Returning Home, or Multiple Levels of Dante’s Hell

This is the final post (#24) of our Dublin-Berlin trip, for Friday, September 27, 2018.


Why is this photo taken at night?  Because after a night of interrupted sleep, at 5:30 a.m. I say to Dave, “Ready to give up?”  He is, so we are out the door by 7:15 a.m.

We take the Metro to Potsdamer Platz, head to BackWerk and pick up breakfast and lunch, then board another Metro train to Zoolischer Station. We are just happy that we remembered to validate our tickets in the last stop of that ride.  Better late than never.  We board bus X9 for (as my travel journal states) “a bus ride to the Outer Levels of Hell, a.k.a. Tegel Airport.

We can hardly figure out which end is up, and of course, are completely frantic to get where we have to go in a big fat hurry, for in spite my romantic musings of yesterday, we are ready to go home.  Boy, are we.


After walking through an interminable and exceptionally crowded terminal hallway, we arrive at this place: budget airlines’ check-in.  We join the queue, getting an band for our “Under Seat Cabin Luggage” to prove that we checked in.  We pray our checked luggage makes it.  Then across the room from this stately and orderly process (we were early, by the time we left this gigantic room, it was a hive of activity and suitcases), we headed towards security screening.  If people went through too fast, everything locked up and no one could pass.  Finally the magic hour arrived, and they brought in more staff to process.

We walked down an interminable hallway, then another, then another passageway to arrive at another giant room full of people milling around.  It feels like a temporary terminal, filled with kiosks dispensing overpriced water (Euro 3.40 for a 1/2 liter–we bought one, then another).  I was glad we had purchased our breakfast, but when you are locked into a level of hell, snacking is the only pleasure, and there is none here that we want to buy.


Finally it was time to board.  No jetway.  As Dave said, again, “Welcome to budget travel.”  We didn’t make the plane reservations; his conference did.


This flight is uneventful–the best kind.  We land, yet it’s that “fake” kind of landing that European airports/airlines do: you are somewhere hanging out on the vast tarmac somewhere and you have to wait for people-mover busses to come and get you, all the while the pilot is chirping that “we have an on-time landing.”  Yet it’s not really, because there is still thirty minutes of waiting/moving until arrival at the terminal (photo of the door of the people mover, above).  After being moved to the terminal, we try to find out where we go next.  Another typical experience of European airports is that we have to hang around in a central lobby until they deem it the “right time” and only then will they tell us our gate.

Since we’d already been through the “dining experience” at Dublin airport, we avoided that.  Again, we’re looking for a snack.  Above are our choices for food in the Dublin airport where we are waiting.  I bought the Hunky Dorys, and we shared them.  I look up at the screen: it’s Magic Time! and we could head downstairs to the USA transit center.

This was new to us.  Downstairs was another set of massive rooms, all nearly new, where we would clear customs into the U.S., allowing us to come in to any terminal in Los Angeles, not just the International Terminal.  First up: security.

Apparently I was tagged for a secure search.  (Was it the jars of jam?  Just kidding–that was in our checked luggage.)  I’m pulled out of line, patted down, swabbed on the hands, devices powered off, shoes off, and basically treated like a criminal.  I glance at her sheet: approximately 20 of us are on her list.  I read about it later, the Frequent Flier guy mentioning that seeing the code “SSSS” on your ticket will send shivers down your spine.   Here’s another version of that.

Meanwhile, where’s Dave?  He’s watching all this from outside the glassed-in area, waiting patiently for his convict wife to re-appear.  We find a place to eat, and enjoy our lunch: squished sandwiches from early this morning in Berlin. I read the headlines from home (not a good idea) then it was again Magic Time! and we could head to our gate.  I’m double-checked in again (that SSSS thing), but we finally made it on board, heading for home.


I was pretty happy to take off!


Last views of Ireland.


This made my day.  My spirits were lifted.


I didn’t sleep much, so I was able to enjoy the view over Greenland.


And here’s the contrast with our own Western United States mountains.


After a long flight, this is breakfast/lunch/whatever.  Dave was still asleep so I took the one on the left, saving him the one on the right.  It was cold sludge by the time he ate it.  We landed, we were home and the only thing left was this:


Welcome to LAX and waiting for the luggage (about an hour).  We are happy to see our luggage, happy to be near home (another couple of hours to drive) and happy to have gone to Dublin and Berlin.

At the beginning of the trip, we loaded our luggage and packed our expectations and headed off into points unknown, ready for adventure.  But upon returning, the routine and familiar tasks await: check the phone for the traffic, call my 90-year-old mother, letting her know I’m back on American soil. The final pieces are laundry, stowing the souvenirs and suitcases, and dealing with jet lag.  Is travel worth it?  Does the hassle negate the more intriguging aspects of leaving home and seeing different places?  Each trip determines its own balance, the scales tipping one way or the other.

