BootsnAll Travel Network

Berlin: And the Goblet of Fire

In Berlin, the taxis are all Mercedes Benz. Just thought I’d throw that our there.

After two weeks in Cesky Krumlov, there was a mass exodus on Monday 28th November, as Bec and me, Casey and Aigin, and Simon and Alex all departed on a 3.17pm bus to Prague. Well, at least it was scheduled for 3.17pm. At about 3.25pm, after ten minutes of waiting in the freezing cold air, Casey asked a young girl also waiting at the bus stop, “Ah, are you going to Prague?”

“Yes, yes. But sometimes the bus is a little late.”

“Ok, there you go folks, the bus is sometimes late,” Casey informed us.

“And sometimes, it does not come at all,” the girl added.

Half an hour later, the bus did thankfully show up. Three hours beyond that, we bid farewell to Casey, Aigin, and Simon, who were going to stay with a friend in Prague’s outer suburbs, and Bec, Alex and I found ourselves a hostel closer to the city. Early the next morning, after going into town to take some photographs of a deserted Charles Bridge as the sun rose, Bec and I got a train north into Germany, headed for the history rich capital of Berlin.

Putting it simply, Berlin was an amazing city. A city that breathes history; a three hour walking tour will deliver you from the Brandenburg Gate, where Napolean marched through on his way to conquer Russia and which was one of the only landmarks still standing after the fierce Allied bombing attack on Berlin at the end of World War II, onto the site of Adolph Hitler’s bunker, a site with no markings or indication at all that this was where one of history’s monsters met his fate. As our tour guide explained, there is still a small pocket of neo nazis in Germany, and the last thing they need is a public shrine at which to worship. We also passed through the Jewish Holocaust Memorial, a slightly disorienting and unnerving collection of 2000 or so concrete blocks of varying sizes, arranged in a grid pattern, but with weird leaning angles, and rolling pathways between them. With the moisture from left over snow, droplets of water ran down the sides of the blocks, “They look like tears,” Bec commented. Further, you see a stretch of the original Berlin Wall, left in its original condition, and ironically, protected by a chain fence to stop people pilfering sections of the wall for themselves. This particular stretch of wall stands on the site of the former Nazi headquarters, and beside it, stretching along a trench dug next to the wall, is a chilling, permanent display; The Topography of Terror, that charted the history of the Nazi party; standing in the cold listening to the English audio that accompanied the German text was a sobering way to spend a few hours. Beyond here, we were led to the infamous Checkpoint Charlie. One of eight checkpoints between the East and West of Berlin during the period of the Berlin Wall (1961 – 1989), it was the backdrop for a number of daring escapes by East Germans headed for the West, a majority of whom were border guards who simply dropped their guns and made a dash for it. Further on, and you find yourself on Museum Island, upon which sits the Berlin Cathedral, a towering architectural mish mash that sits in the Lust Garten where Hitler held his Nazi party rallies. And across the road from here, the square outside Humboldt University’s Law Faculty (a university where Albert Einstein taught) where the Nazi’s burnt books in their thousands.

Not satisfied with our fill of history after that, Bec and I headed to the Jewish Museum; a dynamic looking building very reminiscent of Melbourne’s Federation Square buildings, with sharp lines, all at strange angles; there’s not a rectangle or square in sight. It traced the history of the Jews from as far back as the Middle Ages, through to their integration into German society, before Hitler’s rise to power in 1933 saw them stripped of nearly all their rights and then during the second World War executed in their millions. A wonderful museum, one that you could spend an entire day in and not soak up every piece of information presented.

