DM and MM's Germany 2007 Diary

Day 3 - Berlin

Monday, 23 April, 2007

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We've just showered after a busy day of sightseeing. I had a jetlagged sleep, waking at 02:00 and only dozing fitfully thereafter. Michelle slept through like a log. We got up at 07:30 and went straight to the breakfast buffet in the restaurant next door.

We had muesli, which had little flakes of chocolate in it! Michelle had it with milk, I had yoghurt and fruit salad on it. Then I had self-sliced pieces of bread, dark with seeds, with scrambled eggs and chicken sausages, followed by a bread roll with brie, ham, cucumber, and sour cream, then some more muesli. Michelle had some bread with cheese, and some with jam, then some strawberry yoghurt and fruit salad, then some slices of cucumber.

After filling up, we walked along Marienstraß, where Michelle stopped in briefly at a pharmacy to see if they had any flossing handles for all the floss heads she'd brought. No luck. Further up the street was a corner store where we got some bread rolls and cheese for lunch, and a small bottle of water for Michelle.

We walked over to Friedrichstraße S-Bahn station, bought a couple of day tickets, and hopped on a train to Zoo Station, where we transferred to U-Bahn to Sophie-Charlotte Platz. (They sold alcohol from kiosks on the train platforms!) Emerging on to the street, the first thing we saw was a place offering Internet for €0.40 a half hour. So we popped in briefly to send Michelle's mum an e-mail to say we arrived okay. At first we couldn't log in to her e-mail and it was getting weird until we realised the Y and Z on the German keyboard were swapped and Michelle was touch-typing her password incorrectly.

That sorted, we turned up Schlossstraße for a walk along a grand avenue to Schloss Charlottenburg, a magnificent old palace. Curiously, there were relatively few tourists around, which we discovered, to our dismay, was because the Schloss was closed on Mondays.

Schloss Charlottenburg Gardens

So we walked around the immense building to the gardens, which were open, and strolled along the carefully manicured formal displays of flowers and patterns of coloured stones lined by tiny hedges. At the far end was a lake, which we walked around under the trees.


We're just back in after a night photography session. Returning to earlier:

We stopped at a bench in the Schloss gardens to eat some fruit: an apple for Michelle and a pear for me. Then we continued on past the Belvedere - a four-story building big enough to be a large house in itself, but essentially a garden shed for the Schloss. Continuing on, we exited the gardens on the north side and walked across the river to the Jungfernheide U-Bahn station, where we caught the train to Mehringdamm with the intention to transfer to another line and make the two-station hop north to Kochstraße, where Checkpoint Charlie is. (Outside Jungfernheide I spotted an intersection of Olbersstraße and Herschelstraße!) But I needed to use a toilet and we spotted a sign "WC" at Mehringdamm, so followed it and found ourselves up on the street. A man sitting outside a kebab stand peeling potatoes noticed our puzzled expressions and asked us if we needed help. (At least I presume that's what his German translated to.) I said I was looking for a toilet and he pointed us up the street and around the corner, "about 100 metres," he said. We followed his advice, expecting some sort of public facility, but found a Burger King, whose facilities we gladly availed ourselves of.

found wandering
Kirche Zum Heiligen Kreuz

Now on the street, we decided to walk to Checkpoint Charlie instead of catching the train. We wandered along some non-touristy streets lined with apartments, but stumbled across a magnificent brick church, the Kirche Zum Heiligen Kreuz. Michelle grabbed a coffee from a nearby cafe (from a self-serve machine, that the guy had to refill with water while we waited). We sat and ate our lunch of rolls and cheese in a pleasant little park to the sounds of birds twittering in the trees.

After eating, we walked north up Lindenstraße and ran across the Jewish Museum, which was the other site near Checkpoint Charlie that we wanted to visit. We gratefully entered to have some indoor time during the heat of the day. The museum is a bold statement of architecture, filled with details and relics of Jewish life from thousands of years ago through to the Holocaust. It was very moving stuff.

The collection is housed in a new building designed by avant-garde architect Daniel Libeskind. It is long and thin, and kinked into irregular sharp angles, the bare zinc exterior slashed by thin diagonal scars that provide space for the few windows. The basement level consists of three long corridors intersecting in a triangle, the Axis of Continuity, Axis of the Holocaust, and Axis of Exile. Each axis has displays related to the theme in question: the long history of Jewish culture, the atrocities of the Nazis, and the global diaspora of Jews. The Axis of the Holocaust narrows and ends at a heavy door, which leads into a bare concrete tower, unheated and unlit except for a tiny gash at the top, far overhead, through which can be heard the muffled shouts of children playing in the school across the road. The Axis of Exile ends at a door leading out to the Garden of Exile: a cobbled square with an uncomfortable slope, dissected by a grid of square concrete columns about twice as high as a person, that block lines of sight. The Axis of Continuity leads to a staircase that climbs up to the remainder of the museum, which provides a much larger overall view of the history of the Jewish people.

Void tower, Jewish Museum

We continued on to Checkpoint Charlie, where there were hordes of American tourists, as one might have expected. We took photos of the famous guard box and sign, and got my passport stamped with a "Checkpoint Charlie" stamp by a guy in a US army uniform who was charging a small fee for the privilege.

Walking north, we completely missed the Australian embassy, walking right past it without even noticing it. We turned east over to the Deutscher Dom and its partner the Französische Kirche, flanking a handsome square that had a lively ambience. Again, closed on Mondays.

We walked back to the hotel to have showers before dinner.

Democracy can have purple seats
Reichstag interior

Leaving just after 18:30, we went to the nearby Kartoffel Keller for dinner. Michelle had potato-tomato soup and a large pancake with veges and cheese, while I had a potato, bacon, and sausage soup, and three small pancakes with sauerkraut and sausages. It was all very good, but extremely filling. After spying us trawling through the German menus with phrasebook in hand, a helpful waitress brought us English menus.

We went back to the hotel to quickly change from our good dinner shoes to walking shoes again and went out to the Reichstag and joined a long queue of people waiting to get in and go up to the glass dome on top. After waiting just over an hour we finally got in and were taken up four storeys (tall storeys too) in a glass lift to the rooftop, where a dizzying spiral ramp ascended the towering glass dome above. It was a long walk up and down the ramps, but well worth it for the view. Then I took some tripod shots of the Berlin night from the open rooftop before we descended in the lift again and exited.

Brandenburger Tor
Brandenburg Gate at night

A quick stop at the Brandenburg Gate for some night photos, and we returned home for the night.

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