Wednesday, 14 June 2017

Day 2 - Port of Warnemunde for Berlin

Checkpoint Charlie, entrance to what was the American Sector of Berlin West
Breakfast in the room. Ever since the Transatlantic with Celebrity I don't think we have ever bothered with climbing up the stairs for the rugby buffet breakfast experience - Gemma spoilt us forever though we are yet to find her match. I dont quite understand why people put themselves through the whole buffet experience unless its to study how different cultures interpret the word queuing. TBF I think Savor is open most mornings if you prefer a waiter service.. Anyway tea (Earl Grey Hot!) is delivered on time as two flasks of hot water though the toasted muffins and croissants seems to have been misinterpreted as several rather random danish and cinnamon rolls. I also swear that it doesn't matter who you cruise with - if you ask for marmalade you will always get apricot jam. Anyway its enjoyable though the weather as expected looks diabolical - so a quick hot massage shower (woohoo!!) dressed and brollies at the ready we are ready for Berlin. Whats a little rain when you live in England.
The drive to Berlin wouldn't be so bad if it wasn't for the fact the scenery is basically grass, trees and the odd windmill - Jack says I'm being kind and it was trees, trees and more trees (apparently they were dull trees at that) - no hills of any description, just a never ending horizon of German fields and forests. Luckily the Kindle's battery lasts out and the coach has reclinable seats. There is a comfort break halfway through at a small service station where a poor German lady is suddenly attacked on all fronts by mad English speaking tourists demanding 50c Euro coins to use the bathroom whilst waving 50E notes at her. She handles all of this with typical German efficiency which gives me a glimmer of  hope for Brexit negotiations.

We are finally deposited outside the Berlin Olympic Stadium built for the summer of 1936 games by Architect Werner March. A great Nazi showcase of the Aryan race until Jesse Owens threw a spanner in the works. Here we meet Stefan, who runs the Berlin side of the company (SPB) whilst his wife runs the outfit in St Petersburg (he asks us to say hi to her from him). He introduces us to our guide the wonderful Jan - who is the teacher you always wished for but instead got the one who put you in a coma for the day. I swear we learn more in a day regarding the Kaisers, the 1st - 2nd and 3rd Reichs, the Nazis and the Cold War than I have ever known before. Jan has a perfect Oxbridge sounding English voice - is a lawyer by profession but enjoys his other job, guiding in Berlin - his thesis was on the Reichstag. His style is highly effectual, highly non PC (in his words-hurray) and very dramatic as he runs around drawing maps in the ground. German history is quite complex but basically its like Game of Thrones without the dyed grey hair.

The rain has eased a little - and Jan spends some time getting his little group  to say where they are from. So basically all Americans bar two families from Cuba & Singapore and us - Jan turns to us and pleads for us not to leave the EU. You may have noticed in the picture above a man dressed in shorts - t shirt and slippers. I can only assume they had an inside cabin and simply didn't notice the weather had changed overnight  or they were caught up in the BA lost luggage fiasco that happened the week before as both he and his wife ended up looking like they had ridden river rapids after 10 minutes.

On that note you'll notice a theme developing in these photos - dont forget to pack a brolly. Its quite odd but as Jan takes us through the complex history of the Tsars and the horror and lunacy of the 3rd Reich and Nazis that the grey gloom seems to actually fit the city.

Brandenburg Gate
 Jan takes our orders for lunch (which he says will be a typical German affair - sausages then!) so it will be ready when we arrive at the traditional German restaurant. Here he helps serve the dishes  and steal tap water for us to go with our beers and wine. (Germans like to charge for tap water - Be aware if they seem grumpy when they serve you that's fine and normal, Jan tell us - if they shout loudly at you they may be slightly annoyed - dont even ask what service will be like if they dont like you)

After Lunch the rain finally stops and it appears the sun is trying to break through - the forecast was correct then and we continue on our tour taking in more and more iconic buildings, including this subtle and thoughtful monument to the book burning event in Bebelplatz Square. Through a glass window in the square where the burning took place a library has been created with empty shelves.

There are so many buildings in Berlin that are recognisable  due to the fact you have probably seen them or the huge squares in historic footage of the many rally events that took place once the Nazi party came to power.

Altes Museum


However the most visited area is a small crossroads  in to what was the American sector during the cold war. To be honest Checkpoint Charlie is a bit of  a disappointment after all the beautiful architecture and classic buildings. Its basically a fake tourist copy. Other than the fact its in the correct place everything about it is false including as Jan points out 3 spelling mistakes on the board. However there is nothing fake about the remaining section of the Berlin Wall (unlike the  -ahem- bits of it you will see for sale as fridge magnets).


I probably have only covered half of what we saw and did today. Its a long day and yes its a long coach trip but we would not have missed it for the world. This is what we both love about cruising - waking up to a new place of interest in a different country every morning. We say our goodbyes to Jan and head back to the ship in glorious sunshine - though mainly asleep.

We are totally exhausted by the time we return but a quick shower and dinner in the MDR revitalizes us for the evening. Food is excellent again and our wine waiter is especially jovial tonight. The Tropicana dining room still has the same issue that I described in our last trip report on the Epic. When the band's playing in the dining room the sound can be really dodgy depending on where your sat - all we could hear was bass boom. We sail away late in the evening after dark - waved on by many locals and to the accompaniment, by coincidence of a large firework display a little further down the coast. The captain confirms that we are going to have good weather from this point onward and as its a sea day tomorrow we can look forward to a nice lie in.

Click here for day 3

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