Berlin, Gatow, Teufelsburg
As my nephew missed out on his school trip to Berlin that was due to take place in July 2018, We, that is Dad, Rachel and I decided to put together our own trip to Berlin over the late May bank holiday week, so Marc could fly for the 1st time, as well as do all the things that his class mate would be doing later in the year.
So off I went doing one of my normal trip planning with my reliant over use of excel spreadsheets and all, and before we knew it we had a packed 5 days planned.
which should have followed roughly as such :-
06:15 – 09:05 Flight from London Luton LTN to Berlin Schoenefeld SXF
10:00 Pickup the hire car
Drive to Finow Air Museum
Drive to Sachsenhausen Memorial and Museum
Drive to Tegel Cafe Hanger
17:00 Hotel Check in
Evening walking to see the Brandenburg Gate and Reichstag Building
Walk to Checkpoint Charlie
Drive to Unterwelten (Berlin Underground Tour)
Walk to Topographic of Terror
Walk to Beliner Dom Cathedral
Walk to Berliner Fernsehturm (TV Tower)
Walk to DDR Muesum
Drive to Teufelsbreg
Drive to Gatow Air Museum
Drive to Allied Museum
Drive to Hard Rock Cafe
Drive to Berlin Wall Memorial
Drive to Stasi Prison
Drive to Treptower Park
Walk to the Wall Museum
Walk to the East Side Gallery
Drive to the German Museum of Technology
Drive to Templehof Feld (Airport) Park
16:45 – 17:40 Flight Berlin Schoenefeld SXF to London Luton LTN
However this trip didn’t go as originally planned as we missed the flight and ended up driving to Berlin via Le Shuttle
So what actually happened :-
Day 1 (Monday 28th May 2018)
03:30 wake-up call, once I got my ass out of bed and had some breakfast cereal, I grabbed my bag and jumped in the Volvo, and went to pickup Dad, and then Rachel and Marc by 04:00, we arrived at my workplace by 04:35 and parked up, I’ve booked the taxi for 05:00 so we had a while to wait, now i know an 05:00 taxi pickup was cutting things fine, but we should have been OK, as the airport is only a 35 minute walk from work, and why would the taxi take more than 10 minutes to bumble it’s way there…. yeah I didn’t realise Luton Airport was such a S*** hole to get into in a vehicle at stupid o’clock in the morning.
Anyhow 35 minutes later the taxi dropped us off and we rushed off to security, 10 minutes later we were though and walking up to the shops/restaurants via duty free, checking the departures board it said information for out fight at 05:55. great no gate number, 05:55 came and the screen changed to last call gate 5… gate 5 are you taking the piss you start at like gate 25, so off we rushed, Rachel and Marc rushed off in front of us as Dad doesn’t walk as quickly as he used to, eventually we arrive at gate 5, just as the man on gate says we missed the flight, what how can we miss the flight people were still walking thought the double doors on to the airport bus outside…… ahh man are you serious… yes was the reply ok so what do we do now, ohh go to the desk at the end and phone the ground handling company for EasyJet and then somebody will escort you to your flight. Excellent don’t worry Marc we’ll be fine.
so went to the desk and phoned the number and get no answer, tried again and again and eventually it goes to a mobile that gets answered, the girl on the other end says somebody with be with us shortly, yeah pull the other one 90 odd minutes later somebody arrives and it turns out we’re a group of 4 in a much later group of about 25 who’d missed EasyJet flights that morning, along with another 30+ who’d missed Wizzair and Ryanair flights, As it had taken her 90 minutes to arrive, our flight was well on it’s way to Berlin at that point so all they could do was escort us back through security and to the EasyJet service desk, so we joined the queue and waited, overhearing another couple in the queue in front of us, they’d also missed the Berlin flight so we knew before we were served that the next flight was Wednesday morning at £90 each great.
