Written by manatwork on 21 Sep, 2011
The following morning, we flew to Berlin on Air Berlin. We had a little trouble locating our hostel, but when we got there, I was surprised to find that the hostel was actually pretty nice although linen was not provided. Unfortunately, the weather in Berlin…Read More
The following morning, we flew to Berlin on Air Berlin. We had a little trouble locating our hostel, but when we got there, I was surprised to find that the hostel was actually pretty nice although linen was not provided. Unfortunately, the weather in Berlin was just as cold.What was so interesting about the hostel is that it is located in a neighborhood where part of the Berlin Wall is still left standing. We stopped at Alexanderplatz where we had lunch at Dinea in Galeria Lafayette. Alexanderplatz is a large public square and transport hub in the central Mitte district of Berlin. Not too far from the train station is the Neptune Fountain. Built in 1891 and designed by Reinhold Begas, it has the Roman God Neptune in the center, with four women around him representing four main rivers of Prussia: Elbe, Rhine, Vistula and Oder. The tallest structure in Germany, Fernsehturm (television tower) is also located here. Further away, is the Museum Mile, a major highlight of any visit in Berlin with superb museum collections and stunning architectures. Some of the interesting places around here are: DDR Museum, which offers hands-on experience of what day-to-day life in socialist Germany was like; Alte Nationalgalerie, offers three-level collection of 19th century art; Lustgarten, a garden known for its visual pleasure and Pergamonmuseum, a massive wealth of information regarding classical Greek, Islamic, Middle Eastern and Roman art and structural design.The Berliner Dom is a Baroque Cathedral located on an island in the River Spree, also known as the Museum Island. It was severely damaged during World War II, but reconstruction only begun in 1975. One of the most interesting items in the richly decorated interior of the church is the reconstructed pipe organ, built by Wilhelm Sauer. The organ, originally built in 1905, has more than 7.000 pipes. A number of members of the Hohenzollern family are buried in the church, among them Friedrich I and his wife, who are entombed in beautifully sculpted sarcophagi. The oldest tomb in the cathedral (1530) is the tomb of elector Johann Cicero, elector of Brandenburg. We spent sometime in the Dom, and as night time approached, we decided to head back. The ensemble on Museum Island is a UNESCO World Heritage Site.The Brandenburg Gate is a former city gate and one of the main symbols of Berlin and Germany. It is the only remaining gate of a series which Berlin once entered. It was heavily damaged in the war, but now fully restored in 2002. Today it is regarded as one of Europe's most famous landmarks. The Reichstag building is another historic building in Berlin. It has a large glass dome at the very top. The dome has a 360-degree view of the surrounding Berlin cityscape. I had wanted to view the interior of the building (the next day), but unfortunately the line was way too long. The Reichstag is one of the few famous buildings in Berlin that does not charge a fee to enter. The Memorial to the Murdered Jews of Europe also know as the Holocaust Memorial consists of a 19,000 squares meters (almost 6,000 squares feet) covered with 2,771 concrete slabs arranged in a grid pattern on a sloping field. Designed by an American architect, Peter Eisenman, the slab are designed to produce an uneasy, confusing atmosphere, and the whole sculpture aims to represent a supposedly ordered system that has lost touch with human reason.Berlin does have lots of history significance, after all, it was here that Adolf Hitler and his subordinates had great plans to transform Berlin into a center fit for his new empire. Before we could stay any longer, it began to snow heavily. We detour to one of the streets and found a nice little restaurant. We had soljanka (a spicy sour soup), kartoffelsuppe (potato soup), and eisbein (ham hock). It was a delicious meal to end the night.Weather was better the following day. The sun came out, and we went to Kurfurstendamm, one of the most famous avenues in Berlin. It has very long, broad boulevard with lines of trees (in this case, trunks), and full of luxurious stores, shops, hotels, restaurants and houses. This is also where the ruins of the Kaiser Wilhelm Memorial Church located. I bought some Easter chocolates at KaDeWe, a famous departmental store in Berlin. We went back to Brandenburg Gate for another look. Berlin has a population of more than 3 million people. Following German reunification in 1990, the city regained its status as the capital of all Germany hosting 147 foreign embassies. Berlin is a world city of politics, media, and science. It is known for its diverse culture, arts, architecture and historic legacy. Like New York, it is the city that never sleeps.As we were on a train back to pick up our bags from the hostel, we were asked to show our train ticket to the inspectors. We did not buy our tickets that day. As I was pretending to look for them, Jack just acted dumb. To make the long story short we were ticketed and asked to pay a fine. "We don't have any money left. Can I pay later?", I said. "Yes, you can. You can send us your money" he said. The inspectors took our information. We left Berlin for Frankfurt in the rain that night. Snow, rain, wind, and sun - we had it all in Germany.After a few hours of sleep, we flew back to New York the next morning. And, I still have not pay the fine yet! Close
Written by Praskipark on 22 May, 2009
Last year when I visited Berlin on a 4 day trip, the Bauhaus-Archive Museum was one of the great museums in the city I chose to visit. The museum is situated by the Landwehrkanal which runs parallel to the River Spree in Berlin. The building…Read More
