This is (long) post #21 of our Dublin-Berlin trip, for Wednesday, September 26, 2018.
My travel diary proclaims: “Today is Ride the 100-Bus Day.”
Downstairs in the hotel lobby, I confer with the concierge about which way to head, which stop to get off. I’ve taken to making a screen shot of the directions from Google Maps, and circling what he says.
There’s a new bus in circulation today: one with keyboards painted on it. Is it a festival time, or something? I catch my bus, get on the U2, get off on the correct stop.
Different food at this U-bahn station–I think they are covering it all.
But then it’s like, huh? Very cool building and somewhere around here I’m supposed to catch the 100 bus. I keep pulling out my phone, and watching my blue dot move. No, that’s the wrong way, walk the other direction. Nope, try turning left. And there it is: a plaza with lots of busses pulling in and out. I get early in the 100 line as I want a place up top in the upper level, right in front. I want to see this route, recommended as a good way to get an overview of Berlin. I grabbed one seat, and a young woman took the one next to me, as there were quite a few people heading to the upper deck.
I recognize this church, with its distinctive ruined, snaggled-toothed appearance.
I’d heard about the zoo, but never made an attempt to go. (Next trip.)
I’d used ScribbleMaps a couple of times, as they draw out the routes. The Siegessäule was one landmark I wanted to see.
Sometimes called the Berlin Victory Column (inaugurated in 1873), this originally stood near the Reichstag, but was moved in 1938 as well as elevated, and was envisioned as a welcoming column for the capital of a worldwide Nazi empire.
I struck up a conversation with my seatmate and she told me her job was as a voice dubber for English movies (into German). She is 33 years old, and was just now getting her driver’s license, in fact that’s why she was headed into town–to take classes. I also found out she hates our current president (Trump), using a vulgarity to emphasize her disgust; this was not unusual. She worried about his impact on their politics, noting that the political right was making gains, and it worried her.
The Bellevue Palace, the residence of the German federal president, and where the police were camped out. President Erdogan of Turkey was due in that afternoon for a state visit, and this is where he would stay (she said).
This is known as the House of World Cultures, but I didn’t know that until later. I just thought — because it was advertising a current movie — that it was a fancy movie theater complex.
Now I’m in familiar territory, with the Reichstag on the left. The young woman and I were now into the part of her story about the night the wall fell. I wrote at the time: “Today while riding bus M100 across the city, I struck up a conversation with the young woman next to me, and within a few minutes, she was telling me her memories of the night the Wall fell. She and her twin sister flanked their mother, watching a huge crowd on their way to the gate, everyone crying, smiling, crying and smiling, all unbelieving.
When she asked her father what it meant, he made a fist, then clasped the other hand around it. We were two, he said. Now we are one. These stories are everywhere, and I’ve been listening to them for nearly two weeks. It’s sobering, this business of division and hate and mocking and ridicule. We need to be careful in America—careful that we don’t lose sight of what joins us.”
Evelinde writes: “I think everyone especially people who lived in Berlin always will remember that special night 💕”
Dave and I walked along here on the first day we arrived, one street over from the Berlin Marathon route.
She got off right after we passed under the bridge, headed to her driver’s class. I wished her well, and thought long about her father’s hands — she illustrated them for me, clasping one into the other — and wondered how many Berlin stories would stay with me from my time here.
After being here for more than a week, I recognize all these buildings.
I linger in the fake Oktoberfest Village, cracking up to see fried tortilla shells stacked up, awaiting customers for…Mexican food? My new friend Evelinde explained about the cookies on Instagram: “Yes you can eat them, but should by them at [a] stand, where they should be fresh. When we were kids we liked to buy them because they have cute words on it. We mostly hung it on the wall for decoration and after a while they’ve been too dry for eating 😘 Lovers often buy it as a special sign of love for their partner 💕”
I’m also feeling the Get the Souvenirs Deadline, as tomorrow is our last day in Berlin. One of my goals was to get a nutcracker and although we’ve seen a couple of shops, nothing has really inspired my husband to open his wallet. I decide it’s up to me to get mine, and I’ll worry about his later.
I think I just found mine: a matryoshka doll. I pick a blue set of five dolls:
As usual, I decide that my husband can give it to me for Christmas. I head into the department store once again, to round up any chocolate bars, or find any trinkets to bring home.
I knew that Germany was famous for its Schleich figures–lifelike representations of animals and other monsters, if this display is any indication. I pick up a couple to keep around the house and for gifts (they meet the criteria for Will Fit In The Suitcase).
I’m always fascinated by English writing on foreign toys. Too bad these “2 Exclusive Babies!” won’t fit in the suitcase.
I end up buying a small pair of earrings to wear with my dirndl at home. So fun to see these Oktoberfest displays.
And right by the elevator is that cake-on-a-rolling pin treat that we’d had on one of our other trips (Budapest?).
