Writer, traveler, maker


Travel updates and occasional commentary

Berlin: Of theft and history

After my day in Helmond, I took the night train to Berlin, sharing a compartment of 6 beds (3 on each wall) with men and women. I didn't have any safety concerns, but the compartment had no room for luggage, so I had to store all three bags along the inside wall of my narrow bed.

I didn't sleep more than about three hours. The day did not improve on that start, between a chilly rain, pickpockets and a firsthand look at one of mankind's darkest eras.

 My Berlin Airbnb host was very accommodating about an early bag drop off - I was even able to nap before sightseeing. Unfortunately, he was also a heavy smoker; I could practically see a haze when I entered the apartment.

After a nap with the window wide open (despite the near-freezing temperature outside), I set out on a walking tour of the city, starting with the Brandenburg gate and Reichstadt.

In hindsight, I probably passed some sign boards with text in the area, but I didn't realize they were tourist warnings from the police - about pickpockets masquerading as charity canvassers - until much later. By that point, the thieves had gotten most of my cash from a coin purse zipped in a back pocket of my bag. I only realized when I went to pay for lunch.

That set a discouraging tone for the rest of the day, but I'm very grateful they didn't take any of the cards in that wallet. My suspicions about the missing money were confirmed when I saw more sign boards outside the Topography of Terror, a free exhibit next to the Berlin wall remains that details the rise and atrocities committed by the Nazi SS and Gestapo. I spent more than an hour going through the exhibit, on the site of former Reich offices.

As with those grounds, the sights today were pretty evenly split between the history of the Nazis and the Berlin wall. My Airbnb is apparently just inside the former East Berlin boundary, near the old Jewish neighbourhood and one of the tunnels under the wall. (One picture details the memorial signs just down the street.)

Sign marking where part of the Berlin wall used to bisect the neighborhood.

Sign marking where part of the Berlin wall used to bisect the neighborhood.

I wish I weren't ending the trip with a couple more disappointing and frustrating experiences, but overall I'm very grateful for the adventure and chance to see family and friends.

Post-trip update: Though small consolation, it turned out I was able to write the theft off on my tax returns.