A Day of Contrasts in Berlin
After our wanderings along the Baltic Sea Coast it was time to turn around and start heading south. I have visited Berlin for work in the past, for Iain it was a new city. I remembered an impressive, modern city that seemed worthy of a revisit. Unlike in Hamburg, we didn’t find a good option for camping centrally in Berlin, so we stayed at a simple campsite in a suburb with good transport links.
When looking for places to explore in the city I saw that many people recommended a trip to the Bundestag, the German parliamentary building. It has an impressive dome on the top that is free for the public to visit as long as you book in advance. I went online to make a reservation but was disappointed that there was no availability during our time in the city. But then I noticed on the website that the very next day was their annaul open day. Once a year the German federal government opens up it buildings to allow the public to explore and learn more about how parliament works and tomorrow was the day. Not only would we get to explore the dome but we could visit all the other buildings as well.
The following morning we set off early to beat the crowds and sure enough we were able to walk right in. It was a fascinating visit. We learned a lot and talked to some wonderful people who answered all of our questions about the German politics system. They asked us a lot about the democracies in our two home countries. Given what is happening in the US and UK at the moment they seemed genuinely interested in how we felt and commiserated when we described how disenfranchised we felt. Of course, Germany has a lot of problems right now too but it was heartening to hear from people who were so dedicated to educating the public about government and how important it is to be politically engaged. Our visit culminated with a tour inside the parliamentary chamber itself and then up to the glass dome to see the fantastic view over the Berlin skyline.
After such an educational morning we decided that a change of pace was needed. Germany is famous for beer; but honestly we are just not that enamored. In Belgium we had an epiphany. We had never really thought we were Belgian beer lovers and with every glass we tried we proved ourselves very wrong. We realized we had just misunderstood it. We have had no such journey in Germany and have not tasted anything even remotely special. We can’t quite understand why people are so enthusiastic about the local brews.
So what are a couple of beer loving travelers to do? Well, as much as European beer lovers may think it is sacrilege, we headed to Stone Brewing. The most prominent of San Diego craft brewers recently opened a European outpost in Berlin and given that we were regular frequenters of their SD location, we thought we would recreate the tradition here. After a train journey and fairly long walk we eventually found their Berlin location. It was every bit as impressive as our beloved Liberty Station. We tried a couple of beers each, some brewed in Berlin, some imported from California. As if by magic, we remembered why we love beer so much. I think the Germans could learn something from the US! Ooops….. did I just hear a German brewer’s head exploding!
It was a perfect day and one of extreme contrasts. A thought provoking morning thinking about the divided nature of current world affairs, followed by a relaxed afternoon drinking IPA. The following day we would wander through a few more of the tourist sights but for this day, this sunny September Sunday, we were happy to wallow in our reflective mood, bathed in nostalgia and feeling like we were back in California.