Ok on to Expedia for a quick search for London flight to Berlin today, back comes the search 17:00 ish with British Airways, but at £490 each…… what £490 each are you joking, we’ve got a 2 rooms in a 4 star hotel booked for today at £700 odd, ahh man we can’t waste money on loosing this flight the hire car and the hotel. then i suggested to Dad what about driving, Google maps is saying it’ll would be about 12hrs, So dad got onto the “Le Shuttle” website and it turned out we could get the train to France for £165. it’s a hit but cheaper than losing the money on the hotel, ok so change of plan lets drive…
Leaving the Luton airport we took another taxi back to Work and guess what it did only take 10 minutes this time…… not happy about that, i was pretty much fuming at that point, anyway we repack our bags into the Volvo and depart for Folkestone around 07:45 via the M1/M25/M20, en-route Dad booked the 10:50 train via the Le Shuttle website, which gave us plenty of time to get there, for once the M25 was clear so we made it to Folkestone terminal around 10:00, our registration plate was scanned and our paper was was printed, making a quick pit stop to buy drinks, Breathalyzers and a toilet break, we jumped back in the car and joined to queue for the train, after a short delay we drove onto the train about 11:05, and we moving before we knew it, this was the first time I’d taken Le Shuttle and I’ve got to say I’m impressed with it, fairly smooth and quiet, we arrived in France very quickly
Driving off the train we joined the D247 east bound out of France, we start to rack up the miles, and before long we passed into Belgium where we stopped for a bit to eat for lunch at a petrol station, and then back on the road, passing south of Bruge & Ghent, the going though the middle of Antwerp where we got stuck in traffic for 20 minutes or so, leaving Belgium we entered the Netherlands at top speed and we eventually needed to stop for Diesel which we did around Gierle, Netherlands.
Getting back on the road we powered on for hours when we stopped again in Hamm, Germany about 17:00 for another toilet break and something else to eat. in fact it was a much needed Burger King meal, getting back onto the road again we drove for a couple more hours until we stopped in Lehrte, Germany around 19:00 for another comfort break, now somewhere between this comfort break and the next diesel stop I got flashed by a forward facing speed camera, looking down at my dashboard I saw that the car had read the last 100kph speed limit sign, but I’d failed to notice it so when I passed the camera I was still doing about 95mph or as the letter said when it arrived in July 144kph @ 20:09, please pay 185 euros and serve a 1 month ban 🙁 anyway another Diesel stop came near Magdeburg about 21:00 and that gave us enough fuel to make it to our hotel in Berlin (Select Hotel Berlin The Wall) which we did around 00:05, checking the on-street parking charges we left the Volvo overnight as it was free from 22:00 to 08:00 or something like that, and off we went to check in, crashing out that was the end of day 1 as I fell asleep not long after my head hit the pillow.
|Distances :-||Walking (8136 Steps)||Driving (689 Miles)||Train (34 Miles)||Taxi (6.5 Miles)|
Day 2 (Tuesday 29th May 2018) (High 32° / Low 28°)
Getting up I booked the onsite car parking at the hotel reception desk at a cost of 19 Euro a day, which as it was my personal car rather than a hire car I was happy to pay this amount know it would be safely in an off street car park overnight, once that was sorted we walked the 3 minutes down the road to Check Point Charlie where our nearest McDonald’s was, we planned on doing McDonald’s each day for breakfast as the hotel buffet breakfast was about 12 euro a day per person, and over 4 days for 4 people that would have made a pretty hefty cost, so McDonald’s it was, I opted for the trusty Double Sausage and Egg McMuffin, as that always fills me up for a few hours. once we finished breakfast we walked back to the hotel, jumped in the car and drove off to Berliner Unterwelten e.V. (Berlin Underground Tour), this was one of Marc School trip activities
We arrived at Unterwelten about 10:20 and found some free parking at the near by supermarket complex, we walked to the Unterwelten booking office and paid for the the next English speaking tour which was at 11:00, so we had a little while to kill, looking around the local area we found a little ice-cream parlour so we decided to have ice-cream at 10:30 in the morning, I opted for the bright blue Bubblegum flavour that looks like minced Smurf, which I missed out buying when were were in Venice in 2016,
