East Side Gallery • Berlin Wall

This is post #17 of our Dublin-Berlin trip, for Saturday, September 22, 2018 (part 2).

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Cool tourist.

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Another cool tourist, in front of a toxic waste wall panel.

The panels of the wall were painted shortly after the wall came down, and as The East Side Gallery website notes, they:

“are for the joy of came down of the wall, for the overcoming of the Iron Curtain in Europe, the euphoria over the peace -won freedom of the persecution, spying and lack of freedom, the hope for a better, more human society. For personal stories, hopes and dreams.”

After sitting through two videos at the other Berlin Wall site, I can attest to the feeling of joy and elation at seeing the wall come down.  More information can be found at their website as well as Wikipedia.

What follows are some of the more interesting panels.  Interestingly, the border was the river, and this was merely the wall that guarded that border, creating a dead zone (as shown at the other site).  I found people’s reaction to the panels almost as interesting as the wall itself, so I include a lot of tourists in these photos. Click on any to enlarge.

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Graffiti has been a problem, and they are now attempting to restore some of the original paintings, not without controversy.

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According to Wikipedia, the Russian words at the top read “God! help me stay alive”; and continue at the bottom “Among this deadly love.”

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Tired, we head over to the train station nearby and see this:

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We wait, and the next train comes.

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Another nutcracker shop for Dave to check out.

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A look up the street from the Nutcracker shop.  We are near Hackesche Hofe, so we stop in to see all the courtyards.

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No buying, but instead, we head home, arriving just in time to see the treats go out for the Chocolate Happy Hour.  We snag a couple.

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After a break, we head out for dinner, past this cool fire escape stairway (above) and colorfully painted trash dumpster area (below).

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We got into the Indonesian restaurant and when confronted with this, asked the other couple at our table (who were leaving), what they had.  I think we tried to understand the menu, and the owner was most helpful in trying to help us.  We ended up with this:

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Those half-spherical discs are rice crackers.

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More texture, than flavor, was my assessment, but Dave liked his food.  It’s an early night for both of us, and we crash.

Saturday: Chores, then Berlin Wall

This is post #16 of our Dublin-Berlin trip, for Saturday, September 22, 2018 (part 1 of 2 parts).

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You’ve seen this before.

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But this time, Dave came along to keep me company and he worked on revising his portions of the document they were working on.

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Afterwards, we walked up to the Bibimbap Stand, but because it was Saturday, it was closed (that’s how I lured Dave to the Waschsalon).  We ambled around the streets near the laundromat, toting our suitcase of clean laundry, to try to find something to eat. We bought only desserts at this one.

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Guess the graffiti cover-up is an ongoing chore.

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We took our train back up to the place to connect with our bus home, and found delicious sandwiches for lunch at Kant Bakery.  I love this seeded bread.

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Up the street is the Christmas Shop where I’d done some shopping the other day, and I took Dave there.  On our way there, a little parade of Trabi cars came round the corner and we laughed.  They really sound like motorized go-carts.  I guess tourists can rent time and travel around the city in a pack with other tourists.

Dave wasn’t interested in anything from that shop; he has quite a collection, so is more discerning about what he wants to take home.

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Back to the room, with our stacks of pillows and closed blue curtains, and to drop off our clean laundry.  We took a break, but Dave mostly worked on his document.  These meetings are rigorous for him, never-ending work.

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We enjoyed the two desserts we’d picked up earlier, then decided to get going again, with the destination of the East Side Gallery, or the former Berlin Wall.  Dave’s tired but since he has only a few days to see the sights, we head out.

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The most direct route is a bus, which I always like as I see the city while I travel.

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Lots more colorful doorways over here, perhaps in the spirit of the East Side Gallery?

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These are everywhere.

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Here’s your Tourist Info about this bridge:

The bridge is built on the former boundary of the municipal area with its rural environs, where an excise wall was built in 1732. A wooden drawbridge was built as part of the wall; it served as a gate to the city. The name Oberbaumbrücke stemmed from the heavy tree trunk, covered in metal spikes, that was used as a boom to block the river at night to prevent smuggling. (Baum means tree or wooden beam in German; thus the name means something like “Upper [Upstream] Tree Bridge.”)

By 1879 the wooden bridge had been modified greatly. At 154 meters it was Berlin’s longest, but was no longer adequate to the amount of traffic crossing it. Plans began to be drawn up for a new stone construction. The transit company, which was planning to build the Berlin U-Bahn, insisted on a combined crossing for road vehicles, pedestrians, and the new rail line.

The new bridge opened in 1896 after two years of construction, and was designed in the North German Brick Gothic style of a city gate with many decorative elements, such as pointed arches, cross vaults, and coats of arms. The two towers were inspired by the Middle Gate Tower (Mitteltorturm) in the northern city of Prenzlau. Although purely cosmetic, they served as a reminder that the site was once Berlin’s river gateway.

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Now for a ton of photos of this bridge, which I found beautiful.

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U-bahn train atop the bridge

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During the Cold War, this bridge was a crossing point.  They must have just come through and done a purge of those Locks of Love because there were hardly any on the bridge, although a few were evident.

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This is a look from the other side from where we were.  After we crossed, we turned left and saw this:

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A Currywurst stand, a Trabi car, a dressed-up East Berlin Soldier with the fake stamp on your passport option, so we knew we were in the right place.

Next post: East Side Gallery, Berlin.

Patchwork, Tegel and Meeting Evelinde

This is post #15 of our Dublin-Berlin trip, for Friday, September 21, 2018.

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Today is Evelinde Day!

Since I am an avid quilter and traveler, I like to combine the two when I can, so several weeks before I traveled to Berlin, I posted this query to Instagram:

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I had several responses, which led me to Evelinde, a bi-lingual quilter living on the outskirts of Berlin.  We corresponded and made arrangements to meet.  I admire her courage in accepting my proposal that she meet up with a total stranger, albeit a quilter.

She’d sent me directions, so I got onto a train and traveled out of the city center, surprised at how quickly the view out my train window changed from underground/city/dense urban views to greenery and lush terrain.

