Update 1: 08.04.17
Update 2: 09.04.17
Update 3: 10.04.17
Whenever I travel backpacking, I tend to stick with my itinerary plan as close as I can. Another reason was because I do not have the data connection on my phone when im out overseas, so I have to rely on hardcopy maps for navigation or study offline digital maps beforehand to make sure I know where I was going. But unforeseen circumstances do occur and I will need to be more flexible. Hence, the actual places I visit may not be the same as those found in my planned itinerary, and I do make certain last minute changes to my original plans.
The variable factors could be that sometimes I had to use more time when I lost my way around or searching for the location; sometimes, I spent too much time at one location or I underestimate the distance between each location and I’m too exhausted to explore further. Sometimes the place is closed upon reaching and I have to rearrange my visit again, which can be quite annoying.
For Part one of my trip, click here.
We finally checked in at our hostel by evening after a whole day of travelling. Honestly, I didn’t know how the landscape in Germany would be until the plane flew past the city. I thought it would be more similar to that in the UK, but I soon realised I was wrong. It was a winter wonderland (with frozen rivers) and I wasn’t too prepared for it.
The first location of the day I visit was Siegessaule, Victory Column. I parted ways with the main cohort at the subway station below our hotel and figured my way to the tower, before meeting up with them again in the afternoon.
As I got off the station, I was elated to see snow everywhere. This was the first time in my life I have seen a proper snowfield like this, and this never happened in Norwich. I love the crunching sound that my boots make when I stepped into the snow. I loved the experience. I spent a bit of time photographing the snowscapes before reaching my destination. Upon reaching the Victory column, I soon found out it was cordoned off. It seems that there was some green peace activism going on and the police were on scene that day. from the ground level, I could see someone sitting on the golden statue above the observation deck, refusing to get off. Looks like I had to rearrange to come by again.
So instead, I decided to spend more time exploring the park, walking off the beaten path while heading towards my next destination. Everything I saw was something new and those street scenes kept me excited throughout.
I met up with the main cohort at the C/O Berlin and spent some time at the exhibition. After that, we walk towards the Holocaust Memorial., taking some street photos that interest me along the way. The Holocaust Memorial is quite unique in the fact that it allows visitors to form their own interpretation and feelings. The individual concrete blocks are laid out on an undulating background, divided up by symmetrical paths. The blocks gradually increase in size as they move into the centre, allowing just a bit of light to penetrate through. The many different paths create a maze and a sense of “getting lost” among the grey, monotonous blocks, which combined with the lack of light inside the monument engender a particularly strange feeling for the visitor.
Rather than taking selfies and be all happy that I am here, the cloudy weather was a reminder for me that I should be sombre or at least respectful to the Jewish victims during the world war II in Europe.
Rather than capturing the iconic concrete slabs at eye level as most visitors would do, I raised my camera on my monopod for a vantage point instead. Someone wrote ‘Peace’ in the snow on one of these slabs, and I added ‘Hope’ on the opposite slab.
Next location we visited was Brandenburg gate as it was a stone throw distance away. I know the gate was a historical site and had a lot of significance, but I didn’t take any photos of the gate; I thought it was too touristy almost everyone was taking from the same perspective. Instead, I went out to find a restroom nearby. I was surprised that I was stopped by a staff in Dunk’in Donut stuff that demanded me to pay an entrance fee when I saw another person went in without paying anything. What a way to make money out of tourists and just because I’m Asian. Anyway, I went to a posh hotel just across the street and I didn’t have to pay for anything. But I found one of the hotel staff with an interesting work outfit. I ask to take a portraiture and she kindly obliged.
Although on the map it seems like a short distance from the Brandenburg Gate to Berliner Auster, it was actually still quite a long walk. By the time I reached the Berliner Auster, I had missed the ideal twilight timing. However, I was drawn to an interesting tower. It turns out to be the Carillon in Berlin-Tiergarten. It is a large, manually played concert instrument, comprising 68 bells weighing a total of 48 metric tonnes. It looked something sci-fi tower out of the ordinary snowy landscape at first glance, and I took a couple of photos around the tower as it plays its music.
I went to recce for Berlin Cathedral, nearer to my hotel. Coming out of the nearest station it took me an hour up and down the street only to realise it was behind the railway bridge which was being blocked. t was getting late and very cold for me. I didn’t have enough time to fully explore the location. At least I now know where it was and I planned to come by again the next day. I reached my hotel almost 10 pm, extremely exhausted.
For day two, instead of following the main cohort to the berlin wall at the south side, I went up northeast to another part of the berlin wall. This was because I the other location, Zionskirche, was around that area. Various sources told me there was an accessible vantage point up the church tower and was open to visitors. My original plan was to visit the church as quick as I could in the morning before making my way to Teufelsberg.
Berlin Wall Memorial
I went up northeast to another part of the berlin wall called the Berlin Wall Memorial. This was because of my next location, Zionskirche, which was around that area. My original plan was to visit the church as quick as I could in the morning before making my way to Teufelsberg.
The Berlin Wall Memorial was created in 1998 to commemorates the division of Berlin by the Berlin Wall and the deaths that occurred there. The memorial includes a Chapel of Reconciliation, the Berlin Wall Documentation Centre, a 60-metre (200 ft) section of the former border, a window of remembrance and a visitor centre with a five-storey observation deck.
After visiting the memorial, I wandered through the neighbourhood nearby. It looked similar to the neighbourhood in my home country. Wandering through the streets towards the direction of Zionskirche church.
A neighbourhood playground caught my eye before getting to the church. I spent a bit of time there observing the empty playground. by the time I finally reached Zionskirche, I was taken aback that it was closed. I later figured out it would open only at about 2 pm.