Last year when I visited Berlin on a 4 day trip, the Bauhaus-Archive Museum was one of the great museums in the city I chose to visit. The museum is situated by the Landwehrkanal which runs parallel to the River Spree in Berlin. The building is one of Walter Gropius' later designs who was the founder of the Bahaus movement. It was built from 1976 to 1979 in Berlin on the flattest piece of land near the canal. The design is similar to the building that had already been built in Darmstadt. Gropius had always wanted his work to be admired in the city of Berlin. The distinguished silhouette of the building is admirable indeed but once inside the building it is a different story. The inside of the museum is very unpretentious and I felt as though I was going back to my youth and walking through the rooms on the lower floor of my secondary school. The building definitely has an institutional feel to it. The museum now in Berlin is the home of the largest collection and covers the entire spectrum of all the activities involved with this movement. Some of the designs that most people will recognise are the ones of chairs, buildings, tea pots and office furniture. These have travelled world wide and are still popular today. Collections ~~~~~~~ I'll start with the collection of art as this is the field I am most interested in. Having walked through the entrance and paid our admission fee, I was undecided as where to look first. There is a vast mixture of drawings, collages, watercolours and sculptures displayed in this area. Some works are from the great masters themselves - others are the works of their students. The collection of work in this area is quite a sombre one. It doesn't shout out at you and say,'Look at me!' Most of the work displayed on paper is quite old and frayed around the edges. Many of the drawings are sketches and rough sketches at that. They could be interpreted as naive but are fascinating in the way single angular lines and shapes are the beginnings of contemporary pieces of furniture, lamps and buildings. Of all the artists work on display I think Wassily Kandinsky's is my favourite. Probably because the Russian born artist's work is vibrant and busting with colour and does shout at you. Although he was influenced by the Impressionist movement he went his own way and experimented with lots of different styles. He started to add a blob here and there, a straight or a curved line would be added with a palette knife but everything would blend in on the canvas to add a sense of harmony. He is known as the founder of abstract art and in his earlier years participted in several different movements and later joined the Bahaus School. Another section that I found intersting was the collection of commercial work. Having always been interested in marketing and had to do a lot of my own in my earlier days I was fascinated by the early samples of posters, forms of lettering and different ideas used for advertising products of the time. Georg Muche was a character of great interest and there are several exhibits of his work on show in the museum. His main creative interest was weaving and he was asked to join the Bahaus School by Klee and Gropier. He set up and was in charge of the weaving workshop and was responsible for the Experimental House along with Marcel Breur. He became very influential in the architectural study group and produced the original Stahlhaus at Dessau - Torten which was a prototype for the ideal of inexpensive homes suitable for one family, built of pre-fabricated steel pieces welded on a metal frame. Although not a prolific artist most of his prints were very experimental and influenced by artists such as Marc Chagall and Paul Klee. His use of colour was usually in blocks with the odd geometrical shape forming patterns in the forefront of the painting. The workshop area is very interesting and I think actually was my favourite part of the museum. I remember the room being packed to the brim with exhibits. The room was far to small to display everything. The collection takes us through every Bahaus period and displays all products made either by hand or prototypes for mass production. A lot of the simple pieces of furniture, lamps, chairs, ceramics and items made from metal, are easily recognisable in furniture shops today. Famous pieces such as Marcel Breuer's Wassily Chair which was the first bent tubular steel chair. This design has been copied many times and are sold in most contemporary furniture shops all over the world. It is a classic piece of furniture. He also designed the Laccio Nested table set which is a lounge table made from tubular steel with a laminated top. It is versatile because not only is there one long table but a smaller table nesting over the top. Very simple, very clever and exhibits an aesthetic tecnique. Cesca chairs are also his design and are probably the most popular of the cantilever chairs. Cantilever chairs are a very simplistic design made from metal tubing and have no back legs.Apart from furniture there are accessories like lamps including the famous Bahaus table lamp designed by Wilhem Wagenfield in 1924 which is a famous icon and has been copied and changed over the years but most offce lamps today are made from the original design. This is my favourite design of lamp as it is so versatile - it can be moved in lots of directions, is elegant although slightly industrial looking. Other works from the texile workshop are on display including ceramics and kitchen utensils made from metal. The collection of works in the architecture section covers approximately two hundred works from all the courses taught during the Bahaus movement. The topics covered are technical study, study of ground plans and interior decoration. Most of the work is documented by photographs, documented sheets and a row of architectural models. The most important model is the one of the Bahaus building in Dessau which was built in 1925. I do love architecture and am partialled to a Bahaus building which there are many distributed throughout the world. This section was very interesting especially the simplistic drawings. Now we move on to the photography section which is also very exciting as most of the work displayed is from the twenties and thirties. One of the photographers work I really like is Walter Paterhans who was a German photographer and taught at the Bahaus School. All his photographs are a work of art and depict great beauty. He used his camera to illustrate the expressions of the times, experimenting with methods of composition. He loved taking snapshots of everyday things and loved to photograph objects in the form of still lifes. There are photographs of architecture also and portraits. On the top floor of the museum is the library and it is accessible to everyone. The special collection covers all aspects of Bahaus life documenting art, architecture, photography, with the main focus on the twenties. There is a wonderful selection of old and modern magazines. When you