Berlin And Potsdam Germany
|Air Service Berlin||Friedrichstrasse Train Station||Memorial To The Soviet Soldiers||Potsdam|
|Berlin Olympic Stadium||Holocaust Memorial||New Palace - Potsdam||Potsdamer Platz|
|Brandenburger Gate||Judisches Museum||Orangerie - Potsdam||The Reichstag|
|CheckPoint Charlie||Kaiser Wilhelm Church||Parks & Gardens Of Schloss Sansoucci||Schloss Sanssouci|
July 23, 2005 Washington to Berlin
Everything went well this morning. Got
everything done I needed. I drove
to Mattís with dad who drove the Avalanche home.
Got to Reagan National 1:30 hours prior to departure.
Had a beer at the Foggy Bottom bar across from our gate before departing.
Got on the Continental Airlines regional jet that I had to duck the whole
way down to our exit row seat and waited. We
left the terminal and the plane stopped. Started
up again and stopped. The pilot
came on to announce that Newark was backed up and we had to wait 50 minutes
before departing. Luckily we had a
2:30 hour layover. When we finally
left it was pretty cool that the plane only gets to about 17,000 feet.
We were tracking our flight all the way from DC.
Saw the Washington Cathedral, Mormon Temple, Fedex Field, Philadelphia,
It was weird flying into Newark. You know where the World Trade Center buildings should be and
they arenít there. Newark Airport
is really nice though and the prices arenít inflated because you are at an
airport. We walked around and had
lunch at the New York Diner by our gate. I
had a chicken Caesar salad and Matt had a burger with mushrooms. Also had some spicy chicken fingers as appetizer and a couple
of beers. Had a lady come up to us
that was sitting next to us at Reagan. She
was heading to Berlin also. Her
husband was German and had passed away and she was returning to bury his ashes.
The way she came up and introduced herself, Matt thought she was in some
singles traveling group. We had another beer at the sports bar on the other side of
the gate and then boarded the plane.
It was a 757 plane to Berlin, which seemed small.
I had the exit row for us and there was a real ass in our row.
The row in front of us was an exit row also and they had assigned it to a
mother with 2 little kids. They had
also double booked it with another guy. The
kids canít be in the exit row so they had to move the mother and kids. That left the guy with three exit row seats to himself.
We tried to get the ass in our row to move up but he wouldnít.
He didnít want to ďdisturb their systemĒ.
Well he wasnít small and we were packed in like sardines in our row. He knew we were traveling together and made Matt move to the
row in front. He tried to start a
conversation with me and I gave him a real curt one-word answer and blew him off
for the rest of the flight.
They had two really bad movies on the flight, Miss
Congeniality and Barbershop. I
finally made good dent in my Tom Clancy book Iíve been trying to read for 3
years Red Rabbit. Plenty of room in
the exit row seats but I just couldnít get comfortable.
I slept maybe 45 minutes and Matt said he didnít sleep at all.
Not good for an 8 hour flight.
24, 2005 - Berlin
We arrived at Berlin Tegel Airport and the gateway off the plane led right to the customs and immigration counter. On the other side of the immigration counter was baggage claim. Iíve never seen it so close and convenient.
Now things got interesting. It took awhile for us to figure out there was no subway at
the airport. I bought our Berlin
Travel Cards at 18.90 Euro and the guy at the counter was no help at getting us
pointed towards Berlin. A girl
noticed we were having problems and directed us to a machine that gave you a
print out of how to get from Tegel Airport to Potsdamer Platz subway station.
Matt didnít like the giant rotating door exiting the
airport. It was basically a huge
circle cut in half that slowly rotated to get you outside.
We took a bus to the Unter den Linden subway station and
took the subway one stop to Potsdamer Platz.
Of course there were to exits and we chose poorly.
We followed the signs that pointed to hotels and we were the other way.
I asked directions from a guy who quickly indicated he didnít speak
English, but he heard Marriott and pointed us in the right direction. Once again we get to the hotel and went to the wrong side
with no entrance.
We finally checked in and got to the room at about 11:00
AM. We planned to sleep until 1:00
PM. That didnít happen.
Finally started to move around 6:30 PM.
