We landed at Berlin Tegel a little after 8 a.m./ 2 a.m. at home. (Right now Berlin is only 6 hours ahead of CST, as daylight savings time doesn't happen here for two more weeks). I was surprised that as soon as we deplaned, the customs area was right away. We didn't have to haul a$$ for five miles like you usually do on international flights. We showed our passports and received our stamp. Jeff had his bag on the plane, but Dad and i checked ours in at O'Hare, so we had to wait a bit for ours. We exited baggage claim and easily found the bus stop for the 109 bus toward our hotel stop. I stopped at the tourism office and bought a group transportation day ticket, which is good for groups of 2-5 people on all public transit for a day. Berlin is interesting in that the subways are on the honor system and just "open." You don't have to use a gate or turn thing and insert your ticket first. Apparently fines are pretty steep if you get caught without a ticket or validated ticket.
It was about a 25-minute ride to our stop, and we found our hotel fairly easily. Hommage a Magritte is a very nice and quiet boutique hotel. We were welcomed kindly, shown to our room, and then welcomed to have breakfast, which goes until 11 a.
We took the underground (subway) to Potzdamer Platz and visited an original watch tower during the days the Berlin Wall was up. It's the only one of its kind still remaining. The guide who runs it is part of a group that is voluntarily, and Kurt was excellent. He was from Minnesota and studying German history. He told us a lot about the Wall, and how it also had an interior wall and death trap. Sand was used to track people who tried to scale it, and often German shepherds were let loose on people. We were able to climb, (like a ladder) to the top of the tour, about 40 feet high. Dad was hesitant, but Jeff climbed behind him and we told him to take it easy. We told him it was like climbing a silo. The guards basically had to walk in circles when they worked the towers. It was not heated in the winter. I was really glad we were able to see this, as it's a bit off the tourist track.
We then visited The Memorial to the Murdered Jews of Europe, which consists of over 2,700 columns of varying height.
We saw a portion of the Berlin Wall on our walking tour, as well as Checkpoint Charlie, which isn't the real check point and a bit overrated. We also stood over the area that was Hitler's Bunker where he committed suicide. This was not an area with a lot of fanfare or a plaque, which we thought was appropriate. Brandenburger Tor, the royal gate that separated East and West Berlin, is pretty impressive. It was completed in 1791 as a regal entrance to the city. Now it symbolizes reunification.
We cut out of the tour a bit early because we were cold (very windy today) and feeling the jet lag. We had a traditional German dinner at Augustiner Gendermenmarkt. We will head in early, as it has been a long day, and Jeff calculated that we walked a solid 3.5 miles.
Thanks for reading!