The weather forecast said that it was going to continue to be hot, so I thought this would be the ideal time to head north toward the Baltic Sea. With luck, this would help to keep us cool while we toured a place I've wanted to see for a very long time...
We jumped in the Skoda and went onto the Autobahn. For those who don't know, Germany's highway system has very few speed limits. They ask that, through busy interchanges near the city, you slow to 110 km/h (almost 70 mph) but once past those they simply end the speed limit. Whatever you and your car can handle, help yourself.
It was unfortunate, however, that I should finally get such a chance but only be driving a Skoda diesel. I managed to reach a top speed of 160 km/h (100 mph) before the car began to shimmy in a threatening manner, suggesting that this would not be sustainable. That being said, it seemed quite comfortable at 150 (93 mph)... And quickly, so was I...
On a whim, we decided to stop for lunch at a small town along the way. Knowing that international menus differed, we thought it would be fun to try a German McDonald's. We quickly discovered that the amount of English spoken outside of Berlin, or other metropolitan centres, fell off drastically. After a brief game of charades, we had our meals and continued north.
We eventually arrived at Peenemunde and found a place to park. The tickets and gift shop for the museum are, interestingly, located inside an old concrete bunker. When we emerged from the other side, the three most striking sights were the power plant, a V-1 flying bomb, and a black-and-white-checked A-4 rocket. I could barely contain my excitement!
We spent a few hours touring the museum, reading the history of how Warner Von Braun conducted his rocket experiments here, perfecting a weapon platform that would terrorize England as it was launched with impunity against defenseless cities. We learned about the relentless bombing that happened here by the Allies to prevent further advances in this technology. So much bombing, in fact, that the geography still bears the scars.
There are many more sites around the museum that are of the same era, however they remain fenced off, out of bounds. Apparently there are still dangerous chemicals, and the possibility of unexploded bombs. We also discovered that some of these areas were also protected by "weaponized" poison ivy. But that's a different story...
After we finished here, it was off to the next place of interest not far south. We approached the gates of the Versuchskommando Nord barracks and became concerned by the fence, the razor-wire, and the general foreboding of the whole thing. Fearing being shut out on this one, I noticed a worn-down path leading around the corner and discovered the fence was not, in fact, still whole. With a smile, we stepped inside.
With construction of the rocket-building facilities going on, soldiers with backgrounds useful to the program were gathered from the military and brought into a new unit. These people were put to work assisting with the more technical aspects of the construction and then, upon completion, tasked with the training and formation of military units that would fire the developing weapons. The complex into which we were walking was where those people lived.
As we began our inspection of the smaller buildings closest to the road, we became aware of distant sounds of people, so we were sure to keep quiet lest our visit be cut short. We didn't realize just how quiet we were being, however, until we rounded a bush and found ourselves face to face with a deer, who appeared equally surprised to see us. We backed up a bit, giving her an obvious avenue of escape before she panicked and, with our heart-rates returning to normal, we continued on.
After we were finished, we returned to Berlin to relax for the evening and begin processing the MANY pictures we had taken.
This day was devoted to checking out the Berlin Zoo. Opened in 1844, it is the oldest zoo in Germany, and the ninth oldest in the world. The variety of animals that live there is staggering, and the facilities were impressive. Everything was clean and well maintained. While still a very warm day, we had an amazing time here and would probably come back as I understand they've added Pandas.
Returning to our apartment, we decided to go to a restaurant on the end of our street, the Ebert Restaurant and Bar. When the server seated us, she informed us that today's special was wild boar. I'd never had that before, so I thought, why not. Apparently the woods surrounding Berlin were fairly teeming with them. When it was served, and I took my first bite, I was overcome... Never had I tasted anything like this. Now, to be fair, everything we ate at this restaurant (because hell ya, we came back) was beyond amazing, but this boar was one of those "where have you been all my life" moments. I vowed that, before leaving Berlin, there would be one more dinner of wild boar.
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