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While this was the route home as I took a slightly different train when outward bound, it gives you a sense of where I was.  I had no idea of what Evelinde looked like (my photo is splashed all over Instagram and my blog), but when I came off the train into her city, a smiling woman came up to me: “Elizabeth?” and we hugged and met properly for the first time.

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Then I got to be a tourist in her city, looking at all the typical things with a visitor’s gaze.  She said she found it interesting the things that I would stop and take photos of, such as the gelato cooler being fixed at the ice cream store (above), or a rack of heather plants (below).

Berlin 6_5We walked past the center of Tegel, her little town to this huge lake, Tegeler See (upper left on the map below).

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On the way, I’m still snapping photos, including the door of this church, Dorfkirche Alt-Tegel (seen in previous post).

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When we arrived at the See, we took a left turn and walked down this huge and beautiful lakefront walkway, the Greenwich Promenade.  Although it was a bit windy this day (we had tried to capture photos of ourselves and our hair was blown all over), I could imagine coming here on a glorious summer day, and perhaps eating at the lakeside restaurant:

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Or maybe a lunch on Moby Dick, while cruising around the See?

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Evelinde took me to Hobby and Handarbeiten, a Patchwork shop (as quilting is known over in Europe); more photos can be found on this Instagram post.  While we drove around and I was able to see her town, she told me stories of going into the militarized area of East Berlin (she lived in the West Berlin area).  One was to meet a friend, and she was terrified she would never get out, as there was some controversy over her student status on her passport.  After another separate, frightening visit, she vowed never to go in there again.

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I loved seeing her work–all of it was really impressive in both the piecing and the quilting.  I wish I could have brought a few treasures for Show and Tell, too.  Before we left, I asked a woman passing by if she could take a photo of us together (the one at the top of the post).  It turns out she was from a wedding party having lunch there in another room, and she was the bride!  Of course, this conversation went on in German, with Evelinde translating, then the woman speaking to me in English.

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Soon, it was time to leave as I felt like I’d taken up enough of Evelinde’s day.  She brought me to a different train station, and showed me the photo (below) of a Scottish musical group that played in the pub at the station; one of them was her husband.  It made me smile that she would share this with me.

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Unlike the undergound city train stations back in Berlin, I felt like I was in a forest when I was on this platform.  No electronic signs to guide me as to stops and directions, so I was glad Evelinde got me to the correct place.

Two different groups of school children got on the train at the next stop, and I got a kick out of them, laughing and teasing and enjoying each other’s company.  I tried not to stare, but instead occasionally caught their reflection in the window to my side.  It was normal and natural for them to ride the train on their way home from school.  I couldn’t imagine our American children in our suburbs doing any such thing, given that we Americans spend a lot of our time being frightened about things we can’t quite control, especially now, as are submerged in the constant barrage of scary talk in our political discourse.  Berlin has had very frightening episodes, and perhaps will never be free of them–given the stories I continually hear–but to see those children jump on the train and ride to their next stop, unfettered and free, was a lovely thing.

I think the days of trip were catching up to me, for I slumped into fatigue on the way home.  Instead of stopping off at the Mall of Berlin at Potzdamer Platz–a planned excursion–I kept going to my regular stop and went back to the hotel room for a break.  After a short nap, I went to LIDL for groceries, buying one of their shopping bags for my usual souvenir, then crossed under the old train station portico back to the hotel, as it had started to rain.

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Back at the hotel, I opened up the hotel window and watched the passersby in the rain. It was an interesting scene, both with the rain (we are having a drought back home) and the urban setting, plus the interesting buildings.  Here’s another video of the busses arriving at our local bus stop.

Dave arrived home after his meetings, and we walked over to the Indonesian Restaurant, but it was full and they turned us away.

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We walked to the Italian restaurant, and although the evening was late, the parade of children, dogs and families in the restaurant kept us entertained while we waited (and waited) for our food to arrive.

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And from our hotel room that night, somehow, Dave snapped this photo of the moon directly over the Tempodrom, like it could drop into the center.

Eierschale-Dahlem: Dinner with the Scientists

This is post #14 of our Dublin-Berlin trip, continuing on from Thursday, September 20, 2018.Berlin 5_dinner1

I’d figured and re-figured the schedules to get to where the scientists were meeting for dinner, some distance away.  I had to walk to an entirely different subway station, with these scenes on the way.

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Gate of the train station.  I headed upstairs and looked on the screens.  Yes, I was in the right place and the trains were coming soon.Berlin 5_dinner3aBerlin 5_dinner3b

Only they weren’t.  I tried the Google translate on my phone, couldn’t make any sense of what was said on the screens aside from “train delay,’ nor could I understand the announcements.  I waited some more.  Finally one came, we all piled on and away we went.

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At this station, the conductor got on the loud speaker and mumbled some information;  the young woman across from me leaned over and asked where I was going. I told her and she said I needed to get off the train and wait for the next one, as this one wasn’t going all the way there.  I got off, and once again, appreciated the kindness of strangers helping tourists make their way.  The train nearly emptied, so I had a lot of company, and I could read the signs telling me the next train was approaching.  It gave me time to enjoy the station decor.

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Dave met me at the station, a block from this German-style resort restaurant, called Eierschale in the Dahlem neighborhood.  He was getting worried, but since he had no portable Wifi, he couldn’t contact me to find out what was going on.  He was relieved I made it.

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Our group was on the patio upstairs, overlooking the outside eating area.  I could envision this place during Oktoberfest, filled with happy Germans.

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I’m zeroed in on the blue water bottles, wanting to bring them both home — but didn’t.  As non-drinkers, people like having us at their tables, as they get to drink more alcohol.  But we never could get enough water to suit us.

Soon, it was buffet style food time, but I was able to snap these photos before everything started.  Gorgeous arrays of fresh vegetables.  The main dishes were the usual chafing dish variety, but all freshly made and delicious.


