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Written on: Thursday May 24th, 2007

A journal entry from: Rouen Exchange

From May 5th -15th I traveled through Eastern Europe on a tour with a company called Topdeck.  Since it was early in the season, we began with only 6 but grew to 10 in Prague. 

I took an overnight train to Berlin.  For only 50 euro, it was a great ride.  Arriving early in the morning, I set out to find my hotel.  As it was before check in time, I dropped my bags off and then headed into the more main part of town to do a free walking tour.  There is so much history in Berlin and this tour really covered a lot of it.  For starters, I learned that Hitler actually lived with a Jew at one point, possibly the beginning of his hatred.  A funny story is how the fall of the Berlin wall actually came about.  I guess I was alive when it came down but have no memory of it.  The day the wall fell, the then president of East Berlin missed a meeting where they discussed the idea of ?saying? that travel would be allowed (with the intention of having lots of red tape so residents were still confined to the city.  The president received the notes from the meeting but didn?t take the time to read them.  Later in the day he was holding a press conference and one reporter asked a question that he couldn?t answer so he pulled out the meeting notes and just began reading?thus announcing that travel regulations would be lifted.  When asked when by a reporter, he again searched the document for a date and read the only one he could find ? the one at the top of the page and stated the change would take place immediately.  And that is how the fall of the wall came about.  Also in Berlin, there is a large television tower.  This was built by Eastern Berlin to show their technical abilities.  Unfortunately, part way through building, there were problems due to the marshy ground so Swedish engineers were called in to complete it.  Not only this but the person in charge during its erection was very anti-religion.  Ironically, when the sun shines on the tower, the reflection forms a very distinct cross.

After my knowledge fest, I returned to the hotel to meet with the group.  It consisted of myself, a couple from Australia, two Kiwis and another girl from Canada.  She turned out to be my roommate.  We were introducing ourselves and turns out that she is good friends with Jaimie, one of my best friends in Rouen.  Janice and I got along great from the beginning, entertained/annoyed the rest of the group and were nicknamed the Crazy Canadians.

Our second day in Berlin consisted of a driving tour in the morning and then free time the rest of the day.  Since I had already done the walking tour, I had an idea of where I wanted to go.  It was cold and rainy for most of the day so I tried to stay out of it as much as possible.  That wasn?t possible though when I wanted to climb the Reichstag (Berlins parliament building).  I waited outside in the cold rain for over an hour, only to go to the top, climb the glass dome and didn?t get a great view because of the rain.  I also went to the ?Topography of Terror? which is a series of photos that depicts different scenes surrounding World War II.  Unfortunately, I was running a bit late so had to run all the way back to our meeting spot to catch the bus back to our hotel.  I was only 5 minutes late and they were already gone.  That taught me my lesson for the rest of the trip though ? never be late.

Day 3 in Berlin was a complete free day so I went to KaDaWe which is the largest department store in Europe, next to Harrods.  I also walked through Vondolpark, Europe?s largest.  I went to the (free) Jewish memorial exhibition that was very well done.  Until being in Berlin and really hearing more of these stories, I didn?t realize what an atrocity WWII was.  The rest of the day I spent dodging rain storms and shopping.  That night we went to dinner (they eat A LOT of meat here) and then we went to a couple bars.  The first was a communist bar with paraphernalia on the walls, the second a Shisa bar.  This is a bar where you go to smoke flavoured tobacco.  Ours was mint and not too bad.  The night wasn?t too late as we had a 7:30 departure the next morning for Prague