Archivo de la categoría: English

Berlin Free Walking Tour

When you visit a city for the first time the best way to get to know it, is to walk it. But if you do it alone, you could miss details about the culture, life style, and historical facts that have happened there. Therefore, in my opinion, a free walking tour is an excellent option: you will walk, you will get some interesting data about the most important places of the city, and you will pay just a tip according to what you think of the tour.

In Berlin there are many options and we finally choose the free walking tour offered by Sandeman. But Berlin is big city, with a long and very important history, so it is plenty of alternatives and each one is different to the other, so you should check first and select the one which better fits your interests.

The Branderburger Tor is the symbol of the city.

The meeting point for Sandeman’s tours is the famous Brandenburg Gate, maybe the most iconic and known symbol of the city. It is located at the end of the Unter den Linden Avenue, just in front of the Tiergarten.

The gate was scene of the most important historical facts that happened in the country, and in the entire world. It witnessed the French invasion led by Napoleon, who wanted to take the entire gate to Paris. As he couldn’t, he finally took the quadriga only, which later was recovered by the Germans . In front of the gate the Nazi armies also paraded, and during the Cold War, it became the border between both Germanies, and part of the dark Berlin Wall.

Hundreds of stone blocks form the Memorial to the Jews Murdered in Europe

Just a few blocks away from the gate, the Memorial to the Jews Murdered in Europe is the most solemn point of the tour. We will speak about this memorial later in the blog. All I will say now, is that this is a must-see in the city. Not far way, you will also find the placer where the Führer bunker was located. Now it is just a parking lot, so if you are not accompanied by a guide, you will simply miss it. There’s an important decistion behind it: the government does not want it to become a pilgrimage site for neo-nazis.

The Ministry of Finance is one of the few buildings where you can see the Nazi arquitecture.

One of the peculiarities of Berlin is that, despite having been the center of Nazi power (or rather because of), there is very little construction that refers to National Socialist architecture. The reason: after the World War II the city was completely in ruins, and only a couple of buildings were left standing. The Ministry of Finance is one of them.

En las ruinas del cuartel general de la Gestapo, Pablo nos cuenta la historia del protagonista de la célebre canción que habla sobre la libertad. No voy a decirte cuál es, porque perdería el efecto, pero lo que sí te digo es que si no lo sabías o no te habías percatado antes, escuchar la letra frente a los restos del temible Muro es impactante.

Next to the Wall, the old Gestapo's Headquarter.

Other historically important places to visit in Berlin are the Checkpoint Charlie (border crossing during the Cold War) and the old Gestapo headquarters with the display called “Topography of Terror”. You can also visit Trabi World if you want to know more about this nice communist car which was delivered to the people by the East Germany government after long years on a waiting list.

The communist car

The last point of our free walking tour in Berlin was the Humbold University, an important historical site, again. On the square in front of this building, on May 10, 1933, the famous Bebelplatz book burning took place. Thousands of books were burned by students sympathetic to Nazism.

The Humbold University, where the book burning took place in 1933.

From here on, each one is released to continue touring the city on their onw. But now, with a better idea of what happened in each place, so you can also better choose what to do during the rest of your stay. Whatever you do, just make sure you enjoy this fabulous city that is Berlin.

Through Catamarca’s puna to Antofagasta de la Sierra.

This excursion through the puna to Antofasta de la Sierra (including a stop in the impressive Campo de Piedra Pómez) was, without a doubt, one of the highlights of my last vacations.

The first day of the excursion started early in the morning with a good breakfast in Posada Las Cardas, the excellent hotel where we spent the night in Belen. Sergio was our driver and our guide, and we brought mate, cookies, hat, sunglasses and, of course, our cameras with full batteries. We were ready for a 10 hours trip.

Blue sky and green vegetation at the beginning.

We left the town driving along the famous Route 40 to the North and made a stop in the Belen’s Ravine to take a few photos on the Belen River flowing between the mountains. After a few minutes we took the Provincial Route 36, and later, at Puerta del Corral Quemado, we took the Route 43. At this point, some huge and particular rocks along the street caught our attention. It was a geological formation called “Old Port” as the rocks looked like ships. Using your imagination you can “see” there a lot of moored vessels.

The geological formation called “Old Port”.

After a brief stop at a city shop in Villa Vil we continued the journey. Sometimes the road was paved and sometimes it wasn’t, but as we advanced the landscapes were more and more incredible.

The non-paved road usually is traveled by mining trucks.

I have to say, Sergio was an excellent guide. While he was driving he explained to us all the details about what we were seeing. He made us notice how the landspace is constantly changing, and how sometimes we could see a mountain full of vegetation, which then, a few kilometers later and from a different angle, showed a completely bare rock wall. There you can see the marks of the water erosion.

Sergio’s hand on the wheel.

But the biggest change happens when you can see something yellow on the ground. After a few curves there are no more doubts: It’s sand. We are close to the Randolfo’s Slope and there are hugh sand dunes that cover most of the mountain. Due to the action of the wind these dunes are constantly changing position.

The amazing Randolfo’s dunes.

From this point, everything changes. There is less vegetation: no more trees, but just a few bushes. The weather becomes arid, in this area of the country it hardly rains. You can see how the mountains get farther and farther, until you finally see them on the horizon. Wellcome to the Atacama’s Puna, an amazing and beatiful place where there’s almost no vegetation and the ground is made of stone.

Some landscapes from the Catamarca’s pune.

There isn’t much life here, really. But sometimes you can see groups of vicunas which usually are near wetlands, as they need some water to live. While driving you have to be very carefull with the vicunas. They can suddenly cross the road and cause an accident.

Be carefull with the vicunas! They may cause and accident…

In the distance, everywhere, you can see now volcanoes. You can identify them by their dark colors. Around them you can see also little hills: they are secondary volcano’s mouths, which are sometimes more dangerous than the main one. Anyway, Sergio reassures us: The last eruption took place here 12 million years ago so, don’t worry. We can relax and enjoy.

Deviation to the Pumice Field.

We had lunch in El Peñon, a small town in the middle of the puna. There we enjoyed some regional food before continuing the journey. A few meters away some unbelievable colors made us stop. This is the view you can enjoy from there.

Amazing colores near the town El Peñon.

Now we could see lots of volcanic rocks, everywhere. Closer and closer. Two classes can be distinguished: solid stones on the left of the road, and much more porous on the right. Both of them, black stones. Some of them forming true black stone walls.

Vulcanos on the horizon, everywhere.

Once we leave behind those black rocks behind, it’s like magic. The landscape changes completely, again. Now we can see a colourful puna, with greens and yellows around the beatiful Antofagasta Lagoon.

Black volcanic rocks on both sides of the road.

It was late afternoon when we finally arrived to Antofagasta de la Sierra, a quiet and small town in the puna where we would spend the night. It was a very long day. We were tired, but happy. It was really worth it.

The Catamarca’s puna is not famous. Not even in Argentina. But it’s amazing, one of the most beatiful places in the country, I can say now. I really recommend it. And if you want to do this excursion, one of the alternatives is the Chaku Aventuras agency. You can contact them and check the available options. Just choose the one you like the most.