Trip Start Sep 15, 2011
26Trip End Oct 21, 2011
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Where I stayed
The sky was bright blue sprinkled with cottony white clouds; the temperature was cool enough that a sweater of light jacket was needed. We walked toward the Spree River not quite a kilometer (about half a mile) away. We passed St Mary’s Church, the Marienkirche, one of the two oldest churches in Berlin, and which dates to the 1200s. It was badly damaged during the bombing of WWII. It was rebuilt but the surrounding area wasn’t, so it sits in a large empty area, overshadowed by the East Berlin TV tower, built by the communists to show how advanced they were.
We crossed the bridge onto the island in the Spree called Museum Island, because it contains so many, and we passed the Berlin Cathedral (not truly a Cathedral but called such anyway). The walls and most of the structure survived the bombings of WWII, though the roof was destroyed, and had to be rebuilt.
At this point I should mention that there is much more history to the sites of Berlin that just since the rise of the Nazis. Germans are sometimes understandably annoyed when foreigners fixate on that period and forget other more brilliant and enlightened periods in German history. There have been brilliant writers and artists, statesmen and even generals (who helped defeat the tyrant Napoleon for example).
I had read some of this history already, but my Dad was an encyclopedia of knowledge about each place. He had a very precise map in his head, and would even anticipate what we would next see as we walked, and from memory, would give very interesting commentary with frequent anecdotes on each site.
By this time we were hungry, so we looked for a suitable restaurant. We found a charming restaurant called the Nante Eck, a restoration of an old-style Berlin restaurant. The waiting staff dresses in turn of the century clothes, and the decor reflects this period. We both ordered Wiener-schnitzel and neither of us were able to finish the portion in spite of being quite hungry.
We continued west and in a few more minutes came to the Brandenburg Gate, probably the most famous monument in Berlin; dating from the late 1700s.
We walked through the gate and saw the Bundestag (formerly Reichstag) building off to the right (we hope to visit that later), and took some photos. We noted the young men in American and Soviet military uniforms available for photos (for a small price) and enough kitschy stuff going on ( a mime doing a statue of Lenin for example) that we could have been California….
By this time it was late afternoon and we were starting to get tired, so we retraced our steps to the hotel, and rested a short while before dinner. I had a quick walk around the Alexanderplatz, and couldn’t resist quoting a line of movie dialogue as I plucked the scene from my memory: “Send her alone, give her your phone.” Any reader who can correctly identify the movie gets, well, some small public recognition. Robert Ludlum aficionados shouldn’t have any trouble.
It was quite animated this Sunday night; there were temporary restaurants and beer gardens set up, live music, polka dances, and a few well-lubricated patrons. Alexanderplatz has always had an interesting reputation, going back at least as far as the 1920s. I remember while in university in Strasbourg, having to read Alfred Döblin’s Berlin Alexanderplatz, the story of a low-life loser in what was then a seamy quarter, that still has a bit of a reputation.
Around 7:00 pm Dad and I went to a restaurant near the hotel and had a bowl of soup, some thick brot and glass of wine, it was just enough. Now we’ll turn in pretty early, a little footsore, and rest so we can continue discovering Berlin tomorrow.