Germans: funny, not very organised, obsessed with sausages. Take that, 2 out of 3 stereotypes

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This is Urs. We bonded over snotty facemasks and the pros and cons of peeing in neoprene (ie. we dived together in Thailand), and I just stayed on his sofa for two nights in Berlin. That’s my last time staying with someone which makes me kinda sad really. Let’s just say it’s the last time for this particular trip.

This picture was on my second night when I was being introduced to the cultural highlight that is currywurst. It’s basically a sausage, sprinkled with curry powder, accompanied by a mountain of chips drowning in ketchup. Not the most gourmet of meals, but it was cheap. We went out afterwards in search of mai tais to reminisce about sitting on the beach in ko Tao – failed to find any, but I have now experienced shots of Mexicana. It was described as Bloody Mary in a shot, but I think they might have forgotten to add the tomato juice. It felt like I was just doing a shot of alcoholic Tabasco. Clearly this drink is just designed to give the bartender a good laugh at the newbie.

Anyway, to get back to chronological order (ha!), the wonderful thing about staying with a friend and not a hostel is that when you show up sleep deprived and grumpy after an overnight bus, they let you go straight to sleep on their sofa (this might have been because Urs was out til 3 the night before and wanted to go back to sleep just as much as I did).  When we eventually woke up at about 1 we spent the rest of Sunday driving out on his motorbike – kitted out with helmet, jacket AND gloves, what luxury – to a semi abandoned country house outside the city which he refers to as his private castle because not many people know about it.

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We can’t get into the inside (clearly the groundskeeper forgot to leave us the key), but the grounds are lovely with a big lake to laze next to while catching up.

The next day Urs, being a sensible grown up, had to go to work, so I went to see the important historical sites of the city with an excellent guide from Brewers, including the last bit of the Berlin wall and Checkpoint Charlie (the gateway between east and west Berlin), both of which I spectacularly failed to take pictures of.

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I did get a somewhat fuzzy picture of the holocaust memorial, officially called the Memorial to the Murdered Jews of Europe. It’s a very strange memorial, at first glance it gives the impression of a hill of graves, but between the slabs the floor slopes downwards so as you walk through they wind up towering above you rather oppressively.

Just a short distance away from here is the nondescript spot of pavement where Hitler’s bunker used to be hidden. Brilliantly, also within spitting distance are a Chinese restaurant, a Mexican restaurant and… drumroll please… a gay sauna. Hahahahaha.

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Another stop on the tour was the Bebelplatz, where the famous book burning took place (please note, not actually attended by Adolf Hitler. Or Indiana Jones). There’s a room of empty bookshelves set into the floor as a memorial here, and not much else to see, but just over the road there are always a couple of stalls selling books in the hopes that it will never happen again.

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Among all that very serious stuff, clearly the most important stop on the tour was the chocolate shop. I’m not sure why we were brought here, I’m not aware of Germany being famous for chocolate, but I am certainly not complaining. After all, anything with the name Fassbender has to be tasty right?

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Why yes Michael, yes it does.

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I just managed to stop short of buying the enormous chocolate church.

On my last day I used the spare time before my bus to Paris to go on another tour, this time showing off the graffiti of the city – some legal and commissioned pieces, some not so much.

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The last one is by a Italian artist called Blu, which seems an odd place to end a part about Berlin, but I want to share his animations because they’re just so brilliantly weird. I wouldn’t recommend watching this after eating a large amount of cheese though.  Or hallucinogenic drugs, though I’m sure most of my readership are more included towards the cheese.

MUTO

European camping at its best

We’re now on day 4, and so far it has rained Every.  Single.  Day.  You’d think after growing up on Eurocamp holidays I’d be used to this, but come on. It’s nearly July for God’s sake! (You may remind me of this when we get to Asia and I switch to complaining that it’s too hot)

Update – day 6 now (I keep getting distracted by the campsite bars instead of finishing this post), and we have now had one rain free day!  Nearly 2, but it just started pelting it down again 5 minutes ago.  The cafe I’m sitting in was empty when I got here – it’s stuffed to the gills with rain dodging tourists now. Aaand my washing is hanging outside back at the tents.  Poop.

Hopefully, if the photo attaching works (maybe I should have practiced this before I set off?), that is a photo taken in one the brief interludes without rain – I mean that in all seriousness, it was pissing it down the first time we were all pitching our tents then stopped as soon as we were all done.  The first night we were all squished up in a campsite somewhere in Belgium.  That’s me in the middle!  I look small, but about 6 people have the same tent as me, which is lucky as I got to watch them set up while I was getting in a pickle on my own.  I’m not completely sure where as the first couple of days were entirely driving days so we never really knew what our progress was until yesterday.  I’m now on country number 5 (France, Belgium, Luxembourg, Germany, Austria) so we’ll be done with Europe and onto the hot countries soon!

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Although it was a bit gruelling to start of the trip of a lifetime with 2 solid days of just sitting in the bus, it did at least give us a chance to get to know each other before our first sightseeing trip – a 3 hour stop in Germany before carrying on to Austria to visit Dachau concentration camp.  Hmm. A nice cheerful stop.  The alcohol when we arrived in Austria was almost compulsory after that.

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After wandering around depressing myself I started wondering if maybe this was a strategic first stop to make us realise how lucky we were that we at least got some privacy on the toilets, even if the tent situation isn’t always peachy.  And let’s not even mention worrying about going several days without getting in a shower.

Yes, bad taste, I know.  But hey, it’s only people I know reading this blog and you’re all obliged to like me anyway :P