Sunday June 21, 2009
We woke at 5am this morning (yawn and double-yawn) as the Prinsendam was docking in the coastal resort of Warnemunde, and travelled 2½ hours by fast private train to one of Europe’s most fascinating destinations – Berlin. There we switched to an air-conditioned coach for some quickie-sightseeing in this controversial city.
Our local guide was a walking encyclopaedia on Berlin, and the highlights we stopped at or eye-balled came thick and fast. Like what? Well, like the notorious Berlin Wall (or what’s left of it) and the former Checkpoint Charlie (where spies used to cross during the Cold War) … the Brandenburg Gate (where Hitler once worked the crowds into a frenzy) … the Reichstag parliament building (looking truly massive in the Sunday sun) … and the Gendarmenmarkt square (surrounded by famous I-can’t-remember-what buildings).
Then, following a lunch-stop (where we downed some traditional Bavarian fare), we explored a huge new Berlin Memorial to the Murdered Jews of Europe: 2711 concrete blocks the size of coffins, laid out in a huge grid (doesn’t sound much – right? – but it’s actually very powerful). Then we left the city and headed out through country roads to the Sachsenhausen Concentration Camp (in what used to be East Germany) where the Nazis first experimented with systematic terror and mass killings.
Like Anne Frank’s house back in Amsterdam (was that really only three days ago?), our two-hour tour of this awful place left us moved, disturbed, and deeply thought-provoked.
There were some very weary Kiwis on the train this evening after what’s been a long and educational day. Worth it? You bet!
PEOPLE NEWS: Two new Mad Midlife Awards were given out this morning:
* The ‘Beijing Olympics Award‘ to William – who while crossing a busy road on Friday with the group, tripped and took an athletic sideways tumble-cum-forward-roll … but was back on his feet, uninjured and smiling, before the rest of us realised what had happened.
* The ‘Breakfast-Fast Award‘ to Don & Jan – who skipped their Prinsendam bacon-&-eggs this morning in the mistaken belief that they were getting an early-morning feed on the train. (You should’ve seen them put away the morning tea were we all given later!)
TOMORROW: We get to hang out on deck or stretch out in one of the ship’s many lounges … enjoy luxury ship-board life to the full … and watch the waters of the Baltic Sea churn by. But don’t go away, because we’ll be back the day after with the next exciting chapter …
Yours bloggedly – JOHN
P.S. If you want to leave a message for someone in our group, just click on ‘COMMENTS’ (or ‘NO COMMENTS’) under the title for the day’s blog, and type away! Make sure you say who it’s for and who it’s from – and keep it brief. And don’t worry: we’ll make sure they get these messages.