Monday, August 10, 2015

Berlin Day Two

First, please excuse any typos. I´m writing this on a German keyboard because I accidentally fried my laptop adapter. The biggest changes are the positioning, addition of umlauts, and my y key is in a very unusual position. Second, I have been corrected on my identification of the submarine from the other day! It was, in fact, a soviet submarine, and once I am back in the states I`ll correct that in the post itself.

For now, just plain wowzers. What A Day! Berlin is so wonderful. Of course, I only ended up with five hours to explore it after the Reichstag tour, but still! So much wow. And that was five hours AFTER a morning tour of the Reichstag.

A bit about the Reichstag for those not in the know. The Reichstag is where the German Parliment casts its votes and holds Party meetings. As I can hear you asking why I would go there from the hotel in Germany already, I'll explain the appeal of the place to me. One Word: Architecture.

See, this building is a little on the weird side. Almost all of it is the original outer walls of the building, built in the Weimar Republic, which was Germany's first democracy and in the early 1900s era. This means that it is rocking the classical art look, feel, and symbology. You guys know me and the classical period. Ah, my first love in art! Wonderful.

Of course, there was a wee bitty change on the facade at one point in the 1900s, and I should only have to translate it to tell you who wrote it. On the front of the building, in an otherwise unmarred band reads something a little out of place. 'Dem Deutschen Volke.' To the German People. Three guesses on when that was put there, and the first two don't count.

If you guessed Hitler, you were wrong.  Try in 1916, and to the displeasure of then ruler Wilhelm II. That's right. Sounds like Nazis and isn't. History produces weird things.

This is not all there is to this magnificent building of course. You see, after the wall fell and Germany became one again, there was a tiny matter of where to vote at, and where else but the Konigplatz, now renamed to something less kingly, and with government buildings all around. One problem. The Soviets had totally trashed the place, among other things, like bombs falling from the sky.  So it got a makeover.  The entire interior was removed and build to modern taste, and on top, as a symbol of the transparency of the new government a giant glass dome was built.

Around the building we went, seeing this and that, even preserved Soviet graffiti, which while interesting in its existence, rates only a one of my graffiti scale. It was almost entirely dates, names, and where soldiers were from. Says a lot about the mind set of the soldiers, I think.

This was a good three hour tour and climb to the top of the glass dome by the way. Leaving me with only five hours to see the town and get back to where our last hoorah dinner was going to be. Effectively, with getting around, I had four hours. With eating a lunch as well...only three. THREE HOURS! Well, plus change, of course, but oh what could I do, how could I take in the city? I could not. Not by foot. So I employed the mighty services of a tour bus! City sightseeing buses abounded, and if I only had a handful of hours to see it all, this would be the way.  I made my way from the Reichstag to the Brandenburg Gate, and admired that very much, and all too greatly. Then I got on a tour bus with a friend who had the same idea.

The sights! The sounds! Berlin! We saw the victory tower, with the eight meter tall Victory angel on top.  The children next to me insisted she was a golden fairy.  It was a very good description.  Along the route, we also saw Schloss Bellevue, where Merkel lives, we were told Schloss Charlottenburg was also taken in, with all it resplendent glory, as was the beautiful route to the zoo. The Europa Center was admired, and we saw, of course, KaDeWe, a huge shopping mall from the DDR, if I recall correctly.

A trip through Potsdamer Platz and all showed us the magical art area, so many galleries, the sony center, the golden philharmonic, the musical theater with greats from the black and white era and so many more! We even got to see more remains of the wall, and of course we got to see check point charlie, though the bus did not stop for us to get off there, to my sorrow. 

Oh the tour was wonderful, and we got off near the Reichstag to head over to a memorial that is wonderful in theory and which I still do not understand at all the deeper meaning behind.  That would be the Holocast memorial specifically to the Jews.  I did see the one ot the Gypsies as well. It's a reflecting pool with a triangle in the middle.  For the jews there is a large plaza filled with stone rectangles of varying heights. They get big enough that you can walk among them, and thanks to cleverly digging down, it looks like they only grow in height maybe three feet.

I still don't understand it. But it was very memorial-esque.

After this I had to make my way back to the S-bahn, of the Schnell bahn, the quick train. I took it to the Potsdam station from the Brandeburg Gate, as it seemed that was the closest. From there, I changed trains to one to the Alexanderplatz near my hotel and the restaurant our last horrah was at. I arrived soon enough to briefly admire the TV tower, the largest most modern structure of the DDR in Germany, and then to check out the Statsi Archives.

I don't know the proper name. But in these archives is the most shocking thing in Berlin for me.  If the DDR had a file on you, you will now find it there. They had a lot of files, on a lot of people. It's a very large building, and to the front, is this statue of a Soviet working man. It was closed by the time I was there, but for me, this affected me much more than the Holocaust memorial.

Shortly after, we had a goodbye dinner at 'Der Alte Fritz.' The name is in honor of the man who brought Germany the potato....Frederick the Great. There were potatoes at our dinner. I gave up and had them. Germans really love potatoes guys. They really do.

I wish I had more time. I didn't get nearly as much done as I would have liked. Berlin is just too small for only a few hours, or even only a few days in it, and tomorrow, or rather, on Sunday my plane leaves back for the US.  But that, of course, is another adventure.

One Final Byte: When adventures are done, people will be missed.

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