Weíve got a nice room but there is a door that leads outside to a
9-story drop. No balcony or
anything. Across the street there
is a huge hot air balloon tethered to the ground the goes really high
We left the room to go out about 7:30 PM.
There are sections of the Berlin wall a half a block away.
The Berlin wall would have run right down the wall of our hotel.
The have a 2 brick wall width walkway indicating where the wall was.
We kept trying to figure out which side was which and figured out later
we were again wrong. The Potsdamer
Platz area we are in is a lot like Bethesda.
We walked thru the Sony Center which had a fountain, big screen TV, IMAX
and regular theatres and restaurants. We
laughed at how everyone was is so calm and noticed the big screen TV was showing
calming photos of water running. They
have a huge open-air atrium with a decorative cover that lit up at night.
Walked around to a bar Matt had seen while we were
looking for the hotel and had our first 2 beers.
The restaurant was the Restaurant Mommseneck, House der 100 Biere.
I had a couple of Berliner Kindl which I liked and Matt had a Warsteiner
that he said wasnít that good and a Berliner Kindl that he complained was
milder than the Warsteiner. Sorry,
I didnít know what he was looking for. I
just said I liked my beer.
Matt was hungry and we headed back to the Sony Center and
went to the Lindenbrau. I had a
pretzel and a couple of pils beers. Matt
had Roast Pork with Gravy, Potato Dumplings, and Sauerkraut with a couple of
dark beers. His review was there
was ample pork but the stretched out the potatoes.
Walked back to the hotel which were I am now typing this
at 11:34 PM. We are going to go
down and have a night cap at the hotel bar and get up early to see the sights.
12:20 AM and weíre back from the hotel bar.
There were 6 seats at the bar and 4 were taken by people, one by the bag
of some euro trash lady. Matt used
one open seat and I stood next to the seat lady was using for her bag.
I never asked her to move it but she could tell I wanted to use it.
She never even considered moving her bag.
I took my Guinness to a couch. Matt
had a Guinness and Dewarís and Water. Bill
was 11.80 Euro. Not bad for a hotel
bar. They have a booth for a jazz
radio station that broadcasts from the bar.
Cool Jazz 101.9.
Gonna watch some German TV and go to bed. Matt has been flipping thru channels. Big discrepancies. Muslims praying, naked girls and old ladies with 800 numbers and now South Park in German.
We woke up this morning at 7:20 AM. We love the beds, down pillows and down sheets. I slept great. Matt was excited about the down sheets so much that he got up and turn AC all the way up so he could have the sheets keep him warm. He was disappointed this morning though that the AC didnít get as cold as he had expected or wanted. Mattís still on Maryland time, as he didnít get to sleep much last night. Also he thinks it could have been the extra salty meal he had at 9:30 PM. As the alarm went off I was greeted by 3 short blasts of gas from his rear end. I asked if that was the morning greeting call of the prehistoric Rafferty. He told me Raffertyís are highly evolved. Iíll have to do more research on that. Mattís in the shower and weíll head out when heís done.
Matt went to the bank and I left my jacket at the hotel
room so went back for it since it looked like rain. We met at Dunkin Donuts.
The bank doesnít open until 10:00 AM.
I get a Coke and 2 chocolate covered donuts and graciously buy Matt a
coffee. Off to Subway hell, this
subway-rail system is crazy. We canít make heads or tails of it.
Once again we choose poorly. We
need to go one stop and end up going the wrong way.
Turning around to go 2 stops takes forever.
Something we later walk in about 10 minutes takes us 30 minutes on the
We finally get to the Unter den Linden stop that is right
at Brandenburg Gate. Overall the
city is very quiet, Brandenburg Gate is impressive.
Matt liked the organ grinder at the bottom of the gate even though he
only had a toy monkey. Head right,
past Brandenburg Gate to the Reichstag. We
canít figure out the orientation of the city from East and West.
The Reichstag is a huge and foreboding in the overcast weather.
The line to get in is foreboding also.
We have to wait about an hour or so to get in.
We pass the time though by making many inappropriate German jokes.
It did start to drizzle a little bit and getting my jacket looks like a
They take in groups of about 50 people in at a time.
