Berlin 20071018

Journey began with 3.00am bus trip to Dublin Airport. Surprised to see so many people flying at 5.30am. We both slept on flight, so managed to get about 4 hours kip in all.

Landed at 9.50am, but took an hour to retrieve our luggage and another hour and a half to get to hotel. There was a strike on the rail service which complicated matters.

We couldn’t check into our room when we arrived at 1.00pm, but no matter. We left our bags and had a good lunch nearby. The location of Hotel Art Luise is excellent, just 400 metres from Fredrickstrasse Station.

After lunch we walked along the Spree River to the Reichstag, where we a delightful afternoon tea in the roof garden, Dachgarten Restaurant. I was pleased (as was Madame Oui) that my reservation worked, and we were expedited straight through: no waiting in the queues!

The views from the roof garden were magnificent. Although the dome itself was closed, which was a disappointment, I could still get a bird’s eye view of Brendenburg Gate, where I was 18 years ago. I showed Madame Oui my old photos, from my iPod, so we could compare then and now. Most startling for me was the road and traffic running parallel to the Gate, which was the Wall itself before, as well as the new buildings. It wasn’t too bittersweet for me. I was glad to have witnessed history firsthand, but I appreciate that life moves on. I was happy to be here now for new experiences, especially with my life partner, Madame Oui.

We walked right through the Gate, which brought back memories. I declared that capitalism has surely won, with a Starbucks shop one of the first things you see past the Gate.

We went shopping for souvenirs, and I was victorious in finding an official Bundestag coffee mug. You see, there is no shop at the Reichstag and this was the only place to have any official ephemera. Madame Oui got a couple of Bear Buddies, cute little painted ceramic bears. Apparently, 70% of the sale goes to UNICEF. There are dozens of styles of Bear Buddies in all the shops.

We returned and checked into our room. It’s a dog room alright! The blue and white dog bowls on the wall is a clever creation.

We soon enough appreciated that the hotel is right next to the train tracks. The windows are not sound proof, but there were foam earplugs provided on the bedside tables. How thoughtful, eh? Madame Oui found the sound of the passing trains charming. She’s such a good sport.

We were contemplating going on a bus tour of the Festival of Lights, but we both knew we were too tired for that. In fact, not surprisingly we both fell asleep. When we awoke, we weren’t hungry for dinner, so we skipped that, too.

I went out at about 9.00pm with my tripod and camera. Got some great photos of the Reichstag and Brandenburg Gate, as well as the front of our hotel, which had a series of art prints projected upon it.

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