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More scenes of the restaurant, as we left after dinner around 9 p.m.  There were multiple areas available to groups; I could see they were in the business of entertainment.Berlin 5_dinner9

We enjoyed looking at all the different stations on this U-bahn line.  It must have been one of the older lines, for everything was fairly traditional.

Back home at our hotel, we confirmed that the Tempodrom was still there (it was), and we fell asleep quickly.

Marienkirke, Hackescher Market and the Organ Recital

This is post #13 of our Dublin-Berlin trip, Thursday, September 20, 2018.

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Love the windows at the station, filled with leaves.  I was trying to get up to the Uniqlo opening at Alexanderplatz, but by the time I got there, all the “first 100 people in line” bags were given out, but the hoopla was still going on.  Not only was Uniqlo opening up, but C & A was also have a grand opening at this former East German shopping plaza, complete with a new-fangled bubble machine that made C’s. And A’s.

You can see the C and A floating away in the lower left photo.

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These two: the TV tower (Ferneshturm) and the steeple to the Marienkirke (Marien Church) are always intertwined in the landscape; you see one, and the other is right beside it.  Since this is former East Berlin territory, the commentary on a man-made structure trying to outdo the religious building is not lost on me.

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I found this small billboard to be informative, showing the plaza before the Communists took it apart and carted off Martin Luther’s statue.  The photo of him on a flatbed truck is startling.  He’s been restored to his previous place (below), but the graceful steps and statuary seen in the billboard are all gone.

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The entrance to the Marienkirke is filled with scaffolding, as they are trying to preserve an old mural from 1470, titled “Dance of Death.”  Above is an artist’s version of it.  The alien-looking creatures are corpses or skeletons accompanying all sorts of people– noblemen, workers, ladies, clergy–on their way to death.  One writer thought that by alternating these types of people, it showed the “equalizing power of death.”

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I didn’t spend too long here, as I knew I was coming back for the organ concert later on.  The woman, who was there often during my two weeks, is framed against the dome of the Berlin Cathedral.

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See you later, Martin.

Just as I crossed the street, a tram pulled up and I hopped on.  I took it to where I’d left off on Tuesday, near the Neue Synagogue, and it let me off in front of the old Central Post Office building (from 1881).

I walked back to one of the “Höfes” which are a series of linked courtyards inside apartment buildings with the nicer apartments towards the front, and the smaller apartments (with smaller windows) towards the back.  Rick Steves points out “these Höfe were designed to house different socioeconomic classes in the same residential complex.  It was believed that by mingling with wealthy and cultured people from the front, the poorer people at the back would be inspired and empowered to improve their lot in life.  The idea was for a family to gradually work their way every closer to the apartments in the front as they became more educated and found more lucrative work.” This idea originated with Frederick the Great.

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Hackemann Höfe had several beautiful courtyards, and in the last one, I took advantage of the benches and ate the leftover salad, purchased in the department store (reaffirming my belief that one should never eat leftover salad). After finding food (the first most famous tourist activity), the second-most famous tourist activity comes up: finding a bathroom.

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The courtyard of another Höfe, near the Workshop for the Blind

I only mention this here as I was tipped off that there are bathrooms near the Workshops for the Blind, in the neighboring Höfe.

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Another quick stop into the first courtyard of Hackescher Höfe

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I backtrack and re-start my walking around this area at the door of the Neue Synagogue (now a cultural museum), and walk the back streets, seeing the sights:Berlin 5_11

Beautiful doorways.

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Stumble stones, or in German, *Stolperstein.* From my Instagram post: “They are placed to remind us of the horrors of WWII and the killing of thousands of Jews, and are near the victims’ homes. They changed the wording to say “ermordet” — murdered — and where. Sometimes families pay for these, occasionally it might be a school project.”

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It’s interesting to look up from Stumble stones and see the building where these people lived.  History really can be made to come alive, and I wondered what the current residents thought about these Stumble stones, and how did these current residents come to live here, anyway?  Was it like the novel Sarah’s Key, where the new residents ignore their history and took over the building? There are so many unanswered questions, but seeing them is always sobering.

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Turning around 180 degrees, I can see the dome of the Neue Synagogue, the interior modeled after the Alhambra.  The was the church desecrated by the Nazis on Kristallnacht.

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More wandering, to the church (not open) and the small graveyard with this veiled cherub.

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After untangling my path via Google Maps, I found myself at the Berliner Handwerker Verein, which translates to the Berlin Craftsman Club (or Society).  I followed the blue car into the inner space, which appeared to have some art galleries.

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It was only when I stood still, trying to capture the beautiful brickwork on the front, that I heard what I call The Singing Lesson.  I found out later that there is a small performance hall inside.Berlin 5_16b

As a quilter, I feel like I am part of a Handwerker Verein!

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It’s getting time to head back to the church for the organ concert, but I stop for a few minutes in Hackescher Market, where I purchased two pair of earrings (keeping with my idea that souvenirs are to be small and tucked into the toe of my shoe) and catching the tunes of a French musician as I tried to figure out which way to walk.Berlin 5_19b

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Made it back in time for the organ recital at Marienkirke, and tried to surreptitiously eat the bretzel I’d purchased (in a rush) in a convenience store on the way here: perfect, with butter baked into the thicker parts.  Manna, I would say, and I was amazed that a convenience store had such amazing food.  [Ours in the USA only have heat-lamp baked dead hot dogs, sugary drinks and stale doughnuts.  We seriously have fallen so far behind on decent and delicious food, easily available.]Berlin 5_organ3Berlin 5_organ4

The organist, dressed in a casual summery outfit, came downstairs and brought us up to her lair, where we could better see the organ, and I could look out over the church:

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The “manual.”

No videos she said, so I hereby present to you: No Videos#1, No Videos #2. She also gave us a basic tutorial in how the stops worked (half in English and half in German), the sounds of the pipes, and when I tried to help move the chairs at the beginning, that old favorite, The German Rules. “I”ll move them!” she said.  I stood back as she arranged them to her liking.

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Window on the stairs, coming back down out of the loft.  Yes, I bought the CD.

