Jul 31, 2014
|The day actually started at 2:00 AM when I woke up sure that the alarm had not gone off at 4:45 as it was supposed to. Then fitful sleep until it actually did go off. So up, brush teeth, pack the last bits and down the steps. Cab showed up exactly on time and we zoomed to the airport and got there at 5:45. We checked in immediately with no delay, had no delay at the security check, and off to find our gate.
Once found Alice waited with the stuff and I went to convert what cash I had for Euros then tried to buy some buns – they only took kroner but they would take euros but would give change in euros. Worked out something then went to get Alice her “French Hotdog” (a hotdog in an open ended hollow roll) and was one kroner short. After some deliberation the clerk said forget it… Flight loaded easily and was only fifty minutes – but the four stewards served beverages and a roll.
Finally landed in Berlin and after a short delay we got our luggage and caught a cab into the city. We were going to take the train but we were both way too tired. The trip took about 30 minutes as there was much construction. Driver’s only comment the whole trip was “shit” because of all the delays.
At the hotel about 9:00 AM so we just stored our luggage and went out on Alexanderplatz to look for our bus. After some delays we hopped on our “Hop on Hop off” bus with ear phones to listen to a pre-recorded tour of the city – and some really elevatoresque music that Alice said hurt her ears.
We drove rather rapidly and the information kept coming and coming without stop. It is Berlin, after all, and a LOT has happened here. Though it has only been a little while I remember only bits and pieces. We rode by the museum island where there are a large number of museums (oddly enough) then through Fredrichwerdersches with a large statue of Fredrick the Great, then past the holocaust museum – a series of irregular rectangular blocks that must cover five or six acres. Alice thought they were benches but the sheer number is amazing. Then by the Brandenburg Gate and the Reichstag, both of which were very impressive – the Reichstag has a glass dome that people can walk to the top – and we could see many people there. Then through Charlottenburg with its fabulous mansion.
That was followed by travel through some shopping districts and we got the bus at Potsdam Plaza where there was a line showing the position of the Berlin Wall, then we saw a few sections that had been preserved. The six or seven section had been graffiti covered but most interestingly was that there were a number of love locks attached and most were 50% or more covered with wads of chewing gum – some places half an inch thick or more! Across the street was a nice mirror installation so you could see yourself in the sky.
Into a nearby shop where they were selling bits of the wall. They were actual bits of the wall with fresh spray paint applied… And there were many stands selling East Berlin (and USSR) paraphernalia – hats, helmets, gas masks, pins… We walked down the street and came to the Topography of Terror. We went in and it was a very powerful presentation of how the National Socialists used terror and intimidation, and a belief in a master race, to justify absolutely inhumane treatment of people. The pictures and descriptions were very disturbing – how some people were more important than others and were seen as drains on society – so killed, sterilized, forced into slave labor, or just humiliated.
Then we looked at a large section of the wall that was built on the ruins of Gestapo headquarters and there was a history of the attempted destruction of the city of Warsaw and how it was reborn after the depreciations. Even examples of homemade machine guns. Then on to “Check Point Charlie.” That was quite disappointing in that several people had taken possession of the sandbag portion and were posing in American uniforms and flags with tourists for one euro per picture. One of the men was quite unshaven – something that would have never happened.
We got back on the bus and took it around to a stop near an attraction Alice wanted to see. When we found it was not going to be presented until 2:30 we caught another bus up to the Brandenburg Gate to take some pictures then headed back, stopping in at several stores but pushing a bit. At 2:0 we arrived at “Berlin Dungeon” – a horror history of Berlin. We went with a group of about 12 people and actors tried to scare us but used historical examples – the plague, torture, historical events. Falling ceilings, surprise jumps, sprays, moving chairs… I was accused of killing the carnival and was sentenced to wearing a mask. All in fun – Alice proclaimed it well worth the time. It was an elaborate Halloween house.
Then we went back to the hotel and finally checked in. We got a small room on the 35th floor with a very nice view. We went out and there was a fair going on behind the hotel – lots of food and beer vendors, various articles – some handmade and some from China. Many street artists doing chalk drawings, juggling, unicycles, and even a fire breathing dragon and mechanical horse! We ate at an Italian place which was OK – then back to the hotel, then back to the fair, then hotel, then fair. Alice got a small henna tattoo and bought some small gifts.
Finally back o the hotel and with noises of guitars, singers, the neighing of a mechanical horse, and cheering (and a few fireworks in the distance), the crescent moon set over Berlin. A very full day!
Tomorrow we sleep a little late and are planning to take a train to Potsdam. The adventure continues with only minor injuries!