Berlin, Dresden, Prague
Trip Start Dec 09, 2013
12Trip End Jan 27, 2014
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We arrived in Berlin after dark, and found a taxi willing to transport ourselves and our bags ( which must be both feeding well and breeding beause they have increaed in size and girth). The Office for our apartments gave us some misgivings because it was up two old fights of stairs, the lift was not working, the lights inside were dim, and when I reached what I thought was the office doors, they were bolted shut. However, we eventually found our Berliner apartments. Quite nice. Sparse, almost Art Deco design, in a strange neighbourhood which combines amazing antique shops selling genuine His Master's Voice gramophones, and Russian Military uniforms and weapons, with stores peddling leather bondage and fetish!
Dinner in an American Style Diner
Still trying to get used to European bedding. Large square very soft pillows. Funny dooner things, single size, folded in half. No instructions.
Breakfast black coffee ( for me) and pastries from the Bakerei downstairs. We spent the day walking around Berlin. We find crossing roads slightly less confusing than in Amsterdam. Not quite as many bikes out to get us. We still forget which way to look for cars, which can be interesting. And it doesn't seem as if trams give way to pedestrians...ever.
We start off in the Old East Berlin, and find a few remnants of the wall, now covered in graffiti or murals, which was so prominent a division of the city at our last visit 23 years ago. John and I recall the constant ring of hammer on chisel as souvenir hunters all over Europe slowly tore the wall down
We find Checkpoint Charlie, and visit a memorial to the wall. We also walk through the Brandenburg Gates, then, because it is cold and windy, retreat to our second stadtfahren bus (the first the red double decker back in London) which doubles for us as public transport. We h spend most of the day in the old Eastern Berlin, which is a collage of old buildings under repairs (covered with painted canvas facades), cranes, building sites and shiny glass high rise housing the usual Western franchises like Starbucks. John shows Jack the residual damage from shrapnel and bullets in the walls.
Actually, we use Starbuck's for lunch, because we can order a coffee, and eat our picnic lunch and nobody seems to care....and we are out of the cold wind. Coffee from Starbucks is nicht sehr gut! (That's why they never made it in Australia).
Briony's dream street is the Kurfustendam, lined on both sides with shops. Dinner is at the Bavarian styled Hofbrauhaus. John has a couple of steins. I don't drink beer anymore, but the wine servings in fish bowl glasses are equally generous. John has a pork knuckle. I have something which my Highschool German translated as cheese noodles with mushrooms, which turned out to be mac cheese with no mushrooms! Jack can,t have his chicken Parmigiana (his staple fave food) so J and B settle for schnitzel).
Used our stadtfahren bus again
This is followed by further exploration of the Holocaust Memorial. This is a block of land, which has been filled with 2711 blocks of smooth concrete of varying heights (like multiple copies the monolith from the movie 2001). If you step to the side, you quickly lose you way. Somehow the concrete dulls sound. John thought it might symbolise the isolation and hopelessness. There us a subterranean memorial, again full of harrowing stories. In one room each Jew killed during the Holocaust is named, with birth and death dates. It will take more than six years to go through each name. So many families utterly destroyed. So many children, girls like Anne Frank trying to have a normal life. Living so far away, in our isolated continent, these events have had little, impact on our lives
We finished our day with a stroll through the Tiergarten as the sun went down (actually it was cloudy, no sun, but it was dusk). Watched red squirrels scuttle up bare trees. Leapt out of the way of speeding rush hour cyclists riding home after work. I really wanted to ride a bike in Berlin. Nice and flat, with good cycling oaths. But the rental stands here required an annual subscription!
Turkish dinner from one of the many turkish take aways. Tomorrow to Dresden.
Train to Dresden early in the morning. We walked to the Hauptbahnhoff in Berlin, and were in Dresden well before lunch. Dresden has changed since John and I were here, 23 years ago, for the Unification day. (Einhartstag 3/10/9).
Cleaner air now than 23 years ago. An amazing clash of culture, with the coming together of Western shopping chains, all shiny glass and Neon, with beautiful Gothic and Baroque churches and schloss.. The now fully restored Frauenkirche which was a pile of post war rubble last time we were here. We explored our corner of Dresden, near the Elbe, and the junction of Neuestadt and Alt stadt. Briony admired the shops. Jack found solace with Wifi outside the Apple store. Dresden seems not as crowded, certainly in this part, as Berlin. A great place to ride bikes. And friendly, easily able to strike uo conversation with my dreadful German and the local's much better English
Dinner at a chain in Germany Vampiano. No waiters, you take a card, order your food at the counter, they cook it in front of you eg pizzas, fresh pasta, and charge it to your card. Then find a table, this can be hard, and enjoy. Long table means more time to meet people. No waiting staff means cheaper to eat.
Then after dark we explored the courtyard and terraces of the Zwinger Palace, until it became too cold.
Dresden to Prague
Train cabin to selves
Breakfast croissant coffee fruit yum.
John walked down to the Dresden University, still a row of GDR concrete boxes, where we had such an amazing time on Unification Day 23 years ago. Our DB Bahn train was like all things German, efficient, functional, not especially comfortable. No WIFI which is the norm so far on trains, despite the web site claiming WIFI access on trains. Might be accessible on Superior Class seats. We had a cabin to ourselves to spread our suitcases in.
Prague main station (Praha HLN) was confusing. Although we had tried to brush up on Czech while travelling, I for one could not retain any of it. Much harder than French, or German. We had been warned about taxies overcharging naive tourists, and found the Taxi Fair Place stand.
Our Hotel in Prague is the Hotel Salvador, in a tiny cobblestoned street that the taxi amazingly negotiates without a problem
Tourist shops here sell colourful crystal and glass, Russian bear hats, Russian dolls, marrionettes modelled after all the fairy tale characters you can think of, as well as the usual Tshirts, beanies and scarves.
There are more homeless in Prague than we have seen so far. We did not really see any in Berlin or Dresden at all. Here they prostrate them selves in the cold streets, with a paper cup or hat to collect Czech Crowns. Many are young girls. Many have canine companions, wrapped in coats, serving for friendship and perhaps extra enticement to tourists to part with their coins. Street theatre abound s in the Square. To our amusement, one of the white faced angels is always joking with the crowd, or the police, or smoking, instead of holding the frozen posture of his colleagues. I think he does well.
Trdlnik, we must not forget the devine pastries cooked on a stick over hot coals. Mix of flour, almond paste and honey. Quite heavy, although not as filling as Jack's crepe with Nutella he insists on each day. The stalls also sell Cooked Pork from the Spit on bread rolls, and fried potato skins. Briony and i have decided we are doing the eating tour of Europe, and will make a list of outstanding food from each country we visit.
We have Dinner in the Bohemian restaurant.downstair because we have free drinks...John ecstatic (not) at last has "Masterchef" style meal with big white plate, small portion food and creative drizzle sauce.