There is no tour though; you just take an elevator to the top floor,
which has great views of the city. While
waiting in line you canít help but notice all the patching of, we presume,
bullet holes. The top of the Reichstag has a new glass dome that you take a
circular walkway to the top. Also
inside the dome are many picture depicting the past of the Reichstag.
The line would back up near the 1930-1945 dates and 1989.
Itís amazing they salvaged anything of the building when you see
pictures after it was burnt and after Berlin was conquered.
My camera card started acting crazy so I changed the card
and told Matt Iíd like to head back to the hotel to download the pictures to
see if I can figure out what has gone wrong.
We walk through the park toward the Soviet Soldiers
Monument. It had a couple of tanks
and howitzers at the entrance. It
seemed like a smaller version of our WWII memorial.
Huge Soviet soldier tops the memorial.
There were a bunch of pictures on the buildings behind the monument.
Berlin was truly a mess after the war.
The Soviets also did not waste any time building the monument.
It was up by 1946.
Between the Soviet Soldiers Monument and the hotel we
stopped at the Holocaust Memorial. It
is a full city block of rectangular blocks of varying heights.
They are lined up perfectly, like a graveyard but the ground underneath
undulates up and down. Matt said it
was order and chaos at the same time. He
was really trying to get deep into the memorial.
He did get scolded though for jumping from rectangle to rectangle. Apparently there is a woman whose job it is to keep people
from memorial jumping. The space
between the blocks was about 3-4 feet. It
was amusing to hear kids
screaming and having a great time running thru the
blocks. You would hear them first
and then youíd see the streak by your limited field of view quickly, usually
with a parent close behind trying to catch them.
I guess I was supposed to be Mattís parent and did a bad job watching
We headed back to the hotel and Matt was getting hungry.
We stopped at a food stand on the road.
I got a bratwurst and Matt had been craving a curry sausage he had read
about. He chose poorly again. Basically
he got a cut up sausage with curry type pepper sprinkled on and smothered in
ketchup. Umm-Umm. Also the lady was
out of drinks except for one beer that could have been out on display forever.
I passed when she tried to give it to me.
As we got near the hotel I got a coke at the stand at the giant balloon
across the street from the Marriott and Matt went to get some travelerís
checks cashed. Apparently that was
harder than you would think. The
person must not have trusted Matt and called American Express to verify his
check had been purchased.
I downloaded my photos and the memory card started
working again. I lost a couple of
pictures inside the Reichstag Dome. Matt
got a quick nap and we went off again. Once
again we canít figure out the subway. There
are like 9 entrances to the Potsdamer Platz subway station for the 3 lines. We
never pick the right entrance. This
time we canít find the direct line to the Zoologischer Garten.
We have to go 2 stops up to Friedrichstrasse Station and change.
A lady gave us directions in broken English, which is pretty much what we
speak, so youíd think we could understand.
She told us we had to go up a level to find the S5 line.
Well we had to go up to the ground level, which was 2 levels and figure
out that S5 was in the elevated train station above our head.
Four stops and we arrive at Zoologischer Garten subway.
We still canít figure North, South, East and West and end up going the
opposite direction we needed to be going to get to the Kaiser Wilhelm Church.
I had joked earlier about Matt being George Costanza and
how he should do the opposite of what ever his first impulse is.
We are both Costanza here. Every
time we go one way, we should have gone the other.
We stop at a bar named Joeís in honor of Joe Barrett
and have our first liter of Lowenbrau at 3:15 PM.
I forgot how big the liter glasses were, but it was getting a little hot
and we finished it fairly quickly to avoid it getting warm.
Matt likes the outside cafť lifestyle.
The Kaiser Wilhelm Church is right across the street from Joeís.
Itís a neat combination of old and new.
The original spire from the church has been kept in its post WWII bombed
out state. On both sides they have
build modern buildings one a church and one a spire made of small stained glass
panes. Inside is really neat since
the whole building is basically stained glass.
The spire though has a strange kitschy-hippie style store.
It just didnít fit the church.
Behind the church is a big fountain and court with people
performing for money.
only about 20 years behind the times in street performers. They all are break dancing.
Matt joked if we came back in 20 years theyíll be rapping.
We see a sign advertising an Irish Pub.
