The last two days have flown by as I have prepared both to see Barack Obama and to fly home. Yesterday I spent most of my day in and around the Tiergarten as I took pictures and looked at the “Diplomatic Quarter.” I then went to see what the setup around the Siegessäule for Obama speech today. They had most of the barricades in place but foot and bike traffic could still get through, which meant that we on foot (or bike) had the entire Strasse des 17. Junis to walk down by ourselves without cars! It was pretty neat. After observing tourists for a while around the Brandenburg Gate (and eating Dunkin’ Donuts) and the Bundestag (and looking at the NBC platform where I assume Brian Williams led the nightly newscast) I headed back into the Tiergarten for a while for more pictures and then came back to the hotel.
Today I finished up last minute shopping and got most of my packing done this morning. I left the hotel at 2 p.m. (five hours early) to get ready for Obama’s speech. When I got off the Unter den Linden S-bahn stop I came up from the stop into a crowd of people. They were all crowded around the Hotel Adlon where Obama stayed and was supposedly leaving soon. After standing around for nearly 30 minutes I decided it wasn’t worth the wait, so I started walking down Strasse des 17. Junis until I reached the barricade where people were starting to wait to go through security. That was nearly 3 p.m.
After standing around for an hour, they opened the barricade where the crowd then RAN to get to security off to the sides of the street. Security took around 15 minutes to get through (as they hand searched every bag, made you take pictures with cameras to prove they weren’t bombs, drink from bottles to prove it wasn’t gasoline or explosives…) and then I made it to a good spot less than 15 yards from the podium. After noticing a lot of people around me sitting, I decided to join the sit. After all, it was going to be another 3 hours till Obama spoke. I started to listen to people around me, three 20-something Americans who have lived in Berlin for around four years. They were very interesting to listen to, though I didn’t talk to them for a while. A live band was playing off to the side of the Siegessäule pumping lots of loud bass into the crowd.
Obama started speaking about 15 minutes late and spoke for around 30 minutes. Read about it here at CNN.com.
After the speech I worked my way through the thousands of people to a spot where a lot of people were cutting through the Tiergarten to Potsdammer Platz, where I sat for supper in Sony Center before coming back here.
Tomorrow I check out and fly out of Berlin at 10:20 a.m., and then again from Amsterdam at 2:05 p.m. I’ll be getting back to Memphis around 4:50 p.m. See you all soon!