Berlin in a nutshell

Trip Start Feb 21, 2007
Trip End Ongoing

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Flag of Germany  ,
Thursday, April 26, 2007

Yeah yeah I realize that there's little point to even telling you I went since it was only for like 2 1/2 days..... BUT, I will return soon, so now I have ideas about what to see!  So there :)  I met up with my friend Mags who was visiting her bro in Berlin, and the two of us just basically wandered around the city for a couplel days.  Not really shockingly exciting or anything, but definitely interesting.  We walked a TON, but were able to visit the main attractions.... one of the first places we passed was this island of museums on the East side by Mitte, and we were so overwhelmed with the choices of museums and special exhibits, we decided to maybe come back to that later and do something 'more German' in the mean time.  That turned out to be numerous visits to currywurst stands (YUM) and ice cream stops!  Excellent.  As a side note, apparently currywurst is somethign of a traditional (if you can call it that) Berlin food.  The story goes some military guy came back home from the second world war and had tried something simliar abroad.  Upon returning to Berlin he tried to recreate it and the rest is history.... or so they say.

Anyhow, we got to see other cool things like the Babel-platz, the location of the first of a series of book burnings which began in I believe 1933.  It is located by Humboldt U. now, and the coolest thing is across the street from the platz (plaza, square, piazza, whatever you want to call it) there is an old/used outdoor book sale thing every day.  So it's just piles and piles of smelly (in a good way) old books on rows and rows of tables.... most in German unfortunately.  But we found the odd dual language books or completely English ones and stocked up accordingly. Mags has this amazing eye for the seriously cool old ones - she found a couple of music books of various operas or just other piano collections but what looked to be in their original bindings.  cool!  the music nerd returns :)  Mags also has an eye for the semi-pricy, as we took a brief break from the touristy to Peugot window-shop some sweet rides.... 55 grand in euros isnt THAT bad, is it??  hmmmmmmm........

We checked out the Brandenburg Gate, the main portal between East and West Germany, where the American embassy is still! under construction (will it ever get finished???).  The Reichstag is nearby - a gov. building where it was officially declared that Germany was whole again.  From the roof you get a great panorama of the city, as well as a huge eye-sore of an alleged weird-ass modern art "beehive", but might as well be a tornado in a snow-globe for all I could tell...  There were stairs inside that went...where exactly?  To get honey???  Who knows?  Nice to know Chicago isn't the only city with weird things like beans and spacecraft.... glad the Germans are jumping on the bandwagon with beehives and bears (like the cows we did a while back.... and in Munich, lions).  Oh yeah and apparently Mags and I somehow ended up in the Handicapped line to get to the roof of the Reichstag (which if you count ignorance of a foreign language as handicapped, then....).  So this we didn't know b/c hey, guess what? the signs were in German!  So the security guard is like, do you have a reservation?  We're like, uh, no, isn't it free to do this? are we in the right line?  And the guy is like no no, that's a different line.... then his friend comes over and starts talking to poor Mags who was in front: so you're pregnant, right?  What? yah, you know, baby (rocks his arms back and forth)... you understand?(hint hint) (we didn't). so she keeps saying no, they keep insisting yes, I'm wondering just what Mags was doing last night.... and starting to get defensive for my friend - so ready to turn into the whole, are you saying she's FAT???? thing when the guy goes: say yes, say yes.... are you pregnant? (say yes), and finally we realize that if we're pregnant that somehow makes us handicapped (these Germans love to follow rules!) therefore allowing us up and avoiding another line to stand in lord knows where else.  All just for a picture or two!  But you know for being so young, there sure were a lot of pregnant girls and boys that got on the same elevator we did too and only one person in a wheelchair.  They sure have a warped sense of rules.  Like either don't make a big deal and let us go through, or just say, hey sorry but you need to go in a different line.....

After finally getting the view of the city and the B-Gate from the roof, we checked out the nearby Tiergarten, and the largest carillon in Europe, however blunt and black it might be.  Oh!  And Berlin does Soldier Fields' mothership one better - they have a TV tower which inadvertently made it into every picture we took that faced even remotely east... which turned out to be a lot as the sun was kind of to our back then.  Great.  Here you have a picture of the main cathedral - the Dom - with a lovely fountain from however many hundred years ago and oh, what's that?  oh yes, that large monstrous antennae thing, yes, that would be Berlin's fantastically aesthetically pleasing TV Tower.  Yes and here again in this picture... and this.... and this..........  geez.

The Holocaust Memorial is not far from the Brandenburg... as is the alleged remains of Hitler's bunker (by Potsdammer Platz).  At least we think that's what we saw but we're really not quite sure as basically it was a lump of ground with some stray wooden beams covered in grass and with a flag in the middle triumphantly waving a flag with a giant letter P in blue on it for the inches away parking lot.  Glad that's revered.... tahnks goodness it isn't!  Actually they tried to destroy the bunker with explosives, but get this, the concrete proved impenetrable (how about it?) and so they resorted to fire and hoped for the best.  And then turned the immediate vicinity into office buildings and parking lots.  sweet.  The Holocaust Memorial is quite impressive and moving for all of its quietly presented simplicity.  Basically you could say it is an area of rectangle shaped 'boxes' for lack of a better word (they have a beter word, I just don't remember it!) of various heights, all aligned the same way, not unlike a military cemetary w/t he crosses, for instance.  You can take away a lot of implications or ideas or impressions of it and walking through it and for all its deceiving basic-ness, I found it quite profound.  Below it underground is an exhibit regarding the Holocaust and containing testimonies of survivors and victims alike....

Moving on towards Check-poing Charlie, which has an enormously extensive looking museum JUST on that topic (okayyyy???) and a recreation of the American side little shack check-point building.... you pass as well parts of the Berlin Wall.  Farther down is more wall remains in longer stretches, and the Topography of Terror outdoor 'museum', which according to my out of date guidebook was supposed to be located in a new building nextdoor by 06.  Yeah, nextdoor is looking a lot more like rubble and a lot less like building these days.... so good luck with that one I think!

Keep in mind we did the majority of this in one day, so the following we were so fried we did another slower shorter tour of Berlin via the Peugot store again, currywurst, tea/coffee, book sales, and ice-cream, and oh yeah more currywurst along the way.... and then took the bus 100 (which basically covers everything we did the day before but in 45 min and you sit on your butt and look out the window) back to Alexanderplatz on the East side and to our various destinations...... sometimes you just need to have chilltime, and I am glad to say it can be done in Berlin!  Plus now I know the kinds of things to check out next week when I return.... till then....
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