Frietag in Hamburg

Berlin Hauptbahnhof, that awe-inspiring steel and glass behemoth, is incredibly quiet for 7:45 on a Friday morning. We are on platform 7, some 3 levels below the main entrance, awaiting train 794, one of many Inter City Express or ICE trains that ply the German rails everyday. Part of an extensive high-speed network, the ICEs are some of the fastest in the world, and obviously, I’m excited at the prospect of traveling on one!

Our train to Hamburg is late though – not something one would expect from the über efficient Germans! Thankfully, its not particularly crowded, so we do get our choice of seats, and after a quick stop at a Berlin suburb, we are on our way, leaving behind the North German countryside in a blur…


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Binging on Berlin

Depending on which terminal you arrive at, Tegel does seem crammed, and somewhat inefficient, for something as simple as an ATM transaction. It also lacks rail connectivity to the city centre – a feature uncommon to most large European cities. But having realized its inadequacies a few years ago, Tegel‘s days are numbered, and the Germans are months away from opening the aptly named Brandenburg Airport as Berlin’s new gateway. Tegel is also, perhaps, the last stop for any form of whining or complaining, on a visit to this fine city!

Berlin needs no introduction. Nor any marketing. Everyone I know who has visited – fellow travelers, short-stay visitors and those who went on business – came back singing paeans about it. It took very little for me to be convinced. So I’ll do my part here and go easy on the hard selling, instead just focusing upon the high points of my trip.

On a sombre note

On a gloomy, cold and rainswept day, it made most sense to be indoors for as long as possible, so we set of for the Topography of Terror Museum, which lies just west of Mitte, the city’s central district.  Built on the site of the former Gestapo-SS headquarters, and sitting directly across from the buildings that once housed the offices of the Luftwaffe, the museum documents repression under the Nazi regime. Across from the beautifully designed exhibition hall is an open gallery, built into the old trenches that were discovered during excavation (the site was heavily bombed by the allies). Behind the trenches, and providing a surreal backdrop, lies the largest remaining segment of the Outer Berlin Wall.

During the course of our stay, we visited three museums in all, and every one of them was outstanding. Curatorial standards were amongst the very best; the attention to detail was incredible; the spaces were thoughtfully designed; and in each instance, the quality of English was flawless (most, if not all displays, were bilingual). Someone, somewhere had obviously gone that extra step.

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