So continuing on from where I left of.
Going to bed late meant giving myself a bit of a lie in the following morning. I felt like I had covered a fair bit of ground the previous day, but the one area of Berlin that I had not crossed at all was the south-west side of the Tiergarten, near the Berlin Zoo.
Taking the underground to Zoologischer Garten, I walked past the entrance to the zoo (no time for that on this trip!) and headed to the famous shopping area of Tauentzienstraße, stopping by a number of sports shops along the way. The streets were packed on this surprisingly clear and sunny day filled, I guess, mostly with running tourists down for the marathon weekend.
I soon came across the famous Kaufhaus des Westens shopping mall, more colloquially known as KaDeWe. I was really only interested in checking out one floor, the gastronomic floor, where I had a grand old time overloading my sight and smell senses before settling on trying one of the German dates and chocolate finger pastries.
It was time for lunch at this point, so I took the underground train from the nearby Wittenbergplatz station all the way to Schonhauser Allee in search for the Bird Restaurant, which came highly recommended from a friend as having “the best burgers he has ever tasted in his life”.
OK, so I wouldn’t go so far as to agree (I found Burgermeister better to be honest), but these guys know how to make a proper juicy burger. O, also don’t bother asking for Diet Coke, because you’ll get laughed out of the bar.
After a long, lazy and heavy lunch, I dragged myself from my seat in the warm sun to head back to the centre of town at Brandenburger Tor. My timing was perfect, as I noticed the crowds of people lining the streets leading up to the Brandenburg Gate were waiting for the first finishers of the Berlin Marathon inline skaters.
After watching the first lot skate through towards the Brandenburg Gate, I headed there myself, hoping that I too, would manage to pass through these gates running when my turn comes the following day!
The area past the Brandenburg Gate was cordoned off and dedicated to the Berlin Marathon racers. Looking at the athletes, I felt a sense of excitement, fear and envy about my upcoming race (I definitely had mixed feelings about the whole thing due to my injury). I took some photos of the German Bundestag over the top of the racers’ heads before heading back to the hotel to prepare for my race and settle in for an early night.
Day 3 – Race Day
I was up at 6am on Race Day to ensure I ate my breakfast and digested it in time for my 9am start. I took my time getting ready, before taking the underground to the start area at Brandenburger Tor. All around me in the streets, train station and trains were runners of all sorts with their colourful trainers. The weather was slightly cool, but I knew it would be perfect for later, once I actually started running and my body was warmed up.
I had timed my arrival so I wouldn’t have too long to wait before the gun went off. Before I knew it, the start line was in sight and Garmin GPS watches all around me were chiming. Ahh!
The great thing about not running for a target time was that I could just run for the sake of enjoying my run, which meant having the ability to take photos of my surroundings! This was the first major landmark we came across.
The route was as fast and flat as it is reputed for, and passed through a good number of interesting areas in Berlin. I really enjoyed the course, which I felt gave a good impression of Berlin and all that it had to offer.
Though my injury didn’t flare up as badly as I thought it would, my lack of training meant that I started alternating between running and walking from the 35th kilometer (out of 42). I would dearly have loved to have completed the entire marathon without walking, but no matter. It was painful in parts, BUT I managed to fulfil my wish and ran through the Brandenburg Gate into the final stretch of road before the sweet finish line.
The German Bundestag suddenly took on a much friendlier demeanour today, after my race, than it did on the previous day. The sun and my runner’s high definitely helped. 🙂
Feeling pretty exhausted by this time, I made my painful way home, stopping by to pick up a well-earned kebab on the way back. That was pretty much it for the rest of the day. I showered, slept for 4 hours, had dinner at the hotel, then went back to bed.
Day 4 – Final day of sightseeing
Waking up feeling refreshed but sore, I quickly packed my things, checked out of the hotel and headed back out to get some last minute sightseeing in before my flight back to London in the evening.
I started off at the Topography of Terror, a museum located on the site of the former headquarters of the Gestapo (the official secret police of Nazi Germany) and the SS (the Schutzstaffel – a major paramilitary organization under Adolf Hitler and the Nazi Party).
There is a part of the Berlin Wall here that was never demolished and thus remains as a tourist attraction. This section of wall is actually the longest remaining segment of the outer wall, compared to the longer East Side Gallery wall section in Friedrichshain (that I had mentioned in my previous post) which was actually part of the inner wall and thus not directly visible from West Berlin.
After spending an hour or so perusing through a very interesting exhibition on the history of Poland, I walked the short way down to Friedrichstraße to check out the famed Checkpoint Charlie, passing by historic nuggets of information along the way.
Checkpoint Charlie (i.e. Checkpoint ‘C’) was the most well-known crossing point between East and West Berlin during the Cold War. What remains today is a reproduction of the original guard house and sign (the original is on display at the open-air museum of the Allied Museum in Berlin). Be forewarned that is it now an extremely popular tourist attraction, with the “guards” there making a roaring trade in tourist photos.
With not much time left, I made my last stop the Gendarmenmarkt, a beautiful square in Berlin where the Konzerthaus and the French and German Cathedrals are located. Though heavily destroyed during WW2, the square and its buildings have been gloriously restored to their former state, with the added bonus of a few little cafes and restaurants nearby where you can sit and enjoy the calm and peaceful surroundings.
Passing by this oasis during the marathon nearly caused me to end my run prematurely, so there was no way I was going back to London without paying a short visit to the Ritter Sport shop. I’m still not exactly sure how I managed to resist tucking into this…
… but I did leave with a good few bars of Ritter Sport chocolate.
All too soon, it was time to return back to London. Though I spent 4 days here, I left feeling like I still had a ton of things to explore, see and do, which is rare for me visiting a major European city. Berlin was just as cool, hip and grungy as friends said it would be, and is definitely a city I’ll be going back to for a weekend break in the future.