More Museums and Exhausted Tourist

This is post #19 of our Dublin-Berlin trip, for Monday, September 24, 2018.

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The museum passes we’d purchased were good for three days, and even though I was pretty tired of being on the go for a week-plus, like a good little tourist, I headed out to explore more art and spacious buildings and see Berlin.

I took the bus to the first museum and as I walked from the corner, I passed this decorated brick building.  The small touches from another era are intriguing, as is this sign from the current day, decrying the advent of Brexit:

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Even the building opposite the Galerie carries artful (even quilty) touches.

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The main interior staircase.

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First exhibit was The Art Show, 1963-1977 by Edward Kienholz and Nancy Reddin Kienholz, showing the a highly ironic opening of an art exhibition in a gallery.  The faces have parts of cars: air conditioning vents and fans, with clothing from the 1970s.  If a button is pressed on the figure, they comment on the art, but since I didn’t speak German, I didn’t do any of that.  I found it highly amusing, whimsical. There was even a table with a punch bowl and glasses.  I shot a quick video, giving a sense of the exhibit.

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So many interesting portraits in this exhibit:

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One of the downstairs exhibits had this placard, listing all the worries — or Fears — as seen from the artist’s viewpoint.  “Angst verkanetet in Versicherungen” translates to “Fear creeps into insurance.”  “Angst macht Macht” translates to “Fear makes power.”  “Angst erntet Echo” is “Fear makes echo.”  Have fun typing some into Google Translate.

As I think we are permeated with Fear these days (Angst okkupiert den Okzident means Fear Occupies the West), this list demonstrated how the pervasiveness of Fear can affect us.

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I headed upstairs to the more traditional exhibits.

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I always take pictures of people stitching, and the title of this is The Warming Hall in Berlin, 1908:

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While I am familiar with art concepts, I always need guidance with art history, so was grateful for the excellent titles, both in German and English, to help me understand what I was looking at.

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Modern Head III 23 (1923) by Paul Goesch

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Fritz Ebert (1920), by Paul Goesch

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Clanging and noises sounded throughout the upper gallery as the artist was working to ready his exhibit on the ground floor, but the openings in the upper wall allowed me to observe for a while.  From where I stood, it didn’t seem like anything that would catch my interest, but later, when I went downstairs, there was a good-sized crowd waiting for this one to open.

It was Berlin Art Week, and many galleries were listed in their brochure.  But this was the Big One. They even had snacks laid out, just like in the Opening of the Art Gallery piece, shown at the top of this post.

Okay, back upstairs.

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The Folly Square (1931) by Felix Nussbaum

Nussbaum depicts a group of young artists unloading their paintings in front of the Prussian Academy of the Arts in Pariser Platz in Berlin.  Their distinguished professors parade past, illustrating the generational conflict: The younger artists believe the established artists are defending a rigid art tradition and are standing in the way of new trends. (info from title card)

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This title card was sobering.  As I have noted before, the Nazi regime and all that is related to it moves through this city like a specter, haunting random corners of this trip.  Even here, in an art museum, I found the effects of those dark years. There were many placards detailing harassment (if the artist was Jewish), or denouncements of artists if they did not agree with the authorities.  One artist, Ernst Neuschul, moved to Britain and changed his name to Ernest Norland, after his mother and other members of the family were murdered at Auschwitz.  Many did not immigrate, but instead withdrew from public life.

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Hermann Nonnenmacher’s Farewell (1928)

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I carefully took photos of title cards all the way through, except for this one.  But I include it here because it was painted on a door, artist’s materials in short supply during the war.  I do know the last name of the artist: Heldt, and this is the title card:

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We were a Kind of Museum Piece (1964) by Wolf Vostell

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Yellow Wall (1977) by Rainer Fetting

This is one of a series of works by Fetting relating to the Berlin Wall.  This section was near the gallery he founded with some artist friends in 1977, the Gallery am Moritzplatz.  The title card notes that “the yellow color removes any sense of threat from the Wall.  Against the deep blue of the night sky, instead it flows like the backdrop to a promising stage set…embracing and protecting the…island city, West Berlin.”

The wall fell in November 1991.

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As I left, the tour bus pulled up and a large group joined the one already inside.

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I was headed to another museum, and the bus route went past our hotel, The Movenpick.

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I never tire of seeing this curvy building by the above-ground water pipes.