once 11:00 arrived our tour guide appeared and we all walked off down the road towards the 1st of the tour location which was an original WW2 bomb shelter we descended a few flights of stairs and were greeted with the big pressure doors that we fitted when the shelter was converted to be a nuclear shelter in the 50’s/60’s, the tour guide explained that there was no list of approved people who would be admitted to the shelter it was a free for all, and that it would take 90 seconds for the doors to pressurize but as there were opening handles on both side of the door he wasn’t exactly sure how patient people would have been waiting to get in with the possibility of dying if a real nuclear blast had actually happened. Moving further around the tour our guild explained about how the shelter was original built as a shop complex for the ambitious subway system that had been planned in the early 1900’s before being semi abandoned when the money dried up during the hyperinflation of the 1920’s, once the Allied Forces stated bombing Berlin it was opened up as a bomb shelter and new concrete blast walls were built to try to protect the citizens, once the bombing ended the shelter was mothballed again, only to be converted and brought back into service as a 48 hrs nuclear fallout shelter
The tour then moved on from this shelter into the nearest subway station where a quick ride took us to Bhf Pankstraße, we turned out to also be a bomb shelter, our guide explained that there are giant doors that move to close off the entrance ways and train tunnels to turn the platform and adjoining rooms/passages into a sealed shelter suitable for 2 weeks nuclear fallout shelter for about 1000 people, our group enter on of the side rooms that turned out to be the airlock, which as our guide explained unlike the other shelter it was controller from within the shelter by an operative rather than a free for all, in the corner of the room was a mannequin dressed in a fetching polyester tracksuit that everybody would have had to wear after stripping naked and showering before the inner door would have been opened to allow you into the shelter, as we ventured into the inner shelter out guide explained that all the mirrors were polished metal to stop people from commuting suicide, and that all the compressors and air scrubbers were on rubber mounts to make them bomb proof, and that they are all in working order as up until the early 2000’s they were still turned on and checked for serviceability at least twice a year, even though the chance of the Soviets staging a nuclear attack on Berlin subsided after the wall came down in 1989.
Our guide also explained that the this shelter had only been used once with real people when a large group of Mexican football fans used the bunk beds during the World Cup in 2006 as they had no accommodation, apparently they said it was quite conformable, but as our guide mentioned many had been drinking so any bunk is more comfortable than the floor. to leave this shelter we jumped on the next train going back to our starting point, and that was the end of our tour, This was a fun and informative tour I would recommend it if any of the subject interest you.
When we exited the subway station we decide to grab a bite to eat as it was past 12:00, we ventured down the road and found a little cafe that served rolls, pastries and cakes,
after lunch we took a 1 km walk south down Brunnenstraße to the Berlin Wall Memorial & Park, This is street where the East and West sides of Berlin were divided, when the split started and well before the wall was constructed there was another row of buildings, shops & apartments 3 or 4 stores high, the border was placed at the rear of a row of buildings, so that the internals of the property was in East Berlin and if you stepped out the back door you stepped straight into West Berlin. as tensions got more and more frost and strained between the people and the DDR officials more and more people tried to leave East Berlin for a safer life in West Berlin. however the DDR officials started to try to stop this, with arrests and then bricking up the lower doors and windows of the buildings, but this didn’t stop people trying to escape, this was illustrated with an interactive video at the foundations of an original building that has been preserved at this memorial, here we watched a video show people jumping from 1st floor windows, or sliding down ropes and poles from the 2 or 3 floor windows, This is still something that as an 80’s child of a western county I still can’t imagine the terror and fear that these regular citizens must have felt, to need to throw themselves from these heights, to risk injury or even death just to escape the county they were living in.
