We took a free walking tour while in Berlin. It was comical on a few levels, but it was all good. Our guide, who was Brazilian and German, was adorable and highly personable. She was also a nervous Nellie as ours was her first tour as a guide in Berlin after only living in the city for two months. She was a bit tongue tied and probably forgot most of her own tour notes but she could not have been any sweeter.
Follow the Umbrella
There were eleven of us who started the tour but we were very soon down to nine. Not quite sure what happened to the two that disappeared but a small group is a good thing, you can hear the guide and ask a few questions. Especially, when everywhere we went in the city we saw big groups of 30+ people following a seemingly floating umbrella along the sidewalks. Follow the umbrella!
Grandparents in the Group
Abi and I were the elders in our group, old enough to be everyone’s grandparents. Without exaggeration. Considering our age and the fact that we were the only two people from the US and everyone else in the group was maybe 25 and from the UK, France and Australia, it was a pretty good bet we were the only two who knew about the role of Berlin in WWII, or dare I say the only two interested?
Not one comment or question on point was made by our fellow groupies. Comical. But, they were all quite nice – albeit very quiet – and it made for a very pleasant afternoon.
Check Point Charlie
Truthfully, I would have loved to have gleaned more information about points along the tour such as Check Point Charlie and I’m sure a more seasoned guide would have been able to impart more knowledge, but we figured, hey, everyone has to have a first day at the office – so to speak. And, as I said she was adorable and you could forgive her most anything.
We filled in a few English words for her from time to time. You know, those long orange things that grow in the ground – carrots. She was telling the story of how people in East Berlin turned a war-savaged public square into a garden to grow food for the survivors.
She kept apologizing throughout the 3 1/2 hours of the tour, even though apologies were not at all necessary. As everyone tipped her and said good-bye, I asked her if she had ever heard of Julia Child. No, she had not. How sad is that? Anyway, I explained to her who Julia was and that she had a firm rule in the kitchen – never apologize. Just own it and move on. I encouraged our sweet guide to do the same.
I have to say though we really enjoyed the tour, our sweet guide, and the oh so quiet fellow groupies, and we learned a few things. What else is there?
Five Days in Berlin
Aside from the tour, we enjoyed our five days in Berlin. See, there’s that whole five days theme again. Berlin is HUGE with a population of approximately 3.7 million, so having only five days to explore the city provided just a glimpse, but it was a good glimpse. It’s a vibrant city and it kept us on our toes. Like so many large cities, people are on the go, go, go and it’s best to keep up with the flow or get out of the way! Surprisingly, it proved to be a fairly walk-able city, although I will admit we do tend to walk more than the average visitor.
Owning the Past
Berlin has an incredible history dating back centuries, but most of us – I suspect – think of Berlin in more recent historical terms. When we think Berlin, we think the Berlin Wall, which came down in 1989. That’s only 28 years ago! That kind of boggles the mind, doesn’t it? The city seemingly continues to move forward, not shying away from the past but owning it, learning from it and moving forward.
And, lest one thinks Berlin is all about war and a painful past, far from it. How pretty is this? Thanks Berlin!
We took a self-guided walk along the east side of the Berlin Wall, which you can read about here: The Berlin Wall: East Side Gallery.
We were media guests of : Visit Berlin
Berlin is stunning, Patti! This walking tour sounds amazing! I’ve been to Berlin a few days ago and explored it by bike!
That would be fun as well, Agness, we did see a lot of bicycles in Berlin, they pretty much rule the streets!
Berlin has long been on my list of “must sees” with its ancient and recent history so I enjoyed your tour of some of the highlights. You may have been the oldsters of the group but I have no doubt that you could have out walked all those young’uns. The walking tours are always a good intro to any city but following a set tour with a set amount of time makes it impossible to slow down and absorb special historic locations like “Checkpoint Charlie” or the library at Humboldt University with its quotation about burning books…burning people. So much ancient and recent history along with the museums, art theaters, restaurants, etc. for you to pick and choose among. Five days here will just scratch the surface! P.S. I’m sure you found this already but in case you hadn’t, the secret police of East Germany were called the Stasi.
Anita @ No Particular Place To Go recently posted…Konopiste Castle, The Heir to the Austro-Hungarian Throne and The Great War
I’m thinking you’d really enjoy Berlin and you could easily spend a couple of weeks in the city just taking your time to take it all in.
Stasi! That was the name.
I love a city that is very walkable, you can experience a lot more on foot. Sounds like your walking tour guide was a bit out of her depth with you and Abi? But like you said we all have to start somewhere, and at least it was a small group making the experience more enjoyable? Berlin has been on my
Iist for ages…I hope to visit soon
Our guide was more nervous than anything and she just lost her thoughts. I’m sure if we went back in a couple of months she’d have it down cold. Berlin is a HUGE city but we found it very walkable. You just have to pay attention because the bicycles are ever present! 🙂
Like you, Annie and I often find ourselves older than most of the people taking the free walking tours – but of course that’s part of the fun traveling on your own and not in groups. As part of our 2014 trip (www.bergersadventures.blogspot.com) we visited parts of Central/Eastern Europe and dubbed it our “Behind The Iron Curtain” experience which certainly showed our age. Berlin was incredibly exciting for me because I vividly remember watching TV and seeing the tanks lined up on both sides of the checkpoint. Even knowing they were just actors at the checkpoint didn’t dim my enthusiasm at actually standing there. Thanks for sharing your experience and reminding me of great memories.
We figured we were going to be the elders of the group when the meeting point was a hostel. Want to feel your age? Step in to a hostel for a few minutes. Ha! Actually, the other couple that disappeared just minutes into the tour were of our age, which I’m guessing is why they dropped away. I’m glad our tour helped generate some memories for you! Visiting Berlin was a first for us and seeing these historic sites was profound.