My recent trip to Germany was a real eye-opener. I never seen so many fascinating places of interest, with its rich history and heritage, plus the difference in culture between the British and German was deeply interesting. I’ve managed to get by the language barrier as many Germans can speak English, so that was particular useful when ordering food!
I always wanted to visit the country since my sister lives and work there. My parents went earlier this year but I was unable to go due to the amount of work I had to do… I have made amends by suggesting to my mates to tag along by visiting Berlin (the capital city of Germany), Aschaffenburg (my sister’s home town) and Munich (for the Oktoberfest).
My mates stayed at my house on Friday night, as we had to catch a really early flight from London’s Luton Airport the very next day. We didn’t get that much sleep as we were all excited in going on holiday, plus the fact we were playing Rock Band quite late!
The flight to Berlin was surprisingly short, just over an hour, and as soon as we collected our luggage we were faced with a situation of finding our apartment. We had no idea how to get there or where it was, so instead of opting for public transport such as the buses and the Berlin metro, we decided to take the taxi.
Luckily, the taxi driver knew the way though he had to cross-reference the address with his road map from time to time. We arrived in a short space of time and were greeted by a woman who spoke only German! Fortunately her husband was on hand to help us as he spoke very good English. He showed around the place. It was a very nice apartment and my mate was quite pleased, as he was the one who found this accommodation after doing some research on the Interweb.
After the brief tour around the different rooms, we dropped off our bags and decided to venture into the city centre. The previous day, I went to my local bookshop to find a guidebook on Berlin and came across this gem. This book was my bible and it became very handy for us to explore the different part of the city. It came with not one, but four maps! So getting around was very easy.
The Brandenburg Gate
The gorgeous Bugatti Veyron. I want it!
A city scene with the Fernsehturm in the background
On the first day in Berlin, we headed to Brandenburg Gate. This place was the ideal start to our holiday as the Brandenburg Gate marked the iconic landmark to the city and country. We took many photos of the gate and made our way down the famous Unter den Linden. Along the way, we visited some high-end shops, car showrooms (including the Bugatti Veyron) and museums. In the distance, we could see TV tower (the Fernsehturm) overlooking the city. We decided to go up the tower but were quite surprised by the queuing system.
The view from the Fernsehturm overlooking Berlin
In fact, it was quite frustrating to wait for your turn as each ticket had a time stamp on when it was the right opportunity to go up… After a one-hour wait (we wasted that period by having some drinks) we took the lift up towards the observation deck. The view from the top was quite spectacular but after the initial “wow” factor of seeing the tower from the ground, observing the view from the top and that long waiting period made it a bit underwhelming… My mate was quite disappointed to be honest but we made up for it when we hit the bars for food and drinks later that evening!
The next day was a Sunday and it was unusual as everything was closed! No shops, restaurants or bars were opened so instead of lounging around in our apartment with hundreds of satellite channels that offer nothing worthwhile to watch, we decided to walk around our local area. We found a nice open-air market selling little household items. My friend even managed to pick-up a good quality wristwatch from one of the stands for a bargain price! After this we headed to bar to drink more beer and planned our next move when Berlin ‘reopened’ on Monday.
The impressive dome at the Reichstag building.
A stylish shot of me from the dome’s reflections
More artistic shots of the Norman Foster-designed dome
We decided to go to the Reichstag building on the first day of the week. The Norman Foster-designed dome was the main highlight and the view from the parliament building was amazing. The dome itself was breathtaking and I can’t help but take stylish photographs in the reflective surfaces!
The impressive Sony Center
After visiting the Reichstag, we went for a brief walkabout taking more scenic photos before heading off to the Sony Center near Potsdamer Platz. This place was incredible! The Sony-sponsored building complex featured another magnificent dome and at night, it lit up in different colours! We had dinner there at an Australian bar/restaurant and that kangaroo steak I had was simply delicious!
The following day, the weather turned quite foul so we decided to spend most of the time indoors visiting the main museum in Berlin – the Pergamonmuseum. The exhibits on display were striking in particular the Babylon collection. Unfortunately I couldn’t take any photographs but believe me, this was one exhibition I would like to go again!
We brought a special day-pass to visit all the museums and it was really worthwhile as there was so much to see. From paintings, sculptures to ancient artefacts.
The astonishing Olympic Stadium
The weather cleared up the next day and my mate suggested that we should visit the Olympic Stadium. It was quite far to get there, but thanks to Berlin’s excellent public transport in particular the metro system (the U-Bahn), getting around the city was straightforward. The stadium itself was incredible. The architecture and the size of the venue were astonishing.