have finished your visit to the museum don't forget to call into the shop where you can buy copies of some of the famous icons and designs from the Bahaus lamp to one of Aalto's vases. All items are beautifully displayed on stacked glass shelving which are immaculate. Sales from the shop help to finance the museum and contributes to the printing and publishing of magazines, and also towards the acquisition of other Bahaus works which are exhibited in other parts of the world. There is a Bahaus cafe which is fitted out with Bahaus design tables and chairs, of course. We did stop and have a cup of coffee because I wanted to sit on one of the cantilever chairs just for fun. The cafe was quite busy and reminded me of my student days as it definitely had a 'university feel' to it. Coffee, tea, soft drinks, basic snacks and cakes are on offer and in the summer there is a terrace where you can sit out and look at the canal. I had waited a long time to visit the Bahaus museum and although I really enjoyed it I wasn't as impressed with it as I thought I would have been. The museum building itself is a fantastic design but seemed very jaded on the outside and weather damage was beginning to take its toll. So repairs are definitely needed there. Inside, it was like a huge institution and was very silent which I found a bit off-putting. Close
Written by mikro on 18 Sep, 2008
One can easily see Berlin by walking and using the extensive transit system. Upon arrival at Tegel airport, we purchased a 3 day Welcome card and guide book. A bus took us to the center of Mitte - Alexanderplatz- where one can transfer to the…Read More
One can easily see Berlin by walking and using the extensive transit system. Upon arrival at Tegel airport, we purchased a 3 day Welcome card and guide book. A bus took us to the center of Mitte - Alexanderplatz- where one can transfer to the U-bahn or S-bahn. The trains are punctual and very efficient. It amazed us that you never had to swipe a card or show your ticket - just walk on the train. We never encountered an inspector but were told if you cannot produce your ticket on demand, a hefty fine is required on the spot.We found Berlin to be a very western city with its graffiti, fast food vendors, cell phones, tourists, shopping. Except for the language difference and lack of skyscrapers, at times it felt like we were in a US city. We did find the pace less stressful and it was refreshing to see stores closed on Sundays and many people window shopping after a lengthy brunch. We spent much of the time in Mitte, the new city center. Alexanderplatz is dominated by the TV tower, built by the Soviets. Nearby they are taking down the former GDR government center, not with a wrecking ball, but piecemeal to recycle the steel. Potsdamer Platz, just a few blocks from the former Gestapo headquarters, has many modern structures, corporate offices and the SONY center. There are a few panels of the Berlin wall on display. Unter den Linden is the famous boulevard leading to Brandenburg Gate. This triumphal arch is in the center of the city and symbol of the former division between east and west. Many will recall seeing this on TV as we watching the Berlin wall come down in 1989. The new US Embassy is just down the street while a few blocks in the opposite direction stands the Reichstag.We traveled further into the eastern section to visit Treptower Park. The buildings en route are more stark, a reminder of the Soviet occupation. Since reunification, many apartment buildings have been painted brighter colors. At the park, there is a massive monument in honor of the 70,000 Russian soldiers lost in the taking of Berlin. There are pictorials carved in stone blocks each with a quote from Stalin in German. On the other side of the memorial these same stones are duplicated with the quotations in Russian. At one end is a huge statue of a soldier; at the other are 2 red granite Soviet flags. We did not read about the Treptower memorial in any tour guide; if not for our son, we would have missed this moving experience.Going over to the western side of Berlin, we walked up the Ku'damm, known as the Fifth Avenue of the city. Its many shops are dominated by KaDeWe, largest department store in continental Europe. The 6th floor is a must-see with its 1,000 varieties of German sausage and hundreds of other delicacies. One floor up is the atrium restaurant. A short walk down the Ku'damm is Kaiser-Wilhelm Gedachtniskirche. Built by the Kaiser in 1895, most of the church was destroyed by bombing in WW II. The bombed out remains of the bell tower still stand and visitors can see the remnants of mosaics and statuary. There is also a pictorial history of the church. In the 1960s a new modernistic church and bell tower were built adjacent to the ruins. We also visited the Schloss Charlottenburg, summer palace for Queen Sophie Charlotte. We were too late to visit inside, but the massive baroque structure has beautiful gardens, pond and surrounding parkland. It was hard to imagine much of Berlin was destroyed in WW II and just 20 years ago was still a divided city. There are reminders here and there, like the bullet holes on buildings, sections of the wall on display, and the Memorial to Murdered Jews. We can never forget the atrocities that came from this city, a reminder of man's inhumanity to man. Close
Written by ripplefan2 on 14 Jun, 2007
I was lucky enough this past summer to experience a phenomenon that most American’s have never been privy to experience. And that was visiting a World Cup Soccer host country during the games while the host country was playing and doing well. I was working…Read More
I was lucky enough this past summer to experience a phenomenon that most American’s have never been privy to experience. And that was visiting a World Cup Soccer host country during the games while the host country was playing and doing well. I was working in Queens when a friend of mine said that her and two other girls were travelling to Berlin and wanted a guy to travel with them and asked me to go. Of course I jumped at the chance to head to a far off land that I had never been to. They were going for two weeks but it being Berlin during the World Cup, all hostels were booked years in advance, so we seemed shit out of luck. But the girl who asked me to go had a trick up here her sleeve. Her brother was living in old East Berlin for the summer and had a floor with our names on it, free of charge. AWESOME!
