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A Brisk Walk Through Brisk Berlin

We emerged from the subway last night at Breitscheidplatz into the brisk Berlin air and walked a few hundred meters to our hotel. While crossing the street I just barely caught a glimpse of an oddly deformed building sitting just half a block away. This morning we ventured off on a walking tour of Berlin, and on our way to the meeting point, we grabbed a closer look at what turned out to be Kaiser William Memorial Church. And just as I suspected… it was indeed deformed!

The 1890 protestant church was badly damaged in a WWII bombing raid in 1943.

The damaged spire of the old church has been persevered as is and its ground floor has been converted into a memorial hall. A new church was later erected nearby that consist of an octagonal building and a hexagonal tower. Both of them are made of a concrete honeycomb containing soothing blue stained glass blocks.

For some reason, it seems that churches are THE place for street performers. On the sidewalk out front was another set of breakdancers. Once they got into their routine it became clear why they pick this oh so holy location…

…it’s cuz they are performing death defying tricks, and need to be as close to the man upstairs as possible in case there is an accident.

Don’t think that’s the last of the churches we’ll see. Remember, we’re in Europe here folks.

After a brief train ride to Hackescher Markt, our tour guide took as to Berlin Cathedral.

Yup, really original naming right? Jakob the guide explained that a lot of the landmarks in this city are named exactly for what they are. So for example, a new museum would be called “The New Museum” it’s not rocket science people!


Q: If you had a memorial dedicated to the victims of war and tyranny, what would you call it?

A: The National Memorial To The Victims Of War And Tyranny.

If you got it right, give yourself a gold star and a pat on the back.

Speaking of school, next door to the self describing memorial is Humboldt University where Mr. Albert Einstein studied. I know I know… it should have been named The School Where Einstein Studied. But it’s not. So deal with it. Across the street from the school is Bebelplatz, best known as the site of the book burning ceremony held by the Nazi’s in 1933.

Under the plaza is a monument to remember all 451 of the degrees that once engulfed the many volumes of “non-Germanic” novels. Under the glass are empty book shelves.


Perhaps the most famous landmark of the city is The Brandenburg Gate.

And rightfully so. Many historical figures have passed through the gate. From Napoleon, to Hitler, to JFK and now ME! It was here that Ronald Regan said:

“Come here to this gate! Mr. Gorbachev, open this gate! Mr. Gorbachev, tear down this wall!”

Ah yes, the wall. The former location of The Berlin Wall can be traced all around what was once East Berlin. Where the wall once stood is now marked by a two-stone wide cobblestone path. Here you can see it slicing across the road on the other side of the gate.

You can see now why this walking tour was so brisk. There is just SO MUCH history in this city. We were just barely skimming the surface today. Of course one of the most significant times in this country was the reign of terror when Adolf Hitler was in power. Standing above the area where his bomb shelter was located sent chills down my spine. The same bomb shelter where he shot himself after ingesting poison. WHOA. That happened here!

How’s this for irony… literally a block away (no pun intended) from where Hitler breathed his final breath is The Memorial to the Murdered Jews of Europe. It’s a very cool geometric memorial. It’s meaning is best left up to the individual to interpret.

One of the fascinating things that Jakob pointed out was that apparently Hitler — the loon that he was — actually had a sliver of logic in his warped mind. Once he realized that the “pure” Germans were going to be defeated in the war he came to the conclusion that they actually weren’t the superior race, and so he ordered all of the Nazi monuments destroyed.

Today the German people are very conscious of their efforts to not try to cover up the horrible past. Definitely a commendable move on their part. How else can one learn from past mistakes?

One of the only remaining Nazi buildings still standing is what was once the Ministry of Aviation…

…where much of their world domination planning sessions took place. The building is now Berlin’s Ministry of Finance. I’m not sure how you could go to work each day and walk the same halls that those heathens once walked. Creepy!

On the other side of the building is the last remaining still-standing section of The Berlin Wall.

