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04 April 2009

R&R alpha - berlin (days 6/7) - checkpoint charlie


we woke up late on the 6-october and with a slightly late checkout, we were on our way to berlin. we'd gone as far as getting a hertz rental car reserved, but nothing for a place to stay once we got there. we figured, big city... lots of tourists... plenty of room. we got directions to berlin which is pretty much "go north". when we picked up the hertz that we asked for hertz neverlost on, we got a kia sorento with becker indianapolis GPS. all i can say is it sucks bawlz. for one, it was stuck in portugese mode. it's not a touch screen or graphical or anything that a good GPS direction system should be. i mean, look at this!! anyone who's ever seen a garmin or a magellan or any other mid- to high-range GPS device has an idea how it should look, how it should feel. this basically tells you, "GO FORWARD (but in portugeuse)", "GO RIGHT (but in portuguese)". absolutely ridiculous. it's CD based, so you have to have the right CD in for it to get the directions or something. the buttons are completely non-intuitive as to how to adjust things. TheWayne drove the car down to the main level (since TheTav and i can't drive a manual transmission). at the front desk, i used my best pissed-off voice to get them to figure the damn thing out and get it on english. they replied, "it's in portuguese, we can't figure it out". DUMMKOPFS!! so, we hit the road and after massive amounts of trial and error, we got the thing to english. then putting in the destination was a tratm but from the directions we got from the hotel, we were able to get on the major highway without the sat-nav. we did our best to make TheWayne comfortable since he was the only one who could drive. the car maxed out at 185kph, which sucked, because, THIS IS THE AUTOBAHN, MUTTERFIKKERS!

we arrived in berlin and found a starbucks where i tried to use my novice hacking skills to use their internet to find a place to stay. when that didn't work, we went to an internet cafe where TheWayne and i looked up hotels and hostels to stay at while TheTav updated his facebook and made dates for when he was back home. TheWayne did the calling since i'm a phonophobe, but we found out there was an ICC convention in town and that is why all the places were booked. even hostels were full up. at one point, we could've gotten 3 beds in a barracks of sorts, but TheTav wasn't up for the non-privacy. while look around, we drove past an old-but-nice-in-it's-time hotel called the berlin excelsior. on a whim, i suggested we stop to see if they had any rooms, which amazingly they did. we didn't want to pay for 3 people since europe charges rooms per person, so we said there were two people and snuck the third one in. we returned the car to the hertz building which was an ordeal. seemingly you have to pull your car up to within INCHES of hitting the garage door before the ticket device spits out a ticket to let you in. i called security to let us in several times before he came out and showed us how to get in. after dropping off the car, we walked to the checkpoint charlie train stop back towards the hotel and grabbed some unexciting dinner, as most of the restaurants were closing and no one was really out. we went back to the hotel and smuggle our third-wheel back in. we pushed the two tiny beds together to made a tiny double bed. TheWayne and TheTav fell asleep on top of the covers, and like the lumps that they were, i couldn't get them to move so i bundled up a T-shirt as a pillow and slept smashed against the wall (as you can TheTav must've gotten cold in the night and pulled the blanket from under him).

we woke up late the next day for a big day out exploring the sites of berlin. we started off walking around tiergarten which is just a huge garden/park/zoo of sorts in berlin. we walked a while through this awesome park. it was nice and cool, very comfortable weather. during our walk, we saw a blue tent maybe a half a mile away and a naked guy walking around it cleaning up. cheap lodging, i guess. we came through tiergarten to the berlin victory column. this column was erected to commemorate the danish-prussian war victory but by the time it was completed, they'd also won the austro- and franco-prussian wars (thank you wikipedia). the victory column is set in the middle of a big round about encircled by 6 lanes of crazy german traffic. getting to it from the east or west is OK as there is a walkway that goes under the road. we were coming from the south, and being that we are boys, americans, and like a challenge, we ran across traffic to get to it... with no undue injury. on the way back, the traffic was a little heavier but nothing like egypt, so i was a pro. the only thing i worried about was what if i rolled an ankle. there would be NO chance for a car stopping. HEADLINE -- CLUMSY AMERICAN BITES IT WHILE RUNNING AWAY FROM VICTORY COLUMN - STUPID FAT AMERICANS!!! after the victory column, we worked our way eastward to brandenburg gate. i'm not one much for history, sadly, but i learned that the brandenburg gate was use as a party icon for the third reich and the nazi party. it was also an additional symbol of the division between east and west germany. either way, a pretty cool monument with a story some history buffs might be interested in.