I snagged a bite or two of their free samples. They let the dough rise, then cook on a turning spit, slide it off the rolling pin-thingie, and sprinkle it with cinnamon-sugar. It’s an awesome treat.
Back outside: last time to see the World Clock, and the Carousel.
A little political expression on the sidewalk near the U-bahn station. I don’t take the U-bahn this time, as I’m following the blue dot on my Google maps to find the Christmas-type shops that will carry nutscrackers and German wooden souvenirs. I’ve read my guidebooks backwards and forwards (all three of them) and have written down the addresses.
I, of course, found many many things I wanted to buy and bring home, but none of the nutcrackers seemed unusual or ones I wanted to give Dave for Christmas. I keep walking.
The Rotes Rathouse, named for its red bricks
Of course, it’s when you get home that you realize that you should have gone inside the Rotes Rathouse, or tried to get a tour, but when you are on the ground in Berlin– and it’s the day before the day you go home, and you are on a souvenir hunt, and it’s lunchtime and you’re still trying to find a particular shop — you walk by, instead noticing what a fine building it is.
I find the next shop, and fell in love with the big green nutcracker in the front window, but know there is NO way I can get it home, and besides Dave’s not that fond of green:
The people in this shop are very friendly and helpful and interesting. When I leave, he hands me a card with the location of their other shop. I think him, tuck it in my bag, but rather doubting I’ll ever get there, given that tomorrow’s our final day.
Across from the shop is this old church, marking the place where Berlin began, as a medieval settlement called Cölln, this fact sifting into my memory from multiple readings of the Rick Steves’ guidebook. To walk around the church a fee is required, but it’s not really a church anymore, so I pass.
Love those twin spires, though. At this point, I realize I am hitting the wall, and better stop walking around and get to food, fast. It’s hard to stop, though, because now things are just starting to fit into place: how this area relates to this area, which is next to this neighborhood. Berlin is starting to make sense, and I just want to walk and walk and explore some more. Instead I hop onto the 48 bus, which takes me back to Potsdamer Platz: I’m headed for BackWerk and a late lunch.
After eating the same thing I had for dinner last night, it revives me, so I walk over to the Mall of Berlin, pay half a euro to use the bathroom, and begin to explore:
This is the passageway between two different mall buildings, and stares right into the Bundesrat, or the Federal Council of Government for Germany. One temple of power staring at another.
I’m headed for idee., the creative place, but end up buying only a pencil or two.
I’m fascinated by this three-story slide, and have fun watching people slide down. I do head to Desigual, a Spanish clothing store that I love, and see if there’s anything else I want to buy, but they only have the shirt I already purchased, so I head back to the hotel.
Just outside the Mall is this line in the pavement, marking the site of the Berlin Wall. Always sobering. There is no forgetting in this city.
I arrive in time for the Chocolate Hour, and pick up a few treats to take back to the room for Dave.
I think he’ll like these, too. I take a break, write some in the journal. Dave emails me, and he’ll be late late late again, so I head out to find dinner for both of us.
Since I know BackWerk agrees with me, I head over there another time, but this time, my sandwich and drink are a little different:
I have a ham sandwich for Dave, along with another drink.
I’d read that the best time to see Babelplatz, or the place where they burned the books, is at dusk, so I walk the couple of blocks to that site, the sun just setting.
“Frederick the Great built this square to show off Prussian ideals: education, the arts, improvement of the individual and a tolerance for different groups — provided they’re committed to the betterment of the society.” (Rick Steves) Here’s a video of the square, as I turn in a circle.
This is the book-burning memorial–a glass window looking down into a room of empty bookshelves.
It’s a sobering place, this platz where they burned the books one night in 1933. That night, the students and the staff from the university built a bonfire, and into that they threw 20,000 books that had recently been forbidden. Overseeing it all was the propaganda minister, Joseph Goebbels. “Erich Kästner, whose books were also among those burned, was present at the scene and described it with bitter irony in his diary” (Wikipedia).
The plaque reads: “That was only a prelude; where they burn books, they will in the end also burn people.”
Another thought-provoking moment in this city of two histories.
I head down past St. Hedwig’s cathedral, finding my way through things, trying to get somewhere, yet I don’t quite know where.
This square was magical in the nighttime: Gendarmenmarkt is beautifully lit, and enticing, but I’m thinking that I should be heading back soon.
But! Right across the street is that “other shop” from the one I’d been in earlier. I find a beautiful (smaller) blue nutcracker like the green one I’d seen earlier in the day. Leaving behind all the beautiful pyramids was difficult, but I was fairly quick in wrapping up my purchase.
I walk toward Checkpoint Charlie, as I now have my bearings, and pass this building. Things look differently at night, but I am alone and don’t really want to do too much exploring by myself. I catch the bus, and head back to the hotel. Dave arrives a moment or two later, and enjoys his sandwich and chocolate treats.