Check Point Charlie was neat but of course was crowded with tourists and rather American with one of the few McDonalds in Berlin directly on the eastern side. A couple actors dressed in military garb will take pictures with you for 2€ and you can get your passport stamped for an assortment of prices depending on how many stamps you want. I wasn't about to pay 6€ for a stamp that doesn't mean anything except to fill up a book that I would rather reserve for actual trips but I did get a picture with the "guards" which was kind of cool. We stopped by the gift shop and browsed a few books about that period of history. It's amazing how much things have changed since the wall fell down. The photographs of the ingenious ways East Berliners snuck across to the West are a testament to the strength of hope. People are always going to want to be free no matter what happens in the world.
The capitol building is quite impressive and beautiful but we only stopped long enough to take a photo and kept moving.
Victory Column is not something I would recommend for people with a heart condition or who just don't like climbing stairs. It really isn't that bad but I could see a lot of people complaining about the lack of an elevator. The tower is 67 meters total with probably about 60 meters worth of tight spiral staircase to get to the top. At the base level there is a small museum of sorts with little models of famous buildings from around the world along with historical information on placards (though most of them were only in German).
A very narrow observation deck sits just under the statue that adorns the top of the column providing a 360 degree view of the city. Unfortunately I only had a cellphone to take a photo with so it's not the greatest quality but I was able to get a panoramic photo looking towards the east.
Berlin Mall is very posh and commercial with loads of clothing stores and other such crap. I kind of felt bad even going in there when I learned that they hired a bunch of Romanians as cheap labor to build it and never paid them. I guess greed is the same no matter what country you are in.
After retiring back to our apartment (BTW I paced if off this morning and it's 380 square feet) we headed out for the evening. While waiting for our friends to meet up with us, my girlfriend took a photo of me at a section of the wall that is still standing. I wasn't allowed to watch TV as a child but I think I was at my grandparents when the wall was breached in '89 because I have a vivid memory of seeing people being blasted with water cannons as they assaulted the barrier with sledge hammers. It was cool to make the connection between that memory and the real thing.
We spent the next few hours having a few drinks and hanging out with friends of our friends. At present I don't know much German so for the most part I just sat there and did my best to pick out words feeling proud of myself when I could get the gist of the conversations. Despite being out of my element, I really had a good time. In a way I almost feel more comfortable around the Germans than Americans because we have something in common - we aren't like regular Americans. They haven't experienced a lot of the pop / normal US culture that I missed out on as a child so I don't feel out of place. A few minutes before the clock struck 00:00, we purchased a few beers from a kiosk and rang in my birthday.
I've only been to a club when we are shooting in them for a film or TV show and when our friends hear this, they decided that I had to experience clubbing in Berlin for my birthday. The truth is I was a little nervous because I didn't know what to expect but I had a blast. We got past the bouncer around 02:30 and stayed till it started getting light out around 04:30. I knocked out two things in one night: going to a club and partying till the sun came up. I was far from drunk the entire night but it was a blast and definitely the most fun birthday I've had to date.