It’s just about 10 p.m. here in Berlin, and I’m wiped out! Walking around Berlin with Dr. Rogers has been an all day affair, and much like two days ago, I have over a hundred photos and not enough time to work on them tonight. It may be just as well, because it’s looking like rain this weekend which means I might spend the better part of at least one day inside and just work on photos as the rain comes a-tumblin’ down.
Our day started off by meeting at the Brandenburg Gate at 9 which meant a wake up call from Karen around 7. I didn’t really want to get up; I was quite tired, but getting to breakfast earlier was nice since I beat the young tourist crowd. (They’re still here; still loud. Maybe they’ll leave this weekend?)
Anyway, we started walking down Unter den Linden toward the east, noting construction on many of the side streets as well as photographing the Russian Embassy. We turned right on Friedrichstrasse and headed south for a few blocks to look at the more built-up areas of downtown. Quite accidentally, we found ourselves at the Gendarmenmarkt, which features the Franzosicher Dom, Deutscher Dom, and the Prussian architect Karl Friedrich Schinkel’s Konzerthaus Berlin.
Inside the Deutscher Dom is a permanent, free exhibit on the development of democracy in Germany, and my National Geographic Travel Guide lured me in because it said the fifth floor was about Germany in the EU (a big part of my paper). Well the first four floors were really quite interesting, as Dr. Rogers and I struggled to read enough German between the two of us to make sense of the exhibit. There was an English audio guide, but it didn’t cover every aspect of the museum, so we tried our collective hardest to read the rest. The fifth floor was a bit disappointing, though; it is so high up in the Dom’s dome that there isn’t room for more than a few signs explaining the beginnings of the EU. (The Dom’s dome means the cathedral’s dome…that’s a German-English play on words, since the German Dom means cathedral and sounds like the English Dome… Does it make a bad punster if I have to explain my jokes?)
Anyway, the exhibit took us around two hours to complete, so when we left we tried to decide where to eat lunch, only to decide that we weren’t that hungry and could make it by just getting a drink from a tourist shop on Unter den Linden. From there we rested our feet for a while in the middle of the street: Unter den Linden has a wide median between the traffic lanes that has benches, wurst and drink stands, and, naturally, linden trees.
We then continued our tour by heading deeper into the former East Berlin. We made it to Museum Island around 2 p.m. about which time it started to sprinkle and our decent weather from the morning (complete with sunshine!) had disappeared. We threw around the idea of going to a museum since I thought they were free after 2 on Thursdays (it turns out they are free after 6) but the lines were pretty long and we didn’t really want to waste too much time at that point. Instead, after photographing several of the museums’ outside, we continued on to the Marx-Engels Platz, the Rotes Rathaus, and then Alexanderplatz.
As you will see in photos later, Alexanderplatz (called Alex by the natives) is the center of shopping and commercial business in east Berlin. It was originally developed by the Communist regime of the DDR as the showpiece quarter of the most successful country behind the Iron Curtain. It has been heavily modified and turned into a capitalist center, though many of the former pre-fab housing/apartment complexes around the quarter still show evidence of their cheap Communist-era construction. A few have been nicely redone with new facades, but many are in bad shape and are doomed (At least one ten story apartment building was completely shut down and vacant.)
After we walked around the old “Red” Berlin we decided to go on a subway adventure (much like my trip to Wedding the other day). We got on the U5 at Alexanderplatz and rode it east out into Berlin’s suburbs. The suburb we visited around Wuhletal was pretty nice, more like the traditional German cities that I’ve seen and stayed in during my travels. There we found an old hospital complex for traumatic injuries that was built in 1890 at what was then completely out of town. Germans traditionally associate good health with nature, and the planning of the Krankenhaus (we assumed based on our observations) was that it was built to expose those who experienced trauma to nature to help with the healing process. There were also buildings for psychological study on children and teenagers, and there were several college aged people about, which led us to think that the campus might have been both hospital and medical school. I need to Google it and find out. I’ll report back more later after I’ve had time to search (but for now I’m tired!)
We rode the S-bahn back into town and found a small, interesting Turkish restaurant in the Turkish part of Kreuzberg for supper. Neither of us know much about Turkish food, and since they didn’t have the Dönner kababs famous to Germany, we went with Hackfleisch kababs which were really good. I intentionally planned our stop in that area because the U-bahn station went both north-south on a line toward Dr. Roger’s hotel and east-west (the closed U1 line) toward mine. I took a bus back as far as it would go, switched to the U2 line which follows the U1 line for part of its track, and then switched back to bus to get back to my hotel before walking the last two blocks. It sounds completely complicated, no doubt, to the American readers, but it’s all proof to show that you don’t even have to own a car to get around in Europe. Those of you who been here before know exactly how amazing Germany’s public transportation is.
It’s after 11 now, and I’m going to get in bed. Dr. Rogers and I are meeting again at 9 in the morning, this time at Potsdammerplatz, to explore the west.
I’ll post more tomorrow, and maybe get around to photos by tomorrow evening or Sunday.