But the planning duties of the actual travel arrangements were left up to me. And they weren’t cheap then. So we split the actual air route into two destinations. Sometimes it's cheaper to fly Aer Lingus through Dublin and then on to further eastern destinations. Aer Lingus or RyanAir have good deals from Dublin to other European destinations, so I figured that this would be a good idea. The cost wasn’t too bad (about $750 round trip to Dublin from JFK and then round trip from Dublin to Berlin) considering the time we booked it (early May for a June departure) and that we were heading to multiple destinations. I have one piece of very useful information if you are a female travelling abroad and have never done so before. Try to only pack one or two bags and make sure that they can be carried on your back and not rolled. The girls I was travelling with didn’t take this piece of advice to heart and ending up loosing their luggage for a couple of days. Also, when we got to Dublin for a two-day relaxation drinking fest, they had troubles trekking their bag village with them. So, pack lightly, there are Laundromats in Europe and other destinations around the world.
So, back to our trip. When we got to Berlin, we dropped our bags and got ready for the first Germany match. They were playing Ecuador in Berlin that day and we needed to get prepared. Whiskey bottles were opened, beers were passed, absinthe was consumed and faces were painted in representation of our host. Unfortunately, we couldn’t get tickets to the actual game because they were just too expensive, but right in the heart of Berlin near Brandenburg Gate there is a place called the Tiergarten. This is a giant park that is most likely the equivalent to the length of two American football fields. In the park, they had set up giant TV screens to showcase the match to the rest of the world that couldn’t flock to the mayhem that was the soccer stadium. This is where the magic really happened. People were scattered about like snowflakes during a blizzard. At every turn, there was a person, must considerably drunk and all were screaming. There were bathrooms off to the corners of the park, but the lines for that were very reminiscent of the DMV. So, off to the woods. People were scampering off as if the woods contained some magic money making tree, with people declaring a tree as their own for the day. Randomly, people would pop out from the brush around these trees with a face of bliss that just gave a great feeling that defined the surrounding area.
Luckily, when we were in Berlin, Germany was wining the matches that we were lucky enough to catch. And with each goal, a thunderous roar exploded through the park, shaking our very foundation enough to convince us that there were earthquakes perfectly timed with every German goal. After the game was over (Germany winning 3-1 over Ecuador) we headed to the Jewish Memorial which is an architecturally creative group of monuments. It is a cool sight to see at night because it is quiet and you can easily get lost but so enthralling. There are large marble tomb-like slabs scattered in perfect rows around an open park. We then decided to head home, sober up a bit and head back to the center of the city for a walking tour at night. We started at Brandenburg Gate then headed over to Berliner Dome and then down to the Potsdamer Platz.
Along the river, as we were observing the city, we noticed that the government buildings were symmetrically aligned with one another while the river sliced through the groupings of buildings. This city is an architect’s dream city because everything is new and creative. The TV in the center of the old east city was transformed to look like a soccer ball for the World Cup. In front of Brandenburg Gate, a gigantic illuminating soccer ball that you could actually walk in to, go up two flights inside and learn the history of the World Cup of Soccer. Random Stages were set up all over the city that had musicians and the like performing throughout the day and even in the evening.
The next day, we awoke and went to explore the remains of the Berlin Wall and the Checkpoint Charlie’s (Death Strips). These Death Strips were areas over the once existing wall that if someone jumped these tower (Checkpoint Charlie) guards would shoot the fleeing German. The Berlin Wall Museum is a gut wrenching place to visit because it is very descriptive and informative. Then we made our way over to the Jewish Museum, which is complied of the strangest architecture one has ever seen. With uneven floors and gaping holes in the walls acting as windows, it is the strangest place I have ever set foot in. But a great experience. Then, finally, after a day of culture, we needed to unwind, so we headed off to the public pool on the cusp of the old East and West cities in the park. The pool is great because it is cheap and has a kick ass slide. So worth the trip. Enough said.
The following we left Berlin and headed off to other destinations, but if you have a chance, HEAD TO BERLIN! It is a city that embraces its artists and encourages their creative muscles. Also, go to the World Cup (www.fifa.com) in South Africa in 2010. It is going to be amazing.
Written by eviet on 02 Dec, 2006
After a long Saturday night in New York City, when I’m inhaling a glistening slice of 4am pepperoni pizza, my thoughts waver to one delicious thing—döner. It’s the epitome of non-commercial fast food in Berlin. Created by Turkish immigrants, the döner is a magnificent piece…Read More
After a long Saturday night in New York City, when I’m inhaling a glistening slice of 4am pepperoni pizza, my thoughts waver to one delicious thing—döner. It’s the epitome of non-commercial fast food in Berlin. Created by Turkish immigrants, the döner is a magnificent piece of work: sliced bits of lamb, a scoop of salad, and either scharfe (spicy) or weisse (white) sauce inside crispy flatbread. Chomping into that sandwich of flavored grease after bottles of cheapish Berliner Pilsner will settle any agonizing stomach. Case in point, when I was waxing poetic about Berlin döner, my roommate, who grew up in a small German town, began a sentence with, "I remember my first döner…"—as if talking about her first love instead.
