Alexanderplatz, Thimble Hunting, and the Berlin HauptBahnof

This is post #12 of our Dublin-Berlin trip in September 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.

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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).

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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).

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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.

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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.

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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.

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

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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.

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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.

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

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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.

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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.

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

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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.

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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.

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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.

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Guess they feel strongly about hunting.

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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.

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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.

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

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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.)

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We arrived, but now where?

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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:

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

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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 Tuesday (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.
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(Continued from this post)

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.

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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:

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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):

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

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

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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.

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Organ, dimly lit

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

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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

But that first Tueday 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.

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

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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.

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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).

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Fragment from the exterior of the church.

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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.

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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).

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

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

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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.

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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.

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

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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.

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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.

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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:

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

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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:

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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.

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

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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.

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

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

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

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Colorful, but not the right one.

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

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I explored the courtyards.

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I found an Ampelmann Shop!

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

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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.)

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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).

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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.)

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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.

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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.

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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!

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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.

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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

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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.

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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!

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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.

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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.

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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.

The Reichstag, Berlin’s Legislative Building

This is post #7 of our Dublin-Berlin trip in September 2018.

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The night of the Berlin Marathon, Sunday, September 16th, we visited the Dome atop the Reichstag, the building that contains the German Bundestag.  That legislative body is equivalent to our US House of Representatives.  The dome is built atop the main hall of the debating chamber, and going inside the dome is a fantastical experience if done at sunset, which many recommended.  So we looked up the times of sunset and set our appointment for 30 minutes before that.

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We arrived early, and they did let us in.  Above is the Memorial to Politicians Who Opposed Hitler, a very low-key memorial, their names written on edges of slate-like slabs.  They were imprisoned, and then died, generally in a concentration camp.  It’s easy to dismiss or overlook, but shouldn’t be.

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Dem Deutschen Volke  means [To] the German people, according to Wikipedia, where more little informational nuggets about this building can be found. We first went through a little building to the left, passing through security, and they kept us controlled and moving, so random photographs were harder to take down here at ground level.

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But up on top, our audio guides obtained, we had lots of chances for taking pictures.

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The dome is one of those constructions that marries new with old, as the reconstruction (finished in 1999) was put on top of a building first erected in 1916.

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Looking east, towards Alexanderplatz (the tower) with the river Spree at left.

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Some of the other governmental buildings, looking Northwest

We entered at the ground floor, the mirrored center rising high above us to the top of the doom, and we started our climb on one side of the double ramps (one going up, one coming down).  Since this post is mostly about the visuals, I will mention only one more thing before letting the photos do the talking.  There is a large sun shield which tracks the movement of the sun electronically, and blocks direct sunlight.  It looks like an apron made out of metal tubes, and you’ll see that in the photos. You can also mark our time here by the changing of the light inside.

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The Brandenburg Gate in the foreground, the WELT balloon in the distance

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The sun shield

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This is the central legislative chamber, with the stylized eagle representing the Bundestag.  There are doors marked Ja (yes), Nein (no), and Enthalten (abstain), which according to Rick Steves’ guidebook is an homage to the Bunderstag’s traditional way of counting votes by exiting the chamber through the corresponding door.  However, for critical votes, they use electronic cards.

We could glimpse the purple chairs looking down into the room from the dome above, but we didn’t linger here.  They ushered us to the exit, and out we went, into the night.

Berlin Marathon, for both the runners and us

This is post #6 of our Dublin-Berlin trip in September 2018.

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Okay.  In case I was wondering, I am in Germany.

Bright and not-so-early, we decided to tackle Berlin for our first day.  The citrus design is from the carpet in our hotel hallways, and the rest of the sights are near our hotel (and ARE our hotel).  The WELT hot air balloon was a landmark for us for the rest of the day.

We knew that the 2018 Berlin Marathon was a big deal, having found the information about the “marathon majors” on the web:

  • Tokyo Marathon in Tokyo, Japan
  • Boston Marathon in Boston, United States
  • London Marathon in London, United Kingdom
  • Berlin Marathon in Berlin, Germany
  • Chicago Marathon in Chicago, United States
  • New York City Marathon in New York City, United States

berlin-marathon-map_1190.jpgIt had started about 2 hours before we arrived, and as shown, we were at km39 — nearly the end of the 42 kilometer race.  As we approached the runners were zipping by, like they were on bicycles.  This marathon’s winner ran it in 2:01:39, apparently a world record.

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We stood right by the drummers’ stand for a while (click for the video)–if you are in shape, it must be a kick to run things like this.