from there we wound our way to the berlin wall and checkpoint charlie. there are only a few parts of the berlin wall still up as a sort of memoriam. instead they've placed in the road and sidewalk red bricks showing where the berlin wall ran. i thought that was a pretty cool idea, seeing the red bricks snake around the city. while you're walking around along zimmerstra╬▓e (zimmer street) or any of the other streets along this area, there are wallboards put up along the street describing to you the different stages of the war, the run up to the war and the entire timeline. as i said, i'm not a huge history person, but we spent an hour or two just walking along reading about the history of this place. where we were standing was a "killzone" where people were murdered trying to cross the border. it gave the experience a far more visceral feeling than reading about it in a high-school history book or watching a documentary on the the history channel. i learned far more about the war and the war effort there, walking the sidewalk, than i had in all the years of my schooling. checkpoint charlie has turned into a bit of a tourist attraction where they have faux-german, russian, and US soldiers there to pose for pictures. i was a complete moron and got my actual passport stamped with the "official era-appropriate passport stamps of the time" by some street vendor. it looked official, he took up two whole pages with USSR, german, and US stamps. once i had it done, an american girl looked over my shoulder and asked if we were allowed to do that to which i replied, "i certainly hope so". we walked by later and the vendor had all the stamps covered up when a camera crew came by. that made me a bit suspicious. i looked at the fine print on the passport and MAYBE i shouldn't've had that guy stamp it. i'm going to claim ignorance. i bought a piece of the berlin wall at the checkpoint charlie museum/store. kinda cool. i'm guessing the commies didn't expect people to be making money off their wall of division. capitalism at its best.

the rest of the time was touristy, just hanging. TheWayne looked into us taking a train to prague and crashing in a hostel. we grabbed lunch at a traditionally german restaurant and for some reason i got mexican-style steak. we went back to the hotel to clean up for a bit. we went out then to grab dinner at an american style bar called juleps NYC. it was good. we met a waitress named christine. we tried to get her to go out with us after she was done. we thought she was almost for it, but alas, no. she told us about a place called schwarze cafe, which we checked out. i don't really recall much about this bar so it must not have been very good. i recall having absinthe (which i was disappointed in) and 2 beers at a time, i must've been on a mission. i think i recall the bar being really dark, and i have written down in my notes (yeah, i need notes) that the waiter was a shitehead. maybe TheWayne can enlighten... i have something about a bathroom written down? after the bar, we grabbed a 3 euro taxi ride in a cool big van (we didn't realize how close we were to our hotel). we snuck our third-party back to our room where TheWayne passed out and The Tav and i watched the biden destroy palin in the vice-presidential debates (yeah that's how long ago this happened, sorry, i'm so behind). tomorrow, we leave berlin.

checkpoint charlie post with guards


my ultimate dreamcar, the bugatti veyron, that we incidentally stumbled upon in a showroom while we were walking around.


me with my dream car


more berlin pix here if you are interested.

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3 Comments:

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Guys,

great trip
I've had some of those trips a coupe of years ago, and I'm really dying do to it again.

I came across a brand new search engine for cheap places to stay.

It's called TFTHostels
google it and maybe in the future you'll have less trouble finding an place to stay.

10:33 AM, April 04, 2009  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

OH, Zachariah...tisk tisk...don't be afraid...embrace your gay-ness...you wanted to be along the wall, cuz you told me dat you liked spoonin' on your right side...I'll nevuh forget that night...you were so special to me! Oh, and dontchya forgets about our private porn-style photo shoot in Prag-ee-wa-gee!! Tee-hee-tee-hee!! LOL!

Accurate on all accounts. Minor details...When we figured out the Hertz sat-nav, we went back to the hotel to load up the Kia and checkout. We ended up leaving behind schedule. Tavis did a horrible job of being DJ during the drive. We saw a lot of wind turbines. We were disappointed with the lack of super cars on the bahn. My knee got pretty sore from driving, and I was falling asleep behind the wheel. You were getting pretty pissed off with how we were going about finding a place to stay. We never discovered what the story was behind what looked to be gas pipelines running up above the street level throughout Berlin. You guys kept bitching at me even though I was the one doing the searching for where to go out to at night. Juleps was dead. The late night cafe waiter was strictly business. He was not keen on any sort of pleasantries, and you just wanted to fight. You got lit up REAL quick from the absinthe. There was something novel about the bathroom, but I forget...maybe the wall or the urinal. Then I got wicked tired. We finished our beers and lifted it back to the hotel. A certainly lame night considering Berlin has supposedly amazing night life. Then again, it was a Monday night, so we weren't likely to find it really hoppin' anywhere.

9:41 PM, April 07, 2009  
Blogger slyght said...

i thought me getting all amped up on absinthe was prague. at some hipster bar. i do recall not liking the bartender, and the bathroom being cool, but i can't recall why on either account.

yeah, yeah, i'm still trying to figure out how to write the impromptu porn-shoot / nudity in a tasteful fashion.

12:56 AM, April 08, 2009  

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