I haven’t got the hang of Berlin. All of the other cities we’ve been to you just hightail it to the Altstadt, visit the main church, the new town hall and the old town hall, various museums and the Christmas markets and you’re done.
Berlin doesn’t appear to have a centre. Sure, there’s the Brandenburg Gate, but that’s blocked off for New Year’s Eve, or Silvester as it’s charmingly known in these parts. There’s a giant park adjacent to that (the Tiergarten) with many bits walled off ditto, including the gravesite of 2000 Russian soldiers. I did spot a monument to three great composers in there, Hayden, Mozart and Beethoven.
Of course Haydn and Mozart were Austrian, but borders were more fluid back when the monument was originally built, and maybe they had an Australia New Zealand thing going on. It started a theme for Berlin. This monument had the krapfen blown out of it during the war and is a reconstruction.
The Reichstag was burnt to a hollow shell during the 1930s, then had the krapfen blown out of it during the war, but has been completely reconstructed and we toured the dome at the top. Very much worth a look, even just for the pictures of the history of the building.
It’s a bit difficult to walk around Berlin, not just because of not having a centre and Silvester, but they’re also building some new train stations in the middle of town (are you listening, Barry O’Farrell?), plus despite it being such a long time after the war they’re still painstakingly rebuilding some of the buildings destroyed then. Some cities would say, oh bugger it, let’s just start again. To a certain extent this has been done, and Berlin is rightly proud of its modern architecture. But they’re very aware of being a city that’s over seven hundred years old and they’d quite like to look like that.
It’s got a slightly more dangerous feeling to it than other cities we’ve visited. The first morning my dear husband stopped to read his map right next a group of skinheads. I had to restrain myself from asking “which one of you bitches wants to dance?”. There’s a lot more English on signs. There are more baristas in coffee shops, as opposed to push button coffee machines (erk). The public transport is excellent, not just for the connections, cleanliness (Gladys Berejiklian) and ease of use, but the decorations in the stations. Here you go Kev. Working and everything.
It has the second biggest department store in the world, the KaDeWe, where we (except for the bored husband) indulged in some excellent German pens. We also had a snack at the food hall, which was David Jones on all kinds of drugs.
We also stopped at a Christmas market that wasn’t selling the usual decorations and glüwein, it was all handmade stuff. Look at these leather pouches that we got, allegedly made by the stallkeepers mum.
It also has about a gajillion museums containing all kinds of stuff “acquired” during colonial times, one of which we peeked into today for a dose of gobsmackingness. We also surprised the kids with the museum of computer games.
They had my entire computing history. The TRS 80, the text only adventure game Zork, the Apple II (signed by Steve Wozniak!), the first Mac. Remember Bard’s Tale Kev? I beat the Moose at Asteroids on an Atari. Ahh, the memories. We’ll go to another proper museum tomorrow.
We attempted to do a bit of the Wall, but that thing is over sixty kilometres long. It is commemorated by a cobblestone track which disappears a lot under construction zones, but we followed it along the river a bit and saw some very sad memorials to the people shot trying to cross it. We’ll go to Checkpoint Charlie tomorrow for the full experience.