Sunday, October 12, 2008

Off to Berlin

We rode the superfast train from Cologne to Berlin. It took us only four hours to do what the bus needs twelve hours to do. It didn't seem all that fast, really, unless you try to focus on the ground right next to the track. The buildings and fields further away did not appear to be rushing past any faster than usual. Once at Berlin's mod new station, we were met by our local tour guide and bus. This station is huge with lots of stores and restaurants and lots of glass. (Enrico and our regular bus loaded with our luggage were taking the highway, and managed to meet us at the hotel after our tour.)

Our guide Christabel took us around Berlin and we stopped to visit some of the more interesting sites. First was the Kaiser Wilhelm church which was bombed during WWII. This facade to the right is really all that is left. A modern replacement church was built next to this sight, but the facade of the old church was left as a memorial to things lost in the war.

Eventually we made our way through the city to the Brandenburg Gate. Christabel led us through the center columns which used to be reserved for the kaiser! Finished in 1791, this is the only remaining gate of thirteen that used to stand on the perimeter of the city. Just past the gate is Unter den Lindens Avenue, a street with shops at one end and museums, libraries and performing arts centers at the other. I haven't figured out yet why the Old Library is known as the "Kommode".

It was hard to tell where the former East Berlin starts and West ends, except here by this remaining bit of the wall (below) and Checkpoint Charlie to the right. A lot of the guys from our tour gladly posed for photos in front of the famous checkpoint. The eastern part of the city has been working hard to catch up to the modern west side. I had to refer to my map to see exactly where our hotel sat.

This piece of the wall that wasn't torn down shows how impossible it would be to climb over. It's pretty igh for one thing, and that part that looks like a rubber bumper on top would keep a person from getting a grip good enough to hoist themself over. And then there are rows of barbed wire. Around the city, there are parts of the wall displayed showing the graffitied western side and the immaculate east side.

Finally after a long day of travelling and touring, we relaxed for awhile in our (East Berlin) hotel, a very modern, minimalist place called Moevenpick which is also the name of some German ice cream. This is the kind of place that leaves candy on your pillow. Since we were in Germany, the candy was Haribo Gummy Bears. This was a very fancy hotel by my standards, with a beautiful view out the window, and a bathroom wall made out of glass block. Although we were tempted to stay in that evening and put our feet up, we had signed up for a variety show at the Winter Garden Theater which turned out to be great fun.

1 comment:

Tony Joachim said...


I've been slow in keeping up with your wonderful posts, but just had the chance to catch up on four of them, this morning. I am officially jealous of your trip and think that you'd be a great person to travel with. You seem to know a little history about EVERYTHING! :) Not to mention, your photos are really inspiring. While Germany is on my list of places to visit, the photos make it all the more interesting, and push it up my list.

Can't wait to see the next installment!