After a short flight from Kansas City to Washington DC, a long flight from there to Frankfurt, and a short flight from Frankfurt to Berlin, we arrived around 11 AM local time. However, that translated to 4 AM Kansas time, so we were all pretty wiped out. Fortunately, our group was the first to arrive and they took us right to the hotel rather than make us wait for the rest. We were able to get a nice nap before dinner.

Our hotel was in East Berlin, surrounded by miles of Soviet-era apartment buildings. While our hotel was constructed after the reunification, it still had a lot of Cold War properties. For instance:

Ventilation - there basically was none. Not a single vent in the room. It did have one window that opened a few inches, and that was it. Hopefully it never gets hot in Berlin. And since the window had no screen, hopefully they don't have mosquitos and flies there either. This turned out to be common in Europe.

Amenities - again basically there were none. No soap, although there was a bath gel dispenser. There were towels but no washrags. This also turned out to be common.

While we napped, it rained, and it was a bit chilly that first evening. We had a decent dinner at the hotel, then went for a walk before dark. I was able to purchase Internet time on the hotel's wireless network. I then spent two hours reading and responding to all of my email and didn't get back to bed until about midnight.

The sun rose pretty early - it was light enough to wake me at 3:30 AM (Berlin is farther north than Toronto or Vladivostok). Since we had to have the window open, we also heard all the street noise, including several sirens during the night. I tossed and turned until 6 AM then finally awoke and could not go back to sleep any more.

We spent all of the first morning on a bus tour of Berlin. Parts of West Berlin definitely looked much nicer than the East side. We went by the Olympic stadium, where they were preparing for the first game of the World Cup in a few days. We stopped at one of the remaining stretches of the Berlin Wall. It had been decorated with grafitti and some really decent art. Other parts of the wall ended up as souveniers.


We also got off the bus and walked thru the area where the government offices were. They had done an excellent job in constructing the buildings along the Spree river - everything was new and shiny.

Berlin's architecture is worth its own side note. A lot of Berlin, of course, was bombed during World War II. Many of the older buildings (including churches) were restored. However, many buildings were new and many of those were architecturally unique. For the most part there are very few buildings in the US that could be considered in the same league. One theme that seemed common was buildings covered in glass...imagine building an office building, and when finished, adding a glass sheath hanging a foot out from the building. There were numerous buildings like this.

We spent the afternoon wandering around the museum area. The first one we visited was the Pergammon museum, which contained the Pergamon temple from Turkey and the Ishtar Gate from the palace of Nebuchadnezzar (below). Both had been painstakingly dismantled and reassembled inside this museum, constructed especially for these finds.


We then walked over to the Dom Cathedral. This is the main Protestant church in Berlin, and it had also been restored over the last half century. It was incredibly beautiful, and Ryan was able to climb all the way to the base of the dome and look down on the city. This church contains the largest pipe organ in the world.


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Last Updated  Monday, April 06, 2009
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