Thursday, 5 April 2012

IATTOUR March 18-23 Berlin, Germany

 March 18 Two days in One..,.Here we go again!
Our flight out of Bangkok on Air Berlin was trouble free, but a long 12 hour flight.  We left around noon and arrived into Berlin around 6 pm.  Being a bit tired we opted for a taxi direct to the apartment where Janet and Frank were already ensconced.   We arrived to a fresh drink and some appies..  The effects of the long trip and such we didn't last long into the evening.

March 19-23 Let loose on Berlin

We soon discovered that Berlin is quite an amazing city with something for everyone; history, culture, 20+ museums, BEER and much more.  The weather for the first few days was on the colder side of spring forcing us to purchase a few more layers to survive.  A city orientation on one of the hop-on-hop-off buses got us familiarized to our new surroundings and let us know that it was going to be busy seeing everything in the short period of time.  A stop at one of the local supermarkets found that prices of basic staples (bread, milk, cheese, beer, wine) are cheaper  than back home by 30-40%...a surprise.

Back in the apartment overlooking Karl-Marx Allee; the famous stretch of the former GDR
having numerous military parades while under communist rule, we settled in for a relaxed evening.  Janet and Frank coming from Calgary were just getting their second wind, while we coming from Bangkok were well past bedtime according to our internal clocks.

Every morning Elaine and I would head out for an early morning stroll (i.e. 0600hrs); one fine morning we ended up at the East Side Gallery along the Spree/ RiIver. This is a 1.3km long stretch of the former wall left standing was adorned from one end to the other with some great art depicting freedom and other poignant scenes/abstract art.


There was a great photo exhibit on display outside the Bundestag on the Democratic uprising in Egypt that we caught on one of our early morning walks.

Out for a reconnoiter to get the lay of the Berlin environs on the Hop-on-Hop-off bus tour.  Saw lots of the key sites and areas to revisit in the coming days.

We hooked up with our friend Juliane from the Montevideo Language school for a day of museum touring and visiting.  She brought along a friend, Camilo who has been living in Berlin for the last couple of years and was a wealth of knowledge on the history and architecture of the city.  He was pointing out the bullet holes in all the historic buildings when the Russians came through in WWII.
 He headed off to meet another friend when we headed into the Pergamon Museum..OMG they have disassembled the entire Pergamon Altar and temple complex from Turkey, not to mention the main Market Gate of Miletus (the Ashtar Gate) arch from the entrance to Babylon.  


After a lunch break, we parted with Jan and Frank to head off to the Jewish Museum with Julianne. This museum is housed in quite an abstract architectural edifice which needs lots of direct interpretation by guides/books to tell you what it all means...the message was lost on me with regards to the building.  The museum goes through the history and plight of the German Jews leading up the war and Holocaust along with a whole educational aspect to what Judaism is all about.  Leaving here we walked up to Check Point Charlie the famous gate in the wall where numerous spy exchanges were done during the period of the Cold War.  

We said goodbye to Julianne on the U-Bahn platform and wished her well with her studies and hoped to see her one day over in Canada for a visit.  Back in the flat, we collapsed with a cold drink and some light eats to talk about our day.

 The next day we all headed of the Topography of Terror Museum which documents the rise of the Nazi party and various agent arms (Gestapo, SS, SD, which implemented the dismantling of democratic rights and creation of a police state, moving to the genocide of 6 million Jews, 3 million Russians, 1/2 million Roma/gypsies and >300,000 disabled/mentally ill german men/women and children.  It was a chilling disgusting account which at the end of the day too few people were brought to account for the atrocities committed.  We had a good discussion afterwards about how the exhibit effected each of us; we agreed that the hope of the museum would educate coming generations of how these things can take root if people do not stand up for what is right. It is a hard history to see every day and we were thankful our German friends have taken on the difficult task of living with this message. 
 This touring is hard work, today we are off for a river cruise to see Berlin from the water side of the Spree.  It was a beautiful spring day perfect for a trip on the river.  Seeing and hearing about the divided city was a interesting excursion, not to mention having a seat to watch and quaffing a Hefeweizen sitting in the sun.  Got to see new and old.

under bridge art

Later we headed to the district where we were to meet another language school chum "Martin" (see Montevideo Blogs for more stories) and ended up at the super luxury store KaVeDe; it reminds me of Harrod's.  The food floor on number 6 is to die for and we almost lost Janet and Frank on that floor.  We hooked up with Martin and headed to a local brew haus for drinks and was great.  

Later we met up with Martin's partner Wei-Wei and went for a stroll by a section of old East German block apartments ready for demolition that was occupied by a group of people (including avant garde artists) who were refusing to vacate thus creating a tense stand-off with police.  
a nice end to a great night with a drink of schnapps and a toast to see friends again soon.
We all agreed that Berlin is a city that should be on everyone's "must see" list and that we would be happy to make a return visit; but allow more than 4 days!

Thanks to the terrific transportation system, we easily made the subway connection and train to the airport the next day and were off to Istanbul.

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