Berlin Part 2: Charlottenburg Palace and the Soviet War Memorial

5 October 2015. I had no more plans for the rest of my stay in Berlin, so I had plenty of time to just wing it. The only thing that I desperately wanted to do was a Third Reich tour. I wasn’t sure when I’d be able to do it, so I used the Get Your Guide app to help me. I actually had 3 full days to kill, so I booked it for the next day, 6 October – the day before I was going to leave.

Charlottenburg Palace

With the Third Reich tour all booked, I decided to go see Charlottenburg Palace. I wasn’t sure what the entrance fee would be, but I figured I’d at least be able to see the area around it.

I continued on passed the Friedrichstraße station, roughly 2km up the road from my hotel, so I could take in the beauty around the Spree River.

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After figuring out which train I needed to take, I got on the S-bahn to he Charlottenburg stop. There was a closer station (at least, one for a bus), but I wanted to walk a bit so I could see the area. It was a little out of the CBD, so I expected it to be a little more laid back and spacious. It was exactly that.

I took a really slow walk because it was still early in the day, and had that feeling again…the one where I was going in the wrong direction. It was the first time that happened since Hallstatt. I was using my map to navigate out of the station onto the main street, but I had lost my bearings after getting off the train due to the layout of the station. Instead of turning right, I turned left i.e. south. I lost myself (literally and figuratively) for at least 3o minutes before realising that the sun was supposed to be on my right, not my left. It was still early enough for me to be able to use the sun to navigate, but I was just too busy taking pictures and enjoying the weather to have noticed sooner. Once I figured out which way was north, I had to whip out my phone just to make sure that I was actually standing where I thought I was, and then to determine where the nearest main street was. I was only about 2 blocks off, so once I got onto Kaiser-Friedrich-Straße, it was straight ahead from there.Charlottenburg

About an hour later, I got to the palace. There weren’t many people around, and my next task was to find the entrance. It didn’t seem very obvious as there was some construction going on. I figured I’d walk around the perimeter to find a way in and it wasn’t long before I found one. I had completely forgotten about my Berlin Welcome Card, which could have saved me quite a bit on the €16 entrance fee. It was because of the price that I decided not to do the palace tour. I felt better by reminding myself that a lot of palaces looked the same, and since I had been to Neuschwanstein, the chances of Charlottenburg being better wasn’t that high.

The palace gardens were massive so my backup plan of exploring them kicked in. I felt like I had discovered another Secret Garden. It reminded me a little of the Nymphenburg Palace gardens in Munich, but it was much more manicured and tame. As for the noise? Non-existent.

Charlottenburg Palace Gardens

The thing I remember most about the gardens was the squirrel I made friends with. While walking through one of the lanes, I noticed a tree stump in the foliage, and it had some cut up pieces of carrot on it. It was when I first realised that the squirrels would come to take it. Since it wasn’t too far in, I decided to take some of the carrot sticks and try my luck, since I had seen a squirrel scurrying about nearby. To my delight, it came quite close to me, so I got down on my haunches and put my hand out, waiting for it to come. And it did.

Having gotten the encounter with a squirrel that I always wanted, I went off to admire the rest of the gardens. There was one particular view of the palace that I wanted, so I went as far into the garden as I possibly could until I eventually got it.

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That for me marked the end of my trip to the palace, so I had to now find my way back into the city centre. I actually thought it would be better to go back to my hotel to have a bit of a break, and also call my friend for her birthday (I promised her before leaving SA that I would). I wasn’t sure what I was going to do for the rest of the afternoon, but for now, I needed to find a shorter way back to the city. I also was pretty hungry because I had totally walked off what I had eaten for breakfast, but I didn’t worry about it too much because my meal times had generally become so messed up on this trip anyway.

