A tale of a beautiful city all glitzed and glammed for the holidays.
03.12.2005 0 °C
First of all, this is coming in installments. As i can write piece by piece, i am saving myself the overwhelming task of writing it all at once from a not-so-recolleting memory. First off, as was the case in Interlaken, i am back to a German keyboard so from this point on, I am too lazy to change the 'y' and the 'z' which are switched and so zou can substitute for easier reading, as for the rest of mz mistakes, i have no excuse other than i hate rereading things i tzped so zou get all the fun errors. Ok, here goes....
...Thursdaz December 1st (zeah for december!! wow, those words looks ridiculous spelled with a 'z'), I got outta Córdoba in a hurrz, no reallz. Schools out at 2, train leaves at 3, have to walk home (20 min) do that whole "hez im leaving see zou in a few dazs thing while grabbing mz packed lunch" and jet to the train station (20 min). Lets just saz we were cutting it close. Nonetheless, made the train to Madrid no prob, and hopped on the 1st of the 3 Metro lines if would take to get to the airport to catch mz flight to Berlin, Germanz.
The trip started out horriblz for Codz (him and Chris were heading to Munich this weekend) who got his wallet, luckilz without his passport but with 300 Euros (just less than $400) stolen out of his front pocket on the subwaz. People suck sometimes! There reallz isnt much zou can do after getting robbed on a subwaz except suck up the (big) loss and trz to move on. So, on we moved and an hour later i waved bze to the bozs and headed to mz gate for Berlin!!
First sign of a good trip: Christmas music plazing on the plane when I boarded. Aside from being excited to see Laura and meet her familz, i was even more excited to go to a countrz that reallz gets into the spirit of Christmas and does the whole decorating until we are blue in the face and so tired of the smell of pine, roasted chestnuts, gingerbread and mulled wine that i wanna scream thing. I love Christmas and i am missing all the hzpe, well, i was until i came here. Anzwaz, the flight was standard, Iberia airlines was onlz a few minutes late (thats the closest zou can get to on-time with them) and was greeted bz Laura, Daniela (her mom) and Raimond (her dad) when i got off the plane. It was such a nice welcome and although i hadnt met her parents before, verz homez and comforting.
From there it was back to Laura's house, built up and down instead of side to side, as is the custom in Germanz and much of Europe. Her room smells like mine did when she was stazing in it, which to mz surprise was comforting. Its not too often that zou get familiar smells and since zour sense of smell is the onlz of the 5 senses linked directlz to memorz, this one brought me home. Ok, sappz sappz i know, but being here is reallz wonderful and while I am going to miss Europe and I know ill wanna go back as soon as life gets going again back in CA, i could use a good dose of all of zou right now.
Ok, one nights sleep, served up in a comfz bed and real pillow (with a chocolate on top). Then Fridaz morning off to school. No, reallz, i went to school with Laura for her 1st class (biologz) and since thez had just had a huge exam, nothing was going on, except the cleaning of the mice cages. Note to self: Kids will not have mice, because mom will not be cleaning another mouse cage in her life. After that Laura had to finish the daz at school and i got to take off. Daniela picked me up and we headed off for mz first dose of sightseeing.
(So now that i have written about absolutelz nothing that I have done, im done for the first part. But if i can just paint the picture of what it looks like here right now, as in this verz moment at night its like they decked the halls here with all sorts of holly and whatnot and the whole place is lit up like Tim Taylor gone too far with the Christmas lights on one episode of 'Tool Time'! However, Im not complaining. The commercialized Christmas Spirit is a nice change from the sort subtle religious tradition of the peninsula that Santa, Jingle Bells and Candy canes forgot, although I have heard that Christmas in Spain can be a Not-so Silent Night. Who knows, its just nice to get out and see the roasting chestuts in the Christmas Markets and drink some Mulled Wine (actually that latter isnt really all that enjoyble). Ok, now zou understand so come back soon, i promise to have more for zou).
