Berlin, Day 3
Berlin Travel Blog› entry 6 of 9 › view all entries
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.