Crikey! Writing that title makes me realise how far I have travelled in the last few days.
Here is a top tip now for anyone following in my footsteps: when you switch from the Polish train to the DB train (German operated) at some God-awful hour in the morning after a broken night's sleep, make sure you have enough Euros in your bags for a coffee on board because the guy operating the on-board restaurant does not accept Polish currency or anything else!
I was only in Berlin really to break my journey up to Hamburg but I felt that spending a night there would be worthwhile and I'm glad I did. The city is huge though - walking from the Hbf (Central Station) down into the area where I was hoping to find accommodation took around 45 minutes but on the second attempt I found a bed for the night. However, despite needing a shower and a coffee and ideally 3 hours sleep, I was not allowed into the room until 3pm (it was now around 9am) but I could dump my bag, grab a breakfast and a city map and decide where to go next.
The Topography of Terror exhibition is an outdoor site on the former grounds of various buildings occupied by the SS and the Gestapo. In due course there will be an indoor museum but for now you can read about the building and their uses and see some excavated cellars from the Gestapo Headquarters.
That night I dined on The Place To Be in East Berlin it seemed, with Ferrari's and other exotic motors cruising past (a distinct lack of Land Rovers, though) and even a few tarts to see if I wanted a good time (I needed my dinner too much)! My main meal was a kebab of various sausages with onions and peppers and large dollops of mayonnaise and ketchup, sitting enjoying the night sights and the warm air. The waitress told me that the winter had been "fu*king cold" (said in English with a German accent it sounds very funny) and it was only in the past week that the tables had come outside again for the spring.
However, I had a train to catch, to Hamburg, which was my main reason for being in the area. Not a bad trip although the train was running 30 minutes late and by the time we pulled in to Hamburg Hbf it was chucking down with rain. I used the Tourist Info at the station to book into a Hotel in the Reeperbahn (Red Light area) as there was little other choice at such short notice. Unfortunately and typically it was another dump - expensive and a room that stank of stale tobacco smoke, with rude reception staff. However, at least it was a private room and living in mixed dorms is cheap but not a good place to rest, so there we are.
The rest of Hamburg was pleasant and I enjoyed a harbour cruise which took us up close and personal with some of the commercial ships docked and unloading which was interesting. There was also a huge funfair in town for Spring which I wandered around on Sunday Evening, marvelling at the portable bars serving beer and spirits (you would NOT be allowed to do anything like that in the UK) and some of the rides which were truly terrifying. Unfortunately there were intermittent showers which were keeping the crowds away and you could tell the stall holders were looking forwards to closing for the night.
So, onto Amsterdam. My train for some reason was delayed by an hour when reaching the German/Dutch border so I was able to switch onto the slow, stopping, change-train-every-five-minutes local network, but pulled into Centraal Station around 7.30pm, on a journey that should have lasted 6 hours but actually took nine. Thankfully I have been to Amsterdam 2-3 times before and could easily navigate to my hotel, avoiding the places selling city maps for 3 Euros (when they are available for free everywhere). Now, my hotel is in the Red Light area and you might have noticed a pattern developing here, but I promise you this is only because I need cheap accommodation and not for any other reason, honest!
Last night I had an early night, but today I have done some laundry, visited the Torture Museum which is rubbish, the one in Ghent is much better if you like that sort of thing, yomped around the city for a while and also visited the Museum of Dutch Resistance. This is pretty good, tucked away off the main drag but worth a look as it neatly covers the time of German Occupation in the Netherlands.
I have also now managed to book my ferry home, I had hoped to travel back overnight on Thursday arriving in Harwich on Friday but for various reasons have had to slip this for 24 hours, so have now got an extra day to fill here. I may well pop down to Brussels or else take a look around Rotterdam, not really sure yet.