Berlin in Four Hours

IMG_2269 On Tuesday we took a trip to Berlin to apply for our visas at the Czech Embassy.  We left early in the morning far before the sun had risen, driving along the European highways with a driver who seemed to know the route like the back of his hand.   We slept for a couple of hours in the car, but after a while, I couldn’t help but look wide-eyed at the German signs and scenery.  Five years of learning the language had given me a clear yet previously unfounded affinity for the country. We arrived at the embassy around 9:30 in the morning and as a group of sleepy americans wandered into the building, settled down around a table and filled out some forms that our visa assistance coordinator handed to us.  The whole process took about two hours and cost about 100 Euros. Afterwards, we were able to explore the city for two short hours.  We decided to make the most of it, and traveled quickly to the Brandenburg Gate. IMG_2263 All around us we saw a city that looked completely different from what we have become accustomed to in Prague.  Law abiding citizens who don’t jay-walk no matter what the circumstances, wide open spaces everywhere you look, extensive bike lanes, trillions of bikes locked up, and bike riders taking advantage of the sunny day.  We were all shocked at the quiet, clean nature of the city center that we were exploring.  There were very few people walking on the streets, and on some streets, we saw almost no one.  Even in the city center, it had a neighborhood-like, quiet feel.  It also seemed that everywhere we looked there was some type of cool art or something interesting to look at. IMG_2260 This was a cool statue that just popped out of the trees at us when we first got there of silhouetted Georg Elser, the would-be assassin of Hitler. IMG_2274 Then we found a miniature city of concrete blocks which we found out is the Memorial to murdered Jews of Europe.  There is an attached plaque underground of all the names of those killed in the Holocaust. We were all hungry after our morning of travels, so we stopped at a small diner and ordered currywurst and potato salad.  The food was great. IMG_2279 And what would a trip to Germany be without drinking German beer?  We had a couple pilsners at a next-door pub and unsurprisingly commented on how similar it was to Czech beer (and way more expensive). IMG_2280 I loved Berlin, and I was so surprised to see how much of a difference a few hundred Km can make.  It was clear we were in a different country, albeit a neighboring country.  I hope we can take a trip to Berlin again to have more time to explore.

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