Friday, 21 January 2011

Germany - The first ampelmann

Hello everyone!

I mentioned last time that there were three of us in the formerly divided capital. As well as Arth and Jon, we were being joined today by my friend from Austria, called Kristina. Going to meet her at the station menat that I only got 4 hours of sleep - a common theme on this trip.

Today was our tourist day. A chance to see the sights and take some pictures, but also an opportunity to tap into the history and culture that makes Berlin such an interesting melting pot. To help me get this across, I'll quickly explain some of these aspects.

Like Germany itself, Berlin spent almost half of the last century divided between two ideologies. Literally divided with that wall. Although that was torn down in 1989, reminders of the division abound across the city. Some are obvious - Checkpoint Charlie, the principal gateway between the two Berlins for the Allies, still exists.

But this division is also noticeable in other ways, and the traffic lights are a good alternative example. The red and green 'walk/don't walk' men are different in West and East Berlin. West Berlin's traffic lights have what we could consider as normal symbols. East Berlin has the ampelmann. Who is much cooler, as you can see.

Much has happened since unification, too. We saw the hotel where MJ did a spot of baby-dangling. Intriguingly, one window of the hotel was left open. Not sure if that was his window or if it's a coincidence. He won't do it again, though. The hotel itself is in sight of Berlin's most famous current landmark, the Brandenburg Gate. Not as big as I anticipated, but impressive nonetheless, and another reminder of another time.

Don't be fooled by the burden of past politik though. Berlin is a forward-thinking place. I've been to one German city before, but the vibe is very different to Munich. Here is more cosmopolitan, more international. It oozes class. Not many cities have a Bugatti Veyron in a shop window. €1.7million, of you're interested. And a lot of insurance.

This was a Friday, so an opportunity to experience the techno clubs, a cornerstone of Berlin nightlife. It is different to the accepted British style of partying in many ways, one of which is that the clubs in Berlin are just kicking into gear when most British clubs are kicking people out. Night owls, the Berliners. They also, to a man, drink on the metro, which I am a big fan of.

Our destination was a club in Alexanderplatz called Weekend. Once we got in - we only did because Jon charmed the bouncers and pointed out that it was his birthday wish - we headed up the skyscraper to the 7th floor, where the club was located. This is where we stayed for the duration of the night - Weekend is famous for its rooftop bar, but it was closed. For winter. Lack of research there.

The night itself was good fun, in spite of my indifferent attitude towards techno music. We met lots of crazy people - I even found a Korean dude in amongst the dancing lunatics. We can't count ourselves in the 'crazy' group, as we left early. I say early, it was after 4am. Still, an excellent day and night in what we are increasingly viewing as an excellent city.

Love you all


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