Berlin: Sanssouci Palace and a peek into East Germany

Day 15, 07.08.2009

sansoucciWe left the hotel quite early to catch the train to Sanssouci. Everyone else filed into the same car, but we three musketeers decided it’d be a great idea to steal all the space in the back and be separated from the rest of our group. Unfortunately, the train ride to Sanssouci is about an hour–and 6 stops in, the train was already packed. I struggled to catch glimpses of our group in the front. Fortunately, one of the guys is 6’6″, which made it easier to keep track. My paranoia set in after a while, so I joined the rest of the group in the front. The other two are lucky that I remembered they were in the back and shouted to them that we had arrived, otherwise they would’ve been lost in Berlin forever.

marble statuePalace Sanssouci was stunningly lavish. A conglomerate of courtyards, pavilions, marble and gold. The inside of the palace looked like it had been touched by Midas. There was a different color scheme to each room. The extravagance straddled gaudy and classy–including a beautiful “Chinese” dome that was anything but Chinese. I figured out how they managed to maintain these grounds when I had to use the restroom and paid a whopping €1.50.

After a couple hours of running amok on royal grounds, we took the train back to Potsdam. A lunch cruise down Wahnsee had been planned for us. While most of our group decided to hang around in the cafe waiting, the three musketeers made intelligent decision #2 of the day by spending the 20 minutes before the cruise exploring Potsdam. There sadly wasn’t much to explore. And then began a downpour so aggressive it could rival Niagara Falls. The wind lashed watery whips at our faces.

Scrambling to find shelter somewhere, we finally came across a child-sized picnic bench with a baby umbrella. Unfortunately not enough to cover 3 high schoolers. So we counted to 10 and sprinted back to the meeting place, where there was a restaurant. I was running blind: there was so much water hanging from my lashes.

sansoucci train stop

you can see the clouds moving in…

H. Birkelbach and H. Reynolds greeted us with smug looks on their faces, joking about how warm and dry and comfortable they had been at the restaurant. But they made it up to us by sharing some french fries.

Ironically, it stopped raining about a minute after we reached the restaurant. I was drenched–a wet rag. There is nothing worse than wet undergarments and soggy, squishy socks. And I had to board the cruise 10 minutes later with sopping shoes.

Instead of sight-seeing, we played cards the entire cruise. So I have no idea what there was to be seen from the lake. I ordered some noodles with veggies for lunch, which were…okay. I won several games of president, and lost a lot of games of palace.

After the cruise, we all stopped at this fruit stand and bought fruit. The three of us split a basket of strawberries. I’ve seriously contemplated moving to Germany just for their amazingly sweet, juicy, and fragrant strawberries. They’re so tiny, but good things come in small packages!

berlin murals

some great art in East Berlin!

East Berlin was kind of a sketchy place. Gritty, adorned with graffiti, and home to all varieties of people. Our group split up from our chaperones and our German host siblings. After about 5 minutes of walking together, four of us decided we were interested in different things and split up further.

Three of us went one way and the other girl went off on her own. Our friend entertained us by claiming he could make up a song for any word we chose. One of us chose “rollerskates”, so he started singing something about an old man at a tree and if you skated to him you could see him fart–the actual song was a lot stranger if you could believe it. I chose banana hammock and the song went something like “oh please let me sprinkle cheese! some cheese!” and swinging in the banana hammock. I don’t think he knows what a banana hammock really is…

My friend wanted to buy a gas mask, so we stepped into this store that sold gas masks and Communist memorabilia. While fascinating, the other two of us wanted to keep exploring. So we moved on. East Berlin would be a scary place to get lost in if you were a young girl traveling without parents for the first time (me). Thankfully we didn’t get lost.

We went into the German dollar store to get some water. It was kind of frustrating that even though we’d speak to the cashiers in German, they’d only respond back in English. Just give us a chance!eastberlin

We also saw this giant condom ad–a phallic cardboard cutout–that was advertising vibrators and other unmentionables…And right across from it was a store for gay men with posters of naked men plastered over the display windows. Europeans are so open about sexuality. My friend took a bunch of photos of all this to show to H. Reynolds, because he hates anything that screams “I like men”.

After walking around East Berlin, we all met up and settled on this African restaurant for dinner. I ordered some fried rice dish with some salad and this strange flour-roll thing. It was so, so delicious. I really wish I had taken down the name of the place. There was zebra, crocodile, and impala steaks, just to name a few of the strange items on the menu.

africanrestaurant

amazing first experience with African food…anyone know where this is?!

We all split up after dinner because the host siblings wanted to go get a drink, one of the girls wanted to go back to the hotel, and the rest of us wanted to explore Berlin a bit more. H. Reynolds took us to the Holocaust memorial, which is something like 1000 blocks of cement rising out of the ground to symbolize the many who died.

holocaust memorial and berlin wall

so much awkward posing…

While a sobering concept, it was a total maze and kind of fun to just walk through. My friend was trying to take a picture, but another was standing in the middle, so he politely asked, “Could you please move?”.  She flipped her head around and yelled, “F*k off and DIE.” It was hilariously unwarranted and we all ended up cracking up–likely coming off as disrespectful, obnoxious teenagers to anyone else visiting the memorial.

Postdamer Platz  was the next stop, where we took turns getting shots of pieces of the Berlin Wall. Then it was time to visit the Brandeburg Tor! My chance to finally get my own postcard-worthy shot of the famous landmark. I also wanted a shot of the Siegsäule [victory column], which sits in middle of the street with a golden figure on top, but that was a bit of a walk away.hitler's bunker

We then made our way to Hitler’s bunker, which is pretty much this small patch of grass with a sign that says “Führers Bunker” or something like that. We also walked down some of Unter den Linden: the upscale, upper class street of Berlin. Some of the guys needed to pinkeln, so they went down some small street and chose some bush. I wonder if public urination is a violation in Germany…

brandenburg gate

simply majestic

As we skipped under the streetlights and past the glimmering lights of Louis Vuitton, Zara, and various other brand names, we all sang “I Feel Pretty”. Very loudly.

My roomies and I had some girl when we were back in our room. We all picked out Breakfast Club-like stereotypes for the guys in our group: the nice one, the quiet one, the know-it-all, the diva, and the rebel.

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