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Old 23rd March 2016, 16:16   #31
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Just an awesome awesome read! Brilliantly narrated with wonderful "kodak-moment" clicks! Had recently been to Germany on a business trip (Dusseldorf) and can relate to many things you have shared. Locals were quite surprised at the ease at which we Indians can pronounce German words and names more than people from other European countries!
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Old 23rd March 2016, 17:21   #32
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Awesome engrossing narration. Was in Berlin hardly a week back for ITB combined with a little sightseeing on the last day and can relate to what you have written so well. Lovely city, easy to move around and the people are polite & warm hearted, so very different from pre conceived notions about Germans. Glued to this thread and rated it a well deserved 5 Stars.
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Old 23rd March 2016, 18:56   #33
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Amazing narration, pictures and sense of humor!!! You got a talent for writing....it was one helluva of fun reading your travelogue - your description of each member of family, self-deprecating narrative...it was like watching a hilarious sitcom and more importantly very informative of all the tourist places. Eager to read the other parts of your trip. Keep 'em coming!!!
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Old 23rd March 2016, 19:33   #34
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Great writing skill you have!! Had me in splits!! Especially the DDLJ connection with FIL

Even my first Europe thread starts with a mention to the Movie and you have taken it to the next level. Made my day!!

The only big German city I am not able to travel to so far. Is in the list for the next time. Glued to the thread! Rated well deserved 5 Stars!

Impatient for more. Keep it coming!!
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Old 24th March 2016, 11:13   #35
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Originally Posted by GTO View Post
Thread moved from the Assembly Line (The "Assembly Line" Forum section) to the Travelogues Section. Thanks for sharing!

Beautiful family, beautiful holiday! Rating 5 stars.

Some parts had me . Hats off to your writing skill. It's well & truly a gift. This travelogue is going straight to the homepage!
Thanks GTO - coming from you, its a great booster. Hope you enjoy the rest of the travelogue

Quote:
Originally Posted by SDP View Post
This is simply a awesome awesome travelogue! I am not a history buff, but the way you have weaved the narration, even that history has become interesting.

I have been lucky enough to have stayed in Germany for a few weeks and reading about Hauptbahnhof and Strasse brought back fond memories from a decade back. Thanks for that!

Lacing the narration with humour has turned out to be the cherry on top for this thread. There is a silly wide grin plastered on my face while reading this travelogue!

Having written travelogues myself, I know how much effort it takes. So, thank you for taking that effort and sharing this beautiful experience with us!

Eagerly waiting for the next installment!
Thanks so much SDP firstly for initiating me in the wonderful TBHP Mumbai group and Thanks again for guiding me for writing the travelogue. Hope the grin stays plastered till the end of the travelogue

Last edited by GTO : 24th March 2016 at 16:20. Reason: Merging back to back posts
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Old 24th March 2016, 13:57   #36
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Day 3 – Our Last day in Berlin.. contd

IN the past 2 days, we had spent one day for general acclimatization & did an all encompassing tour on the 2nd day. By and large we had covered the major tourist attractions of Berlin. Hence today was a day to deep dive into a specific area of interests; for me - history & for the wife - shopping.

In the morning, we decided to split up and meet in the evening at 6 pm at the Brandenburg gate.

Being an avid history buff & having covered most sights pertaining to WWII, i felt it would be interesting to delve into the Cold War era and get a perspective of life in Berlin at the height of the Cold War. I had registered previous night for the “Insider Cold War Tour of Berlin”, It was a Walking Tour with tickets being at 10 euros. The meeting point was at Zoologischer Garten (Berlin zoo) and i was surprised to find more than 20 people already waiting at the meeting point on a cold & blustery Berlin morning

The Tall guy is the Guide - a funny "Stiff upper lipped" Brit

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As I had mentioned earlier, in all the walking or biking tours across the world, the guide plays a major role in your take away experience. Most of these guides are students or expats who have now been in Berlin for an extended period of time. And i was fortunate to get one of the better ones for this tour - he was a Brit, with an MSc in Political Science who then decided to study further in Berlin , as it was the “birth of modern day history”. His humour and his knowledge made this trip a memorable one for me.

The Tour itself was more about “How Life was Behind the Wall?” and dealt more with the Russians growing sense of insecurity towards the increasing power and influence of the West (USA, UK, French regions) on the citizens of East Berlin.

This was a building occupied by the Russian Administrators (boring drab exterior) which was bugged by the Americans who used to eavesdrop

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WARNING !! - HISTORY LESSON STARTS A brief history of the Berlin Wall - Why was it built ?

What was the Berlin Wall ? And why was the Berlin Wall built? Answering these questions is not so simple as it looks. In the 1960’s & 1970’s, If you would ask a patriotic communist East German (Russian side) what the Berlin Wall was, he would say: “It’s the anti-fascist wall, protecting the people of East Germany against the fascists that live in West Germany.” If you would ask the very same question in West Germany most people would say: “It’s a brutal wall that divides our country, put up by scary communists that are afraid that everybody would flee their country.”


