“Well now what do I do?”
After covering most of the places I had planned for both today and tomorrow, I sat down at a cafe this morning to think about what else to do while I still had some sunshine.
I woke up early with Karen calling me on Skype at 7:30 (12:30 a.m. Central) so we could talk before she went to bed and so I would actually get up that early to use the sun (Weather.com told me it would be sunny) while I had the opportunity. So after a quick breakfast (filled with the young German hordes I talked about yesterday) I left for my adventure.
I first took the bus up Ku’damm to the Zoologischer Garten Bahnhof. Here I picked up an S-bahn train to the Hauptbahnhof – Berlin’s main train station. As I did with my host family and a group from UTM two years ago, I knew that starting at the Hauptbahnhof would provide me the opportunity to walk by the Bundeskanzleramt (Office of the Federal Chancellery) and the Bundestag before heading to Pariser Platz and the Brandenburg Gate. Again.
I took photos of those two political buildings and then continued on to search for more political buildings between the Gate and Potsdammer Platz. There are quite a lot of political buildings along Wilhelmstrasse and what is known as the Altes Regierungsviertel (old regulations (?) quarter). This area was the center of political activity during the days of of the Prussian empire through both World Wars until it became part of the DDR and the Soviets moved their political buildings to the middle of East Berlin. Since reunification, several political buildings have moved back to the Wilhelmstrasse area, including several offices of the German Bundeslände (Federal States), the upper chamber of Germany’s parliament in the Bundesrat, the Federal Finance Ministry, the Ministry for Nutrition, Agriculture, and Consumer Protection, the Minstry for Employment and Social Affairs, and the British Embassy. Needless to say there were lots of photos to be taken.
As I meandered about on Wilhelmstrasse, I also walked around parts of Potsdammer Platz and Leipziger Platz to take photos of several important business/economy buildings. I will elaborate more about these on Flickr. I had intended to cover this area tomorrow, but it seemed to work out fine today.
After leaving Potsdammer Platz/Leipziger Platz, I walked back to Wilhemstrasse and didn’t know quite what to do. I knew that I had a few more hours of sun, so I sat down at a cafe and pulled out the maps and National Geographic Guidebook and decided to keep walking down Wilhelmstrasse. Without intending to, I came to a stretch of the Berlin Wall that has been left intact and what is known as the Topographie des Terrors (Topography of Terror), an outdoor exhibit at the ruins of the Gestapo headquarters that covers the history of the Gestapo/SS/SD acts of Terror in WWII. I didn’t really want to see the exhibit, as it isn’t all that useful for my paper, but behind it there was a temporary exhibit on the significance of Wilhelmstrasse through the last two centuries, so I walked and read through that exhibit instead. The exhibit ended at the back of the Bundesrat next to Martin-Gropius-Bau (an art exhibition hall) that wasn’t all that interesting to me, so after a few photos I headed back to Potsdammer Platz to do more photo work.
I photographed most of the large buildings around Potsdammer Platz – the Deutsche Bahn tower, the Mercedes-Benz tower, the Price Waterhouse Cooper building, Sony Center, and the mall at the Mercedes-Benz quarter – Arkaden. By this point my feet were getting tired, so I decided to check out the mall. They have a lot of high fashion clothing stores and other mall type stores (similar to on Ku’damm) so the only places I checked out were a book store and a Gelato-Eis (ice cream) cafe. I ordered a Tartufo based on its picture on the menu. It had chocolate and coffee flavored gelato, whipped cream, and a chocolate wafer. After the first few bites I noticed a bit of an odd flavor (it had a whang to it, as my mother would say) and I looked at my receipt to see that it was a “Tartufo Eierlikor” – Tartufo Irish Liquor. Oops. I don’t know if it was Irish Liquor flavoring…but I’m going to bet not. Live and learn, oh well.
I was about to leave Potsdammer Platz by the same route I took yesterday when I saw signs for the observation deck of the Mercedes-Benz tower. I had planned to go to that before I left but I didn’t know where it was until I saw it as I left the mall. For a student price of 2.5 Euros I took the fastest elevator in Europe to the top (Mom and Rachel will be so proud me. And terrified.) It takes you up 24 floors (90.15 meters) in 20 seconds, about 8.5 meters per second. That’s not all that fast, when you think about it: 8.5 meters per second equals 30.6 km/hour. It’s just straight up in the air instead of in a car along the road.
Anyway, enough of the scientific conversions lecture. (If this were Monty Python, someone would be yelling “Get on with it!”) The view from the top was the best I’ve had of Berlin yet. I’ve been to the top of the Bundestag twice and the Siegelsäule statue once and they’ve got nothing on this. Of course…I haven’t been to the Fernsehturm yet, either. It’s the highest point in Berlin, so more exciting “aerial” photos may be coming to a Flickr near you soon.
Once I was back firmly on the ground I headed back to the hotel where I talked to a waking Karebear and Anita. After a two hour nap, I woke up and went to the grocery store. When I got back I ate some of my bread with Nutella for supper (I wasn’t hungry, again…odd) and then talked to Karen, Anita, Granny, Pop, and Mr. Carroll (sp?) before starting to blog.
Now that I’m almost done, I’m realizing that I probably won’t have time to get my photos up on Flickr before my internet runs out at 10:15 p.m. I’ve planned it so that I don’t have to pay for it at all today – my purchase last night runs until 10:15 tonight and then I’ll buy again in the morning, so that will be one last day (nighttime tonight + daytime of my last day here when I fly out) that I don’t have to pay for internet. Someone remind me to kiss my wireless router with free UTM internet when I get back to Martin…
Anyway, I leave you with a few observations and things I’ve been thinking about in my walks around town.
1) One thing that Americans may never get used to in any moderate to large size German city is the smells. And most of them are offensive smells. Don’t get me wrong, there are plenty of good smelling things to be found around here, but for every fresh bakery or cafe there are at least two or three smelly manholes emitting sewage smells. Add to the mix plenty of Germans who fit the lack of hygiene stereotype, crowded buses and subway cars, and men and women wearing enough perfume and cologne to cover up their own scent and you’ll have a gagging mess on your hands.
2) Fortunately, Berlin is unlike most large cities in the world that are completely jam-packed with high rise buildings, industrial sites and disgusting air. Unlike London, L.A., Beijing, and more, Berlin has so much green space that cleans the air – so there are places to escape from the smells mentioned above.
3) There are thousands of German words that I don’t know. Even if I pick up on dozens of words every time I come here, at one trip per year (thus far) I’ll master the German language about the time I die. Something should be done to fix this.