But Berlin is not a city trapped by its dark history. It is brilliantly alive with youth. Over the past few years young artists have flocked here, to the point where the entire city is like a one giant art gallery. Walk the streets, particularly in the suburb of Mitte, where Bec and I stayed, and seemingly behind every second window is an art studio, with sculptures and paintings looking out to the street, and a hip young thing sitting behind an iMac. Walk at night, and see the side of an old building being used as a giant movie screen by a gallery in a building across the street, projecting huge images from an old black and white film for all to see. Walk the streets, and avoid being hit by an old push bike. In Australia, the people who ride bikes are athletic, outdoorsy types, who ride thousand dollar mountain bikes with front suspension. In Berlin, everyone rides bikes; old, 1950’s style bikes, with curved handle bars, and one gear (there’s hardly a hill to be found in the whole city). And they wear funky coats and scarves, and there are endless flea markets around the city, selling antique wares, and right now, Christmas markets on every other corner, selling nifty little wooden toys, mulled wine, beanies and thick socks.

And you know what else they had, something I hadn’t thought about in months; movies. In English. Bec and I hadn’t been to the movies for at least 9 months, and after two weeks of partying in Cesky Krumlov, a few quiet nights in Berlin was just what we needed. And what better place to be quiet than at the movies. We spotted a list at the hostel of movies showing at the main cinema, one of which jumped out at us immediately; Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire.

“Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire?!? I didn’t even know that was coming out. Man, we’re so out of the loop.”

“Yeah, let’s go see it.”

And so off we went to Potsdamer Platz (once the busiest intersection in Europe, before it was bombed to oblivion in WWII), and raced to find the cinema. The movie was slated for 7.30, and was 7.25 when Bec and I walked inot the lobby, and up to the counter to buy our tickets.

“2 students please.” Bec asked as we flashed our Youth Travel cards. They’re not student cards, per se, (neither of us have been students for a few years now) but rather show that you are aged under 26, a qualification which can gain you discounts on any number of things, and will usually fool someone when they ask for a student card.

The girl serving us took the two cards and held them up to her face, inspecting them as though a cop going over the driver’s licence of someone they’ve just pulled over. She raised her eyes from the cards up to us. We stood and smiled, hoping for the best.

“These are not student cards.”

“Uh, yeah, you don’t have a discount for youth?”

“We have a discount for students. These do not say you are a student,” she spat at us, “all this says is you are under 26.”

We didn’t really know what to say to that.

“Front or back?!”

“Uh, back?”

“17 Euro.”

Right then. We found our seats, way up the back in the almost deserted cinema. If my nose was capable of bleeding (I’ve never had a blood nose in my life), I reckon it could have started way up there. After five or so minutes of waiting, the lights finally dimmed a little, the curtain drew back, and the advertisements started. And kept going. And going. And going. For half a bloody hour, they went, on and on. And then, after the last advertisement, the lights came on, and the curtain closed again. What the…? Where’s the bloody movie? What the hell is going on? Is that it? Did I just pay 10 bucks to watch half an hour of ads?

My questions were answered when two dudes in the universally ridiculous uniform of movie theatre employees marched down the sides of the cinema, offering to sell ice creams.

Just put the movie on for fucks sake. If people are too fat and lazy to get up out of their seats during the ads and walk to the lobby to buy an ice cream, then I don’t think they’re the sort of people who should be eating ice cream in the first place.

Finally, well after 8 o’clock, the movie started. And I forgot about the outside world, forgot I was in Germany, forgot I was on the other side of the world, and got sucked into the world of Hogwarts and dragons and port keys and broomsticks. For an hour and a half I was transfixed. And then, just as the tension was mounting, the screen went black, and big white letters appeared; PAUSE. The lights came up, and everyone started conversing amongst themselves in German.

OH C’MON, you’re killing me here! Just put the movie back on. Please. C’mon, I’ll buy you a beer.

Ten minutes of sitting and twiddling our thumbs passed ever so slowly, before the movie reappeared and I tried to remember what the hell had been happening before the interval. The movie played itself out, and Bec and I strolled out into the street with smiles on our faces. Had it not been for the fact that we had to pay full price for the movie tickets, I reckon we would’ve got a taxi home. C’mon, it’s a Mercedes Benz.

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