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At the sight of this mural, on Friedrichstrasse, at the “Platz des Volksaufstandes von 1953” we recognized we were now in former East German territory.  This mural, which is is a typical Happy Russian mural, shows everyone marching for the Fatherland with big smiles on their faces.  Yet, in 1953, this was the site of a worker uprising against the GDR, which (of course) was suppressed.  It would be many more years before they would have their freedom.

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The mural is inside that alcove, and in front, an enlarged and engraved photo on metal, showing the protesters (thank you Google maps).  This was just the first of many times when we would be aware of the two different histories of this city. Another is shown below.

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We turned right on and headed toward Checkpoint Charlie (there was also Checkpoint Alpha and Checkpoint Bravo), encountering this sculpture, the exact outlines of an old church that used to be in the plaza, The Bethlehem Church.  This wire sculpture commemorating that church is called Memoria Urbana Berlin.

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Happy to see a drinking fountain!

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And here it is–not like in the movies.  The one that was vivid in my mind was the recent Bridge of Spies, with Tom Hanks, which I watched in preparation for this trip.  This “US Army Checkpoint” schlock was  harmless, even laughable.  I did not fall for the “get your passport stamped” business, having been warned away by Rick Steves’ guidebook (my bible for the trip).  I especially liked the McDonalds in the background, along with a souvenir shop (they were everywhere, with nothing really good to buy — sorry, kids).

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The miniature Currywurst Truck

Unbelievably, neither of us ever tasted currywurst while we were there, apparently the National Food of Berlin, which is basically a cooked sausage, cut into slices, and sauced up with a tomato-curry mixture, and served with fries.  In perusing recipes, this seems to come close to what I saw people munching down on.

However, it did remind us that we were hungry, so we backtracked up a side street to the Little Green Rabbit (cash free!) and had a beet salad on greens, with egg and (cue the heavenly music) a bretzel!  I tried to eat as many as I could while there, for you just can’t get the good ones anywhere else but in Europe (mostly Germany, but Geneva had some good ones, too).

We decided to detour back to our room (to get the Reichstag Dome tickets–yes, we’d forgotten them just like we forgot the Book of Kells tickets), and we passed by TrabiWorld with its balloon, and a distinctive manhole cover.  The next week we were treated to a Trabi parade of cars (you can drive them in a tightly controlled path).  Pay attention to the sound of these cars.  In the book I read, Forty Autumns, the author describes one passage how the American Fords evaded the East German Trabants: the Fords go at top speed, leaving the Trabis in their dust, spewing black exhaust and “collapsing” by the side of the road.

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We walked by an extant piece of wall, near the Tower of Terror (not shown) which detailed the events of that year when Hitler took over.  It was chilling. (You can click on any photo shown above to be taken to a larger version.)  Too many parallels to make me comfortable with our US Politics.  Apparently other Germans felt the same way, because the entire time I was there, people wanted to talk to me about Trump, about what was going on.  They are very well informed about our country’s politics; I don’t think we are as informed about theirs.

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This beautiful building was next door; it is the Martin-Gropius-Bau exhibition space.  Dave stepped in to catch a picture of the dome:

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Tickets picked up, we walk back up to Potsdamer Platz (we hadn’t really learned the metro yet, so were walking everywhere, which equals tired tourists), where we saw the second wave of marathoners–many more runners and everyone going  more slowly.  We had to use the subway tunnels to go down and under the street to get across.

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We walked up and nearer the Brandenburg Gate, we found the Memorial to the Murdered Jews of Europe, a large plaza filled with cement blocks of varying heights and size.

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We walked in and amongst them pillars and blocks, going deeper into the Memorial, then looking out.  I kept thinking about Chad’s comment when he took his family there: he was worried he would lose his children and so made all due diligence to keep them in sight.

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We emerged on the other side to see the “back door” of the U.S. Embassy, which is really how you get in.  This was rebuilt in 2008, a little less than twenty years after the wall fell.

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I referred to this interactive map a lot while I was there, trying to figure out what was former East Berlin.  The red line is the West side of the wall, and the blue line is the East Berlin side.  You can see that Brandenburger Tor (Brandenburg Gate) was trapped in the middle between the two sides.

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The runners are still coming through the Brandenburg Gate.  There were about 40,000 running in the Marathon.  It was like a party up there.

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After enjoying that for a while, we took the BVG (the train system nickname) to Nordbahnhof, one of the former Ghost Stations in Berlin, closed to the East Berliners, with transit allowed for the West Berliners.  Apparently West Berlin paid a sizable sum to the East German government for this privilege (the GDR was broke and needed the hard cash).  There are many stories about these ghost stations in Berlin, and they all involve sadness or risk of death in trying to escape.