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At first I felt guilty sitting there for over an hour, listening to the beautiful music, but then I thought: I’m on vacation and I have the time.  Why not?  I had outlined four other organ recitals to go to in my travel plans, but for one reason or another, never made it to any of them.

Back through the plaza (see the hot dog vendor, the Alexa store) and into the S-bahn, where I was tempted by these sandwiches, but I’m invited to dinner with the scientists, so headed home instead.

(to be continued)

Alexanderplatz, Thimble Hunting, and the Berlin HauptBahnof

This is post #12 of our Dublin-Berlin trip, Wednesday, September 19, 2018.

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Lollygagging around in bed Taking a slower start  this morning, I heard this squeaky noise.  Dave had already gone and I was reading all the horrifying news about the Kavenaugh hearings from the US, when the room darkened.

Somehow, somewhere, someone had flipped a switch and all the blinds on the front of the Movenpick Hotel were going down.  The video shows the lower arm arching down into place, the whole assembly having been lowered.

Several days later, I discovered that the switches on the side of the bed make the blinds go up and down (video of blind going up).  It’s discoveries like these that make travel so satisfying, so educational.

That was the signal to get going.  I dressed, gathered my things (backpack, water bottle, Wifi hotspot, guidebook, etc.) but Yusuf, the concierge, directed me to a different train station today.  As I walked through the lobby, I would say hello every morning, and he’d ask where I was off to today.  When I said Alexanderplatz, he told me to walk out the hotel door, turn right, walk to the end of the street, turn right again at the canal to take the U2, which was a direct train to where I wanted to go.


We had many conversations, Yusuf and I, primarily about things in Berlin.  Then I found out he’d spent a week in California two weeks prior, so I asked him about that.  He mentioned that his family was Turkish, his last name Erdogan, which didn’t mean much to me (as I live in multi-cultural California) until the last few days of our trip, when, on the day when Erdogan, the President of Turkey, came to visit Berlin, Yusuf stayed home.  Maybe it was related, and maybe it wasn’t, but there were massive demonstrations planned and perhaps it was a good time to lay low.

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I never tired of watching the trains arrive (video here).

All the things you can’t bring on the trains, but you can bring dogs (click on the picture on the right to see the man in the aqua underground carrying his dog).


I was always amazed at the amount of commerce on station platforms, like this sandwich place, Le Crobag, in Alexanderplatz. (It took me a while to realize that the C-shaped thing was a croissant, not a shrimp.)  It turned out to be my second favorite sandwich place.  I also learned that if you didn’t get your sandwich by about 11:00 a.m., the lunch hordes descended and you were out of luck, with only liver or tuna as your choices (ick).


Emerging from the underground train station, I saw the Alexa building, which I found out later was a shopping mall.  (next trip)

I’d read about Alexanderplatz in the guidebook, the fact that it was part of East Berlin when it was subdivided for all those years, but I was surprised by how much it still felt like East Berlin.  The buildings around it are blocky, cement, slablike, and the Berliner Fernsehturm (what everyone calls the “TV Tower”) was next door, on the other side of the Alexanderplatz Bahnhof (train station).  There has been some recent construction on one edge, and that’s where the Uniqlo store was, but the Grand Opening was tomorrow.  Looks like I’ll be coming back then.


This mural, built on the communist-era Ministry of Education building, celebrates the accomplishments of the DDR’s education system.  Rick Steves’ guidebook tells the story that “on October 7, 1989, the DDR celebrated its 40th anniversary with a massive military parade that came along this street” and boasting that it would last another hundred years.  The Wall fell in November.


But today Alexanderplatz was being transformed in a Bavarian village (video) in order to celebrate Oktoberfest, complete with food booths and booths selling wares and offering games of chance.


The Galeria Kaufhof used to be the Kaufhof, with its austere DDR-like building.


This is the World Time Clock.  Three different days I was here when it was 1 a.m. in Los Angeles (which I tried really hard not to think about); I thought the clock was broken.


The well-known Alexanderplatz hot dog salesmen are equipped: grill on the front for the brats, burger and buns and a shield to protect the patrons, but also a shelf to set them on; an umbrella (rain or shine); and a trash (on the back).

Remembering the food section of the store in Geneva, where our last JMPR Science Meeting was, I headed into the Galeria Kaufhof to see if they had any food.  They did, and many interesting treats, too, such as the milk chocolate licorice, which I never tasted.


I loaded up with groceries, a few chocolate bars, and headed back home for lunch.


Signs: walls of Alexanderplatz station (top); subway train (below)  That’s going to be my new motto: to not let the concurrence drive my wannabe product.


When I told Yusuf that morning that I couldn’t figure out which exit of our subway to come out of, he said to instead look for the elevator in the middle of the platform, which would bring me up to the field outside our hotel.  That was the closest.  He was a wealth of tips for travellers.


The Galeria haul: salad, dressing, yogurt and dessert for Dave, rolls.


What I ate instead: the amazing Crobag turkey sandwich.Berlin4_12cBerlin4_12d

Trying to move past just sweet pastries for Dave’s breakfast, I also picked up some seedless dark grapes, washed them and cut them into bunches, as taught to me by my mother.

At this point, I’m beginning to wonder if I’m a tourist or a foreign housewife.  I seem to have fallen in the cracks between the two: always on the hunt for a good thimble for my stitching, worrying about the nutrition of my husband’s breakfast, shopping for a shirt at Uni-Qlo.  It’s like I’ve taken my life and transposed it to a foreign city.  What am I supposed to be doing?  Checking off all the guidebook boxes?  Probably.  Taking a longer view since I’ll be here almost two weeks?  Maybe, but probably that too.  But even these small things are interesting to me: riding on double-decker busses, watching carousels being towed into a communist-era plaza, trying to read the German labels on food in a grocery store.

Because of this dilemma, this blog may then read like a diary of Interesting Small Things, rather than a trip full of Famous Big Things.  You have been warned.


One reason why I don’t shut down the search for a thimble is because it takes me out of the tourist area into the real life of the city’s residents.  When I asked about thimbles, everyone tries to steer me to those hideous porcelain things in the souvenir shops.  But I want a real, working thimble.  So I looked up Karstadt, figure out the bus and the bus stop and went off again.

