Thursday, 9 December 2010

Berlin (starting to get caught up...)

A shot of the Holocaust Museum

Berlin Cathedral. Some kid doing a handstand in front of it...

We've taken family that comes out to different countries. For my parents we chose Berlin.

Honestly, I kinda screwed up the planning on this one but it still worked out pretty good. We had about 48 hours on the ground in Berlin. In my defense part of the "problem" was that Carey and I went to see U2 in Rome the night before. Woa is us... The concert was AWESOME.
The first day (afternoon) we got on the metro and went to a giant outdoor flea market. The walk there was pretty. There is a giant park (Tiergarten Park), nice walkways, statues, etc. The market was neat. Anything from antiques to spare parts, to paintings and furniture. That night we went to a Brauhaus for good German food and beer. I think with enough time here I could convince my dad that Busch beer really is nasty. Probably not.
Normally we don't put to much stock in hop-on hop-off busses but with some proper planning they can be very effective. This will be a little out of order as I go through the Rick Steves book and look at the bus stops on line but I think I'll cover it all...
Reichstag Building. It is the parliament building. Massive with pretty, huge glass dome on top. There is a nice open grassy area in front of it that you can take in the size and get some really good pictures. Of course there is people watching and pretzel vendors too. I think we ate our way across the city!
Brandenburg Gate. The last surviving gate of Berlin's old city walls. When the Berlin wall was up it blocked off right in front of it. Street performers, people posing and taking pictures in US and German uniforms, a make shift passport stamping stand (we have very few stamps believe it or not now that the EU countries have open borders).
Memorial to the Murdered Jews of Europe. 2,711 gravestone/ coffin looking pillars all at different heights. It is the first government sponsored holocaust museum. Below it is a fairly large museum that outlines the events of the holocaust. Eerie personnel stories, letters, tell of individual sufferings. As with all things holocaust, moving.
Berlin Cathedral. Huge! I think I read somewhere this was the protestants answer to St. Peters. Unfortunately services, or something, were going on inside so we had to admire from outside. Interesting, yet unrelated, the terror threat through Europe has been a little higher in the past few months so the police were enforcing a no parking, standoff, zone in front of the cathedral. We saw two or three cars towed in 15-20 minutes.
Check point Charlie and the Berlin Wall. All through Berlin there is a brick path following where the wall used to be. At Check Point Charlie there is a long detailed exhibit that tells a really good history of the wall. If you listen to some of the tourists, I got tired of reading, you could here people reliving times that they had spent here (one guy in particular was in the service or something and was telling a story about the procedures and some problems getting back and forth). Detailed in the exhibit were the stories of people trying to get over the wall (was no easy feat since there was a huge cleared area where you were likely to get shot) or smuggled out in the trunk or with fake id's etc. We walked up the street a found one of the few remaining portions of the wall. Amazing to think of what it must have been like to live on either side of the wall and the different lives associated with each.
The final morning we went to KaDeWe's. A huge, high end department store second in size only to Harrods in London. I don't think I will ever understand the logic of spending so much on even common clothing (hats, shirts, jeans) but ,wow, there was some pricey stuff in there. The most amusing part was the food section. "Gourmet" foods from all over. What does America have to offer for the Europeans? Betty Crocker. I don't make this stuff up. You see it here though too. There was an international bizarre at the NATO base here in Naples and that's what the American stand had there too.
So we really did pack a lot into our 48 hours.
Some trips are more "fun" than others, but all of them have something to offer as far as history and culture are concerned.

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