From Checkpoint Charlie to KaDeWe

Berlin Travel Blog

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A typical block of flats in the former Eastern sector: this one happens to be where my friend Jessica used to live
So to my last full day in Berlin. Jenny had to put in a couple of hours at work in the morning, but after that we planned a lengthy walk. While Jenny worked I went off to explore the area around Checkpoint Charlie, which is very touristy, so much so that it becomes almost impossible to relate what one sees today to the situation that obtained twenty years ago. On this somewhat aimless perambulation I also took in Leipzigerstrasse, as I was intrigued to see the block of flats where my friend Jessica spent much of her girlhood. There were many such blocks in that part of the Eastern sector, and they make a very conspicuous feature in the panoramic view from the Television Tower.
The Kaiser Wilhelm Memorial Church with its 'broken tooth'
Eventually I found her block and managed to get some pictures, although the traffic made it difficult to find a good vantage point.

When Jenny was released we decided, I'm not sure why, to head for the Museum at the New Synagogue Centre on Oranienburger Strasse. This had many exhibits and a good deal of information concerning the Jews in Berlin and the rebuilding of the Synagogue, which has a celebrated golden dome. But it is all of rather a specialised nature, and although there were certainly some items of interest I lacked the specialised knowledge of Jewish culture that is probably necessary to appreciate the full significance of the exhibits. After this we found a Turkish kebab shop for lunch; there is a large expatriate Turkish community in Berlin that has caused some ethnic tensions, but has also provided good Turkish eateries.
The Globe Fountain outside the Europa Centre; unfortunately the sun had gone in by this time so it looks a bit dull
I had a large doner kebab - the first I've ever had; I only wish I could have displayed more skill in eating it neatly!

After that we threaded our way back to the Reichstag and headed west across the Platz der Republik into the Tiergarten, and  found in the middle of nowhere a campanile, from which, apparently, recitals are sometimes given. From the publicity flyers pinned to a notice board it looked hard work, as the bells are played from a keyboard that has to be thumped with the fists. Then to the weirdly-shaped House of World Cultures, which was undergoing repair and looked desolate and uninviting, although regular events are held there. Apparently it collapsed in 1980 and had to be rebuilt; and it looked as if the builders had never left.

We decided then to head south-west through the Tiergarten in the general direction of the zoo, and a very pleasant walk it was. The Tiergarten is in no way an oppressive wood, for it has many open spaces, and after crossing Strasse des 17.Juni we soon found ourselves on a bridge over a canal where there were boats navigating a working lock. Watching the levels rise and fall is always fascinating, and we had little difficulty in passing twenty minutes or so in this non-activity. The path then took us alongside the zoo, which we decided not to enter - the smell was enough to put anyone off.

We were heading in the general direction of home when I glanced to my left and had the only genuine shock of the entire trip, for there, a hundred yards away, glinting in the late afternoon sun, was a church with a massive steeple half destroyed; I had absolutely no idea that it was there. It turned out to be the Kaiser Wilhelm Memorial Church (Kaiser-Wilhelm-Gedachtnistkirche) which had been bombed by the Allies during the Second World War. Afterwards it was decided to leave the steeple unrestored - it is sometimes referred to as the Broken Tooth. Below the steeple there is a small but interesting exhibition giving the history of the church, with photographs showing the extent of the destruction, and we spent half an hour looking at this.

Near the church, and our next port of call, is the Europa Centre, outside which is the wonderful Globe Fountain (Weltkugelbrunnen), which is said to circulate 105,000 gallons of water an hour. It was fascinating to try to count the number of orifices from which the water issued, and to follow the water flows - there is even water running down the out-of-picture central divide of the stairs on the left of the photo. There is a convenient cafe overlooking the fountain, where we stopped for refreshment.

Next stop was KaDeWe (Kaufhaus des Westerns, or Store of the West), which claims to be the biggest and best department store on the Continent. I can well believe it: it is an absolutely amazing place, and we must have spent at least three hours working our way slowly up to the top floor and examining all the departments en route. The store was undergoing total refurbishment, and apparently it had not been completed, so I guess that it must be even better now. The best was saved until last: on the top floor is the food hall, and absolutely everything looked perfect of its kind, and the counters for breads and cheeses were the best that I have ever seen. Indeed, just about everything was the best I have ever seen: there seemed to be nothing that they did not stock, and there was even a complete range of Tiptree preserves, including the rare "Little Scarlet" strawberry variety.

By the time that we emerged after a quick coffee it was nearly eight, and we walked the three miles home trying to sing Christmas carols in harmony (don't ask). The question of food naturally loomed large, and as once again we needed somewhere close to the flat we settled on Antiqua, which turned out to be an excellent choice, serving traditional Swabian comfort food. We both had roast pork in pastry with spatzle, which are like noodles made of dough - very warming and very filling. Washed down with plenty of wine it made a fine end to an exhausting day!

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A typical block of flats in the fo…
A typical block of flats in the f…
The Kaiser Wilhelm Memorial Church…
The Kaiser Wilhelm Memorial Churc…
The Globe Fountain outside the Eur…
The Globe Fountain outside the Eu…
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photo by: CFD