June 15, 2012 (Day 3)
Berlin weather: warm, sunny, gorgeous
After such a late night last night, I’m not sure I want to wake up this morning, but we’ve got a scheduled Segway Tour of Berlin, so we need to wake up and find our way to the main part of Berlin. The 10am tour sounded just fine when our original plan was to arrive in Berlin last night at 6pm, but since we didn’t get to our flat until after midnight, the 10am tour didn’t sound like the best planning. However, it really was! I’m incredibly glad I scheduled the tour for today and I’m so glad we got up in time to do the tour.
It turns out that our flat is very close to the main part of Berlin (we are in Kruezburg, with a direction Ubahn connection to Alexanderplatz). Also, our flat is a very short walk from the nearest Ubahn station. The Ubahn is Berlin’s underground public transportation system. They have many lines, and then S bahn lines, trams, and some trains as well that run through the city.
Today is an absolutely gorgeous day, too! I was a little surprised to wake up at 4:45 this morning to the sun streaming in our window! The sun rises early here. Plus, last night, we had twilight all the way to about 10:45pm. This makes for some long days! We certainly won’t need to worry about headlights for biking later on. Speaking of last night, I forgot to mention that the Munich airport had these nap rooms where you could actually pay to have a little room with a bed for a real nap. We were not in the airport long enough, of course, but what a concept! I would have paid for a bed to sleep in in Amsterdam.
Back to the gorgeous day, today, though. We found our way back to our Ubahn station with no problems, and we found some delicious pastries from breakfast at another ubahn station with no problems as well. However, finding the segway meeting place took longer than expected. We did find them before our tour began at least, but there was a lot of turning the map this way and that to try and figure out which direction we were facing. We even did some walking back and forth before we found ourselves on the map.
We actually have never done a segway tour before, and this one was the same segway tour company that is based out of DC as well. We had tried to do a segway tour in DC several years ago….2004? 2005?, but we were unable to reserve a tour at that time. The tour is all in English of course and there were 6 other tourists on our tour, so it was a decent-sized group. First, we learned out to use a Segway. Stepping on for the first time and trying to get some balance going is hard for about the first 20-30 seconds. After that we were whizzing around the practice area, trying to go as fast as possible and stopping on a dime. What fun!!!!
Since it was our first day in Berlin and we hadn’t even studied the map before, we weren’t really sure what parts of Berlin we were visiting during our tour, but what we did notice was that Berlin is a gorgeous city. There is lots of green space, beautiful architecture, fountains and memorials all over. We also really got a taste for the type of traffic out and about. Most people were either walking or biking. There were not as many cars on the road, but the bike lanes were full of traffic. I love this city already!
We started our tour at the TV tower and over the next four hours visited Museum Island, parts of the Berlin Wall, Humboldt University, Checkpoint Charlie, Nazi Topography of Terror, Brandenburg Gate, Hitler’s bunker, Potzdamer Platz, Bebelpat, Memorial to the Murdered Jews of Europe, Reichstag, and probably plenty more sites. Most importantly, though, we learned more about Berlin history than we already knew. Our guide was wonderfully knowledgeable.
One of the interesting memorials consisted of several empty bookcases underground. We could see down to the bookcases through a small glass square along the sidewalk. This was placed here to remember all the books lost when students had a book bonfire at Humboldt University. We really had more fun on the segways than anything else. The tour was about 4 hours long with a stop for lunch.
After our tour, we had nothing planned. Without much direction, we decided to try and find a bike store to purchase some bike helmets for our tour and hopefully some Germany bike jerseys as souvenirs. Fat Tire Bike Tours was based out of the same building as City Segway Tours, so they were helpful and pointed out 3 stores on our map within easy walking distance or ubahn distance.
The first bike store was just down the road, but we didn’t find any Germany bike jerseys. We did however find an amazing selection of bike gloves which I had to try out since I’ve been having problems with my own. I need thicker gloves, and there were the thickest gloves I’ve ever seen. The US just does not compare. So I walked away happy with new bike gloves that should help keep my fingers from getting numb on the chip-seal roads of Houston. The next bike store didnt have jerseys either, so we went to the third and final store. The Fat Tire guy told us this store was so large it was like a Wal-Mart and he was right! It was probably only the size of half a super-Wal-Mart, but it was all full of bike stuff! The middle was more bikes that you’ve ever seen in one place. Along the edges was more gear and clothing that I’ve ever seen in one place. Though there were many cool jerseys, we didn’t see any that highlighted Germany. Oh well. We did find bike helmets and had fun poking around all the various gear before checking out.
By now, the working day was pretty much over so we headed back to our apartment to re-group. Mark found a little taco place down the road from our flat, so we went there for dinner. We were very pleasantly surprised to find authentic taco-fare. It is so strange that the sun sets close to 9:30 here. We are all turned around as far as the time goes. I’m still getting used to Euro-time and we are both recovering from jetlag, so when it’s light out and my watch says 10pm, we are just confused.