The beautiful palace of Schloss Charlottenburg
After taking more cinematic photographs overlooking the running track and football pitch, we made our way to Schloss Charlottenburg. The Charlottenburg Palace is the largest palace in Berlin and the only building in the city dating back to the time of the Hohenzollern family. Each room have been faithfully restored in the style of baroque and rococo. It looked impressive and the large formal garden behind the palace made it even more picturesque.
Later that evening, we made our trip to Kurfürstendamm and the Kaiser-Wilhelm-Gedächtniskirche. The Kaiser William Memorial Church had an eerie feel to it, as it was badly damaged during a bombing raid in World War II. The site stills stands to this day but with the broken part of the spire, it reveals the devastating effects of the war and Berlin’s dark history…
As for the location, the Kurfürstendamm is one of the most famous avenues for top-end fashion labels. This very broad, long boulevard can be considered as Berlin’s version of Champs-Élysées (in Paris) with designer shops, expensive hotels, houses and restaurants. We managed to find a nice bar serving food for a reasonable price and after that we decided to walk down the long avenue (stopping by a cool Porsche Design shop and a modern art gallery), before grabbing some donuts and heading back home!
More shots from the city including me standing next to the Berlin Wall
The last few remaining days in Berlin, we visited the other top locations suggested by the guidebook such as the Alexanderplatz, the Berliner Funkturm, the Berlin Wall and even more museums/art galleries that the city had to offer. It had been an exhilarating experience and we very much enjoyed our time in Berlin. Our next stop was to Aschaffenburg via Frankfurt.
The train journey to Aschaffenburg was very long. It took four hours for the high-speed intercity train to make its journey from one of Germany’s state (Berlin) to Hesse (Frankfurt). By the time we reached the main train station in Germany’s fifth-largest city, I was feeling the strain… My sister called me on my mobile and she told me to buy a single train ticket to her hometown. Problem was, the station was jammed-packed with hundreds of people and me plus the others were carrying heavy luggage… We managed to find a ticket office and purchased the right fare. The train journey to my sister’s place was around half-an-hour away and by the time we got there, I was ready to sleep!
My sister and my good friend Simon was there to greet us at Aschaffenburg and after dropping off our luggage at her apartment, we made our way to Elena’s house for dinner. Elena is Kitty’s best friend and we felt really welcome in her cosy home. We had a nice meal and spent most the rest of the evening talking about life compare to the UK and Germany over a glass of red wine (with a added bit of Coke-Cola!).
The next day we headed to Munich and it was a very early start as the train journey was another long trip (around two and a half hours). We managed to get some rest but being the Oktoberfest, there were many people already drunk and starting to sing! (I ignored the half-deaf chanting by listening to my music on my iPhone)
Some picturesque shots of Munich
The stunning architecture of Munich’s Olympic Stadium
Inside the impressive BMW museum
Ah, Munich. What a nice place to visit. It’s the capital city of Bavaria, Germany and for this particular time of year, it is the Oktoberfest! We opted not to go to the beer drinking area until later that day, instead we went into sightseeing mode taking in the beautiful surroundings including the city’s impressive Olympic stadium and the BMW factory/museum.
After taking yet more photographs, we headed to the madness that is the Oktoberfest… It was a fun but scary place. So many people were there, enjoying the good times of getting pissed! We managed to get a table after moving from one area to another hoping for some rewarding alcohol! The atmosphere was something to behold. Everyone was laughing, shouting and sharing the love of beer! Coming in at one litre, the beer itself was so refreshing. It was very easy to get merry with a couple of Steins and believe me – the state that we were going through as we drank into the early evening was so funny!
We headed back home in our silly condition and fell promptly asleep on the night train. By the time we got back at Kitty’s place we were all sober!
The last day we decided to take it easy by settling in to watch the Singapore Grand Prix, the first-ever night race for Formula One. Originally, Kitty wanted to take us to a sports bar to watch the race live. But being a Sunday, everything was closed! Despite going from one sports bar to another via taxi, we went back to her apartment and watched the event with the help of her laptop and video projector.
A nice group photograph of everyone including Kitty’s cool Nintendo friends
Following on from the highly eventful race won by my favourite Formula One driver Fernando Alonso (yes!), we met up with my sister’s close friends (who all work for Nintendo) for some drinks. We went to beautiful part of Aschaffenburg (the forest region) for a spot of refreshing beverage in a nice beer garden.
And after that, it was time to head home. Not to Kitty’s relaxing apartment, but off home to the UK… It had been a wonderful past couple of days in Germany and I was delighted that my close mates were able to experience it. It was great to see my sister again as we are really close and it was especially cool to meet her Nintendo buddies.
If we had more time, we would have gone to Frankfurt. But we can save that for later.
Overall, our holiday in Germany has been a rewarding and captivating experience. As I end this blog post, I am already missing it (in particular the beer and food). I vowed to return as Berlin offered so much to see and do. Perhaps next time, we can spend more days seeing the many parts of the country.