Berlin, Germany

And so we arrive in Berlin.  This is about as far East as Selina is comfortable travelling, so this is home for a week.

It’s a long drive, so our first day is more of an evening.  We scope out the local area buying groceries and generally mooching around.  From the camping platz, we can see the Humboldhain Flak tower standing on the hill, so we wand over and take a look at that.  It seems that only organised tours are allowed inside. The flak tower is a repeatable design and we had already spotted one in Hamburg.  When the Germans designed them, they already had in mind post-war uses for the buildings and so they were actually designed to be clad in stone.

Our first day into town is a large walking tour.  We take in the intact section of the Berlin wall over at Mühlenstraße – now an outdoor art gallery.  We visit checkpoint Charlie, the Brandenburg gate, the parliament buildings, and we even have time for an impromptu visit to the cultural fair which was on for three days.  Pulled pork burgers for lunch. Nom nom!

It’s really busy in town, so many of the things have huge queues.  Even though queuing is a supposedly British national pastime, we eschew waiting and continue the wander.  Many kilometers of pavements pounded!

Second day in town and we intended to go back to Potsdamer Platz to check out the Lego experience and the German Espionage Museum.  But we didn’t get that far. We got to Potsdamer Platz okay, but then spotted ‘Die Welt’ a tethered helium balloon that we had previously seen from the top of the Flak Tower on the day we arrived.  It was only 25€ each, so we splurged out on it. We were really lucky: We were the 8th and last flight of the day because the wind picked up.  So glad we did this. A great view of Berlin from 150 meters. Very apt that the Balloon is positioned beside the Luftwaffe HQ from the war.

After that we needed beer with sauerkraut hotdogs for lunch.  Then it was over the road to the Topography of Terror – the old site of the Gestapo.  From there it’s back to Potsdamer Platz and the Espionage museum – which was really interesting – Toby _finally_ got to see another Enigma  machine = two in fact. The Lego Experience was a non starter – it was just shy of 20€ each! That’s too rich for us non-earners 😉

The next day and it was a trip to the outskirts of town and the Computer games Museum. Even Selina played some of the games.  Toby now wants to raid the loft when we get home and get out the Amiga, the BBC and the Atari ST! Selina even played ZorkInternet Rabbit Hole warning: Play Zork and HHGTTG online.

Our final expedition for this trip to Berlin was a guided underground tour with berliner-unterwelten learning about the tunnels that were used to escape West Berlin in the early days of the cold war. We learned many of the heroes of Berlin that rescued hundreds of people from the wrong side of the wall and reunited many families for example Tunnel 57.  None of the actual tunnels exist today – they were normally destroyed with hand grenades on discovery, but the Berlin Unterwelten have access to the sprawling basements of a number of buildings and each story is told in an underground setting.

Milan, Italy

We arrived at the Agrotourismo site mid-afternoon.  Too late to go into town so instead we stocked up the food and drink mine and then enjoyed an evening of British TV – We are far enough north now for the ‘tight’ UK only satellite footprint to spread to us. It was great to watch some ‘prime time’ BBC TV – paid for by the 1977 TV licence fee.  Does anyone know what they have done with the rest of the money?

On Sunday we spent the day in Milano.  We had lots of things on the list but we managed to be pretty unsuccessful at the planned things – damn those queues.

We wanted to see ‘The Last Supper’ but it’s sold out for the next three weeks – fail!  Instead, we went to see the church where it resides. We wanted to see inside the Duomo, but the queue was hours long, so we satisfied ourselves with a view of the outside – still pretty impressive!

We walked around the Sforzesco Castle and then the Sempione Park behind it – a great walk around an urban garden.  Then we went up the Torre “Branca” – a 100-meter tower built in 1933.

Our last visit for the day was to the Science museum – Museo Nazionale della Scienza e della Tecnologia. T really wanted to see their Enigma machine – but guess what – it was not on display!  

Instead, they have a good collection of Theo Jansen Strandebeesten – including a running demo – so that was awesome.  They also had the Carabinieri demonstrating a bomb disposal robot so we spent some time watching that too! The museum is a great visit although it has a pretty eccentric layout and we got lost many times!

Back to the mothership early evening. On the way back we spotted what looked like an enormous rat down by a small stream.  We had already spotted rats there earlier in the day, but as the glance was of a massive beast we hung around and got some great views of the massive buggers.  We later found out that the big ‘rats’ are Coypu – originally from South America and accidentally released in other parts of the world after being farmed for fur.  

Then to the van for a homemade pizza and a Bond film.  Early start the next day. We both bemoaned that we have not seen the sea for many weeks.  It will be a couple more weeks yet but we’ll try and fit in a lake!