I used to be a fan of the döner place in the Friedrichstrasse S-Bahn station, but this time around, their version was disappointingly skimpy on the meat and those serving it were of the scowling sort. Days later I discovered my latest obsession nearing 5am, on the corner of Hackescher Market and Rosenthaler Strasse, called Shark Döner. The two guys behind the counter were eerily cheerful for that time of night. Per my usual request, I asked for both a bit of scharfe and weisse to create a spicy yet creamy topping to the mounds of lamb they piled inside. We returned the next afternoon for breakfast, or lunch actually.
A different, younger Turk asked for our order, but he had the same wide, grinning smile and bright eyes of those the night before. Acknowledging my odd German accent, he, like many others, assumed I was from England. I corrected him, and again like many others, the thought of New York City widened his eyes. As with all Berliners, the conversation turned to politics, although he was subtler than most, innocently asking how it was in America. He nodded with sympathy and shook his head at my answer, then handed over the döners and practically skipped off to serve the Asian tourists behind me. To survive in the tourist haven of Hackescher Market, I guess you have to be accepting of everyone who comes your way, even us "stupid Americans".
Döner is just one culinary effect of Turkish taking up residence in Berlin, most notably in Kreuzberg, where on Fridays, a Turkish market lines Maybachufer. You’ll find vendors hawking traditional foods and cheap clothing, along with some Turkish candy (just avoid the ginger kind). For a larger assortment of sweet nibblings and glazed pastries, head up to the store Melek Pastanesi, at Oranienstrasse 28, and for some falafel with your dessert, visit Babel in the northern district of Prenzlauer Berg, at Kastanienallee 33. Babel dishes out large platters of falafel, hummus, and salad, with a basket of soft flatbread. In warmer weather, after placing your order at the counter, opt for the benches outside to watch 20-something Berliners mosey by—all the while thinking how your feast beats German cuisine.
Written by SilentOnlooker on 07 Jul, 2006
I don’t dare presume that I know what you should do if you had just 2 precious days in Berlin, but t’was a catchy title. Warning: I’m not a museum buff, but Berlin had lots of these if you are; I like being outdoors, taking…Read More
I don’t dare presume that I know what you should do if you had just 2 precious days in Berlin, but t’was a catchy title. Warning: I’m not a museum buff, but Berlin had lots of these if you are; I like being outdoors, taking in the sites and people-watching. Here’s what two people-watchers who also like to take in the sites do with 2 days in Berlin:
Day 1 We started by walking down Ku’damm, the Champs Elysees of Berlin—only it seemed like I could afford these stores...hmmm. A short stroll led us to a life-sized fuzze ball, compliments of the World Cup for sure! We could definitely feel the fever! Next we headed to the Jewish Museum. For me, visiting the Jewish Museum was much like renting the movie Schindler’s List—you want to see it and fight with yourself about getting it, even though you know it is difficult and painful. Going to the Jewish Museum is a MUST in Berlin, if only to remind us of what happens when we stand back and do nothing while a tyrant decides to commit genocide. After the Jewish Museum, we walked to Checkpoint Charlie, and then Potsdamner Platz and the Sony Center. Next we walked to the Holocaust Memorial and Brandenburger Tor, which at the time seemed like the World Cup headquarters. The Reichstag was next on our list, and after a 30-minute wait, we were in the Reichstag dome, enjoying views of Berlin. I’ve heard that the wait time to get to the top can be very long; we went at about 8pm on a Thursday night and just in time to see Berlin’s twilight—magical!
Day 2 We started our second day by taking the bus 100 tour—the most economical bus tour in Berlin. We bought day passes at the Zoologischer Garden station (the tourist office is in the back) and this includes the bus map/tour map. At the time of our visit (06/2006) it was €5.40. As we waited patiently for the bus at Zoologischer Garden, we began to realize why it’s called the bus 100 tour—we were waiting in line with other tourists and as soon as the bus pulled up, only the fastest and fittest made it to the top of the double-decker for the coveted front row seats. Get on this bus at the very first stop, if you want a seat and the best views of Berlin. We got off the bus at Alexander Platz and then took the S-bahn to the East Side Gallery (formerly the Berlin wall). Sobering, but worth the visit. Next, we headed to KaDaWe for lunch on its famous 6th floor food market. KaDaWe reminded me of the Macy’s at Herald Square in New York City—so of course it was a hit with me! The ruins of the Kaiser Wilhelm church were next on our list; another reminder of the destruction of war and the Berlin effect—that new can be built on old; the resilience I talked about. We then walked to the Elephant gate at the Zoo before we decided to take the S- and U-bahn to Olympiastadion (the Olympic Stadium). Then, on to Wannsee and you wouldn’t believe you’re still in Berlin. This water-front treasure gave our wary feet some time to recover from all the walking. The beirgarten at Wannsee helped too…gotta love a beer garden—kids with their parent, pet owners and their dogs…everyone is welcome at the beer garden. This is Berlin!
Hard to pull ourselves away, but we did and had a long dinner at the Quasimodo Café and then headed to the shinny, new (2-day old) Hauptbahnhof station for our overnight train to Sweden. Did we have sweet dreams? You bet—they were of Berlin!
Written by 80 Ways Tim on 26 Jun, 2005
Our host in Berlin, Sion, had informed us that a nearby bike shop was in possession of a vehicle that was worthy of our attention. He described it to us: a giant bike that seven people could ride, all sitting in a big circle and…Read More
Our host in Berlin, Sion, had informed us that a nearby bike shop was in possession of a vehicle that was worthy of our attention. He described it to us: a giant bike that seven people could ride, all sitting in a big circle and all pedaling. We were keen.
