Berlin, Potsdam and Hamburg
09.10.2015 - 12.10.2015
Alas, our two week tour ended in Berlin. We ended up staying in the “alternative” part of town - the southeastern part of the city called Friedrichshain. By “alternative,” what I mean is that drunks and homeless people are the majority here. Someone even passed us smelling like human feces (at which point a friend said, “Yes, yes…that’s definitely human shit.”)
BUT, even though the area had its dodgy points, I will say this: I am happy to stay anywhere where I can get a heavenly tasting shwarma (donor) sandwich for 3 euro.
This was easily the most affordable area of Berlin, and the nightlife here was on point. In fact, it was the perfect set up for our group’s last night out, which we had big plans: talks of breaking into the zoo after hours, hitting up strip clubs, and having the end-all of dance-offs. I won’t say what happened in real life; I would hate to disappoint you. But there WAS crying involved (as we said our group goodbyes).
Since I had been to Berlin before, I decided to take some travel advice and head southwest to Potsdam for a day trip. Here are some highlights:
This is the New Palace in Potsdam, built by Frederick the Great of Prussia. Instead of using the building for tourism, they're using the 647 rooms for Potsdam University student housing. Imagine having a dorm room next to the Lord's Chamber or Minstrel's Gallery. Pretty bad ass.
Frederick II was so pleased with all he had achieved in his lifetime, he said that when he died, it would be without sorrow. In French, this translates to “sans souci,” which is what the gardens are named. In 1756, he ordered the planting of potatoes, which ended up becoming a staple food in Prussia, hence the potatoes on his grave. Frederick II was not buried next to his wife, but his 11 dogs. Apparently Freddy was so fond of his pups that the servants in the castle had to greet and bow to the dogs as they would people. And I thought I was a crazy dog lady...
I wasn’t sure what to expect when I reached Hamburg, which is Germany’s second largest city after Berlin. Tucked in the northern part of the country, and one of the biggest seaports in the world, Hamburg was a major player in the shipping industry back in the day.
I know what your first thought was: is this where the hamburger is from?
Well, sort of. To clarify, a person who is from or lives in Hamburg is in fact called a Hamburger (! What?! How cool is that?) The actual hamburger sandwich that we know today was adapted from the Russian tartare, or raw minced meat and egg mixture. The people of Hamburg, for sanitary reasons, decided this mixture should be fried. But it wasn’t until the Earl of Sandwich in England got to it did it take on two pieces of bread. But since Hamburg was big into trading with the Americans at the time, the Americans called it the hamburger.
This is the new opera house that isn't finished. Good story, though... In 2005, the city of Hamburg announced that it would construct a Philharmonic opera house that would rival Sydney’s, and again put the music scene of Hamburg back on the global map for a modest cost of 75m euro. The structure, which is housed on the river front, was going to boost home sales and development of the entire area as it would become the major focal point of the city and also contain residences and shopping centers as well. What could possibly go wrong when building the world’s greatest music hall on a body of water? It seems that the architects did not account for the size or quantity of the barges that pass through the water, and so special acoustics had to be added to the entire structure to prevent the reverberations from interfering with the sounds. In fact, each of the 1,800 windows on the building is estimated to cost 25,000 euro. The construction is already two years overdue, with the new open date slated for 2017. And get this… costing over 1 billion euro.
I did my civic duty as a tourist and visited TripAdvisor’s #1 Thing to Do in Hamburg: Miniatur Wonderland. It’s basically six very large rooms that house city replicas built out of tiny models. Think legos, but with more realism. If this kind of thing interests you, then you would find it awesome. All I could think of the whole time was that if my brother’s little dog Ellie Moo Moo got in here, this place would be fucking destroyed.