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I head across the plaza from the grand department store KaDeWe this time, heading to lunch at Noah’s:

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I had Monday’s special: Tagliatelle with Mushrooms and Ham.  All of a sudden, I am feeling really tired, for some reason, tired of being on the go, however.  Just the other side of the window (I was eating inside) a young couple sat down, had a coffee, a couple of smokes, and topped it off with a fight. They walked off in separate directions. Entertainment.

I took another set of underground trains to where the next museum, the Bauhaus, was supposed to be, but apparently it was under renovation and all I encountered was a storefront that held a fancy gift shop full of pricey souvenirs for a museum that didn’t exist.  I stopped a block down to get the baked goods for Dave’s breakfast, then made my way back to the underground station.

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I’m feeling a lot more poorly now.  As Brian Regan would put it, in his classic comedy routine “Happy 8 Day”, everything that was in the inside of me wanted to be on the outside of me, and visa versa.  But even when I got off the train back near my hotel, I still had a long few blocks to walk.  I hurried to my room, quite ill.  I didn’t know if it was the food, or the multiple days on the go, or the water, or whatever.  Safe in my room, I collapsed and after a while, fell asleep.

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I awoke to this sight, but didn’t move, staying in bed, weeping, just wanting to feel better.  Travel can be like this, too, unfortunately.  We’ve been fortunate that we’ve been fairly healthy on all our trips, or only having minor illnesses.  The only other bad one was going to see a Dr. Faustus one time in Munich (where she cauterized my sore throat with a swab dipped in some insanely painful chemical.  I didn’t eat for two days), or when Dave had the stomach flu in Copenhagen last year.

And when you don’t feel well, everything’s dark and gloomy.  You just want to be home, in your own bed, in your own house.  This feeling of being unmoored is not a pleasant one, and I’m glad it doesn’t come often.  I much prefer the experience of expansive exploration.

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Dave texted me: he’ll be late.  I pulled myself together and went down to the Vietnamese restaurant a few blocks away, ate about half of what you see here, then went back to the hotel, back to bed.  Dave told me later that I looked terrible when he came home.  His perception was truth: I felt terrible.


Museum Island • Berlin

This is post #18 of our Dublin-Berlin trip, for Sunday, September 23, 2018.

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I’ve been on this trip so long, I decided I’d better start making an Instagram marker, just so I’d know what day it was and what the date was.  But today has been set aside as Museum Day, and it’s raining raining raining, so there’s not much to keep track of.  I realize, in hindsight, that it’s a good thing I didn’t try to come to Berlin when it was occupied; I would have missed most of what I’ve seen this trip.  The Museum Island is in the area of former East Berlin, with its Altes and Neus Museum, the Pergamon Museum, the Old National Gallery (which we didn’t visit), and the Bode Museum (my favorite).

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We arrived here mid-morning, after making arrangement at our hotel, to buy timed tickets  for the Pergamon, a good decision.  We toured a small street fair just across from the museums, but the sky was threatening rain, so we made our way to the  Neues, which has old things in it.  (I know, confusing.)

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Like this Golden Hat.  Made of paper-thin gold leaf (so the guidebook says), it was likely worn by the priest of a sun cult popular among the Celtics around 1000 BC.

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I add these placards in here, for they tell the story better than I can, but the hat is covered in circles, a few crescent moons, with stars on the top.  I was having a meta-experience while looking at this oddity, realizing that Germans may come over and see some of our best artifacts–like a torn flag–as oddities, too, although a flag is more commonplace.

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This ancient lur horn, from northern Europe, had a gizmo where you could press a button and hear the strange sounds it makes, as it has no finger holes and makes “tunes” only by using the mouth.

I became quite enamored of the surface decoration of the floors, namely all the tile patterns. They even sold a postcard for this, so I’m not the only one.  It’s probably like getting a fancy gift for Christmas and wanting to play with the box it came in, but I was enjoying the architecture of this place, as well as the dramatic stairwell, mid-museum:

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While they had many Seriously Old items for display, the Bust of Nefertiti — glimpsed here from some distance (they had German Rules that didn’t allow photographs anywhere near it) — was one of my favorites.  This 3,000-year old bust is the most famous Egyptian art piece in Europe, and arrived here in sort of an Indiana Jones-type sleight-of-hand story (Rick Steves’ words, not mine).

