Day 2 contâ€™d. Berlin
Whoâ€¦I have a feeling that Berlin might just be one of my favorite cities I have been too! I donâ€™t say this lightly, I realize it would not be for everyone but for me it might have just about everything I love in a city. New energy, a rich history, avant guard attitude, mixed with beautiful classic architecture. Within hours you just feel that you are a part of a place, a city, an attitude that is alive.
Well, I arrived into Berlin Hauptbahnhof, which in and of itself is a modern marvel, it is really the model of a new, clean and efficient station that is now the gateway for the rest of Europe. After taking a cab to Pension Merkur, where I am staying I got in and as is normal I was very tired, I took a 45min. nap and woke up, took a shower and set out. I was really kind of setting out aimlessly but I came quickly upon a Jewish CafĂ©, now whys is this anything? The area that I am staying really is quite the place. This was the historical Jewish quarter. I am staying about a block and a half from the Neu Synagogue or the â€śNew Synagogue, which was destroyed by the Naziâ€™s on Kristalnacht.
When I passed the CafĂ© it was guarded by police, no doubt because of some veiled threats recently by Islamic terrorists.
I made my way south and came upon the Museum Insel or Musem Island. The Prussian architecture is really stunning and much of a contrast to some of the other German cities I have been to because they had less of a Prussian outlook. It was cold so I stopped into the Deutsches Museum or German History Museuem, which I may go to tomorrow. It was about five in the evening so I just wandered around a small part of Unter den Linden. I came upon the St. Hedwigs Dom or Cathedral, in this place which on the outside looks much bigger than it really is, I was able to warm up again then wander around.
In the crypt part of the church, which had many people praying in it, there is the tomb of Blessed Bernhard Lichtenberg. He was the Dompropst or Rector of the Cathedral and he was during World War II, sent to Dachau where he died a Martyr. I stayed, had a candle lit, especially for Fr. De GaĂˇl and his family as his father new this good priest, said some prayers for them and my own priesthood. Eventually I came back down and they had a 6pm daily Mass. Now I debated about asking if I could concelebrate, yet still being so tired I decided I might just slip into the pew, in the back and participate. I love being a priest but there are times I miss what I did that evening, just slipping into the pew and taking it in. For a daily Mass it was very well attended maybe fourty or fifty people and a majority were young adults.
It really was a wonderful time of going to Mass. I wouldnâ€™t trade what I am doing but once in a while this was just very refreshing and I may do this a few more times on this trip. They had the organ playing and the mass went about 45 minutes and no one seemed to mind. If I did this there might be mutiny. There is something nice here in the German Church. They are very meticulous about things, the sacristan came set everything up they had the rosary before hand, music throughout the Mass, simply striking. Thank you God.
After Mass I wandered North trying to find my way to Nikolaiviertel an area I read about that would be good for dinner.
It borders the River Spree, and charming it is. Just to stroll around this area which has many good sights of the Berliner Dom, which is just a striking magnificent Kirche, which is the main Evangelishe Kirche for Berlin. After strolling around for a while I knew it was time for a beer and a meal. I found a place called â€śMutter Hoppeâ€ť which is apparently one of the oldest â€śBier & Wein Stubbeâ€ť in Berlin. Came into the beautifully decorated place and sat at the bar, still tired from the trip but ready for some, trinken und essen. I asked for a good Berlin Beer, he promptly have me a Berliner Pilsner. Now, I could go on a long tangent right now, but I wonâ€™t yet this was truly a Pilsner. Wonderful with a hoppy bite to it, yum! Germanâ€™s know their beer and it probably would not sell well in the States, our loss, but a real beer drinkers gain.
Another Berliner favorite is a beer that is infused with fruit juice or something, called Berliner Weisse. They start by adding into a wide brimmed glass, a green concoction then adding Berliner Kindl Beer. I spoke with the husband and wife sitting next to me he said it was good, but much like an apple cider. While I donâ€™t think this would be my kind of drink I may have to try one tomorrow at lunch, just to say I have had it.
Eventually my conversation came to two men from, as they said, Holland. Now the country is the Netherlands but they are from the North or Amsterdam and so they call it Holland, though technically this is just a region of the country.
We really hit it off, they are here on business they both work in Security for companies and private people. They were really impressive people. One was Ron Havelaar, he is in his mid fifties I would guess, and Erik Muller who is thirty-five. We spoke about a wide range of topics of Dutch, American, European and World politics, culture, travel, faith and seemingly everything else under the sun. After a couple of beers and conversation we decided to get a table and had dinner together. I had Eisbein, which is Pig knuckle, which came with potatoes and a kind of pumpkin puree with kohl or sauerkraut. Now, again this is something that I donâ€™t think many people these days appreciate. It comes out cooked and still has the skin with the pigs hair on it and all, absolutely marvelous! I enjoyed it very much, these kind gentlemen even picked up my entire tab, very gracious and their demeanor really makes me want to travel to the Netherlands.
Both of these men would be considered â€śDutch Reformedâ€ť, though the older gentleman Ron Havelaar talked about how he really does not go to church, yet you could see in this man a deep character and truly someone who is thought of a child of God. The younger man comes from, as he described it, the â€śDutch Bible Beltâ€ť an area a little outside of Amsterdam where he says you can still find people who might be dressed in traditional Dutch clothing. Erik served in the Dutch military and was in Iraq, he gave a good perspective as to why we should not have gone into that country, and a different perspective as to how they served and our military. He said they travelled around without armor and really made inroads with the local people in Southern Iraq, yet he was very gracious with the contact he made with the United States troops and their mission.
Truly and great encounter with two great people, I will think of that meal fondly. After an aperitif, we parted ways and took a picture together I made the walk home. It seemed that it was even a little bit warmer at least the wind died down. I walked home following the Spree River, on the right was the East German Fehrentower or T.V. Tower, passing many other people strolling about. Getting close to my neighborhood ended up having a short conversation with someone who asked me a question, people are very friendly and she was asking how my stay has been thus far, after a few hours I could truly sayâ€¦Fantastic. Still being just around 10, I strolled through the neighborhood I am in which is filled with many cafĂ©s, restaurants, local artists galleries, eventually I went into one place filled with many people chatting and winding down, or maybe for some beginning their evening, had one drink and decided it was time for bed. On the way home, I stopped to get a paper, I always like to read or at least attempt to read a German paper and went to an internet cafĂ© to check e-mail. Once home I looked at the paper and before I know it I was sound asleep. I woke up, as is par for the course at about 4:45am local time, which is when I am writing this. I can truly say after just a matter of hours this is truly one of the great cities of our World and I just wish I had been here sooner. Well it is 5:45 I think I might head out to see the Brandenburg Gate as the Sun rises and come back for FrĂĽhstuck or breakfast which is here at 8. Till the next post, TschĂĽss von Berlin!