It was getting late, and the 4-hour walking tour was coming to a close. We had just scrapped the surface of a lot of the landmarks in Berlin, and tomorrow we will dig deeper into some of the more interesting POI.

As fate would have it, we were in town just in time for the Festival Of Lights, thus tying it all together! Get it? Festival Of Lights? A.k.a. Hanukkah. The Jewish holiday. What a coinkiedink!

It’s a little early in the year to actually be related. I’m not sure if there is an intentional connection or not.  But what I am sure of (from what I’ve been told) is that the Festival Of Lights is a public art festival where artists illuminate areas of the city in interesting ways. Here are a few of some of the more interesting images that I was able to capture despite the lack of a tripod. I’m as steady as a rock!

And here’s an animated GIF of one of the light sculptures on display.

Despite it’s checkered past (Berlin, not the light sculpture above) this city is definitely one of my favorite cities thus far. Top 5 for sure.


Ahh how appropriate. Our 100th post here on HaveYouSeenUsLately.org, and it also happens to coincide with my birthday today! I don’t know if you know this or not, but the cool thing about turning 31 26 is that you can officially start lying about your age now. Awesome!

A birthday in Berlin. Who could ask for anything more??

We are now nearly 3 months into our trip around the world (88 days to be exact) and it has been nothing short of spectacular. 13 countries, 3 continents, and over 30 cities later and we are still standing. We’re still the best of friends with no major fights or disagreements. We haven’t suffered any major illnesses or injuries. No major setbacks in plans. Haven’t gotten too homesick (it helps that we both no longer have homes). Nothing has been stolen. And we’ve been able to keep the business running from the road without any hiccups. All in all, it’s a perfect trip thus far, and we’re really looking forward to the remaining ~140 days of adventure!

Thanks to everyone that is reading about our travels, we wish you could all be here with us! Thanks for posting your comments too. And we look forward to the next time we get to see you all!

Cutting It Close

It’s really coming down to the wire now. It just about that time when Eastern Europe starts getting really cold — which is our cue to get the heck outta dodge! The trip was strategically planned around trying to migrate around the world in tune with the seasons in order to maximize warmer weather. After all, we each only have one bag of clothes with us for the 8-month trip, and you can’t really pack a whole lot of warm (read: bulky) clothes in a single bag. More shorts and t-shirts equals more variety, and that’s a very good thing.

Oh, and speaking of ‘cutting it close’ here’s a handy little travel tip from me to you:

Don’t get a haircut if the barber doesn’t understand the language you speak.

During our brief 2-day stop off in Dresden, we decided it was time to chop the mop. Our CouchSurfing host Joyce told us that all the barber shops required appointments, so we were thrilled when we found a nearby salon that was willing to take a couple of walk-ins. Problem was, the only person in the place that spoke any English was a lady in the middle of getting a perm. She was kind enough to translate our hair cut style requests to the hair stylist.

“Clippers on the side with a #2 guard, and take a little off the top to even it out”

At least I think she did. It came out of her mouth sounding more like:

“Machen Sie diese Touristen sehen aus wie ein Paar von Zirkus-Clowns”

For all I know she could have just as easily been pulling a practical joke on some tourists.

Hopefully I don’t offend any beauticians reading this, but I don’t think cutting a guys hair is really all that difficult. I’m fairly confident that after 30 years of watching people cut my hair, that I could do a pretty darn good job of cutting my own hair — if only I could figure out how to stand behind myself.

Anyways to make a long story about long hair getting shortened short, the lady (who by the way had the hair style of a cockatoo) spent all of 4 minutes with a quick buzz and a few snips and then dusted me off and sent me on my way. Since I had no way to communicate my thoughts…

Thanks for nothing. Now I look like a Swedish punk-ass emo kid, do you have any Rogain?

…I simply paid up and left to go look for a hat. Or a wig.  And wished Jay good luck as he took his turn in the Funny Chair.

Luckily for me I was able to sort of fix my massacred scalp with a set of clippers I had packed. Jay on the other hand was a little less fortunate.

And by the way, having short hair really doesn’t help in the cold weather. Look out China! Here we come!

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