Friday, May 29, 2009

After spending the first May bank holiday (long weekend for the Aussies) in London we felt it was time to return to Heathrow and head to Berlin for the second. This was a belated birthday trip for Steve's 30th. The forecast was for sunshine so our time in dutyfree was spent on new sunnies and sunscreen - gotta love 50+.

We have taken notice of the credit crunch and rather than not travelling we have downgraded from hotels to hostels and saved quite a bit on accommodation. Arriving late on the Friday night, we headed up to the hostel's rooftop bar for our free welcome drink. When we returned, it was to find our US army room-mates snoring peacefully. Ahhh the life of a hostel!

On Saturday we joined a free walking tour that friends had suggested to us. There were around 300 people there and we were separated into groups of about 30 people. We spent about 3 1/2 hours walking around the main sights of Berlin with our guide. Our guides' personal interest was in Street Art so we got a few extra local artworks thrown in as well.

The weekend we were there was the 60th anniversary of democracy so the area around the Brandenburg Gate was having a free concert lasting all day.

Brandenburg Gate

The famous German band - Pur. We didn't understand a word!

Our free walking tour leader - Summer from California

This part of the wall is fenced off and next to where Hitlers Gestapo was based. The wall encircles the area of West Berlin which was considered to be West Germany.

Claire on the Berlin Wall.
Checkpoint Charlie
Ampelman - the East German traffic light man that was adopted by the West. Before you ask there is an Ampelgirl but we didn't manage to find her.
Graffiti aka. street art
Holocaust memorial
On Sunday we took a daytrip out of Berlin to the Sachsenhausen Memorial. This served as a concentration camp from 1936-1945. It was designed as a model for other concentration camps. It was intended to give architectural expression to the Nazi world view and symbolize to the prisoners of the absolute powers of the SS. More than 200,000 people were imprisoned between 1936-1945. Tens of thousands of them died of starvation, disease, forced labour and maltreatment, or were murdered systematically by the SS.

For our final few hours on Monday we decided to see the view from the Reichstag (home of the Berlin government). After enjoying the sunshine in the slow moving queue for an hour we decided that our time was better spent elsewhere. There is a 1.3km section of wall that is known of the East Side Gallery. It is the largest open-air gallery in the world with its sections painted by groups of artists from all over the world in the first few months after reunification as a memorial to freedom of expression. Due to graffiti vandalism and the heavy flow of traffic that flows nearby it has suffered greatly. A restoration project is underway, with one section completed 5 years ago, and a large section being worked on whilst we were there.

One of the sections that hasn't been repaired yet.
We saw a couple of these crazy tourist bikes. Five people facing inwards, all peddling, generally looking strange and not going very fast.

We also need to mention that there was a protest down the street from our hostel. We had noticed quite a number of police around on our way back but a couple of hours later the riot gear was out. There was a slight diversion on the way to dinner, but all in all it was a very peaceful event. 1000 riot police 1 - Protesters Nil.

Friday, May 08, 2009


Here is another selection of photos from in and around London.

We went to Last Night of the Proms. The main event is held inside Royal Albert Hall, but they also hold a separate concert in Hyde Park. They also televise the official finale.
Sunrise from our apartment.
Walking through Hyde Park one night.
Claire's work Christmas party.
Chinese New Year in our street.
Valentine's Day daffodil plant. Days 1, 5 and 10
Visit to the HMS Belfast.
Dover Castle.
Underground war tunnel at Dover Castle
Cliff walk in Dover.
Thames Path - Richmond to Kingston
Kingston Bridge
London Loop - Kingston to Teddington. Leg of Mutton Pond.
Heron Pond
Deer in Bushy Park.