It really should not have surprised anyone. Given the early rising the day before, and the fact that we still had not adjusted time zones, we slept in very late. And then we blundered around slowly, like dinosaurs, trying to get organised.
The plan for the day was simple. Due to some miscommunication, one of the 3 device chargers we had brought had the wrong form of connector. This led to endless mild squabbles over rights to the other two, which tended to erode my vacation-reduced patience, leading in consequence to an agreement to go to the local Apple store to purchase the requisite gadget (thus shutting me up).
The U-Bahn trip was painless, and I was optimistic as we ascended the stairs at the Friedrichstrasse station. This, I thought to myself, should be easy; but I wonder what ll that loud techno music is for?
Berlin Pride. Of course we need to be on the far side….
And when we got to street level I reassessed my estimation. We were in the middle of the Berlin gay pride parade (of course the Apple store was on the far side) complete with buses full of folk looking like they were auditioning for roles in the Village People, along with other people on the pavement, dressed in even more striking fashions. Or completely undressed, in some cases, which was a bit of a surprise.
I saw a bunch of people in t-shirts with CSD on them. I dimly remembered that this was some german political party, and and was mildly surprised that the political party was so prominent in a pride parade.
Only later did I discover that Pride day in Germany is known as Christopher Street Day, thus CSD.
DUH me. Wrong again.
We managed to get the gadget from the Apple store, and after getting completely lost for a while, in the cheering masses, I managed to get us up to the Brandenburg gate (where it looked like the parade was ending) via the Holocaust
Cloudy at the Bramdenburg gate
Memorial and a detour through the edge of the Tiergarten. The Memorial was rather grey and grim, as fitting; the Tiergarten cool and green and a touch unmanicured, very refreshing on a hot day full of crowds, and the Gate is a large stone edifice with a lady in a chariot on top. Monumental architecture really is not my thing, though I do like the statuary.
Feeling a little ragged by then, we stopped by the Hotel Adlon (I had to because it is mentioned so often in Alan Furst books) where the dynamic duo filled up on ice creams of the fanciest sort, and I ate stew, because I should not eat ice cream. Does not mean I was terribly happy about it.
I got no idea where that soviet guy put up the hammer and sickle
We wandered off again, to see the Riechstag (didn’t tour because there was a significant wait, and I still cannot figure out which end of the building the picture with the chap hanging up the hammer and sickle was taken) and further down through the edge of the Tiergarten to the soviet war memorial, which is very large and Soviet looking.
Grabbed a taxi back to the hotel, on the way noticing again the flowers on apartment balconies. It seems like many german apartments have small balconies, and on many of them are profusion of window boxes, sometimes a riot of color, and sometimes not. I do like to think one can tell the age of the inhabitants by the plants on their balconies, geraniums are the elderly, maybe and grasses younger people (no, not those grasses). Probably not, though.
Flowerpots on balconies
We went to restaurant More for dinner. Karin did not know this when she chose it, some time before, but it was in a gay neighborhood, so there was a lot going on when we arrived with people in costume and the rest of it. We enjoyed an excellent german meal, with wonderful service during which we discussed the next day’s activities. We decided that going to Museum Island would be a good idea, though the expression on Karin’s face when we explained the contents of the five museums was a bit of a study. Not much of an antiquarian, our Karin.
We then set off to find a cab back to the hotel. The streets were crowded with ex- and current pride celebrants, with the odd leather shop there too (a bit of an eye opener for the 17 year old).
Well, this I a bit of a surprise on a quiet residential street
We managed to get a taxi back to the hotel, which only confirmed my resolution to get some form of multi day public transport ticket as soon as possible, because I was sure that this guy was going to kill us. I felt the same way about the one in the afternoon, they drove like suicidal maniacs for whom traffic regulations were something that happened to someone else.
We woke the next day and Karin took us off to a breakfast buffet. Now, for me, German breakfasts ave always been simple affairs. Good coffee, cold meat, maybe an egg, some bread; I must admit I was confused when she first mentioned a breakfast buffet. How could this be different, I thought? Well, it wasn’t really. but it was terribly good; this is the place.
We then trotted on down to Museum Island…. along with everyone else, it seemed. It was a hot day, and the lines for most of the museums were prohibitive. We ended going to the Alte Museum (mostly full of Egyptian stuff) and enjoyed it, and hung around outside for while, looking at the people and listening to the street performers (who really are very good).
Kultur is to be found on museum island
All cultured out, we departed in search of the old east german TV tower (which we saw. shaped rather like a scallion, I think and very 1960s), and some lunch, which we managed in a rather interesting self serve place where one ordered on what looked like an iPad mini and then picked one’s food up from a window. In honor of the whole Berlin Experience thing, I had a currywurst which I approached with a deal of hesitation, but which turned out to be rather yummy. Some sort of combination of ketchup, curry powder, and I think Worcester sauce on a sausage, how bad can this be?
