I apologize for not blogging sooner. Our internet at the Garten Hotel in Berlin had pretty lousy internet and WordPress likes fast reliable wifi.
For 4 days, we walked the city of Berlin. We easily covered 20+ miles in that time, opting to see the city on foot, passing the monuments and seeing things that interested us. There are more museums in Berlin than anyone could count. But after almost 3 months on the road, we are pretty much museum-ed out.
Berlin was pretty much wiped clean in WWII. The Allied forces bombed the hell out of the city. So, not much remains from pre-WWII, relatively speaking. As you know, Berlin and the country, was broken into East and West, and this was nowhere more apparent than in Berlin itself. Today, East Berlin is the happening side of the city. Other than the Berlin Wall and its remnants, the city is seamless from East to West. It is remarkable because between 1945-1960, citizens just wanted out of East Berlin. And now, I see East Berlin as the much more interesting and hip side of the city.
Our hotel was just inside the former East Berlin, and the Berlin Wall memorial was only about 1/4 mile away. So, on day one, we set out to see the exhibit and the remnants of the wall. The wall pieces that remain are here, and over at the East Side Gallery on the banks of the Spree river. However, through out the city, there is a stone “path” (inlaid right in the roads, for example) that shows exactly where the wall existed. So, as you walk through out the city, you are constantly reminded of the wall and its former where-abouts.
At the memorial, there is the wall as pictured, and along the half mile or so long memorial, metal poles were erected to continue the old wall. I stand next to it in the pic, for scale. What many don’t realize is that the wall was actually 3 walls, spaced apart, with a no man’s land of about 200 feet total in between the 3 sections (This was coined The Death Strip). Guard towers existed in these open areas as well. So, if you wanted to escape, you had to scale 3 separate walls and make it through the open space in between, without being shot. Few made it through. From the viewing tower of the memorial building is a pic of a replica of the wall zone:
This pic shows the wall that I was standing next to, a guard tower, and a fence on the far side. There was also a fence running through the middle, just in front of the guard tower. In the background far right, is the television tower.
Another chunk of the wall lies several miles over from here and is infamous for the kissing painting. In 2009, the city contracted artists to paint a huge section of the wall. We walked the entire length (maybe a half mile or so), which is mostly covered by graffiti from just after the wall came down.
Check Point Charlie was a border hut between East and West, controlled by the Americans. Two soldiers pose for pics at CPCharlie. Funny thing is, they are Germans!
Here is the rest of the graffiti wall from above:
And yes, MB headquarters is behind that, along with a huge indoor stadium. Here are other monuments that we toured:
Brandenburg Gate: It is huge and beautiful.
Tiergarten (animal garden) Park is the Central Park of Berlin. It is massive, and was the hunting grounds for Bellevue Palace. There are many points of interest in the park, but I give you 3: The palace, which is where Angela Merkel lives, the Victory Tower (of a bunch of pre-1900 wars which was the only thing left standing in the park after WWII), and a statue of Richard Wagner, amazing opera composer:
Finally, there is Reichstag. This is the seat of Gov’t for Germany. Everything happens in this huge building. The building was rebuilt after the war, and a few years ago, they built a dome on top. You can visit the dome and walk the long spiral to the top. It is state of the art technology and probably the coolest thing we did in Berlin (well, with the exception of the Berlin Phil.) Notice the V shaped structure inside the dome. The second pic is a close up of that from the spiral walking ramp:
Parliament takes place on the other side of the glass ceiling. The views of the city are unmatched from the top of the dome.
Finally, the Berlin Philharmonic. This is why we came to Berlin. We learned that on Tuesdays, they have a free lunch concert. We couldn’t pass that up! The concerts are held in the foyer and are chamber music/solo recital offerings. Hundreds of peeps come to these concerts, and pretty much sit anywhere and everywhere. (The building was erected in the 60’s, part of the rebuilding of Potsdamer Platz in East Berlin. Sony and Merc Benz funded the rest of the Platz after the wall came down, with high rise glass buildings that are cutting edge cool, shopping, restaurants, indoor/outdoor events etc.) Here are two pics from the lunch concert:
The stage with piano is dead center. The 200 or so seats are for aged only. Everyone else?…..
We are all sitting on the floor and on the steps of this ultra modern mid century concert hall foyer. Here is the program from the lunch concert:
Finally, the stage (no pics during the concert, obviously). The concert was mostly Mozart and the phil played beautifully:
We were seated 3/4 back, and as you can see, we had great seats. Notice too, that this is a theater in the round, with seats behind the orchestra.
We then needed to get back to France. From Berlin to Hautvillers (Champagne region) is 9 hours, so we stopped on the Belgian border town of Aachen, Germany to break up the drive. We ate at a Chinese restaurant to die for. It was full of Asians and no English was being spoken so we decided it must be good. And was it ever. Yesterday, we arrived in Hautvillers and checked into our apartment. We immediately walked about town and tried 2 wineries and drank champagne. Oh yeah! We will do the same for the next 3 days and start planning for our final week in Paris. Till then!