Richard Wagner Platz

I took a walk all the way to the nearest bus stop, whose name amused me a little – Richard-Wagner-Platz. I caught the U7 to Yorckstraße, which was actually a little out of the way, but it was a pain in the ass trying to read the transportation map because sometimes the S-Bahn and U-Bahn stations were the same, and sometimes they’d be across the street or a block or 2 away from each other. It’s good to keep that in mind and plan your route properly in advance. Anyway, getting to Yorckstraße then made it extremely easy for me to get back to Potsdamer Platz because I could get straight on the U2 to Bernau which stopped directly in Potsdamer Platz.

I spent about an hour in my hotel freshening up, catching up on social media and letting my friends know where I was, and finally getting hold of my friend to wish her for her birthday. I mean, how often do you get a chance to call a friend from Berlin?

Brandenburg Gate

After I spoke to her, I headed out again and decided to go to Brandenburg Gate and meet up with a guy I had chatted to a little. He was also on holiday for a couple days in Berlin and happened to be leaving that evening, so we literally had about 30 minutes to say hi and walk around the area a bit. Don’t ask about how I was chatting to him, but you can probably guess. I had made it clear that I was on holiday and was not interested in any funny business if you know what I mean. I’m always open to meeting new people so thought one more friend or connection couldn’t hurt.

When I got to Brandenburg Gate, there were, as usual, hundreds of people around. Fortunately though, it didn’t take me too long to find him. I felt like a complete idiot for asking if he could take a photo of me with the gate in the background, but it was only because people I had asked on the previous day were so completely useless, that I just didn’t have a decent photo. Thankfully, he managed to get one after several failed attempts of trying to get the woman behind me to move…one who was completely oblivious to her surroundings. We eventually gave up, and this was the result.

Brandenburg Gate

When I look at the picture now, I’m just glad I’m not the guy in the background who is completely missing the point.

After I said bye to my new acquaintance, I walked behind the gate towards another familiar area that was the Reichstag. There was a wurst stand that I had noticed the day before, and I suddenly remembered that I hadn’t eaten since the morning and it was nearly time for supper. I decided to get a currywurst, since I was a little too tired to go looking for another place. I also thought I’d take the opportunity to sit while I could, because there was too much left of the day for me to just go straight back to the hotel.

After eating, I went by the Reichstag again and suddenly remembered that I actually wanted to get myself a German Tshirt of some sort. There were a number of little shops opposite the Reichstag so I perused through them until I found one that I liked. It was actually a soccer jersey which I thought was awesome, and not a bad price of €15. From there, I wandered off in the direction of the prettiest looking streets, not really caring which way that was or how far I was going. Although, I did keep my general bearings in mind.

The Soviet War Memorial

After walking for a little while, I saw a really large statue peeking out over some hedges. It was obviously a soldier, but I was curious to see what it was for. As it turned out, I had stumbled upon the Tiergarten, and this happened to be the Soviet War Memorial. It was literally down the road from Brandenburg Gate, and I could have actually just walked straight from there to get to it. But just as well that I didn’t, because it was closed off from the road because of the falling of the Berlin Wall celebrations that had happened over the weekend. The road was almost entirely cleared out, so pretty much only the barriers remained.

There were some photographs with lengthy captions nearby which I enjoyed reading, as they were mostly from late 1945. The large statue of the Soviet soldier was actually hoisted on top of the monument – I would have loved to have watched that.

Soviet War Memorial

There was also an artillery on either side of the monument, and a tank. It was a little surreal.

Even though it was still a little early, I was actually pretty exhausted from all the walking. Now that I think of it, I was a complete idiot because there was one thing I wanted to do so badly while I was planning my trip, but I had completely forgotten about it when I actually got to Berlin. I will say what that was in my next post.

There was one other thing too, and that was to get a photo of Brandenburg Gate from the back. Had the barriers not been there, I would have gotten it then and there. All I could hope for was for everything to be cleared out before I left. The following night would be my last in Berlin, and I was pretty confident that the roads would be clear and ready for me by then. After all, Germans are very efficient in everything they do.

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