July 6, 2013
Late into the morning, I woke up to the sun shining through my 4th floor window at the hostel. This was our last full day in Berlin, and I wanted to make the most of it. Roxana and I had been talking about going to Potsdam, so I mustered up my strength, knocked on her door (possibly waking her up), and we headed out on the S7 train. We used the U-bahn map that Julie had given us along with our metro passes which indicated that the S7 terminated at Potsdam hbf. To our surprise, the train terminated at Wannsee, 3 stops before our destination. The metro routes had changed since the publication of the map we were holding (Feb. 2013) and the new map at the station (May 2013) showed us that we merely had to hop on the S1 to get to Potsdam.
Once there we had no trouble finding the stand where we were able to rent bikes, which was conveniently located on the platform. There were only three bikes left – if we had arrived any later there may not have been any more. We navigated our way through the station, taking some of the slowest elevators known to man, and bought a town map at the tourist information booth.
We ended up not referring to the map very often because Potsdam has maps on the street and very useful signs pointing us in the direction of the main attractions. The first stop was St. Nicholas’ church, whose tall dome was visible from the train station. Roxana observed that the edifice looked surprisingly clean for having being built in the classical period. It turned out the church was in the process of being renovated, and consequently the inside was not as impressive as the exterior.
Next we headed to Schloss Sanssouci, the main reason for our visit. We entered from the outskirts of the park, and every step into the park was more breathtaking than the last. The main palace area was closed to bikes, and in an attempt to find an alternate route we came across a family of swans chilling by a lake. There were a few ugly ducklings that were actually not very ugly, but rather fluffy looking and larger than ducks. In my attempt to get close up video and pictures I was almost chased by one of the parent swans but survived unharmed thanks to Roxana’s warning.
The bike route happened to be on the other side of the entrance, but failing to consult our map, we locked up our bikes with some difficulty (we were only given one lock for both bikes) and headed into the gardens on foot. The gardens were very symmetrically laid out, and it seemed to be the peak season for flowers. Tiered gates adorned with ivy decorated the path up to Schloss Sanssouci, which stood magnificently on the top of a hill. In front was a fountain surrounded by white statues where people relieved themselves from the heat by the misty fountain spray. We made our way up to the palace and marveled at its beauty. San souci, meaning without care, was the summer palace of Frederick the Great and was decorated according to the rococo style which followed the baroque period. The interior décor of this time period were works of art, breaking free of the strict regulations defining the baroque style. We were eager to visit the inside of the palace, but the tours were sold out for a couple of hours so we decided to purchase the last time slot at 17:30 and explore other places first.
We headed off to the city center and had a nice German salad whilst sitting in the shade on Brandenburg Straβe. From the restaurant we could see the Brandenburg Gate (Potsdam’s, not Berlin’s) and a clock tower. With our stomach’s content, we hopped on our bikes again and biked through Sanssouci park, this time finding the correct route. The park looked large on a map, but it was much more manageable on a bike and we were able to see all of the main attractions.
Potsdam's Brandenburg Gate
In front of the New Palace
We finally made it back to Schloss Sanssouci and ate ice cream bars before heading to our tour. Though Sanssouci is of a modest size (for a palace), the interior décor did not disappoint. Every room was ornately decorated with chandeliers, paintings, sculptures, etc. and I was only half listening to the audio guide because my energy was focused on observing every little detail of every room. My personal favorite was the concert room, where there was a gilded spider web on the ceiling centered on where the chandelier hung down from. Unfortunately I was unable to take pictures of the rooms because I did not pay the 3 euros for a photo permit.
After returning to Berlin I grabbed a Döner Kebap for dinner with Tarra and ate while sitting on the bridge. Then I packed up most of my belongings and headed to Amar’s, the Indian restaurant we had visited frequently and come to love. We had a lovely evening wrapping up our stay in Berlin and were treated to complimentary drinks.
July 7, 2013
July 7, 2013
Today was our last day in Berlin. After checking out of the hostel, Stephanie, Lynn, and I went to the Ostbahnof train station and reserved tickets for our post program travels. The woman helping us did not speak very much English but we were able to communicate by her speaking German to us and us responding in English. She was very patient and helped us for the better part of half an hour.
We headed back to Die Fabrik to have lunch. Lynn had been raving about Die Fabrik Café’s meatloaf (read her daily diary) and so as our last meal in Berlin the chef made us a special order, as they were still serving breakfast. Even with high expectations the food was absolutely delicious. At the end of our meal we snapped a photo with Ostana, one of the waitresses we had gotten to know. She invited us to friend her on facebook and offered to show us around Berlin if we ever came back.
We still had an hour to kill before heading to the airport so Lynn and I went to Fuhrpark to sit in the sun instead of in the hostel lobby. We returned after 15 minutes because we could feel our skin starting to burn.
Julie, Edgar, and Manuela arrived at the hostel and we gave Manuela a card signed by everyone in the program. Manuela escorted us to the train station and we had a bittersweet goodbye with her. She made our stay in Berlin so wonderful and we will miss her a lot.
The flight over to Madrid was fairly smooth with a bit of turbulence and we arrived a half hour earlier than anticipated. No one’s luggage got lost, though Edgar did experience some trouble with his suitcase which did not roll. After two transfers and some wandering, we finally found our hostel and tripled up into rooms. Most of the rooms only had two beds but one room had three singles which the guys gladly took. Exhausted from the day’s travel, everyone grabbed dinner and headed to bed.