I remember on another trip in Munich, heading out to a quilt shop (another device to get me out of the tourist center), finding the most interesting neighborhoods, walking in places where my English was noticed (nicely), where I saw different things.  And so I headed to Karstadt, referred there by the people at Frau Tulip.

Little to no English out here, with the exception of that Patchworkland sign there in the middle of quilt fabrics: these fabrics were on special, cheaper than what I could get at home, but my suitcase is too small to carry a lot home.  I pull out my phone, fire up Google Translate, and show them the word for thimble: Fingerhut.

Perfect name.

When I try to say the word, they don’t understand me, so I just show them my screen.  They take me to the spot where all the notions are gathered, but they only have the cheap-o icky ones that I can buy at home in my Dollar Tree.  I was hoping for some legitimate thimbles like the ones I purchased in Lisbon, when the little grey-haired lady pulled out a small wooden box from underneath her counter showing me the very best kind.  I only purchased two there in that little shop; I wish I’d bought ten.

I picked up a few other things, went downstairs to look for an olive oil stopper (strike-out) in their kitchenware, then got in line.  It wasn’t one line that fed into two cashiers, it was a line for each.  And even though the man in front of me had waited longer than the customers that kept coming up to the quicker cashier line on our right, and even though occasionally there were no customers in front of her that needed attention, that cashier wouldn’t take him next.  It was interesting to watch the Rules in action again.


Back on the bus, and since it was the beginning of the line, I had the whole upper deck to myself for a few stops (video), until a man and his young daughter got on and sat in the seat to my right, the world at our feet as we looked out the massive front window.Berlin4_13bBerlin4_13cBerlin4_13d

By following the blinking blue ball,  I kept track of where I was: bless that wifi hotspot.


Guess they feel strongly about hunting.


It was on this street that I took the video of the woman in a flowing white dress, just ahead of the bus.  I think it’s worth watching.


I got off at the Checkpoint Charlie stop, stopped for an slushy drink, then walked up Friedrichstraße to this nutcracker shop, checking it out for my husband Dave, who collects them.


I made a small purchase or two, then walked back down to the bus stop, waiting in front of a lovely building:


Yes, according to my map, it was just outside the Wall, so it was a Berlin building in the former western section.

Home, visited the Chocolate Hour and picked up a few goodies for Dave, then wrote in my journal until he arrived back at our room.  Not knowing where to go for dinner, and too tired to look it up, I suggested we head to the Haupbahnhof — the main train station.  Don’t they usually have food things there?Berlin4_17

Like Hansel’s and Gretel’s bread crumbs, I took a picture of our exit, hoping we could get back to it.  If you’ve ever traveled abroad, in a city with good transit, you know that exits can drop you as much as four blocks apart, depending on which one you take from below. (That’s why Yusuf’s tip was so valuable to me.)


We arrived, but now where?


We walked all around the lower floor, then the upper floor, looking for someplace to eat. We pulled up Yelp, Google, walked across the street, but ended up back here:


We decided to go with what was in our own neighborhood.


By the end of our trip, I could have figured out several places for us to eat, and how to get there, but we were early in the process, this being Wednesday (after arriving Saturday night).  We are still young tourists, both in experience in Berlin, and at heart.

Stack of Pillows and Kaiser Wilhem Memorial Church

This is post #11 of our Dublin-Berlin trip in September 2018.

(Continued from this post, Tuesday, September 18th)

I need to do a whole post about signs.  Just kidding, but seriously?  Wanna?

This sign, right by our elevator, made me ask our hotel desk clerk about our “sleeping” room.  Apparently we’d paid an extra 15 euro that first night (an add-on, after we changed our plans) and had a special sleeping room, with mattresses that could offer different “comfort levels” controlled by a remote control that would inflate it to a specific firmness from 1-20, although since we had no idea what any of those numbers meant, we just tried something.  The shoulders had a control as did the hips.  We also had a chocolate bar  and a bag of lavender (ditto).  We also had a pillow menu.


So on any given day, depending on what I’d asked for from the front desk, our bed looked like this: stacked up on a very thin “comfort level” mattress were pillows.  Today’s gift was the “Spelt Pillow.”  It was as it sounds: a small pillow filled with barley-like kernals.  That went back the next day, but it was interesting to try.

After being out for most of today, I dropped my purchases at the hotel.  The room looks dark because they insisted on drawing closed the blue lightweight curtains, because supposedly blue light is best for sleeping, even though I hadn’t contemplated sleeping in the afternoon. I intended to head to Uniqlo, a Japanese clothing store near KaDeWe.  I grabbed the bus, climbed up to the top level and enjoyed the ride and the sights:


Getting off the bus, I walked toward the ruined church I could see to my left, passing by this fountain by a shopping area.  Apparently its nickname is the “Wet Meatball.”

The ruined church is the Kaiser Wilhelm Memorial Church. Originally dedicated to the first emperor of Germany, it opened in 1895 with scenes of his coronation and great events in his life done in mosiacs and reliefs, designed by the same man who had done the Anhalter Banhof, the relic outside my hotel window.  This church was bombed in World War II, leaving a structure that has its own nickname of “the hollow tooth,” and if you see pictures from a different angle, it’s easy to see why (from here):


While some Berliners wanted to tear down these ruins, they were reinforced and kept, with the bottom floor being made into a Memorial Hall.


It must have been a lovely church.  After the war, a competition was held to choose the design for the replacement:


This modern church, with 11,000 little blue glas windows, was the winning design, the glass given to the church by the “French as a reconciliation gift” (Rick Steves guidebook). Wikipedia notes that “The glass…was inspired by the colours of the glass in Chartres Cathedral. The predominant colour is blue, with small areas of ruby red, emerald green and yellow.” It was completed in the early 1960s.