I decided to bring forward my lunch at the nearby restaurant while waiting for the next 1.5 hours to pass. And when I came back, the staff told me the tower would be accessible only on Sunday mornings! Well, it seems the accessibility of the church tower wasn’t accurate online. I might as well make do what I can while I’m here.
On the next stop was Teufelsberg, located the west side berlin, which took about an hour of a train ride from my previous location. I arrived at about 3 pm, which was getting late, considering the cloudy weather. I had no idea how far it would have been, and reaching there by foot seemed forever. I looked at the locality map; two main roads with many small routes around. It seems the distance would be roughly 4km and possible further, considering how easy it is to get lost in the woods.
I went up a knoll, thinking it would be Teufelsberg; an icy upslope slippery for my boots. After much difficulty, I finally got to the top, a small plateau with an amazing view. I was disheartened to find out that Teufelsberg was on the next knoll. I had to get out quickly as the weather seem to be getting unfavourable and it was getting dark. down I went on the other side towards my supposed destination. and it becomes one of the scariest descend in my life; icy stairs too steep for my limbs. It is possible to slip and fall if one isn’t too careful. After that, another hour of walking
After another hour of hiking, I thought I was lost. I found two bikers at a distance and asked for directions. They were quite surprised to find a tourist at this hour. it was then they told me the place I was looking for was further on upfront. This area is usually popular with cyclist bikers, and there aren’t any public transport that comes here.
I went up as told, and only to realised it’s been locked. looks like there was an actual opening time, as opposed to the 24-hour information given from online sources. I had no choice but to make my way back to the subway station as quickly as I can, as it was already getting dark, birds were all crowing and there was seriously no one around. It would be disastrous to get lost without any torchlights.
What was meant to be the biggest highlight of my Berlin trip became the biggest mistake of my trip.
(The thing about visiting new locations is that things don’t always go according to plan. Compare to the advantages of being a local, the constraints of being a tourist is the limitation of time and we have to make to what we can, instead of waiting for the ‘ideal’ lighting conditions.)
I head to the nearest restaurant to get some dinner and recover from my exhaustion. I found the waitress to be quite photogenic and asked if I could take a couple of portraiture of her. she kindly obliged. I did a couple of test shots with my 50mm prime lens and using the ambient light, but it didn’t well as there were orange cast and heavy shadows. I figured light from the candle on my table might work well. So I had her sit across me and got a better result.
Berlin Messe Nord & Berlin Cathedral
Moving on after dinner, I went out to hunt for the famed orange subway station in Berlin. Online sources said to be at the Messe Nord, ICC station. But I think it was a wrong information again as I could find anything orange there. so I went to try my luck again at the Berlin Cathedral.
I set up my camera thinking this was the entrance. I did a bit of photography here until I realise the fountain I was looking for wasn’t here. So I went further up to explore the other side of the cathedral. when I found the fountain, I didn’t expect it to be fully frozen. I did more long exposures and experimented around until I was happy with my composition.
An American couple came by to see what I was photographing. So I showed them my photos. The lady was impressed by the image, and commended my effort for photographing at the freezing cold temperature and that I got the ‘best view of the church’ where there isn’t anyone around. she wished me well and went on their way. Well, capturing long exposure under minus 2 degree was indeed challenging for me. I kept getting camera shakes on my camera as my hands had been trembling from holding my intervalometer. But in the end, all was worth it.
In day three, I decided to head out early and visit Siegessaule, Victory Column again while the main cohort was at the Bauhaus Archive museum. I intended to meet them there and join them for the museum and gallery tour ni the afternoon.
Siegessaule, Victory Column
I found a shorter route to the victory column and was pleased to know that the viewing platform would be accessible (and for a fee). Much care and effort were taken to ensure that the photos of the victory column I have captured were as symmetrical. On the viewing platform, I wish I could stay up longer due to time constraint and it was getting hazier. Not the best images I got out, but I did what I could within the time frame. What came as a surprise was the image I took at the base of the column, which turned out really well. From a lower angle up, the colours and structures work well here.
Bauhaus Archive Museum, Springer Galerie
When I was in my Arts diploma course, I had to researched about the Bauhaus Movement created by Walter Gropius and then later the works of László Moholy-Nagy. never would I imagine I would be able to visit the museum personally one day.
However, by the time I reached the Bauhaus Archive Museum, the cohort had already left for the next gallery. I spent a bit of time photographing the museum architecture and exploring the gift shop before moving on. I didn’t want to spend for the admission fee as I would only be here for a short while.
Kollhoff Tower, Panoramapunkt
On my next destination was the Panotamapukt on Kollhoff Tower. I arrived on time and stayed up there until it closes at night. I surveyed the location and the panorama view before setting up my camera. As usual, the weather was crappy cloudy and I did not get the ideal sunset view I had envisioned. Staying high up on the tower was extremely cold for me, and even the all the winter wear wasn’t enough for the cold temperature. By the time the city lights come on, I was already trembling from the coldness. But I had to press on until the staff came to inform me that they were closing.
Day 4 was checking out day. Thinking I might have another chance at the victory column for a possible sunrise, instead of Victoriapark which I thought I might not be able to make it back on time. It turns out, even the viewing deck has an opening time. In my case, it was too early. I came back for breakfast empty handed. I spent the whole morning sorting out my images so I could start editing them when I get back home. I walked around the hotel vicinity for last minute gift shopping and lunch before heading back to the airport. I managed to snag a bit more portraiture shots: one was the chef who served us for breakfast, and the other was a waiter at a cafe.
The rest of the images taken during the flight back to London, hoping to get some interesting aerial shots, but it turned out to be quite bad of quality to my liking. Although there were some interesting sights with the city light, it was too dark for my camera.
So thus, concludes my short but fruitful Berlin trip.
For Part one of my trip, click here.