Itís not really a trip if you havenít been to an Irish Pub especially
when traveling with an Irishman. We
are looking for the Europe Center. Matt
wants to walk down a street that looked fairly lively first and once again ďhe
chose poorlyĒ. Itís a high class area that when we rounded the block to
head back to the main road took us by a bunch of transvestite burlesque shows.
We of course pass the Europa Center and turn around.
There is no sign except for the garage and one hidden down an alley.
Even though this is a fairly large mall.
We finally find the Irish Pub that has a sign of Snoop Dogg underneath
the main sign. We go in and they
are playing all American music. The
bathroom signs have the male wearing a skirt making it a 50/50 shot on which one
you picked. Finally the bartender
gave us small
Guinnessí. This is
a thing that drives Bedlow crazy. Why
would anyone serve me a small beer? Knowing
he would be upset if I stayed I finish my one small beer and bag of chips then
Matt is amused at a Dungeon and Dragons type store next
to the bar. He seems to know more
about it than he seems to be willing to tell.
Next to that is a store selling medieval weapons.
This combination disturbs Matt. He
doesnít think they should be encouraging the Germans in any type of warfare.
We leave the other side of the Europa Center than where we entered and
find the entrance is exactly where we had started, the fountain behind Kaiser
We head to the train station and stop for a beer at Hanne
Am Zoo, a soccer pub directly under the train station.
While we have our drink I decide we still have daylight and should try to
fit in Berlinís Olympic Stadium. We
actually know the line to get on to get to the Stadium since itís the same we
arrived on. Eight stops down the line we arrive at the Olympic Stadium.
We have no idea where we are going but get lucky this time as there are 2
exits and one is closed. Itís a
miracle but itís the right direction.
The stadium is about 500 yards through a wooded walkway
from the station. Itís very
impressive for being built in the 1930ís.
It has just been refurbished in 2004 we find out.
It costs us 2.00 Euro to enter the grounds. It finally starts to rain pretty hard as we get near the
gates. I was stubborn and didnít
want to pull my jacket out until we get to the entrance. I get soaked. The
Stadium is very simple and as Matt kept saying reminded him of Grecian
buildings. Of course, heís never
been to Greece but I have and he was right.
It holds 74,400 people and has a new modern roof that covers all the
seats. Behind the stadium is a
really old looking stadium that was probably some sort of warm up track. The diving and swimming stadium are also next to the Olympic
Stadium. It also seems to be in
pretty good shape.
We went up to the second level of seating and just sat
down while the rain really starts to come down. It was kind of spooky as we are one of a handful of the
people in the stadium but the rain bouncing off the roof made it really loud,
almost like cheers. Itís like the
ghost of Jesse Owens was there bringing in cheers.
There were 2 sets of giant athlete statues on both sides
of the entrance. One set of statues
has had tree overgrow to the point it looks like 2 giant statues going to the
bathroom behind some trees.
It stopped raining when we went back to the train station
and we were on the line that was a direct route to Potsdamer Platz.
I had felt good all day but sitting down for those 14 stops got to me and
I really felt worn out. Matt didnít sleep much the night before and he was also
running on fumes.
We got to Potsdamer Platz and headed to the mall we originally got lost in when trying to find our hotel for a meal. It was a Greek place. I got some spinach on dough and fried cheese in a rolled up piece of dough. Matt got some sort of diced meat plate with peppers, fries and a small salad. Matt finally had a beer he liked and I had a couple of tiny cokes. As usual while out of the country, Iíd kill for a 7-11 Double Gulp. We got back to the room where I have downloaded my photos from the afternoon and typed this entry. Matt has had it and Iím going to follow. Itís about 11:00 PM.
We want to see if we can fit a lot in tomorrow including
Potsdam and Schloss Charlottenburg.
Some of our observations of Berlin so far, itís a very
laid back city. Matt claims there
are lots of soothing elements to the city that were built in by the Allies
during reconstruction to sooth the Germans and keep them from wanting to take
over the world again. Itís a kind
of subconscious mind control. Itís
just little things like the big screen TV at the Sony Center playing pictures of
running water. There is a store
next to our hotel that has spinning, hypnotic like figures that are projected on
its wall. The water fountain at
Europa Center. Little things like
that to keep the population calm. It
works on Matt, he says he calms down every time he sees the spinning lights by
Matt noticed that the city is huge and there are tons of
stores, yet you never see more than one person working at them and no one is
ever buying anything.
