Germany 2: Leaving Berlin, never easy

I’ll let the pictures tell the story for the most part. I’ve covered so much of my stay in Berlin for ESPN and espnW already. (See the game story, crowd story, day-before press conference story and video – hoping to see second video later.) They are paying me, after all. SportsMyriad is not. I should chat with the boss. (Or chat with the readers who aren’t clicking these ads.)

Berlin left quite an impression on me. So much so that I started ranking it among all the major cities I’ve visited. I count 20-30 cities in the USA, depending on your definition, plus two in Canada, two in Ireland (including Cork), one in England, one in France, one in Italy, one in China (not counting Qinhuangdao, because I just saw the glimmering stadium and the ghastly train station) and now one in Germany.

The only cities I can remember that rival Berlin in terms of being endlessly fascinating and charming are Boston, Seattle and Toronto. Salt Lake City is one of the most beautiful places in the world, and the people are friendly, but it falls into a different category — it’s a mid-sized resort town. Honorable mentions would go to Chicago, Vancouver, Dublin, Cork and Beijing.

Location is everything, of course. Perhaps if I had been dropped off somewhere else in town other than this charming strip along the Spree, I wouldn’t have such a great impression. But I saw a good bit of Berlin from the train and on my two-mile walk from the hotel to Brandenburg Gate and Potsdamer Platz.

I could go on for days about the way Berlin’s past tragedies provide such a stunning backdrop for a celebratory city. The Wall has been down for two decades, and still Brandenburg Gate, the site of Reagan’s “Tear Down This Wall” speech, is full of people who seem to be celebrating. Within site of the Gate in what used to be East Berlin is a museum dedicated to the Kennedys, with a giant picture of Jackie in the window. It’s right next to the Starbucks.

Aside from the breathtaking parts of the city, the place is full of neat apartment buildings, all with balconies adorned with flowers. Someone even managed to grow some impressive sunflowers from a balcony.

Unfortunately, I made that ranking in my head while I was completely unable to sleep. But I’m doing pretty well so far this morning. I finally fell asleep a little after 1:30 and was still alert for my 5:30 wakeup call.

I made it with plenty of time to spare to Berlin’s massive Hauptbahnhof, or main train station. It took me five minutes or so to take in the scope of it and figure out where I was supposed to go.

I was nervous that my “train pass” — a sticker applied to my World Cup credential — would leave the conductor befuddled. But she didn’t question it, and I’ve had a carefree train ride from Berlin to Bochum, whipping up to 250 km/h past a giant wind farm on the way to Wolfsburg.

On board, I was able to plug in my headphones and listen to some radio stations. Radio Berlin played an eclectic mix including Eurythmics’ Love Is A Stranger. I still haven’t seen or heard anything related to David Hasselhoff, but Nicole Eggert is mentioned in Bild. And one of the U-bahn (subway) trains in Berlin had a news display that rotated abruptly from the Copa Libertadores (South America’s top soccer tournament) to something about Lindsay Lohan.

Yeah, yeah, we’re cultural imperialists. That’s OK. But I wouldn’t mind seeing Germany export some of its culture to the USA. Let’s start with the trains.


From Berlin 2: Heading East, posted by Beau Dure on 6/27/2011 (13 items)

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