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)

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

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

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

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

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

But that first 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)

Wasch-ing Day in Berlin

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


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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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


Sometimes I looked him up!

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


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


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Model of Anhalter Bahnhof, from Wikipedia

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

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


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


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


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


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

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

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


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


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



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

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


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


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

The Reichstag, Berlin’s Legislative Building

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


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


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


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


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


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


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


Some of the other governmental buildings, looking Northwest

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


Reichstag_7 looking out

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


The sun shield



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

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

Berlin Marathon, for both the runners and us

This is post #6 of our Dublin-Berlin trip, Sunday, September 16, 2018.


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

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

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

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

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


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


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

Platz des Volksaufstandes von 1953.png

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


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


Happy to see a drinking fountain!


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


The miniature Currywurst Truck

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

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

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

Berlin1_Wall of Terror.jpg

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


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



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

Berlin1_12_Memorial Murdered Jews StationBerlin1_12

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


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


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

Map Berlin Wall.png

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


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

Berlin Marathon, video 1
Berlin Marathon, video 2

Berlin1_14aBerlin1_15_Nordbahnhof Ghost Station

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

Berlin1_15d_Berlin Wall Memorial

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

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



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


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


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


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


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

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


This one’s correct.

Goodbye Dublin, Hello Berlin

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


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

I woke up this morning thinking Happy News!  That’s the last time I’ll ever have to sleep in that bed (or not sleep, as the case may be).

Dublin NGArt_1

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


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

Dublin NGArt_2

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

Ulster Museum Roderic O'Conor Field of Corn.jpgOconnor1.jpgOconnor2.jpg

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

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

Yes, “plane” is spelled correctly.

Dublin NGArt_3Dublin NGArt_3a

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

Dublin NGArt_4

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

Dublin NGArt_4a

Upstairs.  Photo by Dave.

Dublin NGArt_4b

One of my favorite shots. Photo by Elizabeth.

Dublin NGArt_4c

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

Elizabeth’s doors (modern style).

Dublin NGArt_5

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

Dublin NGArt_5a

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

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

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

Dublin floral building


We head back to Sprout for a repeat bowl meal.

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

Dublin3_4 ShopNails

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


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

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

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

Dublin3_8 Airport2

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


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

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

Berlin1_2 sign

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

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

Berlin Movenpick_4

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

Berlin1_3 goodnight