With our time at Prague coming to an end, we left in the early morning for the coach station at Praha, before taking the coach to Dresden. Dresden was much nearer to Prague than expected, taking only 1 hour and 55 minutes to get from Prague to Dresden (without any stops). In addition, the bus ride on Regiojet was extremely comfortable, with coffee or hot chocolate served to all passengers. Regiojet is by far the best coach that I have taken in Europe, and I would definitely recommend it to anyone intending to get between cities in Europe.
Upon arriving at Dresden, we were greeted by Christmas markets everywhere. You can literally find one every 300-400 metres in the city centre. After I had some delicious currywurst, we proceeded on to the various landmarks around central Dresden, namely the Dresden Catholic Church, the Furstenzug, Bruhls terrace, and the Frauenkirche. Truth be told, the architecture around the city centre was simply splendid, and I was taken aback by how close these attractions are to one another.
After visiting these landmarks, we crossed the Augustusbruke to the other side of the river, where we had more gelato (my 20th scoop), as well as an experience of more Christmas markets.
It wasn’t long before we had dinner and left for Berlin, but what I really appreciated most about Dresden was the Christmas markets, and the heart-warming atmosphere it brought about (despite really cold temperatures). After a long traffic jam, we arrived in Berlin and checked into our hotel past midnight, ready for a good night’s sleep and a late morning the next day.
Waking up earlier than the rest, I decided to explore Berlin by myself. I started out the day at Checkpoint Charlie, the best-known Berlin wall crossing point between East Berlin and West Berlin during the Cold War. Checkpoint Charlie was designated as the single crossing point (on foot or by car) for foreigners and members of the Allied forces. The walls around Checkpoint Charlie depicted the history of Germany throughout the Cold War, and how the wall was erected to prevent the brain drain from East Germany to West Germany.
Following Checkpoint Charlie (and a casual chat with a tourist from US) I made my way to the topography of terror, depicting the atrocities of the Nazis. The great thing about travelling to Berlin is that most of the cultural sites are in close proximation to one another, and there is a very rich history surrounding The Great War. Following the topography of terror, I had some currywurst for breakfast, and proceeded to the memorial to the murdered jews of Europe.
The Memorial to the murdered Jews has 2711 columns forming a vast mazelike Holocaust memorial, with an underground exhibition room. As the queue to the exhibition room was too long, I read the information plaques around the memorial. From Auschwitz in Poland, to Terezin in Czechia, to Berlin, the history of genocide can be seen, and it serves as a grim reminder to what could happen should good men choose to do nothing. I also happened to pass by the grave of Adolf Hitler, which is simply (and rightfully) just a noticeboard in a run-down carpark.
Following the memorial, I headed to the Branderburg gate, the icon of Berlin. Built on the orders of Prussian King Frederick William after the temporary restoration of order during the Batavian revolution, it was the site of the former city gate that marked the start of the road from Berlin to the town of Branderburg an der Havel, which used to be the capital of the Margraviate of Branderburg. Throughout its existence, the Brandenburg Gate was often a site for major historical events and is today considered not only as a symbol of the tumultuous history of Europe and Germany, but also of European unity and peace.
Close to the Branderburg gate was the Reichstag building, the historic glass domed home of parliament. It is a Neo-Renaissance parliament building topped by a Norman Foster glass dome with 360-degree city views. The term Reichstag, when used to connote a diet, dates back to the Holy Roman Empire. The building was built for the Diet of the German Empire, which was succeeded by the Reichstag of the Weimar Republic. The latter would become the Reichstag of Nazi Germany, which left the building (and ceased to act as a parliament) after the 1933 fire and never returned, using the Kroll Opera House instead; the term Reichstag has not been used by German parliaments since World War II. In today's usage, the word Reichstag (Imperial Diet Building) refers mainly to the building, while Bundestag (Federal Diet) refers to the institution.
After doing much walking, I was famished, and decided to head to the east of berlin, where the east side gallery was at. I had lunch at burger meister, an interesting burger shop underneath a highway that used to be a petrol station. Needless to say, with so many locals there, the food was both cheap and good. Following a sumptuous lunch, I crossed the Oberbaum bridge to the old East Berlin, where much of the wall stilled remained, as well as several interesting murals. I stopped by East-Side mall for a short break, having some bubble tea (which I absolutely did not expect), and taking a quick look at the Mercedes Benz arena, where the League of Legends world championship group stages were held in 2019.
Murals on the east side of the wall
My next destination was Alexander Platz, a historic meeting and market place rebuilt post-war with modern buildings and the iconic 365-meter TV tower. Surrounded by Christmas markets, there was definitely no lack of amusement, as I wandered around the markets searching for entertainment and some delicious currywursts.
From Alexanderplatz to Gendarmenmarkt, there were a series of monumental buildings with insanely beautiful architecture, ranging from the Berlin Palace, to the Bebelplatz, and the Berlin Cathedral. Sadly, I did not have the time to enter all of these places as the sun was already setting. At Gendarmenmarkt, I coincidentally bumped into my friend Aloysius (the 4th time this trip I met a friend by sheer coincidence), and we toured the Christmas markets there whilst waiting for my friends. After my friends arrived, we headed out for dinner and some drinks (and more currywursts), before returning to our hotel for the night.
With our flight in the early afternoon, we had breakfast near our hotel, before making our way to the airport. At this point in the trip, I was honestly feeling quite drained, but with the amazing city of Budapest coming up next, I couldn’t wait for what was to come.