Grammar's Travel travel blog

Oct 12. Berlin Overview

First thing in the morning, we sent quite a bit of time around Potsdammer Platz looking for a ticket office. We found one and got tickets for an outrageous-looking show Sunday night. We looked at various options related to a week-long Festival of Lights and determined that there was something on the same night at the 1936 Olympic stadium

We jumped on the "Berlin City Tour". I mention the name because you should not take this tour if you dislike hokey commentary with dumb jokes. The route, the hop-on-hop-off option, the two day span and the two different loops are all good but we did not like the spiel. Grammar and I have been on several orientation bus tours and all the rest were good.

Among other things we saw the entrance to the zoo, which is supposed to have more species than any other zoo in the world. It is not a very big area though. I wonder how crowded everybody is? We also saw the Brandenburg Gate; the Reichstag (german Parliament); the Konzert hall; the Tiergarten ; Alexander Platz; buildings by the prolific architect, Schinken; museum Island, including the Pergamon; many government legislative buildings; many embassies including an old and very ugly Swiss one and a combined embassy for the Scandinavian countries; the spectacular Hauptbanhof (main train station); the Opera; the Dom; Potsdamer Platz and many other things. We were reeling when we stopped; so we had a nice tea break at a building designed Martin Gropius, uncle of the famous architect Walter Gropius

After the reviving tea (and cake), we went into an outdoor exhibit called The Topography of Terror which was not far from our hotel. The exhibit dealt with the rise and rule of fascism in Germany from the 1920s to 1945. It was amazingly well done. In an unusual move, Grammar and Ruth read every sign. An extant section of the dreaded Berlin Wall runs the length of the exhibit and there is a large visitor centre too. (Grammar went to that on her last morning in Berlin.)

We went back out after an quick dinner to the Olympic Stadium for a light show. It was raining miserably and a long way to the stadium on the U-bahn. When we got there it felt surreal - like something from a cold war movie: the lights from the subway to the stadium were dim, the route was unclear, we went through a pretty dark tunnel and there were small groups of people wandering around, none of us really knowing where we were going. Once we were in the stadium, there were a few people with big cameras on tripods but only a flame and some stationary lights flickering on the far side of the stadium. The stadium itself was in disrepair until it was fixed up for some European soccer event in 2006. It is very lovely now.

Finally, someone said there was something happening in area D. We trundled off into the bowels of the building and came into an area about the size of a gymnasium with a low ceiling and four pillars in it. This was a performance called "The Visual Piano" and it was great. It appeared to be two men playing electronic music on synthesizers or computers. The sounds they were playing were being translated lights of various shapes and colours on all the walls and ceiling of the room. The visual effects were extraordinary and included lines, dots, swirls, and blobs, often in black and white, sometimes in colour. It was not at all what we expected to see in the big stadium, but we were enchanted.

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