As this was primarily a sightseeing trip we decided to short-list just a handful of must-do caches, half a dozen max (quality not quantity) .... to which Mark mysteriously added some Wherigos for the last day
So this is a blog about some of the places we visited on our 4-night break and the very few caches that we found.
We got up at the ridiculous hour of 3am and left the house just over an hour later for our flight from East Midlands airport at 6.30am.
Arrived at 9am CET at Berlin Schönefeld airport.
Even though we would be using mainly public transport in the city we decided to hire a car just to make things a little easier and to give us a bit more freedom ... also we got a good deal from the hire company . The funny thing was that we'd booked a polo-sized car (not the mint ) and the girl on the desk asked if we needed a larger car, we said it would be fine unless the upgrade was free-of-charge of course, to which she replied 'nein'. She also asked if we needed GPS etc etc but we said we didn't, when she realised that we weren't going to be talked into an upgrade at extra cost she then handed over the keys to a shiny new Ford Focus Estate complete with built-in sat nav! Not bad at all, a nice free upgrade.
First stop on our sightseeing itinerary was Sanssouci Park in Potsdam, this immense park is situated 25 miles south west from Central Berlin in the city of Potsdam and according to the Lonely Planet guide book is the most popular day trip from Berlin. It's been on the UNESCO World Heritage list since 1990, along with all of its other buildings.
|The New Palace|
Here's just a little bit of the history - Sanssouci Palace was the idea of Frederick the Great (1712-86), it was his favourite summer retreat, a place he could be 'sans souci' (without cares) and is an example of what happens when a king has good taste, plenty of money and access to the best architects and artists of that time.
Woke up to torrential rain which was far from ideal for city sightseeing but I'd already pre-booked tickets for the Reichstag Building weeks ago and these couldn't be changed so we had no option but to head out in the rain and make the best of it. Once we were out in it it wasn't too bad and we managed to avoid getting too wet by stopping for regular Kaffee and Kuchen breaks.
The Reichstag building is the seat of the German parliament and probably most well known to tourists for its elaborate hi-tech glass dome.
The security to get into the building itself was tighter than at an airport! The large glass dome at the top of the Reichstag building has a 360 degree view of Berlin city - although it was hard to make out any landmarks due to the torrential rain but we got the general idea. The glass dome serves more than just a decorative purpose and tourist attraction - it has 366 angled mirrors which deflect daylight down into the parliament chambers below.
The visit was really interesting and included a free audio guide to listen to as we walked up the spiral walkway to the top of the dome and back down again.
Brandenburg Gate (Brandenburger Tor)
Brandenburg Gate is probably the most famous landmark in Germany and is frequently used as a backdrop for news broadcasts and travel guides so we were really pleased to finally see it in real life. There was an earthcache here too so we gathered the information as we looked around and took photos before moving on to the Holocaust Memorial.
A quick look around the Sony Centre then onto the Lego Discovery Centre where there is a very well known cache outside - incidentally this was featured on geocaching.com's blog and FB page only the day before - this cache is a must-do as it is the most favourited traditional cache in the world with 5866 favourite points so far. We'd been searching a couple of minutes when we were joined by Robriki from the US so we all searched together and luckily Mark made the find after 5 mins - brilliant and definitely worthy of another favourite point.
|Topography of Terrors|
Checkpoint Charlie was the name given by the Western Allies to the best-known Berlin Wall crossing point between East Berlin and West Berlin during the Cold War and has become one of Berlin's primary tourist attractions. Tourists can have their photographs taken for a fee with fake US soldiers dressed in military uniform standing in front of the guard house. The whole area was a little over-commercialised for my liking which is a shame but it's what we were expecting as the guide books had warned of this.
There is also the most favourited virtual in the world here so another must-do.
We spent most of the day hopping on and off the U-Bahn:
Our first stop was The Berlin Wall Memorial - which is situated at the historic site on Bernauer Strasse, it extends along 1.4 kms of the former border strip. The memorial contains the last piece of Berlin Wall with the preserved grounds behind it. You are able to see how the border fortifications were developed and maintained until the end of the 1980s. The free to enter visitor centre screened two really interesting and informative 15-minute films which explained perfectly the origins and the eventual fall of the wall.
The area also has a memorial to the 138 people who were were killed or died at the Wall in connection with the East German border regime between 1961 and 1989.
|Memorial to the Victims at the Wall|
Very moving when you realised just how young some of the victims were.
We also completed a short multi here that has been on our to-do list ever since we first started caching, over the years we've been watching it, it has been disabled and re-enabled several times so we were glad it was in place for us to find today.
|Stasi Museum Entrance|
Continuing our tour of the more grim side of Berlin History and landmarks we visited the Stasi Museum.
The museum is housed in the original Haus 1 building of the Stasi Headquarters - the Stasi took over a vast number of buildings but only Haus 1 was open as a museum. The fixtures and fittings are as it was when they abandoned it in 1990 although they wouldn't look out of place in a 1960s John le Carré film adaptation.
The museum was spread over several floors but a rather vast amount of space was given over to the history of the organisation and the leaders with only a small number of counter espionage devices on show but it was extremely interesting all the same.
After a wet couple of days finally the sun came out today. We took a trip out to the East Side Gallery. The Gallery is 1316 metres long and consists of 105 paintings by artists from all over the world including the well known Brezhnev and Honecker painting. It is the longest segment of the Berlin Wall still standing. It was painted in 1990 on the east side of the Berlin Wall. It is thought to be the largest and longest-lasting open air gallery in the world. The paintings depict hopes for a better future for people all over the world. Over the years many of the images became greatly weathered and in 2009 forty of the murals were restored. Here are a selection of photos:
So, having been on the U-Bahn, buses and trams, we now decided to give the S-Bahn a go. The S-Bahn is a rapid transit light railway dating from the 1930s and we reckon some of the rolling stock dated from then as well! To all intents and purposes it operates the same as the U-Bahn with sections running both above and below ground.
We took the S-Bahn back up to Alexanderplatz and then made our way to The Dom
|Radisson Blu Giant Aquarium|
Next stop was a stroll around the Tiergarten which is a 520-acre urban public park located in the middle of the former West Berlin.
As we walked up the Unter den Linden towards Brandenburg Tor we became aware that there was a high Police presence and quite a few news crews and photographers in the area so we approached one of the photographers to ask what was going on and he said that they were waiting for the Queen to arrive but they didn't know when, we stood around and waited for a little while but as there was no sign of her we continued on our way. We had just crossed over from Brandenburg Gate when all of a sudden the traffic stopped and all fell quiet so when a Police helicopter flew over we knew her arrival must be imminent so we stood around and within a few minutes she went past in her Bentley.
We spent the rest of the day just generally chilling out and enjoying this great city before heading back to our apartment ready to pack for an early start on Friday morning to get our flight back home.
All in all a brilliant few days away in a fantastic city. We would highly recommend it to anyone who enjoys sightseeing with one or two quality caches thrown in .
Now where to next?...........