The outside street, Ku’damm (nickname for Kurfürstendamm) was noisy, with pamphlets being pushed to me from young men standing outside, but once I entered the foyer, and then the octagonal chapel, the noise fell away.  I sat down to enjoy the beauty of this church, its simple design enveloping and inclusive of all who sat inside.  I looked at the flyer and saw there was an organ concert there that night.  Next trip, I thought, a mantra I would say many times while in Berlin, acknowledging that I couldn’t do it all and would have to save that experience for another time, knowing that time would never come.


Organ, dimly lit


Pavement outside, with the church’s name around the outside of the medallion (drain).


I visited Uniqlo: no shirts that I wanted, but tomorrow their newest store would be opening in Alexanderplatz and (the salesclerk checked her little handheld mobile) they “have full stock.” I walked outside, past this structure known as “Berlin” which is a broken chain, representing (as it was made before the Wall came down) the severed connections of this city.  It was installed on the 750th anniversary of the founding of Berlin, in 1987.


Scenes from an M29 bus ride: I loved that they have a suburb called “Wedding” and the Landwehr Canal, a sight I never could photograph well while traveling on the two-decker bus.

Back at the hotel, I received email that Dave was at a reception until later.  I walked back up to Lihn Yu!, the Vietnamese/Thai restaurant, and picked up two different meals, and came back to the hotel.  I ate mine, but when he arrived home, he was too full from the reception snacks to eat.  We visited briefly, then he tackled the reading he had to do for the next day, for as chair, he had to be on top of things.  I wrote in my diary, posted on Instagram, and read about Alexanderplatz, my destination for tomorrow.

Gruppe all_7390_Ausschnitt

Dave and his scientists


Frau Tulip, Hackescher Hof, and walking around in the Berlin Mitte

This is post #9 of our Dublin-Berlin trip in September 2018.

Berlin neighborhood map

When sitting in my house in California, planning this trip, I read lots of guidebooks, and they all emphasized the idea of “kiez” or neighborhoods, as apparently Berlin is less known for a tight list of “must-see” sights and more of, as Rick Steves’ notes, a “choose your own adventure.”  And I wanted all the adventures, all the sights, figuring since I would be here almost two weeks, why not?

Movenpick Hotel SiteOur hotel, the Movenpick, was about a 15 minute walk south of the Brandenburg Gate, on the edge of “Mitte,” mostly in Kreuzberg, just south of the former East/West Berlin wall.  I found that quite a lot of what I wanted to do was in the former East Germany, whether by plan or by accident.

Berlin3_1 DAE Mtg

This is what Dave did every day, and many times, into the late evening.Berlin3_1aBerlin3_2

But that first Tuesday in Berlin, September 18th, I headed out.  Since I’d done some reading, most specifically Forty Autumns (Nina Wilner) and Here in Berlin (Cristina Garcia), I felt like the ghost of East Berlin was lurking in my head, and I wanted to see the  Wall again, this time by myself.  I was quite emotional on Sunday, yet felt constrained by the exhaustion of a new city, the franticness of touristing (See.All.The.Sights) and wanted to just experience it, in a quieter way.



This line’s trains are connected all the way through, with no doors. The corregated lines show the passageway between cars.


Back up to the Wall, I guided a few tourists to places they wanted to go, and this time I knew the way out of the train station.  Not only did I walk the length of the extant wall (and these bars), I took my guidebook’s suggestion and put my hand up on the wall, to touch history.

Dave and I had just been married about three months when the wall came down, and even for a newlywed with all the adjustments we were making (with four children, a move, and a new job) it was a Big Deal.  We watched the news reports of people hacking at the wall with sledge hammers, trying to remove that obstacle.  But the reality of the wall hit home a couple of years later, when we took a trip to Germany in June 1992, and decided to visit Seiffen, home of nutcrackers in the former East Germany.  The idea was to drive to the Erzgebirge Mountains area, and proceed to a tiny town where nutcrackers hailed from, if there was such a place.

But what struck us was when we were finished with our time in that little village. We needed lunch, we needed gas, we needed a place to stay.  We stopped by a grocery store, and most of the shelves were (still) empty.  I found a box of crackers, and bought a wedge of cheese.  The man at the counter folded it up into a piece of waxed butcher paper, put a piece of paper on it listing the cost, then took out a stapler, opened it up to full length and stapled the paper on it, the points of the staple going into the cheese.  I felt like I was stealing it.

We sat eating in our car in an abandoned gas station, and an old woman came up, and started talking to us.  We didn’t speak German (obviously).  But at some point we said “Americans.”  She stepped back, and said loudly, “Amerikaners! Amerikaners!” looking around who to tell.  She walked off, still saying “Amerikaners!” and we were sufficiently freaked out that we quietly drove off, windows up.  We didn’t know if she was reporting us to some authority or excited to see us.  In hindsight, I’m pretty sure it was the latter.

We drove to the next town (the days of good paper maps) and it was nearly dinnertime, but there was no one in the town square, a place that felt “gray” even if it wasn’t.  We decided we’d better hightail it back to the former Western Germany, as we were getting low on gas, and didn’t see any place to get some, nor a place to stay.  That experience, of want, of scarcity, has stuck with me for over twenty-six years, brought back to the fore with our trip to Berlin.


There is a memorial on this site of a chapel, commemorating the old Church of Reconciliation lost during that time; after the Wall went up, it “found itself stranded in the death strip,” according to my guidebook.  The only thing remaining from the interior is this fragment of an altar.  “After the Wall came down, this chapel was built to remember the troubled past and try to heal the memory” (Rick Steves Guidebook).


Fragment from the exterior of the church.


These “incident markers” were in many places, with the reference code letting you access the website to find out what happened.  In this place “Border guards apprehended the apprentice Michael B. from Freital on June 9, 1981 during an escape attempt on Ackerstraße.”  The main website for the Memorial has more information.

Berlin3_5 Elisabeth

I thought I should be getting on my way, and turned down a street heading back towards the center.  The St. Elisabeth Churchyard beckoned (I love a good cemetery–frankly, a little more cheerful than what I’d just been looking at).


Even the engraving on the tombstones has a different look than what I usually see.


