Oct 4, 2018

The Berlin Diaries #3: Various Shops. Neue Wache. Bebelplatz.

The world really is a small place and Australia really isn't as far from the rest of the world as the flight times may suggest.  I randomly bumped into a fellow Sydneysider yesterday as we both struggled to find the registration centre for the conference.  We got there in the end, with the help of couple of intrepid people from the Netherlands.  Later, I shared a lift with someone British whose business partner had just flown out to Sydney for a job.

Then there was that quintessentially Sydney moment in Berlin.  The one where buses replace trains due to urgent track work.  Would I survive?  Which part of Berlin would I end up in at the end of the day?  Should I have bitten the bullet and gotten that local SIM card with data included rather than attempted to make do with Telstra's cringeworthy option?  It all worked out in the end.  There was a bilingual announcement service on the bus and it stopped at the kerb of each train station that it replaced.  There were also helpful posters where most people look these days ... on the ground just beyond their phone screens if you're lucky.

It's really not too early for Christmas merchandising is it?  I hadn't realised it was October already.  There's no shame in Berlin's Christmas game.  Traditional decorations are already out at the shops as are a mind boggling array of advent calendars.

I found this range of beauty calendars at dm which appears to be the local version of Priceline.

Speaking of shops.  It didn't take long, did it?

Behold the magnificence of The Mall of Berlin.

It's so fabulous, Barack Obama even has his own plaque within its walls.

But guess what excited me the most?

Discovering the basement grocery stores.

Aldi felt the same as back home.  The stoic queues of customers at the checkouts that's always staffed at 50% capacity now matter how many people are in the queue.  I got some Smurf Kinder Surprises for Master SSG.

There was no room in my suitcase for these XXL wafers, sadly.

Edeka seems to have a Woolworths kind of slightly fancy feel to it.  This is the cafe at the front of the store and the cakes looked delicious.

Ironically, I found my favourite German chocolates that I usually get at Aldi Australia in Edeka.  The satisfaction factor was made even greater because Edeka have the dark chocolate variety which we don't get anymore in Australia.  Also, the packet seems larger.  I will compare at home and I should have bought more...

While we have Little Shops and Pixar dominoes, Germany has Schleich animals to collect if you're a loyal shopper who turns into a child whenever promotions like this launch.

I was also pleasantly surprised to find a LIDL just around the corner from my hotel.  I've heard that they plan to launch in Australia soon so I took a look around so  that I could give you the heads up.  You're welcome.

I have to confirm what day Special Buys are and I'm sure I'll have an answer by the end of the day because that's what Berliners are - helpful and polite.  But I digress.  These organic cotton tank tops were under 3 Euros each.

And I was so excited to find these grapes.  They're from Italy.  Berlin itself has limited land to grow produce, it was built on reclaimed swamp land (hence that odour that catches you sometimes as you walk its streets) so lots of things are imported while education is their big export.

I thought I'd write my Berlin posts as one part things I get up to and one part potted history lesson.  It's more fun for me to write this way and I hope it makes my posts less long and tedious.   Maybe just less tedious, they're all quite long at the moment.

Neue Wache is Germany's central memorial for all who have suffered and died through war and dictatorship. The building dates back to the 1800s and is the definite example of German Greek Revival architecture.

The entrance to the memorial is protected by a sturdy gate but if you look through these, you will see this sculpture that is surprisingly small which conveys the enormity of what individuals experience in times of conflict.  It sits under a skylight.The sculpture was created by Kathe Kolwitz, a pacifist and is named 'Mother with her Dead Son'.  The skylight or oculus doesn't have glass in it so whatever the weather is, mother and son will weather it.  A symbol of the human suffering and endurance of wars and conflicts they innocently find themselves enmeshed in.

Humboldt University is the oldest university in Berlin and also one of the most prestigious.

It is considered the 'mother of all universities' due to its pioneering educational philosophy, the Humboldtian model higher education.

The university is associated with 55 Nobel prize winners.  Some its alumni include Albert Einstein and Maxwell Planck.

A view of the university as it sits next to the State Opera and St Hedwigs Cathedral.

But the university also has a dark chapter in its history.  The Bebelplatz which is the square in front of the university was the site of Nazi orchestrated book burnings.  Thousands of priceless works were lost.

The quote in this plaque is from a play by Heinrich Heine and in English translates to "That was only a prelude; where they burn books, they will in the end also burn people".  A chilling prediction of what was to come at the hands of the Nazis.

Also in the group is this seemingly nondescript clear square.  It doesn't look like much of anything in this photo but if you look closely you may be able to see a wall of empty bookcases.  It is a memorial to the book burning and was created by Micha Ullman. There is enough space on the shelves to fit the estimated 20,000 irreplaceable books that were sacrificed for the vision of cruel regime.

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