The underground malls, like Europa Center, the area
adjoining Potsdamer Platzís subway station, all subway stations in fact, also
intrigue Matt. I thought maybe they
are underground due to bad winter weather and it is easier to just walk between
26, 2005 Ė Potsdam & Berlin
I woke up and amended some of yesterdayís journal entry. I was actually up at 5:45 AM and wide-awake at that. Waited until 7:00 AM to take a shower and started computer work. Matt was asleep until 9:00 AM, he claims he was up at 3:45 AM and was mad I didnít make him get up to get going. I say preposterous. He wasnít awake; he even slept thru the alarm. I did notice when he was asleep that we had a door that actually opened to the outside and took a bunch of pictures.
Headed to our Dunkiní Donut for Pepsiís, coffee and a
couple of donuts. I stopped at the
bank to cash a travelerís check but remember Matt had problems with that, so I
just took 100.00 Euros from my bank account.
We finally are getting used to the subway system.
We went right to our train platform at Potsdam Platz to go to Potsdam.
When we get to Potsdam we were going to take the train but walked outside
and a bus was leaving in w minutes. The
train wouldíve been faster. The
bus eventually dropped us off at Schloss San Souci. We bought a pass to see all the palaces in the area for 19.00
Euro for two days.
We had to wait until 2:20 PM to get into the main portion
of Schloss San Souci so we went first to see its kitchen.
They had a huge oven that double as a hot water heater.
We walked around the other side, I truly couldnítí tell you which
side was front or back, to find these huge terraced fields that led to a
fountain surrounded by marble seats and plenty of statues.
From there we walked over to the Chinese Tea House, which
was covered with gold decorations and statues.
Matt figured it was just a cool little house for them to go and to have to get 2 tickets for everything.
We had our ticket saying we were allowed to see everything and then when
we tried to go in the guy let us but said we had to go to the booth around the
corner to get our ticket. I donít
know why but we didnít question him and did as we were told.
We took a different route back by the Orangerie.
We didnít go in this palace but it was one of about 5-6 palaces on the
grounds. Matt was feeling parched
and we had 30 minutes
so he literally sniffed out a snack stand/bar across the
street from Schloss San Souci hidden behind a huge windmill.
We are still trying to figure out the windmill.
The stand was named the Kutcherhaus.
This refreshed Matt greatly. Schloss
San Souci was the summer palace of Frederick the Great.
He had Voltaire at the palace quite often. It really did seem like a manís getaway house as we were
told no women were allowed. The
weird thing was this was the smaller of the 2 main palaces but he used this one
the most. It did have a much nicer
view since it set atop the one hill weíve seen in 3 days.
The funniest thing about the whole tour was we were made
to wear these huge slippers over our shoes.
Of course they barely fit my size 14ís.
It did help greatly as it had been raining and the grounds around the
palace were dirt and gravel. The
best thing those was it gave you the ability to almost skate thru the palace as
all the floors were marble or wood.
We thought it was a one-time thing but we ended donning
the monster slippers 3 times throughout the day.
It was after 3:00 PM after the tour and Matt was hungry.
Across the street there was another snack shop at the Zur Hisorichen
Muhle Movenpick Hotel. I ordered
what I thought was dough filled with cheese and sausage but ended up being a
processed pork roll with cheese incorporated throughout the roll.
Matt had one along with a bratwurst.
Some fries and a beer and we were set.
After lunch we stopped at a separate wing of Schloss San
Souci called the Neu Kammern where we got to slide in our oversized slippers
again. The security guards, who
were in every room, laughed when I asked them to take a picture of me in my
Our next stop was the Neues Palace.
This palace dwarfed the Schoss San Souci.
It had rooms in it as large as our house.
There was one really neat room that was decorated in shells.
It was starting to get late so we went through the Neues Palace pretty
At the Neues Palace we were straight down the road from
the rail station that would take us back to the Potsdam Train Station.
But luckily for Matt there was another restaurant, the Cafť at Neues
Palais. We both got a Berliner
Kindl and bottle of water. Something of note was like a lot of other places you
had to pay a .25 Euro deposit for glass or plastic bottles.
