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May 11 - 14 (pre-tour): Berlin

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May 11: Unexpected delay

Our initial flight from Raleigh-Durham Airport was delayed by three hours, causing us to miss our connecting flight from London to Berlin. We then had to wait five hours at Heathrow for the next flight to Berlin. 

Finally back on track, we were excited to catch our first glimpse of continental Europe!

May 12: We're in Berlin!

As recommended in the Rick Steves Berlin guidebook, we got a 3-day WelcomeCard at an airport kiosk, with a one-time extension ticket to get us from the far-away airport to Berlin proper.

At our hotel, I tried my German: "Wir haben eine Reservierung für zwei Personen" (We have a reservation for two people). The clerk understood me!

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Busy Friedrichshain

By the time we checked in, the time was 10 at night. Despite the hour, we were excited and hungry, so we headed out in search of food and adventure.

 

Our first hotel was close to the East Side Gallery, a stretch of the Berlin Wall given over to muralists. We enjoyed the art as we walked and soon got swept up in a sea of people. They took us right by a döner kebap stand, a Turkish-imported staple of Berlin street food.  After our very late dinner of lamb döner and falafel, we headed back to the hotel, finally ready to sleep.

May 13 - 14: Circuits and communism

May 13 was our first full sightseeing day. We had two activities planned: attending synthesizer convention Superbooth during the day and watching the Eurovision Song Contest finale at night. 

May 14 was a festival of communism. First, the DDR Museum, an extensive collection of memorabilia documenting German life behind the Iron Curtain. Next, a visit to the Marx-Engels Forum to pose next to those famous founders of communism, followed by a stroll through Alexanderplatz, dominated by the communist East Berlin TV tower. 

With some hours left before we were scheduled to meet our tour group at Hotel Kastanienhof in Prenzlauer Berg, we walked to Mauerpark. Mimes, musicians, and acrobats performed while families barbecued in the grass and people strolled through the flea market. We walked two laps around the park and returned to the hotel to meet our tour group.

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