But the old phrase, “seeing with new eyes” is certainly the weightier recommendation for leaving home.  Pico Ayer, a travel writer, notes that “One curiosity of being a foreigner everywhere is that one finds oneself discerning Edens where the locals see only Purgatory.”  I think of Evelinde watching me be a tourist in her small corner of Berlin.  I think of all those people who walked briskly on past me, as I was busy taking a photo of a flower, a tile, a decorated building.  Does it balance out?  For this trip, yes.

Ayer also noted that “Writing is, in the end, that oddest of anomalies: an intimate letter to a stranger.”  As far as journaling the experience goes, I’ve also learned to let the photos and the travel journals rest a bit after a trip, let them breathe a little.  The photos don’t compare to the memories, and it is only somewhat later, that they start to sync up again, reminding the traveler of what they saw and experienced.

To whoever reads this: I hope these letters about Dublin and Berlin prove satisfying.

Last Looks at Berlin • Part 2

This is post #23 of our Dublin-Berlin trip, for Thursday, September 27, 2018.


Yes, this was shown before, but this has different light so the front decorative art can be seen.

Dave returns, and he hasn’t had lunch, so we re-trace our steps to the Galerie Lafayette because, as I told him, there are so many choices!  Even though it was only about 90 minutes after my visit, most all of that abundance of food is gone.  He found something to eat, a dessert to try, and we packed it up and went to the Gendarmenmarkt to eat.


As his tour guide, I thought it important that he see Babelplatz, so we followed the red arrows, coming in alongside St. Hedwig’s to the square.


So much history here.  So much notable history here.  We stroll towards the bus stop.


At the edge of the plaza, by the bus stop and along the Unter der Linden boulevard, were a score (or two) of police cars.   We watched them while waiting for the bus.  And waiting.  And some more waiting.


The nice police officer who spoke to us casually mentioned that there would probably be no busses running, because…why?  They couldn’t tell us.


Like the bicyclist making a U-turn here, it was time for Plan B: walk.


So we turned to our right and walked.  Really, the downtown of Berlin isn’t all that huge, so after a few minutes we arrived at Berliner Dom, by all the museums. Berlin12_19aBerlin12_19b

We heard all the sirens, and turned to watch Erdogan’s motorcade stream up the street.  Obviously that was what was holding up the busses, and that the police man couldn’t tell us.  It wasn’t as grand or as lengthy as the one that greeted us our first night in Japan (Trump’s motorcade), and after it passed, we kept walking.


We can see the Fernsehturm (the tall TV tower), but first, Dave wanted to see the beautiful old church, so we stop at St. Marienkirke, where I heard the organ concert.


We step outside, hook to our left back around to the large plaza, and spot the Neptunbrunnen fountain, backed by the Rose Rathaus.


We turn back to see the side of the beautiful church with its details (above and below) then stroll up the plaza.



The Fernsehsturm, with its origami-like wings at the base.


We cross underneath that, and into the large banhof (train station) at Alexanderplatz:


We head out the other side to Alexanderplatz itself.

The light is casting long shadows, some parts are already in darkness, pointing to the realization that our last day in Berlin is coming to a close.  Time for dinner, time to head back to the hotel and figure out All the Details.

After a Ubahn ride and a long walk, we enjoy a delicious dinner at Cafe Orange.

Golden light of sunset brings out the beautiful hues of Berlin’s buildings.


Even with Google Translate, we couldn’t figure out what this meant.


End of a good trip, we take a dual selfie in the elevator.


We pack, and head downstairs to try to figure out how to print out our boarding passes, check in to our flights, and wrap up the trip.  We speak with the young woman who has helped me enormously, and she gifts us two jars of jam from the Movenpick brand of foods.  In conversation, she asks us how we liked Berlin.  I could honestly say I loved it.  In one of our exchanges, her guard let down, she shared that she found the East Germans still “a little bit strange,” and I’d have to agree with her on some counts.  I appreciated that we’d been there long enough to enter her world, see a slice of life that she encountered and understand.

Next post: Multiple Levels of Dante’s Hell, or Returning Home.

From the 100 Bus to Bebelplatz

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?).Berlin11_15b

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.Berlin11_18aBerlin11_18b

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.Berlin11_22Berlin11_23Berlin11_23aBerlin11_23b

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.



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.

Berlin 7_6 desserts

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.

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


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

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

Berlin neighborhood map

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

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

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

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



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


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

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

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

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

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


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


Fragment from the exterior of the church.


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

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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).


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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

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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.


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


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


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

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


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


Colorful, but not the right one.


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


I explored the courtyards.


I found an Ampelmann Shop!


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


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


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

(to be continued)