My sister’s last name is Rugh, and so this caught my eye: was it a derivation of her name?


No, it’s a resting place.  I sent it to her, and she thought their name had been changed from the original German, so maybe?  I left the churchyard/cemetary, and kept walking.


Looks like Klara has lost a shoe.  I did notice lost items around town occasionally, the shoe or sweater or cap draped over the nearest taller item, in case the person came back looking for it.  As I was photographing the shoe and the colorful painted wall, above, an older woman stopped me to find out if I was lost (I was looking at my phone, trying to decide which direction to go).  She moved between three languages: German, English and Spanish, and when I commented on this, she said that her husband — well, not her husband (she said) but he may as well be as they’ve been together for thirty years — spoke Spanish and English.  She was fluid moving between the three languages, but I could only understand two of them (and only English, the most).  We parted.


First time I saw this delivery method: a bike with a “kickstand” in the front.


When she came out, she kicked up the little set of wheels out of the way (you can see the hinged area in the front) and took off.  I didn’t detect any motorized assist, and we were in area with slight hills.


The freakinmacstore.  Most of this area seemed to be residential.  See the  post on Berlin doors (coming soon) to see some doors from this neighborhood.


I made it to Frau Tulpe.  Since this was my first shopping expedition in this city, I didn’t know what to expect.  In Geneva, I’d call the salespeople “brisk” and less inclined to put up with foreigners.  But in Frau Tulpe, they were friendly and helpful, and spoke English.  I’d heard that English was not as common in the former East Berlin, because they were schooled in Russian, but I rarely encountered any problem.  Tulpe means “tulip,” and it was the original owner’s nickname.  I left there, and kept walking downhill, detouring into a park (“The Volkspark am Weinberg”) with paved paths, and decorated birdhouses:


It sloped downward to a small lake — more like a pond, really — and people enjoying the sun.


I stopped to look at the menu of the Swiss restaurant that was on the top part of the slope, with a large terrace and delicious desserts.  But I pressed on because I’d seen this:

Berlin3_10c DalumaBerlin3_10ca

I found Daluma, and ordered my avocado toast with poached egg (it was too cooked).Berlin3_10d

I sat outside on one of these square benches, and watched the yuppies come with their expensive baby strollers and fancy jewelry to meet and have a coffee.


The neighborhood has all been refreshed, from whatever existed thirty years ago.


Leaving the restaurant, I couldn’t figure out how to hop on a tram, so ended up walking downhill towards Hackescher Hof, my next destination, snapping photos along the way.


I meandered, finding interesting details such as a giant fan/windowshade in this loft window:

Berlin3_11b fan shadeBerlin3_11c

And another building undergoing rehabilitation, the cinderblocks exposed before getting their topcoast of plaster (I suppose).


I was trying to find Hackescher Hof, a series of joined courtyards, but instead found this one.


Colorful, but not the right one.


Panorama photographs distort the wonderful tile work.  The buildings were all upright and vertical.


I explored the courtyards.


I found an Ampelmann Shop!


Nature’s gift of a shiny chestnut on the bench outside.


I came out the “back” of the eight inter-connected courtyards, and found a nutcracker shop.  (I took Dave back there, but he wasn’t interested in anything.)


Time for a break, so I headed home to our hotel, just like these two young men, sharing a joke on the train.

(to be continued)

Wasch-ing Day in Berlin

This is post #8 of our Dublin-Berlin trip in September 2018.


What we see out our window–I looked it up via Google Maps, and it is a special events venue.

It’s Monday, September 17th.  We’ve been traveling for nearly a week.  Dave had gone off to his meetings with the JMPR in Berlin, the location some 40 minutes south of our hotel, and it was time to get the Tourist House in order.  And that means laundry.  I had spent nearly an hour the night before on my iPad, trying to find a coin laundry so we could do our wash.  I would have loved to find the one like we had in Madrid, where we dropped off our dirty clothes, paid by the kilo, and then picked them back up again at the end of the day, but I couldn’t only find laundry that did them by the piece.

Wherever I went in Berlin, these things were part of it: a screenshot of the Google Map that tells me my planned route, snapshots of station names, and especially the direction to get out of that station, and a ride on either an S-bahn or a U-bahn, and no, I don’t know how they differ, other than some vague reference in the back of my mind about the direction they take: East-West vs. North-South.  This factoid may be true, and now that I’m home, I could look it up, but sometimes the finer points of Why Things Are the Way They Are is often something you just let slip on by when touristing; I just need to know how to get from one place to another. Yet, other times, I dug deep into details, a luxury afforded by the length of this trip.


Because I went out the wrong exit (I was just following Google Maps suggestion), it took me a few stops and starts to find the Eco-Express Waschsalon, but I did.  A little old lady who was there took pains to school me on how to use her local laundromat, gesturing to the sign on the wall and telling me in German, how to put my coins in to get soap, which soap I should use (here she gestured firmly), the temperature of the water, how to get it to start, and how to open up the door when it finished. I smiled, nodded my head and let her lead me along.  That last bit of info came in handy at the end.

I stitched while the wash was going; she ate her lunch.

Berlin2_woman at waschsalon.jpg

She finished hers, making sure I knew which setting to use on the dryer by pulling out one of her towels, making me feel it, pointing to the numbers I was to use, and smiling while showing me, again, her dry yellow hand towel.  This was my first exposure to the Rules of German Life, and I would encounter this again and again during our trip. There were certain ways to do things, and you were expected to follow those rules.  It didn’t matter if they made sense to you or not, or if they even made sense, those were the Rules.

An American couple came in, a brother and sister, and I passed on the Rules to them.  She had run the marathon, and they were at the beginning of a trip that started here and went to other places in Europe.  As she told me her itinerary, I could see that she was slightly OCD about where they were going and what they were to do, our American version of the Rules, perhaps?

