Thursday, November 15, 2012

Berlin (Part 2)

Our second full day in Berlin started with a fabulous breakfast near the fabulous apartment where we stayed in a fabulous gay Berlin neighborhood. I think one of my new goals, along with ones to only live in places where tourists visit (What am I doing in Stuttgart then, you ask? I don't know!!!) is to live in a primarily gay neighborhood as they always seem to have the best shops and restaurants. One can always dream...

Anyway, our first stop of the day was at the Topography Of Terror (Topographie des Terrors) exhibit and museum that's located just inside the old east Berlin (or just outside the old west Berlin?). I took this photo on the wall line, which is identified by the double-wide cobblestone strip and then by the section of outer wall on the other side of the intersection (east Berlin to the left):

The outside exhibit, which covers the National Socialist (Nazi) policy and propaganda, runs along the what remains of the foundation of the former Secret State Police, SS, and Reich Security headquarters building. In other words, my dad would have a field day at this place. Oh, and one of the longest remaining sections of the Berlin wall runs on the edge of the site just beyond and above the Terrors exhibit site:

Like I mentioned in the Berlin Part 1 post, there's not a lot of the old wall in its original configuration. You can see the old wall path, which is indicated by the cobblestones, but, for the most part, the city's just kind of filled in the spaces to the point where you wouldn't know it had been there without the cobblestones. I did come across a few, random, small sections including this one that was some sort of art exhibit in a park:

Probably the highlight of the wall sightings was this Axis-of-Evil-despised-dictators-and-Predator-drone-targeting-list display, which is located just across from Checkpoint Charlie. Is it me or do they have Mr. Potato Head noses and doesn't that last one on the left look like something out of The Simpsons?

And Check Point McCharlie... The famed location of one of the most important gates between east and west Berlin is a HUGE disappointment, unless of course you're looking for a Big Mac or latte. If you want to visit - but the idea of going all the way to Berlin is too much for you - just go to your local outdoor shopping center that has a Pottery Barn and Starbucks. Once you're there, imagine a small Disneyfied guard shack complete with sand bags located somewhere across from the McDonalds and you've pretty much got the idea. And yes, there's a McDonalds there and a coffee shop on the corner...

Along with the Head-Of-John-The-Baptist meme (and here too) that I see all over Europe, there's a ton of Saint Georges (aka Sant Jordi) too. Every time I see one, all I can think of is books and roses. This one's not too far from the Bundestag building:

One of the more unusual exhibits/memorials that I've seen is the Memorial to the Murdered Jews of Europe that's about a block from the Brandenburg Gate. It's an entire city block that has an undulating series of walking paths that run between giant blocks of concrete. The effect is that you get kinda' spatially confused when walking through as the blocks change height while the ground also rises and falls. It's, umm, interesting, although I'm not really sure how it works as a memorial, but I did enjoy watching others walk through the site.

One of our last stops was to check out the new-ish main train station. Berlin's Hauptbahnhof feels a lot like an airport terminal except that, yep, there are trains passing through. The space is impressive but it's f'n cold in there because the building is open for the trains. Bonus: they have a Dunkin Donuts! Why is it that there are Dunkin Donuts shops in train stations in Barcelona and Berlin but there are none in the entire state of California???

This next one is a random photo that I don't really have any other place for. In the days just prior to our visit to Berlin, they had announced that Disney had bought the Star Wars franchise from George Lucas. I took this photo of the front pages of a couple of newspapers that were talking about the deal. Yep, droids, Darth, and Mickey, a love story made in heaven...aber, auf Deutsch! Ich bin dein Vater! Nein!!!!!

And finally, another photo of the Brandenburg Gate after sunset, this time with the happy couple:

Berlin wasn't what I expected, but in retrospect, like I said in the first story, I'm not really sure what I thought I'd find. I do know that I'd like to go back and spend time digging a little deeper and also exploring more of the older parts of town. Paris, even a gritty Paris, it is not, but it's still pretty f'n cool nonetheless. Another amazing experience and another pin on the world-tour map!

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