Also at the remains of this house it explained that this street was one of many demolished to make way for the wall which was to eventually be built, dividing East and West Berlin for decades to come. Further down the memorial we can arrived at the end of the grassy area and then there was a fully rebuilt section of the wall showing both Eastern and Western side along with Watch towers and barbed wire, showing the full size of the divide between both sides of Berlin
Afterwards we walked back to the car, popped into the local supermarket near where we’d parked for some Water, Snacks and more Ice-Cream and then we drove back the hotel. Taking a little downtime for a nice cool shower and a breakout out of the hot afternoon heat. 17:30 we jumped back in the car and took a drive out to the Hard Rock Cafe for a nice BBQ style meal
After dinner we drove back to the hotel dropped off the car and then took an evening walk to go see the Brandenburg Gate and Reichstag Building, so we took a walk down east down Zimmerstraße towards Tethered observation Balloon and then northwards, two further things I wanted to see, was the Face-Shaped Street Lamp in Wilhelmstraße and the Memorial to the Murder Jews of Europe which is a large collection over 2700 of blocks of differing heights and sizes. we then wandered further northwards to Brandenburg Gate where there was a very vocal Jew Protesting, but as he was doing it in German we had no idea what he want ranting about, after some photos we wandered off to the Reichstag for some more photos and then a slow walk back to the hotel. When we arrived back at the hotel we stopped for a drink in the hotel bar before retiring for the night.
|Distances :-||Walking (22804 Steps)||Driving (16 Miles)|
Day 3 (Wednesday 30th May 2018) (High 31° / Low 24°)
Today’s revised plan was to visit Teufelsberg to see the old American Radio Listening installation/Graffiti exhibition, and then go to the Military History Museum at Berlin Gatow airfield. and finally to walk into the City centre for the evening and get a proper German meal, So we started off as we’d planned to do each day with a quick walk to McDonald’s at Check Point Charlie for breakfast and then back to the Hotel to collect the car and then drive out to Teufelsberg,
First a little information, Teufelsberg is a man made hill and in German means Devil’s Mountain, it’s built on top of the Nazi Military Technical College, that was never finished, and when the Allied tired to demolish using explosives after WW2 it turned out to be very sturdy, so it was easier to bury it, which they did over the next 20+ years ending in 1972, at it’s peak rubble was deposited at a rate of about 600 trucks a day, most of the rubble coming from the rebuilding of West Berlin after the end of WW2, only pausing during the Berlin Blockage, Current measurements show Teufelsberg to be 394ft high, once the rubble dumping stopped in the 1970’s the Berlin Senate decided to plant Greenery on it as part of a Beautification project.
Parking at the bottom of the hill, we started our walk towards the top, Google maps was having issues with getting a signal so we took a block paved path towards the right which looked to be going up hill, however this turned out to be the wrong way, as we wandered along a forest path we came across a sort of pseudo church that was being used be some locals as a rope climbing apparatus, Dad attempted his best rusty German to ask directions, and we were directed to follow the path we were on until we found the road and then turn right to follow the road up hill and we’d eventually find the installation at the top. so off we went, when we reached the top Google maps got a signal and directed us right to the entrance, apparently at this point Rachel spotted a sign saying entrance left, but we either didn’t hear her or ignored her, so off we went right, and right and right and after walking around 9/10th of the top of the hill we found the entrance. and the gate was locked. a hand painted sign inside said it was closed till 12:00 and as it was only 11:00 we weren’t going to stand around for an hour wasting time, slightly annoyed as the website I’d read has said open from 10:00, we walked the other 1/10th of the way around the top to find the road we’re originally climb and we descended the hill back to the car.
