Frederick William II, and was built to represent peace.
Unfortunately, after World War II, it looked like this:
So much for representing peace. But, it was restored and still stands, so maybe peace does endure even in the face of calamity.
As we walked around the area, we happened upon a Soviet World War II Memorial. I’m sure the Soviets viewed themselves as liberators, even while they raped up to 2 million German women. In many cases women were the victims of repeated rapes, some as many as 60 to 70 times. The Soviets then remained in all of those countries until the Soviet Union collapsed. War sure is glorious, isn’t it?
At least we got some memorials and monuments.
Our hotel bordered the Tiergarten, which is a bit like Central Park is in New York, except without all the muggings. Like so much of Europe, Berlin felt safer than any large city in the states. We had no qualms about wandering through the Tiergarten or anywhere else, day or night. A street vendor was selling some qualms for ten euros, but we prefer to travel without them.
World War II and its aftermath devastated the Tiergarten: only 700 trees survived out of over 200,000 that once lined the parkway. The rest of the trees were chopped down for firewood or to make room for crops badly needed for a starving populace. Over time, West Germany brought the park back to life.
In the middle of the 520-acre Tiergarten is the Victory Column (Siegessäule), which was designed in 1864 to commemorate the Prussian victory in the Danish-Prussian War. It was inaugurated in 1873. The Nazis moved it to its present site, which probably saved it from destruction. After climbing 282 steps via a spiral staircase –huff-puff– one is treated to some outstanding views of Berlin:
And so, we have knocked off two of the sightseeing options from our CPTS (Commemorative Plate Travel System in case you forgot) thus far: The Brandenburger Tor (gate) and the Siegessaule (Victory Column). I’d say that’s pretty good work for one day, don’t you? It’s time for a beer!