Ok so now that I am back at a regular keyboard you get all the right characters and letters where they are supposed to be. BUT...not all is fine and dandy because i had written another day and a half´s worth of goings on and somehow it was not saved...UUGGHHH!!! technology is soooo frustrating. Anyway, so i will do what i should have done the whole time which is write my opinion of the place, and insert the links to the historical information...then its optional to read it or not (ohhh, how thoughtful of me, and lazy). Well, thats what you get when computers mess with me, so here goes the rest of Berlin:
BASICALLY EVERYTHING IN BERLIN (aka everything i saw in short summaries and the pictures are better than the links in the actual blog, read something, then find the pictures here): http://www.berlin-tourist-information.de/english/sightseeing/e_si_sehenswuerdigkeiten.php
Friday morning Laura's mom and I headed off to Charlottenburg Schloss, the palace built by Fredrick I (the "soldier king" for his science and music loving wife Sofie Charlotte), http://www.aviewoncities.com/berlin/charlottenburg.htm or http://www.berlin-tourist-information.de/cgi-bin/sehenswertes.pl?id=13357&sprache=english for pictures and info and stuff. The most interesting things were the ceramic room with over some 2000 pieces of imported ceramic mostly from China and some from Japan. This stuff was a pure demonstration of wealth in the times of the Prussian Empire and the Prussian (German) kings were in no shortage. The sheer massivness of this Versaille-type palace, especially similar because of the "French gardens" that span as far as you can see out the back windows of the palace. This time of year all the fountains are off and drained and the flowers are replaced by different colored rocks to get the effect of the design without all the splendor. We didnt spend too much time outside anyway because it was freezing so we stayed inside and marveled at the tapestried walls, different color themed rooms, multiple harpsicords and general palace gaudiness that sparkles and shines and you cant touch!
After wishing i was Sofie Charlotte so that my war-obsessed husband could have built me a palace for all my musical and scientific interests and wants we snapped back to reality to head to Checkpoint Charlie. On the border of the American sector of divided Berlin and the east, this was one of the places that people crossing from east to west had to stop if they were crossing legally. The actual checkpoint is a small white toll booth hidden underneath the hoisted portrait of an American soldier on one side, and USSR on the other, but the real attraction there is the Haus am Checkpoint Charlie: http://www.mauermuseum.de/english/frame-index-mauer.html This museum is home to the history of the Berlin wall, and various escape routes that were attempted and some successful from those fleeing the Eastern communist oppression. The most famous it when 2, 4 person families made a hot air balloon out of 1250 sq. meters and stood in 2 sq. meters of basket for 28 minutes as they crossed the border.
Ok time out for a little history of Berlin and its wall. (http://www.aviewoncities.com/berlin/mauer.htm) The blockade of Germany into East: communist Russia and West Germany: Divided among the French, British and American, happened before the actual construction of the wall in 1961. But the wall was the concrete symbol (pun intended) of the division. People were not allowed to pass from one side to the other without special permission and that was extremely hard to get and had so many stipulations that is was not even a possibility for many. People tried everything to cross from one side to the other (almost always East to West) and it wasnt until 1989 and the fall of the USSR that the wall was officially torn down. Today there are still remnants of the wall as reminders, memorials and art (East Side Gallery). Today, Germany is united under one flag (Black, Red, Yellow horizontal stripes WITHOUT the black eagle) but there are still some differences between the east and west, one very controversial are the little crossing the street men: in East germany the are different from the rest of Europe which has been controversial but for now they remain. They have little hats on and walk funnier than the traditional green and red men!
Ok, next was back home to meet Laura after school. We had dinner and relaxed and I just enjoyed the family time before heading to Sandra´s school for the "Anything Goes" performance. I kept thinking that if i just listened a little bit longer i would understand german, and when that didnt happen i just sat back and enjoyed the christmas-y feel of the whole production right down to the Christmas songs sung by the choir...how i love Germany!!! After that is was home and to bed because the next day would be crazy.
Saturday morning bright and early Laura and I made pancakes, eggs, toast and other yummy breakfast foods for the family before bundling up and heading out. First stop, the massive and gorgeous Brandenburger Tor (Gate, and the only one left from the time of the wall, even though it was in place long before): http://www.aviewoncities.com/berlin/brandenburgertor.htm (its much prettier than these pictures). Then it was off to freeze to death...sort of. The Reichstag in Germany is famous for many things. Its the building Hitler resided in until if burned and he used that as an excuse to declare war, it was bombed in the war and used without a roof for sometime, and now is a tourist attraction-extrordinaire with a large glass dome you can climb up and get a 360º view of all of Berlin from...GORGEOUS. From here you could see the the tallest tower in Berlin, Fernsehturm, East Germany´s way of demonstrating ther were technologically as advanced as the west although Swedish designers helped to build the 368m tall TV tower (http://images.google.com/images?q=Fernsehturm&hl=en). Also visible is the Tiergarten (Central Park of Berlin) and Siegussäule (http://www.aviewoncities.com/berlin/siegessaule.htm) , the 70m column topped with the goddess of victory. Originally in front of Brandenburger Tor to commemorate Prussia´s win over France and later egotistically moved to a more prominent position by Hitler as a demonstration of power. Had we not waited in line in the freezing weather (literally, although we were a little distracted by the street performers) i would have loved to spend more time there but we decided to head somewhere a little warmer after that. Pictures and History here: http://www.aviewoncities.com/berlin/reichstag.htm.