Sion marked it on the map for us and off we trotted. He had already paid them a visit on our behalf but we still thought it best that we did it properly. The management weren’t too keen on the video camera but were more than happy to let us use their "Conference Bike".
Just as described, it was a seven-seater bike with all the pedallers arranged in a ring. But the machine really has to be seen to be appreciated. Whilst I am sure it would make a wonderful setting for a conference, it might also find a good home in a science-fiction horror movie. A bright orange, space-age combine-harvester being pedaled down a Berlin street by a man in a top hat was quite a sight.
On a high from our latest and greatest means of transport, we head towards the Brandenburg Gate. We got distracted en route by a women selling ‘curry wurst’, which, we have been told, is a prototypical example of German food. The vendor finds the two of us filming our purchase to be highly entertaining, but her smile might have lasted if she could understand English; Thom wasn’t all too impressed with what was essentially a frankfurter drowned in ketchup, with a spoonful of mild curry powder.
Further up the road, we spied a square that was filled with an arrangement of short, stone blocks of varying heights. My eyes lit up: "You ever heard of free-running, Thom?" He had.
So we set up the tripod and proceeded to prance around like idiots, hopping across blocks in the top hat and posing for the camera. Suffice it to say that we drew a lot of looks from passersby, but we were used to it by now and carried on regardless.
Aside from posing in a velo-taxi outside the Brandenburg Gate and doing forward rolls past the Reichstag, the day passed without event. We rendezvoused with Sion in the evening, and he took us out to a Berlin beach bar. I wasn’t aware Berlin had any beaches but discovered that someone had the brilliant idea of dumping a load of sand on the riverbank, sticking in a couple of palm trees, playing some appropriate music, and serving up beer. Genius!
It was great to just sit back and relax (on the beach, no less!) and have some company. Sion was telling us about a walking tour he could arrange for us (we were debating whether it would qualify as a method of transport), and he showed us the brochure. I don’t quite recall why exactly it came up, but somehow the itinerary for the tour overlapped with us telling Sion about our free-running near Brandenburg Gate, and we realized that our "stone blocks" were in fact a memorial for the murdered Jews of the Second World War! I had spent my afternoon hopping around a war memorial in a top hat.
Written by 80 Ways Tim on 21 Jun, 2005
We almost got a ride in a police car and an ambulance today--not, as we might have hoped, as another transport method to tick off on our list, but rather as the result of a phone call to the German emergency services.
Our plan for the…Read More
We almost got a ride in a police car and an ambulance today--not, as we might have hoped, as another transport method to tick off on our list, but rather as the result of a phone call to the German emergency services.
Our plan for the day was to just take it easy and see what novelty modes of transport we could pick up. But before we did that, we had to pick up some insect repellent.
Our trip will take us through China, where there is a risk of contracting malaria from insect bites. We could take antimalarial tablets to prevent this, but we decided that we would rely on insect repellent instead of getting the pills. Some might argue that such a plan is not a very good one, but we thought we would be all right; whenever one of us had doubts about malaria, the other would simply reassure him that our anti-mosquito spray would be fine. However, after discussing it for about the fiftieth time, we realised that we didn't actually have any insect repellent and that now might be a good time to get some.
Not only did the local outdoor store stock various different brands, but the shop assistant spoke English and had an in-depth knowledge of spray effectiveness. We left the store feeling satisfied with our plan.
The next stop was to be Berlin's TV Tower. Some 300 metres tall, it sports a rotating restaurant near the top that we decided would be an ideal mode of transport. We got kitted up and stormed the place. We stomped past a long queue of people to get to the front and got the attention of a girl that worked there (getting her attention was not really that hard, given that Thom had just marched up the 'Exit' steps wearing a top hat whilst I filmed him). She understood our request (we had a German translation) but couldn't help. We then saw the manager, who was also resistant to our pleas ("fur die kinder!"), and we left, defeated.
On our way back to the hostel, we noticed a playground featuring monkey bars that we felt would be ideal for our cause. An hour or so later, we were still playing in the sunshine, swinging on bars, doing chin-ups and climbing around the frame. Thom found entertainment by repeatedly walking backwards and forwards along two large metal bars. He went back and forth, back and forth, attempting not to lose balance when he turned around.
He slipped off and cracked his side on the bar. He clutched his ribs and ran around the playground, gasping for air. I have to admit that I was trying not to laugh. Here was Thom, in a pair of three-quarter-length trousers and no top, running--no, galloping--around a Berlin playground, groaning like a sea lion!
He kept running around in circles with the look of despair typical of someone who's just winded themselves and can't breathe. I felt his pain but knew it would subside in a minute. But a minute went past, and he was still gasping. He ran to his phone and started to frantically punch buttons. I assumed he was trying to type me a message, but he was too panicked to do so.
He managed to dial 110 (emergency services) and handed me the phone.
"Sprechen ze English?" I asked.
"Nien" came the reply.
My friend couldn't breathe, and I was stuck on the phone trying to get an ambulance from someone who spoke a different language from me, and I didn't even know where we were. Panic set in. I grabbed the nearest passerby and explained, through hand signals and wide eyes, that we needed an ambulance. He seemed to get the message and said it would be five minutes.
