If I had to choose out of the two I’d probably prefer to be pickpocketed rather than mugged, but that didn’t lessen the initial shock when the former happened to me in Bangkok a few years back. It took just 30 seconds for me to notice what had happened as I did that reassuring pat of the trouser pocket “thing” that we do, but in doing so realised that the rectangular protrusion of my wallet wasn’t where it should be.
Soi Cowboy District in Bangkok. Source
Part of me felt violated, part of me felt stupid, a small part of me felt upset, part of me even felt guilty! After all it was 1am, I was in the less than salubrious district of Soi Cowboy in Bangkok, and I’d been ticking off that unique experience of watching live “ping pong ball” shows. Although to be honest I’d been more impressed by the entertainer firing out paper darts and popping balloons attached to the ceiling! Anyway I digress. How can a fairly savvy traveller like myself put myself in a position to be pickpocketed, and worse of all the pickpocket had been talking to me quite openly beforehand?
It all happened back in October 2009 when I left a bar at the end of the night and started to make my way home. A hispanic guy in the street started chatting to me, correctly guessing I was English and walked with me all of 10 yards down the road. My “spidey” senses were on full alert so I was fully aware of my surroundings and his reasonably close proximity to me, although the street was fairly busy and it wasn’t just me and him standing there so I didn’t particularly feel in any danger. Within seconds he was initiating a half-hearted football tackle on me with an imaginary football while smiling and cheering “Ronaldo, Rooney!” I went along with it, while still continuing in the same direction. In hindsight I can now see why he went in for a second fake tackle. He hadn’t been able to get at my wallet the first time round! Continue reading
Berlin is a city I’ve visited twice now. Once on a school A-level trip back in 1992 and once just last month as we watched the Berlin Marathon. It was on day 1 of our sightseeing that we introduced ourselves to the city with a 35 minutes walk from the Brandenburg Gate down to “Checkpoint Charlie” but I really wanted to see more of the infamous Berlin wall.
Berlin Wall – East Side Gallery
Stumbling across many billboards dotted across the city describing ‘Der Berliner Mauer’ made we want to see an original stretch of it even more, and where better to see it than the ‘East Side Gallery’, SE of the city centre on Mühlenstraße in Friedrichshain-Kreuzberg (Google link here). It’s the longest art gallery in the world with a length of 1,316 meters.
There are many other isolated pockets of the wall with the ‘Berlin Wall Memorial‘ on Bernauer Str and the Topography of Terror on Niederkirchnerstraße 8 being two great locations. However on this occasion the 4 of us wanted to visit this graffitted section with its famous artworks of Honecker, a Trabi car and various other thought-provoking pieces of artwork. Continue reading
Of course I’m not advocating rushing around a city in 35 minutes and certainly not somewhere as deep and meaningful as Berlin. However while plotting a route on our 2nd full day in Berlin this blue-spotted route appeared in front of us on Google Maps, one which you could easily turn into a full half day with various add-ons.
So what is this 35 minute walk? Well simply put it goes from The Reichstag > Brandenburg Gate > Hotel Aldlon > The Jewish Memorial > Potsdamer Platz > Checkpoint Charlie.
We were in Berlin for the marathon the next day on the Sunday so we wanted to see some sights but without having to walk too far. We had the day after the marathon on the Monday for that. So my little route encompasses 2 historical structures, a “comedy” moment spot, a newer memorial installation for some contemplation, a famous square and finally a fairly ordinary location which suddenly became suddenly became infamous in 1961. Continue reading