Sunday, February 28, 2010

Kaiser Wilhelm Church, Checkpoint Charlie, The Wall and The Ring!!

So, we were on our own on Monday since our friends were headed to work and school.Resized_HPIM4832

We got off the train and passed a small pile of liquor bottles in the snow that looked as though they came from the much maligned hotel mini-bar.  These teeny sized bottles were scattered in snowpiles all over Berlin – though I didn’t see any drunken homeless people to go with them…..I would be remiss not to mention how popular beer is here (even though we don’t drink) and I guess they don’t shy away from the hard liquor either!

Soon enough we did see our real goal, the Kaiser Wilhelm Church.  It was massively bombed during WWII and, instead of being razed to the ground or rebuilt in a fashion such that you would never know it was bombed, they decided to keep the bombed tower as is and make it into a memorial.  In the first photo you see how it used to look and the next four show the current state of the building.  Inside, only the mosaic on the floor seemed untouched. The building is now surrounded by modern office buildings etc…. and a very modern church houses the congregation.  The building is shaped like a pentagon and each side is covered in small stained glass squares – absolutely breathtaking.

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Then we headed to Checkpoint Charlie.  This was the best known area for crossing between East and West Germany during the existence of the wall and was controlled by the Americans.  We saw a remaining chunk of the wall, lots of cheesy tourist offerings and an actor pretending to be a real-live US border patrol soldier. 

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Then it was off to the Eastside Gallery.  This is a large art installation that covers one of the last remaining portions of the original wall.  I loved the art… and another chance to see the oh-so-icy river Spree.

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My favorite was this one – from a Berlin artist (art came from all over)

It means….



Seeing the wall reminded me of the time we saw the wall display in Geneva and the walls between Palestine and Isreal and the walls between Mexico and America.  Even gated communities came to mind. When are we going to get it that walls just aren’t a good way to solve our problems???

Then we headed for lunch and I had an apple strudel (yum) while the kids had sundaes.  We stopped in a grocery store for a few things and I was impressed by the glass jars filled with knockwurst!  Griffin is showing you the drawing he made for Marie.  He also made her 2 other pictures and a few necklaces.  He told me “I love Marie and Marie loves me”

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The final event of the day (before home and bed) was visiting an antique market.  I will give you a bit of the backstory.  During the time I was in college, I one time visited, randomly, an antique shop in South Street.  It had a collection of Resized_HPIM5265beautiful, inexpensive engageResized_HPIM5263ment rings from the era of the 1920’s.  I had never seen anything like them.  The metal was filigreed and the  diamonds were small and the prices were low.  I was told by the proprietor that these were handmade to be beautiful but inexpensive since, during the Depression, there was not a ton of cash for expensive rocks.  I had told André that I liked this style of ring (hint, hint) but he got me a beautiful, more modern style ring instead.    I have had that ring for about 11 years but it is a bit damaged and I haven’t worn it for over a year since I fear losing the diamond.  André told me he wanted to buy me a 20’s ring to  replace it and we’ve been sort of looking around for about a year now.  We thought we might get lucky in Berlin and…. we finally did!  It was affordable and beautiful, and I even haggled them down 20%.  See my new Art Deco look?  I particularly like that the filigree reminds me most of a fleur de lis, an ancient symbol of France and also known to be associated with women’s virtue and spirituality.  That’s me – virtuous and spiritual – ask anyone….

We headed home, passing the classic Vietnam Bistro, the zoo (the entrance reminded me of the Philly zoo), a guy who showed us his rat and returning on the (lucky day) double decker bus!

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Bears, The Reichstag and Legoland

On Sunday we headed back into town for another day of touring Berlin and entertaining the kids.

First we visited the bear display that winters in a large train station.  It reminded me of Chestnut Hill’s Zoozapalooza.  The kids counted them – 170 strong, each representing a different nation.  Below I feature, USA, ?, France and Moldova – since I loved their bears!

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We then went over to the Reichstag.  It is the seat of government for the country.  We did not have to wait on the long line to get in, since we have kids.  This older building has a beautiful modern dome within it (see left).  When you enter the new section you can get headsets and walk a glass encased ramp to see views of the city – and they explain what everything is.  It was very interesting, although the snow obscured our views somewhat – can you find the Brandenburg Gate?

The mirrors (shown center) are used to heat and light the legislative chambers.


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WResized_HPIM4769e then passed the Spree river.  This section was part of the border between East and West Germany and the Resized_HPIM4774crosses represent those shot and killed trying to escape at this spot.  We loved how the river was filled with ice floes.Resized_HPIM4775  We discovered how no remnant of the Berlin Wall remains downtown save a subtle line made in bricks where it once ran.  It was incredible how this line, which kept popping up, went though the middle of buildings, streets and everything else you could imagine.  It’s as if the wall never was there – and yet it has only been gone for 20 years….

Resized_HPIM4776We passed the Brandenburg gate but there is a large film festival in Berlin andResized_HPIM4781 it was hard to get a good photo!  I did enjoy reading about it.  After it was first built, the central (largest) portal was reserved for the king while commoners had to use the side openings.  Also, I thought it was impressive that, during the time that Napoleon conquered Berlin, he had the gate dismantled and brought back to Paris as a sign of his utter triumph.  In later years, when he was defeated, the citizens of Berlin demanded it be returned – and so it was.  Seems kind of bulky for that kind of thing, doesn’t it?  Resized_HPIM4787Resized_HPIM4792

Walking on, we passed the memorial to the Jewish victims of the German Holocaust.  It reminded me of a large cemetery, except all the gravestones were of varying heights.  People were throwing snowballs at each other and playing all through it. It would have been a good laser tag venue.  I didn’t like it at all, can you tell?

We had a hard time finding a lunch place and passed several taxi stands.  Al the taxis here are beige Mercedes with leather interior, very high class.  It was just impossible to find anything near the Pompidou center (shown below – the cool umbrella thing) so we took a train to grab a bite.  You can see Griffin loves his Knockwurst!

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It was valentines day (which is not a big deal in Europe) and I thought it was funny that one company was handing out heart shaped balloons listed “Happy Valentine”.  If you are going to use English – at least do it right!

We were finally headed toward what the kids had been waiting for- Legoland!  It was a theme park type place all made of Legos.  There was a little roller coaster, a climbing structure, 3-D movies, and lots and lots and lots of Legos to build with. Little ones, big ones and everything in-between.   It was expensive but the kids loved it.  My favorite part was the amazing Lego models of the major sights of Berlin.  Zander wants to work here when he grows up.

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