There are 30,000 bicycles in Berlin

Posted on Fri 15 August 2008 in general

The travel down was interesting. The Eurostar is fast, after a quick security screening and quick exchange of seats we were on. It gets up to 186mph and it didn't seem like long at all until we reached a mostly closed Brussels station. We had an hour to kill before the overnight sleeper which was mainly filled with reading the papers. Unfortunately there had been trouble with some of the carriages so we didn't get the "Deluxe" compartment with it's own shower and toilet facilities so we arrived in Berlin needing a little freshening up.

Sleep on the journey was light but I did feel rested once I got to Berlin although it took about a day on solid ground for my sense of balance to fully right itself. Sleep hadn't been helped by the regular network messages my phone received as we crossed numerous cell-phone operator boundaries. I was too paranoid about missing the alarm for getting off the train that I didn't put the phone on silent. In the end though it wouldn't have mattered as the conductor did knock and check we would be ready about an hour before arrival (~8.10 in the morning local time).

Fliss' cousin picked us up from the station and took us to their flat to freshen up and drop off bags before we did the tourist bit. Most of Wednesday was completed on foot as we took in the major sites including what little was left of the Wall, one of the many holocaust memorials, the Brandenburg Gate and the Reichstag. Fliss' camera now has a lot of photos of Berlin in it. By the end of the day we had walked quite a distance so headed to bed rather quickly after the evening meal.

Yesterday we spent mostly on the beach of the Wannsee enjoying the fine weather and catching up on reading. We spent the evening in East Berlin enjoying a lovely meal in a traditional German restaurant.

General impressions of Berlin are that it is a poor city. Mainly as a consequence of it's history re-development has only really kicked in since the wall came down. Central government has been moving here slowly and it has very little industry of its own (unlike say Frankfurt which is Germany's financial centre). This means that it's still relatively uncrowded so it is possible to get around by car although it does have a well supported integrated public transport system. What was West Berlin offers mostly post 50's architecture with a significant chunk of the city having been flattened during the war. However the eastern part of the city does have more of the surviving pre-war buildings which the Soviets only knocked down if they had to. As a result the more bohemian style middle classes are moving into these areas which are where the fancy bars and clubs are. Despite it's poor outlook Berlin still gives the impression of a city that is on the up and it will be interesting to see how it develops over the years :-)