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We were headed to the Berlin Wall Memorial, a section of the wall that has been preserved to memorialize the horrors of that construction.  It’s in several sections.  The top photo (with the caption) is actually after the collage of photos beneath it.  The standing wall pieces in the lower right of the collage are parts of the wall removed from a churchyard cemetery (the wall had obliterated and bisected it), again left to remind all of us of the horrors of that time.  The rusty wall with photos, are all the people that died trying to escape East Berlin.  The bars approximate the location and height of the wall.

We went through the Documentation Museum, directly across from the extant wall.  They had several moving displays of the experiences of seeing the wall go up, and then the exulting when the wall came down (which made me teary).  Then we climbed up to the top of the viewing tower to take the photo above. Dave also took a short video clip to show the entire area.  I think that, even though everything is very well documented, we really have no idea of what it was like to live through that terror.

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The Ampelmännchen, a small male figure telling you when to walk, was a relic of the East Berlin traffic system, but has become so popular that it is now being installed in the former West Berlin traffic lights. They also have a red Ampelmännchen. I didn’t see any working Trabis, but the abundance of trams in this area (a hallmark of the former East Berlin) reminded me, again, that for forty-plus years, all of what I had just seen had been behind a wall.

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We took the U-Bahn back to Brandenburg Gate, making our way to the Reichstag for our appointment to take the tour.  That post will come next.

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The marathon seemed to be over with, and the trash was piled up.  Now this brigade of garbage trucks could take over.  The beginning and end of the marathon were near the Reichstag.  When I passed by a week later, they were still cleaning up.

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The front of the Reichstag.  After leaving, we milled around by the Brandenburg Gate until we felt the need to find dinner.

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We walked nearly all the way home from there, ended up eating at a Vietnamese/Thai restaurant that hit the spot.

I find myself sometimes writing “Brandenburger Gate” and Brandenburg Gate.  The German words are Brandenburger Tor, and the English words are Brandenburg Gate.  I found myself conflating the two, and quite often.  My apologies if you have found my conflated name.

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This one’s correct.

Goodbye Dublin, Hello Berlin

This is post #5 of our Dublin-Berlin trip in September 2018.

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I have a reminder that I am in a different country, whenever I pull up my phone and there is a different language on my screen.

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Yesterday afternoon (Friday), we’d decided to come back to the National Gallery of Ireland, when browsing through their book shop for 15 minutes just wasn’t enough.

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Dave wolfed down his breakfast, while we stood a few doors away, in front of this interesting building from the past: Pure Chemistry.

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The stairs up to the exhibit of Roderic O’Conor and The Moderns.  Of course, no photos were allowed, so the following are culled from the web, by doing a search on his name:

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The painting notes emphasized O’Conor’s use of stripes to color the shadows, give dimension to his work, and the influence of Gaugin in his use of bold color.  I loved one of the quotes in the title cards:

“Remember that a picture —before being a battle horse, a nude women, or some anecdote – is essentially a plane surface covered with colours assembled in a certain order.” Maurice Denis, 1890

Yes, “plane” is spelled correctly.

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However, once we crossed into the atrium between the old space and the newer space, we could photograph, enjoying this wooden sculpture.

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This wing was constructed from a Georgian Terrace House, and the planning board asked that they leave the basic construction inteact.  When you walk in, you wonder what kind of lives were lived here, and you have the sense that you are guests in a very grand house.

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Upstairs.  Photo by Dave.

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One of my favorite shots. Photo by Elizabeth.

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Dave’s doors (with old people and walker).Dublin NGArt_4d

Elizabeth’s doors (modern style).

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We are sprinting through the galleries, sorry we don’t have more time to spend, and even though we asked for an hour extension on our hotel check-out, it still didn’t give us lots of time.  Next trip.

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Back to the original gallery, down their stairs.Dublin NGArt_6

We brought a few things home from the gift shop, but these stockings stayed there.Dublin3_2

In a strange land, even the mundane catches your eye, like this tiled stoop, which matched the gray sky.

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We head back to Sprout for a repeat bowl meal.

Mine was “Sataysfied Turkey Bowl.”  I believe Dave had “Superguacabowl;” the guacamole was on the side in a little container and did NOT look authentic.  But the color was right for this country.

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Another one-word shop title.  We check out, then spend a couple of hours in their basement, where the check-in desk is located.  I decide to wander a bit, leaving Dave to mind the luggage.