We donít know for sure but we figured that was why you donít see much
trash on the ground. We also got to
watch a tiny mouse run around the cafť and at one point ran inside but came
right back out.
The train station was about ľ to Ĺ mile to the rail
station, which was 2 stops from the main train station where we would transfer
to take the S1 subway line directly to Potsdam Platz.
Once again Mattís amazed at the mall life here in Germany. The train station doubles as a mall in Potsdam. We had a beer at the Metropolitan American Restaurant in the train station. Whatís new? What was new was when I took my regular picture of the bar an old man angrily waved me off.
Matt was fairly amused when I told him.
Maybe it was some German Mafia guy.
We both got some food for the ride back.
I had a large roll with cheese and ham on top and a Coke.
Matt had a fish sandwich and beer. We
both started feeling tired on the way home and were going to call it quits but
remembered we hadnít been to the Cancun Restaurant or Air Service Berlin
Helium Balloon across the street from our hotel.
A quick beer at the Cancun Restaurant, and bathroom stop
and we were off to the skies over Berlin. The
Berlin City Tour Card gave us a 10.00 Euro ticket instead of 19.00 Euro.
Weíve been watching this balloon for 2 days and it was way cooler than
we expected it would be.
The balloon is tethered to the ground and once you board
the metal basket that can hold up to 30 people our pilot lets the brakes go and
a line go and we head up to 150 meters over Berlin. It was real windy and I asked our ďpilotĒ if it ever gets
to windy to fly. He tells us
weíre right on the brink of it being too windy right now and heís only going
to go up one more time today. I
wish I had asked once we had landed. The
view was amazing and was well worth the price of admission. Especially since the balloon is fairly centrally located in
the city. You could really tell how
large the Holocaust Memorial was from the air since it was right underneath the
Landing was interesting.
The wind was really strong as I said and we were drifting towards the
Cancun Restaurant. The tether
thought guides you right in. Itís
not a long ride but it was great.
That pretty much sums up the day. I came back and hooked up to the Internet, 19.99 Euro for 24 hours, and talked on MSN Messenger to dad back home. Itís an amazing little gizmo with the camera and microphone. Matt went out to get some dinner and a nightcap at our hotel bar. He called me a computer geek when he saw us talking to each other on the computer.
He has now been trying to figure out how to make our room
as cold as possible to take advantage of our down sheets.
Of course he broke the door it looks like when he tried to create a cross
wind in the room.
He has set up some really funny postcards to send home.
Itís a bunch of Berlin postcards right after WWII.
They all end up blaming me for something.
The first postcard has a burnt out shell of a car in front of
Brandenburger Gate and he wrote, First Wally let me driveÖ.then.
His second postcard is a burnt out shell of a planes engine and he wrote,
ďWally Let Me FlyÖÖ.Then. It
goes on for 5 postcards. Pretty
funny for Matt.
One more funny thing from this afternoon.
We both said something at the same time and I mentioned itís amazing we
share the same brain; I donít know whether to be sad for myself or impressed
for you. He took it as a nice
Weíre going to try and get moving early tomorrow since
we leave for Copenhagen in the evening and still have a lot we want to see.
27, 2005 Ė Berlin to Copenhagen
I packed last night so Iíd be ready to roll in the morning. Matt woke up extra early and went for a work out in the gym. As Iíll tell of later he should have spent the time packing. Once he got back we headed checked out and had the hotel store our bags, as our flight to Copenhagen didnít leave until 6:40 PM.
We spent a little time outside the hotel at Potsdam Platz
at the Berlin Wall remnants while trying to get oriented with the map a little
better. This truly is a confusing
town. It might be because of the
your mind keeps thinking that of East Berlin and West Berlin, East Berlin should
be closest to the East Coast which of course itís not. You also keep finding out where the wall was and it just ran
haphazardly through the middle of town.
We started walking towards Checkpoint Charlie and about
150 yards down the road ran into another section of the Berlin Wall.
This was the other boundary with the Potsdam Plats section of the wall
that made up no mans land. It ran through what today is this bustling transportation hub
and centerpiece for new restaurants and stores in the middle of the city.