By this point, Thom had started to breathe better--a huge relief since five minutes is a long time to go without air. He was obviously still in pain, and breathing wasn't as easy as it should have been, but at least it was taking place now.
I went to see if the ambulance was coming, and I heard a siren in the distance. Moments later, a police car screeched into the park, and two police officers were running towards the playground at full pelt. Thom flagged them down, and they reluctantly stopped.
"Vou ist die kinder? Vou ist die kinder!?" "Where is the child, where is the child," they were shouting.
Thom explained, somewhat ashamedly, that there was no child and that he was the one with the emergency. They replied that the firemen and paramedics were on their way.
We exchanged a look of fear. What had we done? At the time, it had seemed like the world was about to end, but now we just felt silly. Sitting in a kid's playground, having just fallen off a climbing frame, our emergency no longer seemed so urgent. We tried to explain that Thom was okay now but that we had phoned because he couldn't breathe. Whether or not they got the message, I don't know, but they soon left and cancelled the ambulance.
But Thom wasn't all right. We walked back to the hostel, and he tried to lie down, but it didn't really work. There was a hospital just around the corner, so we decided to head there. At least, it should have been "just around the corner" if I'd taken us the right way. Thom was the navigator, and I usually just followed his lead. This reminded us why. After about a mile's unnecessary trekking, we found the hospital.
"This never would have happened if we had our E111 forms," Thom noted en-route.
My mum had been constantly been hassling me to pick up my European insurance form from the post office, but with a million other things to do and the ease with which it could be done, I never really prioritised it and hence never got it. We had been joking about not getting injured in Europe for the last week, and now we had managed it. Of course, we still had international health insurance that would cover us, and it might even be possible to claim retrospectively, but we still maintained that the event took place solely so as to give our parents an "I told you so" opportunity.
After giving out the 100 euros for medical treatment, Thom's x-ray revealed no broken bones, and the doctor reassured him that his spleen had not been ruptured (which was nice to know). We hobbled back to the hostel, x-rays clamped firmly under-arm, and spent the last few hours relaxing before embarking on a 36-hour bus ride that would no doubt prove pure bliss for Thom's battered body.
Despite all Thom's efforts, we never did get a ride in an ambulance.
Written by 80 Ways Tim on 17 Jun, 2005
After a year's worth of planning and organising, we were on our way. All the preparations and red tape were behind us. All we had to do now was the actual travelling. Right?
So why was it that 6 days into our trip, I found myself…Read More
After a year's worth of planning and organising, we were on our way. All the preparations and red tape were behind us. All we had to do now was the actual travelling. Right?
So why was it that 6 days into our trip, I found myself queueing outside an embassy, waiting for yet another visa?
We had left Paris on an electric train (the fact that it was electric was important because it contrasts with what I assume powers the Trans-Siberian train--namely, diesel). We got the sleeper to Berlin, which took 12 hours. It wasn't one of those nice sleeper trains with big, fat reclining seats; rather, we were stuck in a six-berth cabin, sitting bolt upright with four other people. We had three Mexican girls for company and a guy who could speak 37 different languages and talked enough to prove it. He was from Togo, a country that required Thom getting his world map out to locate.
The reason Thom had a map of the world is because his official role on the trip is Chief Navigator. Check the website if you like. It was a title assigned to him fairly arbitrarily as part of a necessary process for us to apply for the grant. But when we were about to negotiate the streets of Paris, I jokingly handed him the map and said, "You're the navigator--you read the map." He did, and he did it very well. In fact, five minutes after taking the map from me in the middle of Paris, he delved into his bag and produced a compass. To go with his compass, he had a map of everywhere we were going (Europe, Mongolia, China, America, the world). He was taking his role seriously, and I was thankful for it. Without the map of Europe, we would have had no idea where Le Havre was in relation to Paris, what road we needed to get on, and where exactly the petrol stations we kept getting dropped off at were. And without that map of Europe, we would have had trouble finding the bus route we needed to get us from Berlin to Moscow.
You see, since last November, when we first pieced together our route, we did a quick search on the Internet and found that there was a handy bus that ran from Berlin to Moscow. The website recommended that we avoid Belarus (because it required a visa for entry) and that we instead go up through Lithuania and Latvia. Upon arrival in Berlin, we soon discovered that such a bus route was very rare and that there were no buses available that would get us to Moscow in time for our train departure and not take us through Belarus.
We had arrived in Berlin that morning from the sleeper and were already frantically trying to arrange the next leg of our journey. Sitting in an Internet cafe with a map of Europe spread out across the floor, we desperately searched through bus timetables to find a route around Belarus that would get us to Moscow in time.
There wasn't one.
We had two choices: get a Belarussian visa or break the rules (i.e. take a flight or another train). It was Thursday, and the bus we needed left on Saturday, which left us with 48 hours to get a visa - a ridiculously short time in any cirumstances, and on top of that, we weren't even in our own country. But we thought we should at least try. It would be a shame to break the rules, but it would be a real waste if we didn't even try.
The Belarussian embassy was quite a long way away, but at least there was one. The "express service" took 48 hours, but obviously, they weren't open on Saturdays, so that meant that even if we got there in time with all the right documents and beat the queue, there wasn't enough time. We still thought we should try.