Next stop was Gatow Airfield for the Military History Museum, This is a huge air museum housing many types of aircraft operated by the allied forces with in Germany during the cold war as well as many of the types the DDR operated while under Soviet control during the same period, it also houses some more modern prototype gems, and some very rare WW2 classics like the Heinkel He 111 bomber, we spend about 3 hours here as both Dad and I had to photograph every air frame we could find (Full Photo Sets on Flickr Mine here, Dad’s Here) as we neared the end of the museum, we could hear and see the predicted thunder and lightning storm building up over the Berlin city direction,
Once done at Gatow, we jumped into the car and started our drive back into town, but not before we made a detour to find the Allied Museum which has a Handley Page Hastings cargo plane preserved in the car park, and just before we arrived here we found a Lidl so we stopped for more supplies of bottle water and snacks, this is where Marc spotted an automated bottle recycling machine, he took the empty bottles from the boot of the car, but apparently it didn’t like the empty Buxton bottle we’d had kicking around the car since Folkestone as it made some loud grinding noises and stopped, Marc then worked out that the new Lidl bottles we’d just bought had a special barcode that the machine can read and then it gives you back some cash to reimburse you for the “Bottle Tax” that we had ended up paying. anyhow back on the road again the sat nav took us a few hundred yards down the road and then we were at the Allied Museum, for some reason it took us to the back entrance which was locked, so we snapped a few shots of the Hastings over the fence and jumped back in the car to drive back to the hotel.
Once back at the hotel we took a break for about an hour to relax and freshen up, then we left about 18:30 to walk the 1.6 miles into town to find some food and the Berliner Fernsehturm aka the TV Tower. as we did we past a large Volkswagen Group show room with some lovely car inside, we pass lots of people with running numbers on as there was a fun run around the Tiergarten park we past the Beliner Dom Cathedral and eventually we found a nice restaurant called the “Berliner Kartoffelhaus” Marc, Dad and I opted for the double curry wurst, while Rachel went for a single, after we’d eaten we walked sightly further into town and around the base of the TV Tower, and then we found another ice-cream parlour, and then the 1.6 mile walk back to the hotel
|Distances :-||Walking (23748 Steps)||Driving (37 Miles)|
Day 4 (Thursday 31st May 2018) (High 31°/ Low 29°)
Today’s revised plan was to visit the Stasi Prison (Gedenkstaette Berlin-Hohenschoenhausen), the Treptower Park & The German Museum of Technology
Yup you guessed it we started our day with a quick walk down the road to Check Point Charlie to get another McDonald’s Breakfast, returning to the hotel to pickup the car we took a took a 30 minute drive out to the eastern side of Berlin to Gedenkstaette Berlin-Hohenschoenhausen also know as the Stasi Prison. Arriving just before 10:00 we booked onto the next English speaking tour and then had a 30 minute wait before it started, once the tour started our first thing was to watch a video presentation explaining what they Stasi did to inmates and who some of the inmates were and reasons why some people were detained as political prisoners, like famous German actors who’d been forced by the Nazi to appear in proper-gander movies during WW2, or scientists, religious figure heads, or just vocal political opponents. after the video we walked as a group to the main building and descended into the original basement level where we were shown the cells and the lack of facilities, moving onward we entered the garden area were our guide explained that all the windows had opaque or disfigured glass so the the prisoners couldn’t see the garden space clearly.
