Oct 2, 2018

The Berlin Diaries #1: Deplaned and Ready To Explore.

I hit the ground running from the moment I landed in Berlin.  My friend and I surprised ourselves by managing to take our jetlag with us to the streets and rail networks of the city and get a bit of sightseeing done in our new home for the next week.

Blackberries are so cheap here.  My first shopping spree in Berlin was at a train station supermarket where I loaded up on every possible fresh berry they had in stock.

Armed with our new train tickets which you validate once, we set out for the afternoon.  An honesty system exists where you simply travel where you need to go with the ticked in your wallet, there's no need to tap on or tap off.

I have no excuse for being anything but bright eyed and bushy tailed on touchdown because the flight was pretty spectacular.

I had smashed avocado and sourdough for breakfast and several cups of tea and coffee made for me along the way.  The snacks were also 11/10...

I promise I'll get to the sightseeing soon but before I do, a customary photo of my hotel room and some of my things from home that I like to unpack and litter the sleek corporate traveller furniture with.

In more exciting news, I got the Nespresso machine and the kettle to both work without drowning the desk in water.  It was a good omen.

I'm ready now to talk about what I've actually seen and done in Berlin so far.

The Palace of Tears looks like a modern, airy and possibly welcoming government building.  It is located just next to Friedrichstrasse Station which is one of the main stations of the city.  There are shops and food aplenty and the mood was bouyant as we walked around on Saturday afternoon.  Tourists mingled with locals as they shared the common goal of enjoying the autumn sun with friends and family.

The history of the 'Palace' is somewhat more grim.  Up until 1990, it was a customs clearance house used by the GDR dictatorship so process those leaving the East for West Berlin. It was a place of obsessive surveillance of East Germans who wanted to cross the Berlin Wall.  People from the East were not only separated by a wall from their families and loved ones in the West, they were subjected to endless bureaucracy and intimidation by the captors who were their dictatorship government.

The current museum houses personal effects, audio and memories of those who lived under the regime until November 9 1989 when the border was opened at Friedrichstrasse Station.  Reunification happened very quickly from them.  I left the Palace of Tears with hope and joy at the power of people to join together and lift each other up and through oppression into freedom and unity.

I overheard a young local telling his out of town friends that 'The Berlin Tower was the one thing the GDR got right'.  Built in 1969, the tower was to be a symbol of the power of communism as well as of Berlin.  These days, it remains an iconic symbol of the city.  The tower was originally 365m tall but with the new antenna being installed in 1997, it grew a few metres to become 368m tall and is still the tallest building in Berlin.  There's a fancy restaurant now in the globe and you can book a time to visit, have a meal and take some stunning panoramic views of the city beneath you.

The Neptune Fountain sits just in front of the tower.  Originally built in 1891, the four women who surround Neptune are symbolic of the four main rivers of Prussia at the time the fountain was constructed.  The fountain was moved to its current location from Schlossplatz in 1951 when the Berlin City Palace was demolished.

Neptune is gazing out towards St Mary's Church in this photo.  St Mary's was probably built in the 12th century.  Something that is almost impossible to fathom by this tourist who lives in a city whose earliest buildings date from the 1780s....

The Gendarmenmarkt is a square in Berlin that houses the Concert Hall in the middle and the French and German Churches on either side.  Central to the square is a statue of Friederich Schiller, a renowned German poet.

Pearlized bubbles floating through the square.  We were so lucky to have such a warm and sunny day to begin our exploration of Berlin.

A view of one of the churches.  Of course I would be reading up on Gendarmnmarkt after visiting it so I can't quite be sure whether I took pictures of both the French and German churches or which one of those this is.  Sorry.

I definitely know that this is the Concert Hall though....  Wonder how I knew that.

We casually walked past the magnificent Brandenburg Gate as the sun set.  There was a function there so the area was scaffolded and fenced.  It was built in the 18th century at the site of a former city gate that marked the beginning of the road from Berlin to Brandenburg.

A hot air balloon floating amont the gleaming office towers.

Our last stop for the day was Potsdamer Platz, a square of modern architecture in a very busy intersection of Berlin.

Many renowned architects have designed the new buildings of this square.  History and reminders of pasts that should never be repeated are never far in Berlin which is something I am growing to love about this city with such a dichotomy to its fascinating past.  Potsdamer Platz was a site for crossing between East and West Berlin and sections of the Berlin Wall remain to this day.  Roger Waters from Pink Floyd hosted a concert here in 1990 to commemorate the reunification.

The most unique way I've seen to tour a city.  I have no idea what this vehicle is even called.  It's sort of a seated Segway for multiple people.

The blue pipes in the photo below are used to supply water to building sites. They're painted cheerful colours to distract from their perceived ugliness. I quite like the way they inject a bit of fun into a busy intersection.

Day made with this photo.

We found a supermarket at Friedrichstrasse Station.

But first we needed dinner.  I'm working up to the local delicacies but with the cold setting in for the evening, a laksa or 'laska' as they are called here was required.

I didn't have high hopes for train station food but this was delicious.  As less than 7 Euros (around $10 AUD?) it was bursting with flavour, lean chicken and lots of fresh vegetables on top.

I then went nuts at the supermarket and bought all the berries....  so cheap and so delicious.  They do taste a little different to Australian grown fruit.

I spent a while trying to decide which milk to buy.  It's been a crash course in reading German these last 24 hours....

No such problems with deciding chocolate to buy.  I love the almond and other nut flavoured fillings of German chocolate and when you've got them wrapped in gold foil bearing the likeness of Mozart then it was a given that I'd buy a packet.

Well, that was a long post.  Thanks for sticking it out until the end.  I'm ending it here in anticipation of another busy day in this fascinating, friendly and thoughtful city.

1 comment:

  1. Glad the flight went well - and that the food was good! I always struggle with airplane food!

    Looks like you saw so much on your first day too, lots of beautiful buildings and sights! :)


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