Day Two came around too quickly. Between noisy people outside and noisy guests on our corridor, I didn’t sleep that well. There was a school group staying in the hostel so when it was breakfast it was very busy. But that wasn’t going to dampen our spirits – we had a new city to explore. That’s the great thing about our adventure across Europe – there were new places to see each day and new things to experience.
Day Two: Berlin and Zürich
Once we were all fed, it was time to check out. The great thing about A&O Hostels is that alot of them have a locked luggage room on site that you can use for free. Therefore we were able to leave our luggage while we went to explore.
We started the day by taking the M5 tram from the stop at Clara-Jaschke-Strasse which is right outside the train station through the city to Alexanderplatz. Jaxon had seen the TV tower on YouTube and wanted to see it. While I wasn’t sure if we could go up it, I thought we could at least ride a tram and then see it from the ground. Each Monday, Chris calls his Mum so while we were at the tower he quickly rang his Mum to show the sights looking up at the tower. I popped into a shop nearby to buy postcards. I’d had this great idea to write postcards to the grandparents (my parents and Chris’s parents) in each city we were in – but probably post once we got home because buying stamps wasn’t as simple as I thought it should be in some places.
After looking at the prices we decided that we would go up the tower. This would take us to the Observation Deck which is at 203m. As of August 2023, it’s €24.50 for an adult (15+), €14.50 for a child (Aged 4-14), children 3 and under are free. There is a restaurant which is slightly higher at 207m, but I would recommend booking so you’re not disappointed. (For the restaurant, you are paying for the access ticket to the observation deck and restaurant as well as what you eat/drink when you get up there).
As you can see from the picture, it was an epic view – thankfully we had a clear day. I’m sure had it been foggy or drizzly the visibility would have been terrible! This was looking North-Westwards towards the Spree River. The view was 360° so you could see across Berlin. With some help from Google Maps, I was able to work our where Berlin Hauptbahnhof Station was along with roughly where our hostel was.
After heading back down the tower, it was time to explore some other history bits. Part of our adventure across Europe was going to be a very big history lesson. It was about time I put a “face” to those places I’d learnt about in History at school (and with my Dad). First we took the U-Bahn from Alexanderplatz to Brandenburger Tor. This is two stops on way on the U5 line.
The Brandenburg Gate has a lot of historical significance.
During The Cold War, The Berlin Wall ran past The Brandenburg Gate and was in a restricted area between both East and West Germany.
After visiting The Brandenburg Gate, we started to walk to Checkpoint Charlie. The walk isn’t that far at around 1.5km but with the heat (the high was 28.5C) we ended up stopping part way to get some lunch in the Mall of Berlin. There were so many choices we were struggling to decide what to get but in the end Chris decided that we’d get noodles because pizza might be needed as a last minute choice later in the trip. The food was really good and filling. Before we left, we again visited the toilet and the ones here had what seemed like an optional tip, but the lady who was the attendant was almost gatekeeping as if it was. a fee rather than an optional tip. (It would be come a theme of not having change or even cash for the tips/fees. Thankfully, J smiled sweetly and she let him in anyway).
After lunch, it was time to brave the heat again and head outside.
And of course, a selfie of me at Checkpoint Charlie to send to my Dad.
We took a walk along Zimmerstraße which follows a section of the wall. It was interesting to see how close the wall ran to some of the buildings. At that point, the apartments on one side of the road would have been looking right at the wall.
We briefly visited the Topography of Terror which is a museum on the site of the former Gestapo headquarters. There is an inside bit but we just visited the outside bit. We were all a bit hot and bothered by this point so we didn’t stay long. We took a walk through the shaded areas hoping that there was another gate we could get through but it’s fenced off and so we had to walk back through the park to the main entrance to be able to continue. In that same area that is now a park, there had once stood a palace – it was built in the 1700s and destroyed during WW2. (It was called Prinz-Albrecht Palais).
We then headed to the Jewish Museum. This was a bit of a moment in the day. We entered the museum through “The Old Building”. This was a former Collegienhaus it is one of the last baroque palaces in the Freiderichstadt neighbourhood. Next door to this there is The Libeskind Building which is a modern construction. The building itself zigzags and there’s angled walls and floors. There is an audio tour that you can listen to that tells you all sorts of information about the building and why it was like that. But with the kids in tow, they didn’t want to stop long enough for me to listen to it. Maybe one day I’ll take myself on the train to Berlin and do it again (As well as visiting my friend who now lives about an hour outside of Berlin).
Through the building, there are voids like this (I think two in total) where the ground floor looks right up through the different floors to the roof. (I think there was a reason for this and there is a bit on the website about why the buiding is designed in such a way). There’s a section of the exhibits where there are these banners hanging from the ceiling (or high up on the wall) and the laws that were brought in by the Nazis against the Jews. Some are heart breaking and then as you get further through the war they start to get desperate and crazier. One of the first is that “If you’re a Jew….” and by that last banner it’s like “If you were married to a Jew but your marriage was annulled or you were divorced then you’re still going to be treated as if you were a Jew”. Again, I could have spent a lot longer reading through them all rather than just the skim read that I had to unfortunately give the exhibitions.
We had studied World War 2 in GCSE History and as much as you know it’s real life events that happened to real people, there is something about actually seeing the places in person and walking in those footsteps – like the walk from Brandenburg Gate to Checkpoint Charlie, had I done that when the Berlin Wall was still up, I would have had to had papers and all sorts to show why I was there.
After going to the museum, we then went in search of a bus to get back to the hostel to collect our luggage. This was quite easy to do as there was a bus stop a short walk from the museum and that took us back to Berlin Hauptbahnhof station. The bus took us through Potsdamer Platz too.
After grabbing some food, it was then time to catch our first night train and continue our adventure across Europe. This would take us from Berlin in Germany to Zurich in Switzerland. We were in a 6 seater carriage for most of the journey there was just us four but around 2am ish a couple joined us for a couple of hours. It was extra cosy at that point but with Rex still being so little he could curl up at one end and share a seat/bed with me or Jaxon. Chris kind of slept half sat up. I woke up around Leipzig where the train sat for a little while before carrying on further. Our train also stopped in Frankfurt, Baden Baden and Basel on it’s way through. We arrived in Zurich around 7:30am and that’s the start of Day Three.
You can find out more about the Interrail pass here.