There is the huge mall adjoining the Potsdam Plats subway station, the
Sony Center, Discovery Channel and an IMAX theater in this area now.
You see pictures of the post war Potsdam Plats and there was nothing but
the two sides of the wall and barriers in between.
You see pictures of post WWII in postcards and it seems like it was in
that time what it is again now.
Checkpoint Charlie is about a Ĺ mile away and is just a
small booth in the middle of the street. We
got there fairly early and it was just the booth, but once we went through
museum they had three Germans dressed up in American, French and Russian outfits
to dress up the
booth Disney style. I thought that was fairly cheesy. The Americanization of the area cracked me up.
There is a Snack Point Charlie Store including a Subway where I got my
morning coke and what I deemed really clever the Czech Tourist Board Store right
next to Checkpoint Charlie. By the
way, I am dying for a Big Gulp as usual with all my trips to Europe.
The 500 ml bottles just donít quench my giant thirst.
We went into the Checkpoint Charlie museum right before
our 72 Hour Berlin Card ran out and got in for 5.00 Euro instead of 9.00 Euro.
We had read that the museum was run down but I disagree completely.
It has a 50ís-70ís feel with lots of black and white photos, thank
God with English captions along with German, French and Russian.
It gave it a Cold War type feeling.
We spent quite a long time in the museum.
Itís truly heartbreaking what the people of this city went through.
The stories, pictures and displays all are out of some nightmare. There was a car where the person was sown into the passenger
side seat. There was a small van
that was given concrete and steel reinforcing to ram the gate. It ended up with a lot of bullet holes but made it through
the barrier. There was a display
about 2 families that sewed together what at the time was the biggest hot air
balloon in Europe and flew it to safety. There
were a couple of ultra light planes including one of two the two brothers flew
into East Berlin picked up there third brother and flew back.
They had put Russian insignias on the wings hoping to avoid getting shot
down. More impressively was they
videotaped the whole thing which was running on a loop in the museum.
They also did this in May of 1989 so they seemed to spend a lot of time
on this plan and the wall fell months later.
There was a story of a person who had hollowed out a windsurfer and
hidden inside to cross the border. There
was a story of a man named John Running who would climb the West Berlin side of
the wall and run atop it just to spite the Germans.
There were literally hundreds of these heart-wrenching stories of people
risking their life to get from one side of the wall to the other for their
From there we headed to the Jewish Museum.
It is two buildings one old that houses displays that change and the new
modern steel one that I was told is designed to be a broken but not destroyed
Star of David. We tried to get in with our discount on the Berlin Card but
the girl sniffed out Mattís card as being expired for 1Ĺ hour.
The regular entry was only 5.00 Euro.
We entered the current display in the old building, which was on the Topf
Brothers who built the crematoriums in the concentration camps.
The Third Reich was looking for a cold, professional, focused company who
could build the concentration camps. They
found the Topf brothers. They
showed testimony afterwards how the brothers said they were just doing what they
were contracted for but did know what they were doing it for.
Surprising to me was at the beginning even though they
were committing mass murder they had laws for cremation that would allow the
murdered to request that they be identified by a ceramic id that was put with
their ashes in an urn. They
had just uncovered 70 urns recently at the Bergen Belsen Camp that were on
display. Creepily, they had a
canister of poison, door to an oven and hatch that opened to distribute the
Xyklon B poison.
We next headed to the permanent display in the new
building but not before I almost got into a fight with the girl taking the
tickets. I had my camera bag and a
bag of things I had purchased at Checkpoint Charlie, which I let Matt carry
through the ticket taker spot. They
had a box that your bag had to fit into to be brought in the museum otherwise it
had to be checked. Well Mattís
bag was tall but didnít have much inside but the girl says itís too tall and
must be checked. For some reason
this just pissed me off and I grabbed the bad and folded the top over to make it
smaller. She still said it didnít
matter. So I crammed it into my bag
and finally she said OK and we could enter.
What the hell, I can make one big back but not two small bags because one
was too tall? I think this made me
fly through the museum.
It really isnít what I expected. There is 1Ĺ floor of Jewish history, a real quick section on
the holocaust, then finishing with more history.