Ok, next we made our way past the massive and controvesial Holocaust Memorial which i thought very tactful, tasteful, original and impressionable (http://images.google.com/images?q=holocaust+memorial+berlin&hl=en). Then on to Potsdamer Platz. Originally a military mobilization ground, now its the sight of the Sony Center (http://www.aviewoncities.com/berlin/potsdamerplatz.htm), tons of clubs and bars and shopping, kinda like the Embaracdero center of San Fransisco. It was here that Laura and I hit up H&M number 2 of our excursion through all 8 H&M´s in the inner city of Berlin.
After that, it was really time to warm up and we hopped the U-Bahn or S-Bahn (i forget because they have so many good and fast trains everywhere) to Friedrichstrasse the 5th Avenue of Berlin with all its ritzy shops, and yes, some more H&M´s. The most important sight on this street is the Schokoladen Museum. Yep, thats right, a "museum" of chocolate. I think they can only call it that because they have scale models of Berlin sights in chocolate inside, otherwise its just an amazing chocolate shop that smells and tastes amazing.
After our little break in the wonderful candyland of schokoladen, we passed the Deutscher Dom and Franzöischer Dom, almost identical churches, the first German the latter French on opposite ends of the Gendarmenmarkt (currently sight of an amazing Kriskidermarkt =christmas market) and plaza in front of Berlin's Concert Hall: http://www.aviewoncities.com/berlin/gendarmenmarkt.htm. Wondering a little farther we passed Humboldt Universität (http://images.google.com/images?svnum=10&hl=en&lr=&q=Humboldt+universitat), the alma mater of the Brothers Grimm, Karl Marx, and Einstein, past Bebelplatz, the sight of the book burning during the Nazi regime and to Alexanderplatz below the TV tower.
From there it was another train to one of my favorite parts of Berlin: Kurfurstndamm, or Ku-Damm for short. More shopping and streets filled with Christmas lights and people and christmas cheer and yummy smelling food. The huge Harrod's/Neiman Marcus type stores were decked out in full with live music and ginormous Christmas trees inside. Even the cathedral, bombed in the war and left as-is (with newer structures functioning as the active church) was pretty and lit up in the night sky. The best part of Ku-damm, by far was its Kriskindelmarkt (i think that is how you spell it).
We wandered the market, warmed up with Glüwein (hot wine traditional in christmas time all over Germany) and some gingerbread cookies and looked at all the crafts while strolling past endless pastries, wurst and other delicious looking dinner items. We passed up all the yummy looking food at the market and headed back home where i got my fill of Klöss (potato dumpling) Schnitzel (fat noodles) and a delicious sauce, followed by amazing chocolate mousse and other assortment of cookies and yummy chocolate. Off to bed after a full day because there was still more to do.
Sunday is family day in Germany. Like Spain the shops close up and so we made our way to the "Story of Berlin" (http://www.story-of-berlin.de/flash.html) an amazing display of Berlin through the ages with all sorts of aesthetically pleasing exhibits and hands on type stuff. Very well put together and a great way to kind of wrap up and put everything i have learned in the weekend in chronological order. After that we hopped the train back to the Gendarmenmarkt for another Kriskindlmarkt where i finally got to have hot wurst and cabbage called Grünkohl, and some other delicious things. After checking out the vendors here, and relishing all the delicious smells of everything christmas we headed to the last tourist attraction of my visit: Berlin Mauer. It is a the sight of the entrance to an underground bunker for Hitler and his Gestapo during the war and is underneath part of the Old Wall. Its pretty gloomy and the freezing overcast weather definitely set the mood of doom, destruction and all other negativities of war. It was time to go and we all (Laura, her parents, and I) headed back home to just relax in the warm home. Tea time was accompanied by Stölle (sweetbread with candied fruits) and then some tv and relaxing before dinner and the sauna (which they have in thier basement, talk about a relaxing weekend)!
Berlin is a great city. There is so much to do, i still feel like i didnt get to see everything and i would love to go back in the summer when i can enjoy all the outdoor stuff and nightlife. The city itself is so rich in history and culture that there is something to get out of every sight you see. AND on top of it all, the christmas-y feel just made everything that much better because i needed a good dose of that. What a great trip to finish up my big travels abroad. Just Sevilla is left in Andalucia, and Barcelona at the end with Ashley!! Then home for the holidays!!!!