Next up was the newer building where we were shown the rubber padded cells, our guide explained that prisoners could be left for days/weeks hand cuffed in these padded cells with the doors locked, with No Food or toilet, screaming and being ignored, or belittled over and over to grind them down. next we went up stairs to the cell blocks which were nicer than the first block, but still very sparse, put it this was this place wasn’t getting any good review for accommodation on tripadvisor. as we walked down the corridor we passed the shower room, our guide explained that the stop top for the water was on the outside of the room, so the guards could stop the water any time, and often did while inmates were mid shower, he also explained that the guards would letch at the females while they showered too. next stop was the wardens office, which by today’s standard was very dated and bland, but in the 50/60’s would have been quite nice for DDR Germany, also our guide explained that some wardens and guard found themselves the subject of spying or being grassed on if somebody wanted to get rid of them,
We exited this building and then went to the outside cells, which would have offered inmates some fresh air, but as it had 4 walls and no ceiling no protection from the elements, so in sunny May it was quite nice, but to be locked in here for days in a freezing snowy winter might have been a different feeling all together, This is where our tour concluded all in all it was an educational 3 hours and again recommended if the subject matter interests you in the slightest
Next stop was Treptower park, The park was only about 5.5 miles from the Stasi Prison, so shouldn’t have taken long to drive to, but we got caught in lunchtime traffic so it took about 45 minutes to arrive, Treptower park has the Soviet War Memorial, which is a tribute to the 80,000 Soviet Soldier who died battle of Berlin during WW2, it includes may stone illustrations showing scenes from the Soviet point of view of WW2, it also includes a Giant statue up high on a mound as it’s focal point,
After our visit to Treptower park, we drove back to the hotel to drop the car off, and then walked 1.5 miles south west to the German Museum of Technology, This is somewhere I wanted to visit as they have a large collection of aircraft on the 4th floor, as we only arrived at 15:40 we were running out of time so Dad and I left Rachel and Marc to look around the Locomotives, Boats & other technology they had on show while we rocketed up to the 4th floor to find the aircraft, here we were greeted some very rare aircraft including the Ju 87 Stuka wreck, Avro Lancaster wreck, Bf 109, Bf 110, He 162, Ju 52 & Ju 88 with Owl Radar,
Leaving the Museum we walked back to the hotel for a little while an hour, we decide to go for dinner at about 19:00, so we walking towards Check Point Charlie looking for a restaurant wandering around we opted to eat at Trattoria Da Vinci for an Italian meal, after dinner we returned to the hotel as Dad was very tried we then decided that we’d skip trying to fit in doing anything further on Day 5 and instead take the whole day to drive back home, so we booked the ticket for Le Shuttle and worked out what time to leave to give us plenty of time to make it to the train terminal in good time. after doing this, Rachel, Marc and Myself took a short walk to find some snacks & drinks for the drive home as well as some chocolate to bring back
|Distances :-||Walking (21776 Steps)||Driving (17 Miles)|
Day 5 (Friday 1st June 2018)
Early start to drive home, in fact a 07:00 start to be precise, Skipping breakfast we checked out and got on to the road ASAP, Leaving Berlin by going in a south westerly direction on the A115 until we turned west on the A10 and eventually joining the A2 we plowed on for about and hour and a half, passing check points Bravo and Alpha, we then stopped at Rastatatte Buckautal for breakfast.
Straight after breakfast we got back on the road for another 5 hours 30 minutes, stopping briefly for diesel somewhere around Bielefeld (Ironically this is the area I was clocked speeding on the Monday Evening), during our drive out of Germany we drove through some extremely heavy rain with both sheet and fork lightning and some very close loud thunder, it made for some spectacular viewing and hopefully Dad got one of the lightning strikes on a video, It did however slow our pace down somewhat. But we eventually we made it to Eindhoven, Netherlands where we stopped for a mid afternoon McDonald’s as we did the heavens opened again for another massive downpour
After lunch we again got back on the motorway and plowed on for about another 4 hours getting stuck in traffic again around Antwerp, we eventually arrived in Calais for Le Shuttle about 18:30, 30 mins before our booked departure time, we were directed into a stacking system at the train terminal was very busy, after getting through passport control and onto the train, we departed France about 19:20, arriving back in the UK without issue, we were straight off the train and onto the M20, we then joined the M2 and filter onto the M25 just before the Dartford tunnel, finally we joined the A1(M) for the northbound portion of our drive, we eventfully arrive home about 21:20, after dropping everybody off at there respective homes, I finally parked up at my house about 21:45 plugging the Volvo in, she enjoyed her first domestic electricity for a week.
|Distances :-||Walking (2685 Steps)||Driving (694 Miles)||Train (34 Miles)|