I saw Marathoners all day long that day.  Some were wearing their medals, some not.  Others strode along, and others could barely move, hobbling in front of me.  Last night Dave offered to give up his seat on a train to someone wearing his medal, but it was declined.  When they were leaving, I could see that the man could barely walk, let alone climb the stairs in front of him, as his wife and daughter tried to help him.  Perhaps if he’d sat down, he wouldn’t have been able to get up?  On that same train, as we were leaving, another medal-wearing marathoner stepped out onto the platform and fainted.  The scramble to help him was behind me, but Dave saw it.  I guess after the exultation after running, comes the reality of human frailty.

I finished up the wash, packed up my suitcase with clean clothes and went up to the corner to have Bibimpap, or as the stand called it, Bibimbiss.


It was an amazing lunch.  He made his hot sauce with pear and other secret ingredients.  At first I had him put a tiny dribble in the front corner (the red smear), but I went back up for more.  It was spicy, but not unpleasant and really piqued up the flavor.

Pocket Wifi.jpg

I had discovered the Bibimbap place while sitting in the waschsalon because Dave and I had rented a pocket Wifi from HippocketWifi.  It covers all of Europe and gives whoever has the device (shown on top of the felt bag) access to secure wifi.  We had rented one in Tokyo (from Japan-Wireless), and then South Korea (Wifi Egg — rented from the airport when we arrived), and decided it had been really worth it.  I paid the extra 5 euro to get the portable battery and it came in handy later that day when we ran out of power, as I had unknowingly plugged it into the hotel socket that turned off when we turned off the lights.  I had made the arrangements online a month ahead, and they had shipped it to our Berlin Hotel, where it was waiting for us upon check-in.

Because of this I could switch my itinerary up easily, using it to navigate with Google Maps and the BVG app I’d downloaded.  We could both log onto the device for the same price (roughly 8 euro/day, including all our costs).


Sometimes I looked him up!

Another advantage for Dave is that he could find me if he wanted to, as we set up Find my Friends on our phones.  He had access to the wifi at his meetings, and could look up where I was.  We could have used it more than we did, as we’d signed up for 1GB a day, and we didn’t even come close to using that much data.  I’m hoping I can always travel with a pocket wifi from now on.  (I’m writing all this as a record of what we had and did, and also for information for anyone who is interested.)


After dropping the clothes at the hotel, I went over to see what this ruin was outside our window: it was the original Anhalter Bahnhof (S-Bahn line), which used to be enormous, a large station.  One night I read all about it on Wikipedia, coming to understand that its history had dual sides to it, for it was used to ship out Jews to concentration camps during the Hitler era.


Anhalter Bahnhof

Model of Anhalter Bahnhof, from Wikipedia

In looking at the model, the large ruin I see above is only the portico, with a portion of the wall behind it.  The Tempodrom is built on the area of the ruin, as are soccer fields.  I took this video of the area one day when it started to rain, and you can see how large the area is where the train station used to be.

While I was over there, I visited the LIDL market, where I encountered this interesting way to select a seeded bun (as this video shows, it works better if you aren’t trying to film yourself while doing it).  Since Dave was always heading out very early to his meetings, I tried to get some groceries in the room for him: rolls, yogurt, juice, fruit.


Back at the hotel, I work on my travel book, recording expenses and what went on that day, then headed downstairs at 4 p.m. for Movenpick’s Chocolate Hour.  They set out little trays of chocolate-related treats.  A nice treat!


Dave came home (his earliest arrival of the whole meeting) and we headed out.  First, to see the Tempodrom.  It had a place to the side which was a water-oriented spa, called the Liquidrom.


We saw elevated pipes in a lot of places.  “They are in fact water pipes. The term ‘berl’ actually just means swamp, Berlin therefore means swamp-city! Like so much of Germany, functionality is king, and if this functionality turns out to be a thing of intrigue, beauty or a tourist attraction, well, that’s so much the better.  The pipes suck the water out from under the ground level, pump it across the city and then discharge it into a special canal.”  from here


We were headed to KaDeWe, the shortened name for the large fancy department store.  But first, I needed to find a thimble, so the guy in the jacket in the lobby of KaDeWe (a fixture in most of the nicer stores I entered) directed us, in German, around to the side.

The idee. store carried all sorts of creative supplies, and I did find a (lame) thimble).  Back to the KaDeWe, since it was dinnertime, we strolled around their 7th floor food area, but as it was after 6 p.m., and all the booths closed up at 7:00, we were already getting the message that we’d better hurry and make up our minds. We went down a level to another food hall, 6th floor.

We ended up eating at the potato booth, staffed by three chefs.  One spoke pretty good English and was a bit of a jokester.  When we asked for tap water he said “No grape juice?”  We think he meant what the giggling couple to our left was drinking, their glasses filled with white and red wine.  Both our dishes were pre-prepared, pulled out of a refridgerator drawer, the saran wrapping removed and then placed into a small oven.  A few minutes later, he threw some pickles and garnishes on them, and set them before us.  I avoided the heavy layer of cheese, practically heresy here at the German potato bar, and was given a cluck-cluck of the tongue by the female chef, when she cleared it away.  Dave’s dish (on the right) was better than mine.


We watched them clean up the entire place while we ate.  They were serious about their 7 p.m. closing (one of the Rules).  We went over to buy a pastry for Dave’s breakfast and for our dessert, but could hardly get waited on for all the cleaning up.  They were not happy that we wanted to buy something at that time, apparently.


Some of our choices. Click for larger image, but you might wish you had a bakery like this.  We do!



We checked the BVG app for info on how to get home, but flipped over to our preferred Google Maps, as I could change from U-bahn to bus more easily.Berlin2_12

We crossed the street to catch the M29 home.
“Wrong bus,” said the bus driver to Dave.  He pointed across the street, and we headed back to the KaDeWe side.  In a few minutes, a bus pulled up.  Same driver.
He smiled, and said “Right bus.”  We climbed up to the top level and enjoyed our nighttime ride home.


When I complained to the hotel desk clerk the next day, she reached in a drawer and handed me a power strip.  They are remarkably responsive in this place.


It seemed like every night we looked at the Tempodrom.  And on a good note, by the end of our trip, I’d figured out which of those S-bahn elevators to get in when I needed to go somewhere.