Waking up in Germany is a real treat! On my first morning in Berlin, I was greeted with a basket of fresh bread – not the kind of bread you would find in Australia, but the dense, grainy brötchen (or bread rolls), some covered in seeds, others twisted into an elegant braid. Whatever the variety of bread, it is always fresh from the bakery each morning and it is accompanied with a huge selection of delicious cheeses, from gorgonzola and brie, to harder cheeses, such as gouda. Not only this, it is common to find cheese-filled peppers, avocado and fresh cherry tomatoes, alongside several different berry jams. Washed down with a freshly brewed coffee or tea, breakfast is by far my favourite meal of the day here.
I have spent the last week in both Berlin and Hamburg, visiting friends. It takes about three hours to drive between the cities on the autobahn. You could most probably do this much faster if you take advantage of the lack of speed limit and race down the motorway at 160 km an hour, or more, which most cars seem to do. I was happy to maintain a slower pace, so that I could spot deer in the green fields and admire the huge wind turbines that seemed to stretch on for ages.
Of course, driving in Germany is a little different to Australia. Not only do you drive on the opposite side of the road, you also sit on the opposite side of the car and the gear stick, windscreen wipers and lights are all opposite too. I think it will take some getting used to! And if that wasn’t enough, the day light hours in Summer really mess with your body clock. On top of some severe jet lag, it just didn’t feel right going to bed when it was still light. At the moment, the sun rises around 4am and it doesn’t get properly dark until 11pm at night. So, of course, this means people stay up later, shops are open longer and I am feeling a lot more tired from excessive sight seeing and lack of sleep!
My first day in Berlin was spent exploring a palace near where we were staying, in Köpenick. Originally built in 1558 as a hunting palace, the palace has had numerous rulers since, before its conversion into a decorative arts museum in1963. I had a small thrill as we walked over the moat and into the open grounds and garden of this beautiful building, situated right next to the river Dahme. We admired this baroque water palace and all the marvels inside, including oriental cabinets and furniture, wall hangings, a large silver buffet collection (which has only ever been used to show off the wealth of the palace) and wonderful, elaborate ceilings covered in paintings and relief sculpture. Aside from being watched at all times by the eagle eyes of the museum attendants, it was a very pleasant visit and a wonderful welcome to the city.
The next day, we took a trip to the Bürgeramt to register our address, something we do not have to do in Australia. The Bürgeramt opened its doors promptly at 11am, to greet a huge queue of people. Despite the late opening hours, the German people lived up to their reputation for punctuality. No sooner had the second hand reached the hour, the door swung open and a kind German woman welcomed us in. We were given an appointment for later in the day. After filling out German paperwork, we were given a piece of paper with a stamp to say that yes, we lived in this address in Berlin. Whilst it seemed a bit of a waste of time, I felt very proud to walk away with that piece of A4 paper, which proved that I now lived in Berlin.
A day later, I was in a car, roaring up the autobahn, bound for Hamburg! I had never been to Hamburg before and was thrilled at the prospect of exploring a new city. We started driving at 8pm and reached Hamburg just on dark, at 11pm. After a few days in this wonderful city of water, I am in love with the place. It has a magnificent harbour and is said to have more bridges than Venice! Thousands of boats can be seen everywhere you look, from tiny sailing vessels through to immensely large cruise ships. We caught a ferry from the Landesbrücke and stood on the top deck, the wind and rain drops blasting our faces.
I have been lucky enough to meet some wonderful friends who have been taking us sightseeing throughout the city, from climbing St. Michael’s Church for the impressive city views, to sailing on the Außenalster, a large lake full of sailing boats that dance in the wind. We have enjoyed plenty of German beer, eaten ice creams whilst walking around the lake and even watched the football match between Germany and Italy. With my limited German, I have managed a good number of embarrassing mistakes, but largely stand amongst the group like a stunned mullet, trying to grasp onto any word I can and then nodding and laughing whenever everyone else does! Thankfully, they all know some English too!
Back in Berlin, we strolled down the Unter Den Linden, through the magnificent Brandenburg Gate and around the Tiergarten, a large, green park that stretches on for miles. We passed through the Russian War Memorial and admired the Reichstag (German Parliament) from afar.
I won’t say much more now, only that it will be hard to decide on whether to base ourselves in Berlin or Hamburg. They are both beautiful in their own ways. Lets see what the next few weeks bring. There are lots of adventures to come!
What are some of your favourite places in Germany? Any recommendations?