I’m starting my latest trip to Africa with a quick visit to a few new European cities. I came to Berlin originally for a stag party, so apart from drinking, bars, McDonald’s and hangovers, I barely scratched the surface of this famous city. But I did manage to squeeze in some of the well known sights.
The Berlin Wall was officially known as the Anti-Facist Protection Rampart. The wall physically and ideologically cut off West Berlin from East Germany from 1961 to 1989. Now the East-side gallery in the Friedrichshain-Kreuzberg district is a 1300 metre well preserved part of the wall that now serves as an international freedom monument and art gallery. When you’ve literally hit the wall on a stag do, the gallery provides some nice easy sightseeing.
Possibly the most iconic of Berlin’s landmarks is the Brandenburg gate. The gate was once the entrance to Berlin when the city had walls. It marked the beginning and end of the road to the city of Brandenburg an der Havel, the former capital of the German empire. Now the gate is surrounded by Japanese tourists doing Nazi salutes. Something I personally wouldn’t do.
The 2711 concrete pillars of varying heights make up the ‘Memorial for the murdered Jews of Europe’. Reminiscent of tombstones, the memorial which took six years to complete because of a lot of deliberation, pays homage to the millions of Jews that lost their lives during the holocaust. If you walk between the pillars, it gives you a sense of dizziness and confusion because of the uneven ground and their differing heights so walking around here after a heavy night on the German beer isn’t recommended.
One sight I will not vouch for is Checkpoint Charlie. Checkpoint Charlie was the name given to the best known crossing point between both sides of Berlin so does have some quite historical significance. Now it’s just a cheap replica of the original checkpoint, is rife with pickpockets and scammers and there’s even a McDonald’s there. So not exactly authentic Berlin, unless you class authentic as getting your photo taken with a couple of Eastern Europeans dressed as US army soldiers.
Currywurst, a Berliner speciality, fried pork sausage covered in ketchup with curry powder mixed in. You will find these everywhere in Berlin. As far as fast food goes this isn’t the greatest dish on Earth, but it ain’t the wurst either.
This weekend happened to be the Berlin Marathon. One of the major races of the IAAF calendar and the course where the world record is held. Three athletes were going for a world record this year as well, but in the end it wasn’t meant to be.
I was surprised to hear that the third place finisher was an unknown British athlete named Alex Milne, with a time of 2:06. I thought that the third placed runner looked more African than British, so I done a little digging around. Alex Milne’s previous best time was around 2:25, if he had of ran 2:06 he would’ve smashed the 60 year old British record. It turns out that the scoreboard had somehow got it wrong and an Ethiopian athlete actually finished third, while Alex Milne was back in England cutting the grass. Could it be possible that the Germans wanted to slyly get one up on the British? The only German runner Philipp Pflieger pulled up with with jelly legs so was subsequently over taken by Helmut dressed as a giant bratwurst.