A May 2001 trip
to Berlin by metrogirl
Quote: My class toured Holocaust related sites throughout the city as well in near-by towns, using Berlin as home base. As our train pulled in to Zoologischer Garten Bahnhof, we saw a forest of building cranes, all part of the construction boom that has reached fever pitch in Berlin.
Ku’damm or Kurfurstendamm is a central shopping area of Berlin with both pricey designer shoppes(read Chanel, Dior & Gucci) as well more moderate choices like the KaDeWe Department Store. As we taxied to our Hotel, we saw that Ku’damm strongly resembled Paris' Avenue Montaigne in its lively activity, chic designer boutiques, and street cafes.
Even the movie theaters were classically-styled, set in lovely five-story Neo-Classical and Beaux-Arts buildings. Only towards the east side of the city did we spy the new skyscrapers that were begining to sprout.
Everyone's number-one priority was to walk the mile-long art gallery that were are was directly applied to the remnant of the Berlin Wall.
Our group of soon-to-be architects were excited to see the progress that has been made on the various architectural wonders that we had long studied.
Our lodgings at the Hotel Atlanta on Kurfurstendamm and Fasanenstassewere only a few blocks away from the Zoolisher Garten Bahnhoff. But when we arrived, it was pouring rain and no one was familiar with the city yet, so hopping a cab at the taxi-stand out front of the train station was a good bet at that time.IMG SRC=http://onfinite.three10.com/libraries/58475/bf9.jpg>
From then on, our group took the cleanest, cheapest, and fastest way to get anywhere in Berlin: U-Bahn and S-Bahn subway and train systems.
Hotel | "Hotel Atlanta"
The Hotel Atlanta is located in the sector of Berlin that resembles the Avenue Montaigne in Paris, peppered with exclusive designer boutiques and starred restaurants. Although our initial impressions of it felt less than welcoming, we would find this a satisfying home base.
Immediately inside the elegant entrance was a Himalaya-steep flight of stairs. Scaling this staircase with bulky luggage brought us only to the level of the front desk. (There is, as we found out too late, an elevator to the front desk level, cleverly hidden behind a discrete door.) Checking in check-in, we discovered that our rooms were two floors above us at a 4th level (or 3rd Floor in European standards). We were stunned to see that the only way to reach them was by a one-person-at-a time narrow winding staircase with a coarse rope handrail up a turret shaped tower attached to the building. It became a hysteria-producing adventure bungling bulky cases up these narrow steps. But with good comradeship, we eventually reached our assigned level.
Our pleasant rooms were worth this effort. We found them unusually spacious, and more like suites. Elegant lamps on more elegant tables were set next to large twin beds piled with snowy down coverlets. Furnished with comfy chairs, a small desk, couch, coffee table (and refrigerator) our décor made an attempt at a Louis XVI style. But most rooms had modern furniture (read Ikea) sprinkled in with the pseudo-French stuff. Smallish televisions had those English-speak channels that we couldn’t live without (MTV & CNN). Comfortable size bathrooms with large well-appointed showers, huge mirrors with a nice bright make-up lights and a hand built-in but temperamental hair dryer met our needs nicely. Everything surface was spotlessly clean with no hint of a mold odor.
The room’s best feature was the screened-in porches that faced a pretty interior garden courtyard. After a hot day of classes and related site visits, these became our green place to meet a cool breeze and a cold beer. We soon discovered that these were not so very private verandas as we could see the other people in our group out on their screen porches all around the courtyard. But we devised a weird sort of party-style, being in our individual rooms and still hanging out together.
A breakfast buffet was set in two adjoining sometimes-sunny rooms appointed with large French doors that opened to a lovely view of the chic boutiques set into Beaux-Arts facades sprouting pot of bright flora. You could breakfast on meat and eggs or jam and bread, then window shop for something Gucci with coffee.
The staff was initially rather unfriendly, but warmed after several fractured attempts at speaking German to them. One kindness on their part yielded a nearby (and needed) Laundromat on Uhlandstrasse, the next street west of the Hotel. The Laundromat is conveniently located next to a Kondeteri with yummy pastry and sidewalk tables to spend the time waiting for your clothes to dry.
Member Rating 4 out of 5 on May 22, 2002
Berlin, Germany 10719
Restaurant | "CAFÉ HOTEL KEMPINSKI"
This very classy bistro connected to the fashionable Hotel that ambiance was evocative of the past splendor of Berlin.
I hearded into the café after I saw several hungry locals loaded with parcels from the Ku’damm stop here for coffee and pastries.
The café has a set menu with good variety as well as daily a la carte specials. The daily specials were a particularly good value. I dined here several times and had a stroganoff that came in an elegant covered dish that was as tasty to look at as to eat
The beef bourguenon was the tenderest I've eaten and came with a fresh green salad for under 6 Euros. They have a small wine list but, of course there are some better choices of German beers. Try covered outdoor sidewalk tables for great spot to people-watch.