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I wandered over to the donut shop, and got three to go.  (They went.)Dublin3_7 Shop Shuh

We caught the express airport bus this time, and as we slugged our way to the airport, saw one last one-word shop: Schuh.

Our flight was at 5:55, so we tried to grab some food from the Dublin airport, knowing that Aer Lingus was considered a bargain airline, I doubted we’d get any free food on board (I was right–they even charged you for the water).  This food court was upstairs, a convenient area to wait for the gate to be announced. (The catsup was in those little bottles in front.)

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And the plane has landed, refueled, so we’re off to Berlin.

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And a couple of hours later (and one time zone shift) we land.  As is usual for European airlines, they put you on the ground in the new country, bragging that they were “early,” but you have to schlepp off the plane, get onto a bus, driven over to the terminal, thereby getting you to the baggage claim, etc. waaaay later than if you’d just waited and parked at a gate.  I’ll never understand this logic.

I sat by a young woman who was flying down to see her boyfriend run in the Berlin Marathon the next day.  We had a great conversation on the plane, about those things you talk about with strangers: her lack of divorce (complicated Irish law), how her children are doing with the father moved out of the house (fine), how she met her boyfriend, and how she voted in the recent Irish referendum on abortion (yes).  She did all this while painting her fingernails a bright glorious pink.

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Unusual to see profanity on a sign.  I know there a lot of English speakers here, so I assume they know what they are putting up there.  The German phrase translates out to “The first bank you will love.”  We grab a taxi and after 25 winding-around minutes, he pulls up to the door of the Movenpick Hotel, where we are greeted by a competent young clerk name Lina, who I became friendly with.  I’d called from the States a couple of nights previous to our trip, asking for a good room, since we’d be there so long.

Our room was wonderful, and I thanked her every time I saw her.

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It was wierd to have a glass-walled bathroom, but really the privacy level was okay, and if you wanted more privacy, you left the lights off.  We are hopeful for a good night’s sleep after seeing this on our nightstands:

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Dublin: Messing Around in the City of Your Choice

This is post #4 of our Dublin-Berlin trip in September 2018.

The title comes from a moment late in the day, when exhausted, weary, and tired of sight-seeing, we decide to bust loose from our agenda and just do what we want, see what we want.  It’s often this push-and-pull for me: See All The Sights! often dominates, whereas Enjoy Your Travels and Discover, often takes a back seat. So we think there should be a guidebook with this title, as often that’s when you have the most fun, even though you may “miss” some of the “important” things in a city’s checklist.  Today we tried to balance out the both.

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Gallagher’s Boxty House

Because of pathetic night’s sleep, we didn’t get moving until nearly lunchtime.  We’d made reservations at Boxty’s for lunch on Saturday, but decided to see if they could accommodate us for lunch today, Friday, then we’d “get that out of the way.”Dublin Boxty Menu

They could, and we started our day with a small bowl of Traditional Irish Lamb Stew and Soda Bread, and a Corned Beef Boxty.Boxty Lunch3Boxty Lunch2

What is a boxty?  A pancake, for all practical purposes.

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We headed out the usual way, trying to get to St. Patrick’s Cathedral, but detoured onto a little curved street, where we saw City Hall, and decided to check it out.Dublin City Hall1_Dome
Dave always goes for the dome in the ceiling.Dublin City Hall2_floor
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St. Patrick’s Cathedral

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I loved this little scene, right behind the ticket-taker at the door.  We get a “concession” or discount on the ticket price because we are of a Certain Age.  Getting a discount always makes Dave happy.

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Another big vaulting nave, and although there is nothing “special” about this Cathedral, it does have some interesting features.

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See these regimental flags?

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When old military regiments are disbanded, their flags are sent to this cathedral to hang until they disintegrate and fall to the ground.  Then the flag remains are placed in a display case and hung on the wall.  The St. Patrick Cathedral website notes that “Saint Patrick’s Cathedral began receiving regimental colours in the 1850s and these represented Regiments who had fought in the Napoleonic wars. Throughout the 19th and 20th centuries more flags were laid up (added) in the Cathedral and this tradition continues today.”

The decaying flags are hung in a side chapel.  The ones you see here, along with their helmets and swords, are those of the Knights of St Patrick. Click the link to read more about them and their connection to this cathedral.

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These tiles are from a renovation by the wealthy brewer “Benjamin Lee Guinness [who]  wrote offering to underwrite a complete restoration of the building, the only condition being that he be subject to no interference: the project took five years and cost £150,000. One of the alterations made by Guinness was raising the floor of the nave to the same height as that of the choir. In the process, new tiles were laid down, of which these are an example, based on medieval designs and covering the entire nave.”  from here

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Needlepoint cushions for the seats.  My eye was caught by the Wexford design.  We saw similar ones in the National Cathedral in Washington, D.C., but they were stitched honoring notable people from the area.