Post the WWII - the Allies each wanted a share of Germany and hence it was carved up into several pieces, the biggest one being kept by Russia. In those days, border security was lax and citizens could pass easily from East to West. Now Russia being a communist state, had several measures designed to keep its citizens in a false state of security, albeit with severe restrictions on their freedom. And just across the wall, you had the western culture, with McDonalds, TV shows, latest fashion, freedom etc.

Between 1945 - 1961, its estimated that more than 3.5 million people migrated from East Germany to West Germany, and soon the Russians caught on. Fearing that very soon they may not even have any citizens left to govern, they designed a plan - lets create a Wall running around the country which will prevent mass exodus in future. The construction of the wall started on 13th August 1961 and overnight it split Berlin in two… Fathers who had gone to offices the previous day, Children gone over to stay at a friends place, Family members etc all suddenly discovered that they could no longer go back to their homes. Overnight, families were stranded, destroyed etc...

Suffice it to say this period was one of the most traumatic in this city’s history and post the fall of the wall in 1989, Berlin was truly united.

Check out the pics

The Berlin Wall wound itself around Berlin
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Just for scale - check out the size of the Berlin Wall & notice the rounded "HUMP" on top - shall explain why

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For the record, my height is 5"11 and you can see the Wall towering above me. It was designed to have a height of 3.6m tall (approx 11.8 feet), which meant 2 people have to stand on each other's shoulders and yet may have to jump to get over the Wall. Also the "hump" on top, makes it difficult to grip, or to dangle hooks and pull oneself up.. Ingenious calculations by the Russians !!

Coming back to the Cold War tour, it covered several sites across Berlin, all accessed by foot or trams. It was especially interesting to hear about the spying techniques which the Westerners used on the Russians and vice versa.


A particularly gripping site was that of the “Death strip” - the space between the inner & outer walls, covered in sand, with mines and sensor detecting guns, anti tank bombs etc which were all designed to foil escape attempts.

The Sanskari Middle Europe Trip - From Berlin to Vienna via Eastern Europe-day-3-pic-6.jpg

As you can see, the Berlin Wall is not one wall, its actually 2 walls - with a no-man's land or "Death Strip" in between. This death strip was where majority of escape attemptees were shot, electrocuted, blown etc. The wall also had a steep slope at its base, so that a speeding vehicle would automatically lose speed if it tried to ram down the wall

The Russian Secret Police - the STASI Headquarters

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The tour ended with a visit to an old dilapidated mansion office complex, which were the erstwhile headquarters of the dreaded “Stasi” or the East German-Russian Secret police. This was a scenario straight out of the movies - it was in this period, that men & women secretly disappeared. If your husband, wife or child dont come home at night, it was to be assumed that they were “Stasi-ed” which could mean they were being held captive, tortured or maybe even dead.

Such was the height of insecurity amongst the Russians, that they forced & blackmailed citizens into spying on each other. At the height of the cold war, it was rumoured that there was one spy for every citizens. Husbands spying on wives and vice versa, children spying on parents, neighbours on friends etc. And the current Russian president, Vladimir Putin had also served an extended period in the office of the Stasi in East Germany at Berlin & was rumoured to be especially good at Torture.

Recently 2 decades ago, the German Government had recovered millions of dossiers belonging to the Stasi which contained information on each of its citizens in East Germany. Imagine having a dossier in your name !!!! It contained every detail of your life and who were the people spying on you.

The German government , in a major move, decided to make the dossiers public where any citizen could visit its offices, take permissions and access their own files. The condition being - they could access only their files and not anybody else’s , not even of their family members. However, a lot of citizens chose not to, fearing that the knowledge of who spied on them, may just damage their relationships. Indeed for these citizens, ignorance truly was bliss !!

East -Side Gallery
Today, as a relic of its dark period, the Berlin local Government has thrown open vast areas of the still standing wall, to showcase the creative side of Berlin. Every year, artists from across the world, paint thoughtful murals & graffiti on the wall and spread the message of peace & unity. The murals & graffiti are painted on a section of the Berlin Wall & old Russian Buildings

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The Indian connection on the Wall - writing Graffiti on walls has been our age old strength

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I had got so engrossed with my tour, that I completely lost track of time..And with no phone connectivity, had no way of informing my In-laws that I will not be reaching our meeting point as per GST (German Standard Time), but will reach as per IST (Indian Standard Time)

Meanwhile, the wife, in-laws & saala saaheb spent their time in retail therapy. (Mostly Window shopping) as any true Gujju blood would equate the shop prices of items, with those available in Mumbai & Gujarat, resulting in massive savings

