Feeling fully back in action, I spent the next day walking around Berlin. I took the suggestion of Meg and others to do the Free Walking Tour, run by New Berlin.
My tour guide (there were so many of us three guides ran in English – plus a couple more in other languages) was an ex-Melbourne history student, which was good as he had familiar idioms and also knew his stuff.
The tour is quite good, it goes for 3.5h including a lunch break, which is a reasonable length to cover the basics around the city centre – the Brandenberg Tor (gate), the ex-Air Ministry, the remnants of the wall, churches on the square, the book-burning memorial, and so on – but the additional commentary from the history guy really helped understand how everything fitted in; he gave a lot more context to the history of the city & country, and helped correct some popular myths.
Of course, it's not really free, a 10-15 EUR donation is normal.
One little side note from the tour: the name Berlin apparently literally means swamp. The whole thing is built on a drained swamp, which is why you occasionally get wafts of rather unpleasant swamp smell while walking around, and why construction sites have these odd looking pipe arrangements for draining away the water & gas from the digs:
With a few hours left in the day there was just enough time to navigate down to the Reichstag, or as we should perhaps now call it, the Bundestag (they try and avoid the word reich given its unpleasant associations).
This is the seat of the German federal parliament, and is famous not just for its history (vis. the Nazis burning it to provide a pretext for seizing power) but also for the elegant modern glass cupola – which you can walk up!
Expect long queues unless you can make it first thing in the morning. You will go through security but they're very reasonable – I had to check my leatherman in (wasn't aware I'd be going up at the start of the day) but there's no confiscation or any of that rubbish.
From the top you'll get great views over the surrounding area – the building isn't all that high, but there's a decent amount of open space around it so you can see a fair amount of stuff. You get particularly good views of the shiny Hauptbahnhof & Friedrichstrasse station.
Well worth the wait, IMHO. Wear sunscreen.
Finally, it was time to start steering my slightly-sunburnt (thickie) self back home. I made my way via the Tiergarten, the big public park in the middle of Berlin. It has some lovely greens and light woods, plus a few little lakey bits.
Definitely worth checking out when you need a break.
I kept an eye out for squirrels – I saw their acorn mounds (I assume they're squirrels'?) – but didn't manage to find any. I'll keep looking.
The big column down the road in the sunset photo is Siegessäule, the Berlin Victory Column. Best in big sizes.