I guess I expected more on the holocaust. This was really a question I had when I had heard about this
museum, how much would be on the holocaust?
For as big as the museum is they really glossed over the holocaust.
They had one panel each for the years 1939 Ė 1945, then some displays
of personal items from people in the camps, and a section on Anne Frank.
They never even mention Hitler just the National Socialist Party.
The next floor was called the memory void floor.
This is a huge museum with lots of space and the memory void floor is
half that, a void. There is nothing
there except the cold concrete walls. You
walk around a corner and there is a pit of iron cut circles with faces that have
been cut out. You walk from one end
to the other, which is extra loud, I guess to remember the victims of the
holocaust. I told Matt, I didnít
get the whole concept and I thought they just ran out of things to display.
On the bottom floor there was a holocaust tower that you
walked into and again was a concrete prison really. Just very cold and dark.
Outside they had the Garden of Exile.
It was 49 concrete pillars, seven rows of seven, with olive trees growing
out of the top. They are
standing vertically on a slanted floor. It
is supposed to make us think about the disorientation exile brings.
48 of the pillars are contain soil from Berlin and signifies 1948 the
year Israel was formed.
From the museum, Matt took charge.
I chose poorly. He walked us around looking for a bank. He walked us through some run down old nasty neighborhood.
No banks anywhere. We ended up at the Hallesches Tor subway.
A little old man saw us looking at our map and pulled out a subway map
from his brief case. I tried to show him we had that map on the back of the map we
were looking at but he insisted we take his map. The only English he spoke was ďitís better, yesĒ.
We took the subway to the Orienenburger Tor, which I was
going to walk to the Berliner Dom. Matt,
still wanted money and went to a bank, which would on exchange US cash for their
customers. They sent him to an
exchange booth down the road. He
finally got his money, even though I kept telling him weíre leaving in 1 Ĺ
hour and Denmark doesnít take Euros.
I pretended to be mad and had fun with him at his expense. Good Times.
Now that Matt had money he got a sandwich that he
immediately oozed dressing all over himself.
I gave up on the Berliner Dom because it was the opposite direction from
our hotel, which of course we could find because of the Air Service Berlin
balloon. We worked our way back to
the hotel up the Spree River towards the Reichstag. We stopped at 3 bars to have a beer in each.
All three were had open air seating on the river.
one we asked for a beer and they gave us a 0.3 liter thimble of
beer. The second gave us 0.4 liter of beer. No giant beers on the river.
Matt got me good on the second bar.
He pulled out 20 Euro and the guy asked if he had anything smaller.
I wasnít paying attention and Matt asked if I had any change.
I had enough to pay his turn at the bill.
So he went and got money after I offered to pay for the rest of Berlin
but when it got to paying his bill got me to do pay.
Matt has a little bit of evil genius in him.
The third bar was by the Reichstag, which got me thinking
how crazy Berlin must have been. I
misread the map and thought East Berlin was on one side and West on the other
side. I just couldnít fathom I
could enjoy a beer on one side of the river but would have not been allowed to
the other side of the river. The
map proved I was wrong about the area but the concept was still real.
We finally got to the hotel and started our trip to the
airport. Bad info from subway
employee had us go one to many stops to look for the Airport Express train.
I should have known better. They
had told me Tegel didnít have a subway. That
train went to Schoenfeld Airport. We
back tracked to Unter den Linen and caught the TXL bus back to the airport.
We started walking the airport to try to find our plane
and start to realize the airport is a huge circle and weíve almost done the
whole loop. We asked an information
desk employee where Gate 66 was and he told us to go to the new mall and take a
left. This is exactly where the bus
had dropped us off to begin our airport trek.
This is where I get to what I had mentioned at the
beginning of the dayís journal about Matt and packing.
While walking around the airport Matt realizes he hasnít remember
seeing his passport in 2 days. We
got to the gate and he tore his luggage apart and the passport was nowhere to be
found. He thinks he either left it at the hotel or it was pick
pocketed. Guess which.
I talked to the Scandinavian Air people and explained
what had happened. At least he had
a copy of the passport that I told him we needed for St. Petersburg and his
drivers license. They told us since
it was a flight within Europe he wouldnít have to show his passport in
Copenhagen. So at least I knew I
could get him that far.
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