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How do you keep the tourists from losing track of where they are?  Paint the room red.  I liked this room for its simplicity, and because it had ties to to writing and printing. But our time was fast approaching for the Pergamon, so we headed up there next.

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The regular line to get in (above).

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After getting oriented in the museum, the first draw is the Ishtar Gate, from c. 575 BC, under the reign of King Nebuchadnezzar II.  It’s massive.  It’s huge and blue with animals and daisies and arches and tons of people milling around.  It’s hard to take it all in.

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Considering that they found a lot of this in buckets of fragments, which then had to be painstakingly pieced together, it’s remarkable.

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Reproductions (above) with all originals (below).

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This is sort of how the gate was laid out, in the King’s time, with the Processional Way leading up to the Ishtar Gate.  The lions walk against the flow in this 30-foot wide, 200-yard long road.  The walls rose to 50 feet on either side.

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Later on, we went upstairs, and were able to overlook the rebuilt areas, getting a sense of the scale of this thing.  Apparently there is an even larger gate which the museum has, but it’s too big to display.  The Ishtar Gate was the grandest of Babylon’s gates, one of eight in the 11-mile wall that encompassed this city of 200,000 people.  This gate was one of the original Seven Wonders of the World (Rick Steves).

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The rooms/galleries on either side of the Ishtar Gate contain more Assyrian artifacts.

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This man shows examples of the first system of writing, cuneiform script, invented by the Summerians around 3500 BC.  It’s called cuneiform, or “wedge-shaped” because it was made with a wedge-shaped tool pressed into a soft, clay tablet.

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Another gallery, back through the Ishtar Gate was the market gate of Miletus.  It reminded  me of our visit to Split and Diocletian’s Palace in some ways.  I liked seeing the guy who looked over the balcony.

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Another notable was the Weather God Haddad, which has import because my mother loves to talk about the weather, and anything weather-related reminds me of her.

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Now they tell us!  We were lucky that on this trip, we didn’t encounter any “tricksters.”

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We left the Museum, and walked over to the Berlin Cathedral, paying our money, putting our wet things in lockers, waiting in line just to see a darkened cathedral on this rainy day.

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While ornate and certainly significant, it just didn’t have the “feel” of some of the other churches we’d been in.  It appeared, as Dave noted, to have been built by man, for man.  Not for God or for worshipping Him.  We climbed up one set of steep stairs to grab a seat in a balcony box, next to where the Emperor/Kaiser would have sat, out of the way of the riff-raff below on the main floor.

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The South Boxes, for my Emperor!

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We walked out, and towards the street fair, but it had been rained out; we were glad we’d done our purchasing before.

We also had to go out and around to get the Bode Museum, which the guidebook says is skippable, but ended up being one of my favorite museums.  Small, but lovely.  Above left is the outside, and right is peering up into its dome.

This first hall was like entering a chapel, with its small niches filled with art on either side.

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I loved this one for All the Reasons.

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Veil of Christ-themed art always catches my eye, implying that the burial cloths that He was wrapped in were burned with his image at the moment of transfiguration, leaving behind his likeness.  Or perhaps it’s just conflating several significant imageries into one portrait: burial cloths, thorn crowns, and the likeness of Christ.

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The cover of a prayer book, showing Moses receiving the commandments.  This is tiny, maybe 4 inches tall?












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Mary in Annunciation

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The carved and sometimes painted wooden statues were such fine examples of this type of art.  I really loved the brilliant orange Mary from an Annunciation by Francesco di Valdambrino (1375-1435).

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An example of a mosaic from Ravenna.  Good.  Now I can check that one off my list.

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We diverged: I went upstairs and Dave went downstairs.  This was my favorite of the items upstairs, with that expressive Devil and triumphant St. Michael.  The wood clothing looks drapable.

Still raining, we found Cafe Orange just up a couple of blocks from the Bode, and boy, was it a welcome place.  We loved our meal so much that we went there again later in the week.  Good thing, because I found out that after 26 years, it closed a month after we’d eaten there.  That dessert alone was worth the visit.  Not a real Bavarian strudel like Austria, but good nonetheless.

We took the S-Bahn home after dinner and holed up in our hotel room the rest of the evening.  Dave prepped for the next  day, then almost instantly fell asleep listening to one of his audio books.  I closed out the lights, looking at the Tempodrom once again, then went to bed as well.



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.

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Dave and his scientists