There are few worse ways to spend your day than queueing outside an embassy, but one of them is queueing outside an embassy when you know that you are never going to get a visa. As soon as we got there, we realised that we didn't have photos. We ran to the nearest shopping centre but were told by several shop assistants that there was no photo booth there, so Thom took the short straw and trekked back across the city to get spare photos from our bags back at the hostel. I, meanwhile, got back in the queue.
I thought I had the easy job, and perhaps I did, but I still had to try to complete a form that was only available in German or Russian. I was assisted by a helpful guy in the queue with me, but I still didn't know Thom's address, didn't have his signature, and still had no photos. I still thought I should try.
...to be continued...
Written by marif on 20 Dec, 2004
Neither as elegant nor as gracefully laid as Park Sanssouci--nor as imposing or majestic--the parklands north of Potsdam's Altstadt are nonetheless ideal for hikers and those looking for a serene picnic area away from the disturbing crowds. The tourist attractions in terms of preserved buildings…Read More
Neither as elegant nor as gracefully laid as Park Sanssouci--nor as imposing or majestic--the parklands north of Potsdam's Altstadt are nonetheless ideal for hikers and those looking for a serene picnic area away from the disturbing crowds. The tourist attractions in terms of preserved buildings are few and mostly undergoing intensive restoration or refurbishment, but the natural beauty of the area presents a balanced mixture of old trees, sweeping lawns, blossoming plants and still reflecting waters.
The three adjacent parks north of the city center are from east to west: the Neuer Garten, Pfingstberg, and Buga Park. Cut off from each other by major thoroughfares, each has its own characteristics. So considering the different ambience and setup offered by each, try to visit all if you're not restricted by time.
The Neuer Garten is a waterfront park that is bordered from the east by the picturesque reflecting waters of Heiliger See, a small lake that fills with the water of the Havel through a canal constructed at its northeast extremity. The waters of the huge Lake Jurgfernsee wash the north shore of the park. The best way to enter the park is through the gate at the east end of Alleestrasse. From Nauener Tor, walk straight northwards along Friedrich-Ebert strasse for about 200 meters. As soon as you see the first Russian chalet in the Alexandrowka Russian colony take a sharp right turn on Alleestrasse. Continue for a further 50 meters or so on Alleestrasse, and you'll reach the gate to the park. Alternatively, from the Nauener Tor bus stop on Friedrich-Ebert strasse, take Bus 692, which stops right in front of the main gate.
From here, numerous tree-shaded footpaths lead toward the shores of Heiliger See, where the atmosphere is calm and relaxed, disturbed solely by the ripples caused by the couple of paddle boats or canoes that cruise over the lake. From the gate you can, if you prefer, take the main footpath toward the Marble Palace past a cluster of picturesque residential houses. The Marble Palace, right on the shores of the lake was built by Frederick William II in 1787 but renovated several times over the years. Time has clearly left its mark on the wonderful frescoes that adorn the external walls and on the beautiful marble columns that ring the semicircular wings of the palace. Intensive restoration is in progress, but it will take years to complete. The tower and some interior rooms richly furnished with marquetry cabinets and fine Wedgewood porcelain are open to the public.
If you continue along any northbound footpath toward the shores of Jurgfernsee, you'll reach the manor-style Schloss Cecilienhof, built in 1914 and known as the meeting place for the historical Potsdam Conference of 1945. With the exception of large photos of Churchill, Truman, and Stalin, there's not much else to see inside, but the surrounding well-kept gardens are beautiful.
Exit the gate north of Schloss Cecilienhof and continue further north along Am Neuen Garten until you reach Am Pfingstberg. Walk along Am Pfingstberg for 50 meters or so until, on your left, you see a signposted uphill road that leads toward Pfingstberg Belvedere. Built in 1850 by Friedrich Wilhelm IV, and based on an architectural style common in Italy in the mid-19th-century, the Belvedere at Pfingstberg is a huge colonnaded structure enhanced by beautiful surrounding arcades constructed around a central courtyard. The hilly forested landscape and neatly arranged lawns surrounding the building add to the beauty and decor of the place. Although the complex is still halfway through an intensive restoration program, visitors have the opportunity to get to the top of the tower, from where the view over Neuer Garten, Buga Park, Babelsberg, and Potsdam's Old Town is breathtaking and fascinating.
Numerous footpaths amidst old trees and dense undergrowth lead downhill toward the main thoroughfare Nedlitzerstrasse. The entrance to Buga Park is west of Nedlitzerstrasse, but the park extends several kilometers northward. Constructed a few years ago on the grounds of the former Bornsteder Feld military facility, Buga is a unique combination of treeless areas covered with amazing blossoming plants, winding water canals, grounds suitable for sport activities, cycling paths, paved walking paths, play areas for children, relaxation and recreation areas, and more. Just near the entrance gate, the huge exhibition center with IMAX cinema and a variety of theaters welcomes visitors, while the park itself is a summer venue for more open-air performances. Rock, pop, and folk concerts are featured frequently on the large Buga Park stage, where the festive atmosphere is enhanced by the surrounding natural beauty.
To get back to Potsdam's center, take Tram 90 or 95 from any stop along G.Hermann Allee, the avenue that runs adjacent to the easternmost border of the park, the exhibition center, and the IMAX cinema.