Wednesday, July 8, 2015

OT: Europe Trip--Day 3--Monday, 6/15/15

Breakfast in Berlin

We'd decided we'd get a good nights sleep after arriving in Berlin since we didn't have to be at the Flak Tower until about 10:30. We awoke, took showers and went down to a typical European breakfast. Plenty of eggs and bacon in Berlin with some really strong coffee to wash it down.

We left for a shopping mall up by the Humboldthain Flak Tower. We needed to get a least a jacket to wear inside the tower as it's chilly inside of it. 

Sky waiting on a subway train to arrive.

We went inside, finding an information desk just inside the entrance and asked for a department store to buy mens clothes. We were directed to a nearby store and we went in and each got a jacket, which fortunately was clearance priced to wear. We were waited on by a young lady at the cashier who asked where we were from. When we told her St Louis, a broad grin came across her face and she told us she had just spent time there as an exchange student. Wow...what a small world.

We walked a couple of blocks down to the ticket seller and purchased our tickets for the tour. We still had a half-hour to kill, so we went next door to get a coffee and a coke.

Just prior to 11, a guide came out, grouped us all together and gave us the typical tour spiel. I had booked a tour in English and the guide spoke very good English so with a hearty "Follow Me" we went across the street and hiked up to the tower entrance.

I was very interested in seeing the tower after having played a WW II sniper video game in which one of the levels is inside a flak tower, I wanted to see if the game accurately modeled the tower.

One of six anti-aircraft "flak" towers ordered by Hitler in 1940, this is the only one left and it only partially remains. Only three were finished, the other two destroyed after the war. We started out on top of the tower with some history, then donning hard hats, followed our guide into the tower. We weren't allowed to take pictures inside the tower.

Steps down to the Flak Tower entrance.

Sky and I had a blast going thru the tower. They explained what each level was for, how the guns worked (128mm--wow!) and how it used an early form of radar to control the aiming.

The tour lasted an hour and a half and we ended up back where we had entered. We had the guide take a couple snaps of us and then all the people left. Sky and I stayed for a while to take photos and enjoy the view.

 Sky and I at the entrance to the tower.

 Sky stands on a walkway.

View up the stairs.

After all that walking and step climbing, we went to lunch at a nearby cafe and talked about the tower. Then it was back to the hotel to see if our bags had caught up with us ( they hadn't ). We asked the young lady at the front desk where the nearest Primark store was as it had been recommended to us by the Lufthansa flight attendants in preparation for us not getting our bags. Down the street, hop the subway a couple stops and we were just across the street from the store, which is like the American version of Kohls.

We spent about an hour get clothes and a suitcase as we planned on having to wear these for the trip...Disjointed didn't even know where our suitcase were and we were only in Berlin that day so the possibility of them not catching up to us was very real.

We rode the subway back to our stop, walked the six blocks to our hotel and went to our room. When I opened the door, I was equally shocked, dismayed and happy to see our suitcases had been put in our room! But what to do with the almost $200 worth of clothes we had just purchased? Return them, of course.

Back to the subway, back to the store where we explained why we were returning clothes and a suitcase we had just purchased an hour ago. They were very understanding about it and took back everything but the underwear, which they couldn't legally do. Another subway ride and we were back in the hotel. Dumping the underwear, we went down and asked the girl if the Reichstag was walkable. She said sure (maybe for you--40 minutes!) and gave us a map and directions. 

Mostly there, we ran into a protest march...on a Monday? The had the cops out, many people marching and shouting and traffic blocked. We just watched and kept on walking since the sidewalks were open.

We arrived at the Reichstag about 7 PM, 3 1/2 hours before sunset and it was already bathed in soft, yellow light. I could tell Sky was excited when he pulled his camera out and started taking pictures of the building. We had a pass to go up into the central glass dome, but it wasn't until 9:45. We walked around the south side of the building, just admiring the architecture of it.

As we still had a couple hours to kill before our visit to the dome, we decided to walk over to the Brandenburg Gate, located just 1/4 mile directly east of the Reichstag. We got there at the same time the protesters did, but they didn't cause us any problems. We asked a cop what they were protesting and he said, "It's Monday". Hahahaha.

We were getting a little hungry, we hadn't eaten since lunch and it was now after 8 but we carried on from adrenaline. We went to a Starbucks and were the last customers they served, getting hot chocolates and a cafe au lait, then walked back to the Reichstag. Seeing the line was very short, I went up to security, showed him our passes and asked if we could get in early. He said yes, come on in! We went thru an airport level security, complete with metal detectors and were then taken into the building, up the elevator and into the glass dome. It's huge, with a spiral staircase winding its way along the inside edge of the dome. And we were there at sunset, great light and great views of the city.

We stayed there about an hour and then headed home. We took the subway over to the main train station, thinking we could catch another train to our hotel, but there wasn't a connecting train. We could wait for the bus, but the next one was 30 minutes away. We just 11 at night...home. I wasn't really worried, especially when I saw a young female walking ahead of us. If she thought it safe, I felt safe. We got back to our room and hit the hay. We could sleep in a little bit tomorrow, our train didn't leave for Liege, Belgium until almost 10.

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