Bear in front of my hotel, Berlin Berlin!
I woke up at 7:30 this morning, but fell back to sleep for 3 more hours! It felt so good -- I really did not sleep much on the flights over. Having missed breakfast, I had lunch at the Restaurant Julius in my hotel. I had pork schnitzel, new potatoes and white asparagus (which is in season now). It was delicious -- except for the asparagus. They had cooked it too long and it became mush. Ugh.
This is where I saw the first of the Bears stationed around Berlin as art objects. The Hotel entrance has a big red bear to welcome it's guests.
After lunch, I did a walking tour on my own. My hotel is on the Lutzoplatz, so it was an easy walk from there up to the Victory Column.
The Victory Column is a tall spire with a winged angel at the top. It commemorates the war dead and also the unification of Germany after Napoleon was defeated. It has a wonderful mural around the bottom of the column that depicts what is being honored. I was able to go inside and climb to the top -- about 300 steps up! The view from the top is great -- can see East over to the Brandenburg Gate over the Tiergarten. I walked around the Victory Column where there are numerous statues erected to honor various German heroes.
From there, I walked through the Tiergarten straight east to the Brandenburg Gates. The top of the Gate has 4 bronze horses and a warrior -- they were taken by Napoleon to Paris as a war prize when he captured Germany.
After his defeat and exile, they were returned to Germany. Another piece of evidence about the animosity between the French and Germans!
The broad avenue that stretches from the Brandenburg Gate to Museum Island and the East Berlin TV Tower is called the Unter den Linden. Linden means "lime tree", which were evidently planted along the streets years ago. It was a great place to stroll and take pictures.
I returned my steps to the Gate area, and stopped at a coffee shop to warm up (it was a chilly, overcast day). After a nice jolt of caffiene, I started walking south from the Gate. I walked past the construction site for the new US Embassy -- looks like it is going to be huge!
From there, I walked over to the Memorial to the Murdered Jews of Europe.
Memorial to the Murdered Jews of Europe
The memorial is made up of hundreds of concrete stellae, which makes an amazing geometric design. It is built on a hilly area, and the stellae are of different heights, so they undulate with the landscape. You can walk between the stellae -- much like a maze. There is an amazing museum under the stellae, with testimonials to those who died -- over six million people. Three million alone from Poland, 1.2 million from Russia and the Ukraine, adn others from all over Eurpope. The Nazi's went as far away as Greece, the Isle of Rhodes, the Channel Islands, Norway and North Africa to conduct their pogrom. It is so much more real to see and experience history this way -- to see the photos, letters, and stories of the families. There are computer terminals available to check on family names if you are searching for information about particular people or families.
American Sector at Checkpoint Charlie
I was surprised to learn that German Jews accounted for 160,000 of those killed, which I thought originally sounded low. I learned that this was due to the Nazi pogrom ratcheting up over the years -- in the early years, many were deported or emigrated on their own, thus making the number proportionately lower than I had expected. This place left me with a profound sadness, yet an appreciation for the remembrance, particularly in this locale. I found it to be very well done and very moving.
My next stop was at "Checkpoint Charlie" -- the old American military checkpoint between East and West Berlin. There was a construction site with a timeline about the division of Berlin and the building of the wall. I got pictures of the original checkpoint, and the big billboard that depicts and American soldier on one side of the checkpoint, and his Russian counterpart on the other side.
There was also a museum that I toured that had a lot of documentation and evidence on escapes and attempted escapes across the Berlin Wall, including a hollowed out Volkswagen, a hollowed out welding machine, a kayak and a lighter than air verhicle. Amazing what misery will accomplish!
I took a taxi back to my hotel, then went to dinner with my friends at a bier garten called Linosa. We had a nice meal of pork with crackling (crisp skin), potato dumplings, and cabbage slaw with bacon. As we departed the restaurant, Dwight got hit on by a number of local prostitutes. He asked me why he was always the one that got singled out -- and I told him it was because he looked like a horny capitalist!