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Jonathan Swift is buried here, along with his companion, Stella.

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Side door, St. Patrick’s Cathedral

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The fact that Swift is buried here helps these medallions on these neighboring housing units make more sense.  On the unit above, you can see the main character of Swift’s novel, Lemuel Gulliver, tied down by the Lilliputians.  There were several housing units in this development and several medallions depicting scenes from the novel, such as when Gulliver was instrumental in a sea battle.

Two more businesses with one-word titles: Feast and Pure. Pure is a styling salon for women.

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We were headed to St. Stephen’s Green and Butler’s Chocolate, but encountered this donut shop, which by now was my favorite of all the shops I saw.

Perfect afternoon pick-me-up, complete with “red velvet soil.”  Verrrry glad there is nothing like this in the States. But our original errand was to head to Butler’s to try their White Hot Chocolate, and that was just across the pedestrian shopping street, along with another busker/musician:

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Holding the white hot chocolate at the Fusilier’s Arch, St. Stephen’s Green.  We found a bench, and sat, taking turns sipping the beverage.

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It reminded Dave of warm, sweet milk, with a slight undertone of chocolate.  Agree.

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This young girl was mobbed by the gulls, as she held a crust of bread.  Then all of a sudden they flew off over our heads in a great cawing and rush of wings.

One of the interesting things about travel is how one experience overlaps another.  Sitting on the bench in the green reminded us of the day we were in Halifax, Canada, waiting for the restaurant to open where we were to eat.  We had an hour to kill, so headed to a park, talking and taking a breath in the travel rush.

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Leaving the Green, and walking north along Merrion Square Upper lane, Dave caught this shot of a massive set of something governmental looking.  A commenter on Google Maps said that “This complex of Government Buildings situated on Upper Merrion Street, Dublin is where the government ministers and staff have their offices. It originally housed two government departments, the Local Government Board and the Department of Agriculture and Technical Instruction.”  Apparently you can take tours of it.  Next trip.

We were headed to Merrion Square because I’d heard there were great doors to look at there, but we had fun goofing around in the park, finding this chair which was a tribute to  Dermot Morgan.  I said to Dave that he can put one like this in the local university botannic garden for me, and I’d be happy.

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How about this for a Christmas Card photo, sneakers and all?

Dublin Marrion Park_4 litter

When we were on the airplane on Aer Lingus, the flight attendants would come down the aisle at the end of service asking for “Rubbish?”  or “Waste?” where we usually hear “Trash?” on American flights.  Here’s a litter box, all fancy-style, in the park.  I think we usually still use the one word, “trash.”  Interesting that there are three words in their vernacular to our one.

Dublin Marrion Park_6Dublin National Library1
Even though there was no rain expected/predicted, it’s raining now, so we scurry over to the National Library of Dublin, because I’d seen photos of the Reading Room (below) and I wanted to see it.  Of course, photos weren’t allowed (privacy for those in the Reading Room) and no postcards, either, so I took this one from the web.  I think I want to repaint my house in these colors.

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We walk back to our hotel, dodging under doorways. The rain let up a bit.

Dublin Bus

We never could figure out the bus system in Dublin, thinking instead they keep it away from the tourists, so only the locals can use it.  I do like how the last guy on the bike, in the green, is looking at the portrait.

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Dublin OFlahertys_2

They think we’re weird because we are drinking ginger ale instead of beer.

Dave wanted to eat dinner where he could listen to some traditional Irish music.  O’Flaherty’s had three levels, and the guy receiving patrons politely guided us downstairs (where the old folks and the kids were dining), but we did have a good view of the stage with the two-piece band, and the dancer, when she’d come downstairs to do a bit of Irish dancing.  I also had the biggest piece of Fish n’ Chips I’d ever seen (Dave had to help).  He had Irish stew.

Dublin River Liffey

A last walk up onto O’Connell Bridge to see the lights.

Doors from Merrion Square, Dublin

This is post #3 of our Dublin-Berlin trip in September 2018,
a happy-go-lucky Friday afternoon.

Click on any image to enlarge.

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Merrion Square, in Dublin Ireland is surrounded by stately homes.

Yeats Lived Here.jpgAnd Yeats lived here for a while.

I do love these lines from Yeats’ poem “The Second Coming,”
which I can almost make sense of.

Turning and turning in the widening gyre   

The falcon cannot hear the falconer;

Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold