Berlin, Day 3

Berlin Travel Blog

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Front view of the Reichstag Building

My friend Scottie has a day off from his convention work today, so we made plans to meet up at the Reichstag and start our day's adventures there.  I got up early and had coffee and breakfast at my hotel to get me started.  I have to say that I don't find the coffee in Germany to be as good as the coffee I have had in Spain or France.  Not sure what it is that differentiates the coffees, but it just isn't quite as good.

I took a bus to the Reichstag so I could be there when it opened, as I had been warned that there could be long lines.  It was a beautiful day -- bright blue skies, sunshine and it steadily warmed up after a brisk start.  I got in line for entrance to the Reichstag, and by the time I had reached the front of the queue, Scottie arrived.

Cupola atop Reichstag (the Beehive)
  The Reichstag is the German Parliament building -- and is really amazing.  It was constructed in the 1700's, around the time the Kaisers were giving up power to the electorate.  The words on the front of the building "Dem German Volke" means "For the German People" -- and was meant to be an acknowledgement that the government's power flowed from the German people and was no longer the bastion of the elite.  The Reichstag was burned badly in 1933 by arson.  The Nazi's blamed the fire on the Communists and used it as a reason to pass laws to crack down on socialists, communists, Jews and gays.  In reality, the Nazi's set the fire to set the stage for things to come!  Hitler never set foot in the Reichstag, as he came to power after the fire -- when the parliament was moved to the Opera House.
Inside the Cupola
  The Reichstag also suffered huge damage during the Allied bombing of Berlin, so much of it had to be rebuilt.  The re-construction of the Reichstag was done to retain the original character and style, yet it is vastly modern on the interior and up above with the glassed in cupola.  It looks like a giant glass beehive on top.  Inside the beehive is a mirrored cone with a spiral walk way around it taking you up to the top.  Scottie and I went up there and got some great photos -- it is very beautiful and unusual.  You aren't able to see inside the building much, as the Bundestag was in session.  We were able to see the dais through a narrow window and you could see that Chancellor Merkel was present that day!

Scottie and I headed over to the Brandenburg Gate and stopped at a local coffee shop for a bit more caffeine and some pound cake.

Bust of Queen Nefertiti at Altes Museum
  From there it was back down the Unter den Linden to the Berliner Dom, or Cathedral.  We got to go up inside the dome and then outside on the top.  Great views of Museum Island, the East Berlin TV Tower, etc.  In the basement of the Dom there is a crypt for the German Royal Family.  Kaiser Wilhelm and about 20 others are entombed here.

Our next stop was the Altes Museum (Old Museum).  It was right next door to the Berliner Dom and it is huge!  We only toured the Egyptian part of the museum, as it's so vast.  The highlight for me was, of course, the bust of Queen Nefertiti.  It is so amazing to be able to see it in person, up close and without long lines to wait in to see it.  We did learn a bit about how they saved art works during World War II -- in basements with sandbags, salt caves, etc.

Me in the Fountain at Alexanderplatz
  What a massive effort that all most have been!

Our next stop was the Alexanderplatz, the heart of old East Berlin.  That is where the giant TV tower is that dominates this part of the Berlin skyline.  We did a little photo-op here at a great fountain.  We had lunch at a little sidewalk cafe here -- it was very nice to be able to sit outside while we ate and to watch the people strolling by.  After our lunch and a little carbo-loading for energy, we rented bikes from Alex's Bike Shop (www.alex-rent-a-bike.de) and did a riding tour with a guide provided by Alex.  Zara was our guide, an American ex-pat who has lived in Berlin for about three years.  She was extremely knowledgeable and friendly and proved to be a great guide for our biking tour.

East Berlin TV Tower in sunshine

We rode around the Alexanderplatz, past the Berliner Dom, Museum Island, and back down the Unter den Linden toward Brandenburg Gate.  We stopped at the Babelplatz, the spot near Humbodt University wehre the Nazi's burned the books of liberals, independents, and free-thinkers in the 1930's.  To commemorate this time in history, they have a clear glass square in the plaza floor that you look down into and see a room with empty book shelves.  I joked to Scottie that it looked like George W. Bush's library -- just as empty!!

We continued our ride down to Brandenburg Gate, the new US Embassy under construction and the Memorial to the Murdered Jews of Europe.  Right behind the Memorial we saw Hitler's Bunker, the site where he and Eva Braun committed suicide as the Soviet troops stormed Berlin at the end of WWII.

With our Guide, Zara, from Alex's Bikes
  It is not well marked, and does not appear in any of the guidebooks I had seen.  It is surrounded by Soviet-styled block apartments.  There is a rose bush in front of the Bunker, and locked up metal doors mark the entrance to the actual Bunker.  There is a marker there to document the site and provide some historical references.  It's a very eerie feeling to be standing here at such a historic spot.  It makes all of it so much more real.

Our biking tour continued on through the TierGarten, which got its name because they used to bring in game (deer) for the Kaiser to hunt here.  It is now a huge park in the heart of Berlin.  After WWII ended, potatoes were planted in the TierGarten to feed the starving survivors.

Our bikes near the Fuhrer Bunker
  I used this opportunity to ask Zara about the potatoes left on the grave of Fredrick the Great in Potsdam -- and she told me that at a time of famine, the Kaiser imported potatoes to Germany to help feed the people of Germany -- and that after that time, Germans have always included a lot of potatoes in their diet.  The leaving of potatoes is to honor that legacy.  Nice touch!

We continued our ride down to Potsdamerplatz and the Sony Center.  Here we saw a portion of the Berlin Wall left standing.  It is a very solemn place.  From there it was back up by the Victory Column (which I learned was originally on the grounds of the Reichstag, but later moved west to its current location) and back along the Spree River.

the Chancellor's Residence -- the "Washing Machine"
  Along the Spree we saw the residences of the President of the German Republic and the German Chancellor.  The Chancellor's residence is ultra-modern looking.  They call it the "Washing Machine" locally, for obvious reasons!  Evidently Chancellor Merkel has chosen not to live here, saying that it is too large, swanky and not fitting of her image.

We rode on to what is known as "Death Alley" -- a place on the Spree near the Reichstag where many people tried to escape from behind the Berlin Wall by jumping into the river and swimming across.  Many were shot and killed here in their attempts to escape, hence the name Death Alley.  There are a number of crosses here on the walls to denote the tragic loss of life at this site.

Site where many East German's were shot trying to escape to the West
  We rode on past the huge Berlin train station (the Haupt Banhof), purportedly the largest in the World (I wonder if it is actually larger than Tokyo's?).

On we rode through the Orangerie area -- kind of a re-done market area and the site of the New Synagogue.  It was destroyed by bombings and has only been partially rebuilt.  The dome is very Moslem looking to me.  Later I learned that it was inspired by the Alhambra, the famous Moslem palace complex in Granada, Spain!  It is very beautiful and covered in gold.  Our last stop in this area was at a bombed out building that has been taken over by squatters.  The building was supposed to have been razed and new construction was planned here after reunification of Germany -- however, squatters refused to leave and have turned it into a funky artist colony complete with a cocktail bar!

Our biking tour ended back at the TV tower -- it took us about 2 and a half hours.

Berlin Wall near Potsdamer Platz
  The owner, Alex, and the manager were really great guys and Zara was top notch as a guide.  This was a highlight of my stay in Berlin.

Scottie and I walked back down to his hotel at Potsdamerplatz and waited for Paul to finish his work.  We went to a really fun restaurant called Filou for dinner.  We had a really amazing dessert there -- a cherry cobbler/spaetzle dish with vanilla ice cream.  It was served on a huge platter with 5 very long spoons for our crowd.  It was amazingly good.

 

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Front view of the Reichstag Buildi…
Front view of the Reichstag Build…
Cupola atop Reichstag (the Beehive)
Cupola atop Reichstag (the Beehive)
Inside the Cupola
Inside the Cupola
Bust of Queen Nefertiti at Altes M…
Bust of Queen Nefertiti at Altes …
Me in the Fountain at Alexanderpla…
Me in the Fountain at Alexanderpl…
East Berlin TV Tower in sunshine
East Berlin TV Tower in sunshine
With our Guide, Zara, from Alexs …
With our Guide, Zara, from Alex's…
Our bikes near the Fuhrer Bunker
Our bikes near the Fuhrer Bunker
the Chancellors Residence -- the …
the Chancellor's Residence -- the…
Site where many East Germans were…
Site where many East German's wer…
Berlin Wall near Potsdamer Platz
Berlin Wall near Potsdamer Platz
Rear of the Reichstag
Rear of the Reichstag
Reichstag Building
Reichstag Building
Wing of the Reichstag
Wing of the Reichstag
Reichstag Facade
Reichstag Facade
Ornate carving on Reichstag
Ornate carving on Reichstag
View of the Tiergarten
View of the Tiergarten
Standing at the Behive
Standing at the Behive
Inside the Beehive
Inside the Beehive
notice the walkway around the Beeh…
notice the walkway around the Bee…
Around and round it goes . . .
Around and round it goes . . .
View from the Top
View from the Top
View of International Trade Center
View of International Trade Center
Brandenburg Gate in sunshine!
Brandenburg Gate in sunshine!
Berliner Dom
Berliner Dom
Altes Museum
Altes Museum
Neptunes Fountain
Neptune's Fountain
Scottie and the Fountain
Scottie and the Fountain
??
??
Warrior Statue
Warrior Statue
University
University
Hitlers Bunker
Hitler's Bunker
Soviet Style Housing overlooking F…
Soviet Style Housing overlooking …
House of the President of the Repu…
House of the President of the Rep…
Chancellors Home on Spree River
Chancellor's Home on Spree River
Haupt Banh Hof -- Berlin Train Sta…
Haupt Banh Hof -- Berlin Train St…
New Synagogue
New Synagogue
Squatters Colony
Squatter's Colony
Flag of the German Republic
Flag of the German Republic
Berlin
photo by: CFD