The many handsome servers with long white aprons were attentive, courteous, and eager to help with menu translations and questions. As in Paris, I was able to sit for a long periods of time on the terrace with just coffee, wrinting away in my travel journal and was not rushed to leave. The terrace was heated during the cool, rainy Spring evenings, which made it a cozy place to be at night.
The atmosphere was classy, but un-stuffy and seemed a good place to relax alone or have a romantic interlude!
Member Rating 5 out of 5 on May 26, 2002
Cafe Hotel Kempinski
Kurfurstendamm 87 & Fasanenstasse
884 34 -0
Restaurant | "OREN CAFÉ & RESTAURANT"
After our visit to the Neue Synagogue, our class stopped for lunch at this café where the local students eat. It is a Jewish but not a kosher restaurant. The décor was ethnic with a lively and cheerful atmosphere. There lots of large tables to be had for groups & smaller ones for couples.
The menu was primarily Middle Eastern, (mostly Jewish and Arab) and there were many vegan and vegetarian dishes amongst these. I also saw several home-style German favorites and heard that they serve the number one apple strudel in town. The portions were generous and many of my fellow diners shared a plate. There was also a long, comfortable bar with an extensive choice of German and some international beers and wines.
During the Spring season, Cafe Oren also has an additional special "Spargel Carte" which is dishes featuring fresh, white asparagus. YUM! A great choice even if you are not a vegetarian. I had the cream of asparagus soup --lovely, soft, rich, and thick. I combined it with a healthy main dish, a salad of steamed white asparagus with vinaigrette dressing. All for about 8 €uros.
Member Rating 5 out of 5 on May 27, 2002
OREN CAFÉ & RESTAURANT
Oranienburger Strasse 28
+49 (0) 30-282 82 28
Attraction | "Topographie of Terror"
Gestapo, SS & Reich Security Office on Prinz Albert Terrain
Open Air Exhibition
The Prinz Albert Terrain represented the actual government district of the SS and Police State between 1933 & 1945. It was here that the "Final Solution to the Jewish question" or genocide of the Jews and the systematic persecution and murder of other parts of the population was planned.
The Topographie of Terror open-air exhibit presents historical photographic evidence of the area, buildings, people (both persecuted and oppressors) in a setting of the rubble of the actual building. Although most of the captions are in German, there are free multi-lingual pamphlets in available in the trailer that serves as the visitor center. There is also a book you can purchase there that gives direct translations of all the signage in the exhibit, as well as much more explanation and historical information.
Topographie des Terrors
Berlin, Germany 10117
+49 30 254 86 703
The Berlin Wall couldn't be torn down quickly enough, now everyone is trying to memorialize it with concepts and creations of historical markers.
On my way to the Topographie of Terror Museum, I found the 7 centimetre-wide strip with the inscription "Berlin Wall 1961-1989" that had been laid a long a stretch where the Wall formerly ran. The material itself differs from all other street marking, and is level with the ground. This seems to make it both potent AND politically neutral as well as avoiding any debates about any 3-dimensional intervention into the space around it.
I nearly didn’t see the copper inlay because at some points, there were cars parked on top of it. The car that actually drew my attention was the one I pictured here that was layered in graffiti-mobile in German, English, and French.
From the Postdamer Platz Bahnhof, I walked into a semi-desolate area. But I saw one building that seemed to be a restored exception -- the Martin-Gropius-Bau on Stresemannstrasse.
Design in 1877 by Martin Gropius, a pupil of Schinkel (Hitler's architect of the Third Reich) and the uncle of the Bauhaus guru Walter, the Gropius Bau was, until its destruction in the war, the home of the museum of applied art.
It is now the city’s main section for large prestigious art exhibitions. There is also an exceptional collection of German fine and applied arts and a Jewish Museum. It has a small café with good coffee, cold drinks, and delicious pastries.
Member Rating 4 out of 5 on May 27, 2002
Martin Gropius Bau
Attraction | "FERNSEH & UKW TURM"
One of the first things that I saw as I walked around Berlin was this odd tower structure with a decorative ball, topped by a red- and white-striped spear. It rises from the center of Alexanderplatz to a height of 365m---it was a TV tower! It was constructed during the era of the Wall as a symbol for East Berlin and democratic Socialism. But when the sun was reflected off the shiny ball, a cross was formed, which was visible to most of West Berlin. It became known as "the Popes revenge".
As this tower was an inescapable element in the photos I took all that day, I walked over to the base. There I found a cluster of festive pavilions that house various exhibitions and the Berlin Information Center.
Depending on crowds and weather visibility, it is worth ascending into the viewing gallery for 3 Euros. From a height that is posted as 203m (222 yards), you see all of Berlin spread out below you. There is a café on the next level up that revolves once an hour. The posted menu was pricey, but had some tempting offerings.
Fernseh & Ukw Turm