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As decided, the In-laws were at Brandenburg Gate at 6 PM, while I was nowhere to be seen. Every passing minute added to their frowns and wrinkles...
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Passing time clicking pics - waiting for their STAR Jamaai

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Eventually We reunited at the Brandenburg Gate in the evening at 7 PM and after handling hostilities from the Wife about "How i have no sense of time, And what was the need to go alone?" variety of questions, eventually calm set in & post a dinner of local German delicacies & American junk food, we called it a day.

the family Reunited & Relieved !!
The Sanskari Middle Europe Trip - From Berlin to Vienna via Eastern Europe-day-3-pic-13.jpg

Meanwhile the BRAT spent some time entertaining himself. Checking out his poses and love for vehicles, I think he will be a great TBHP member some day


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It had been a great 3 days spent in Berlin and I was looking forward to the rest of the trip, knowing that each destination will be unique, different and as visually enriching as the next !!


Parting thoughts on Berlin
Berlin today is the nuclear fuel rod of a great country.It was once the nerve centre of WWII, was later bombed extensively and razed to the ground. Then it rose again like a phoenix from the ashes and is today a testimony to how a city, utterly destroyed 60 years ago, has rebuilt itself with grit, gumption and determination. Its a city where history coexists with the present.

It's vibrant with youth, energy, and an anything-goes-and-anything's-possible buzz. As we walked over what was the erstwhile Wall and through the well-patched Brandenburg Gate, it's clear that history is not contained in some book; it's an exciting ongoing story.In Berlin, the fine line between history and current events is excitingly blurry. Its a city which is truly lively, fun-loving, all-around enjoyable — and easy on the budget.

With the history lessons for the trip done, We bid adieu to Berlin and onwards to Prague tomorrow - Wonder how that city experience will unfold? Keep tuning in !!
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Old 24th March 2016, 14:49   #37
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Quote:
Originally Posted by shahkartik24 View Post
Myself being Gujarati, would like to ask a question....

What about availability of Vegetarian food ?? Was it easily available ??
Its predominantly a misconception that vegetarian food is difficult to get in Germany. Yes, they eat a lot of meat but :
  • Vegetarian dishes cost the same, if not more than non-veg sometimes.
  • Some people go one step further- the VEGAN route >> no milk products and not even honey.
Quote:
Originally Posted by mentalmaxout View Post

HITLER's DEATH BUNKER

Believe it or NOT !! This unremarkable Building Parking lot is the site below which was Hitler's Bunker - where he and his newly wedded wife Eva Braun, committed suicide !!
^^ This is one thing I've missed out, next time...

You have very well captured the spirit of Berlin. I've lived & travelled extensively around Germany in the past 4 years, but Berlin is my all time favourite.

Waiting for what you reveal about Prague

Spike
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Old 24th March 2016, 15:44   #38
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You have an incredible flair for writing, Sir. A travelogue penned down to perfection. The way you've related your in-laws to some beloved celebrities got me in splits
Awaiting for the next leg of your trip.

Last edited by satrikon_454 : 24th March 2016 at 15:46.
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Old 24th March 2016, 16:55   #39
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This is just excellent! Have been procrastinating my Hobart travelogue but this has inspired me to put it here soon!
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Old 24th March 2016, 17:32   #40
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Hi mentalmaxout,

I am in awe of your writing style and simply loving it.I literally fell off my seat when I went through your narration and in particular the analogies made me .Wonderful travelogue and keep 'em coming....I am tuned to your travelogue for more.

Cheers
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Old 24th March 2016, 20:25   #41
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@ mentalmaxout

Man o man!!! You are making me relive my school days again, did schooling from Szeged, looks beautiful and Gto rightly said, awesome pictures, beautiful family, fantastic narration and breath taking memories... Please update more pictures of Budapest,, Eastern Europe has a old world beauty and charm
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Old 25th March 2016, 11:33   #42
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Awesome.. Very well written and what a fantastic humor! Start writing man. I'm sure you'll become a good novelist.
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Old 25th March 2016, 13:19   #43
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@ mentalmaxout - This travelogue has got to be one of the best posted on here. It would be an understatement to say that you write well !!! It is an absolute delight to read and go through wonderful pictures.

Wish the best for your family and yourself; stay blessed.

Your write-up gives me confidence that I can do Europe sometime soon -perhaps in 2017. Thanks bud.
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Old 25th March 2016, 14:08   #44
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Awesome is the right word !! Very well written travelogue with your distinctive style with the right dosage of history lessons, family relations, management lessons and most importantly keeping us smiling throughout the ride.

Keep it coming and thanks for a well spent 2 hours !!
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Old 25th March 2016, 14:35   #45
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Awesome travel-log! Enjoyed reading. Thanks for sharing!!

Did you try doner kebab at Mustafa's? They are the best in Berlin and lovely to say the least! Both vegetarian and chicken.

Link: http://mustafas.de
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