Curry wurst tastes better than it looks
I confirmed my tourism-ness by getting us thoroughly lost on the way bak to the hotel, so we confined our later activities to a quick trip to an Irish bar (someone wanted some cider) and some very good asian food in a restaurant near the hotel.
Up and on to more tourist stuff the next day. At least partially. We decided to hit up Checkpoint Charlie so Karin could relive her previous visit (there was aa wall then. For all I know there were dinosaurs and cavemen also It was some time ago). This proved fairly interesting, but pretty much the most touristy place we saw, with a lot of souvenir stores. there is a little exhibit there, though with a lot of photographs blown up, and information and data about the wall.
Walked from there to the Jewish museum. which I found interesting, but frustratingly organised, The building itself was designed as part of the exhibit, and the recondite layout of the building, with odd corridors and low rooms, while probably full of meaning for someone, for me just served to break up and in some cases conceal the interesting contents. I found it quite frustrating (and if some bright spark is going to come over tome and tell me that being frustrated is part of the experience, I’m going to have conversation with them about the purpose of museums)
We decided to walk to the Brandenburg gate again, and that took us through the ritzy government area of the city, where the family discovered a fancy chocolate shop (to the betterment of my rapidly spreading waistline, I stayed outside while they bought stuff) and some very nice shopping areas which were noted for future exploration.
We decided to eat Austrian food for dinner, in a restaurant in Charlotteburg. The meal was wonderful, and we went and returned from the place on public transport, having acquired some form of three day pass earlier in the day.
Public transport in Berlin is enormous. There are buses (never got on one of them), trams (light rail, if you prefer, I suppose, we used that a bit), U-Bahn (underground rail, used this a lot), S-Bahn (above ground rail, more or less like the U-Bahn but no tunnels), and something called Bahn which I think is DB and therefore longer distance trains.
Managing this would be completely impractical without the handy-dandy free app that is available that allows one to plan your route. Even with the benefit of this, however, there was a number of times we found ourselves looking for particular lines we knew were there, for some considerable time (where the hell is the U6 springs to mind). So be warned.
The next day we hd decided to go and see the Potsdam Palace complex. This is in a park some ways outside Berlin, so we had nice ride on the Bahn regional train, seeing countryside as well as suburbs and small towns.
The new palace. Apparently the row of statues at the top was to impress visitors
The chinoiserie in Potsdam Park. That’s what I call a folly
The park itself is marvelous, with a combination of parkland and maintained gardens, with palace spread through it and the odd wonderful folly. The Sans Souci, Frederick the Great’s palace, is a wonderful place, at the top of a vineyard terrace, complete with fountains. The building itself is small (for a palace) but very pretty, and painted that yellow ochre colour I always with central european government buildings, with a great semi-circular colonnade on the side that isn’t terraced.
We ate in a park restaurant, narrowly escaping the chap who was setting up in the corner with two laptops to do karaoke versions of 1960s German dance tunes. As we left and looked back through the windows, we saw a number of elderly yet still sprightly folk dancing to tunes of half a century ago, or more. I do not begrudge them their fun, but I would not care to have listened to it over lunch either.
There has to be ducks, or it’s not a park
Potsdam ate most of the day, though very enjoyable, so the evening consisted of a trip to the Jolly restaurant near museum island (why were we eating asian food? It was hot out, and we were tired, and needed something light, I think) and a stagger back to the hotel.
The stagger was illuminated by wandering along Oranienburger Tor where it amused me to watch my 17 year old son discover that prostitution is legal in Germany, by dint of seeing a number of young women who were pursuing their trade. They didn’t bother anyone, they were just standing there, dressed as one would expect. Im sure it will give him something to tell his friends about.
The practicalities of travel caught up with us the next day. Socks and underwear was running short, so some was washed and we attempted to dry it with the dryer in the hotel bathroom. Which worked for about 35 seconds, before stopping. We hung the stuff up and left.
We left slowly. We had been walking about 8 to 10 miles a day, and I had managed to develop a stunning blister on my right foot, so I intended to limit my activities as best I could. The other two tended to streak off ahead, leaving me hobbling along. In fits of generosity they would wait for me every so often.
The son had decided to go off and see the Video game museum, and we were going shopping. He went with serious expression and a transit ticket, and we wet into malls. Or galleria, or whatever one calls them when they are in the middle of the city.
The shopping was mostly unsuccessful (we got some souvenirs) the high points being Karin deciding to get a manicure, and me sitting in some form of german designed accident-waiting-to-happen disguised as a seat, which made a solid attempt to dump me on the back of my head, causing everyone in the place to laugh hysterically.
And then Karin had to call off the manicure in media res, as she claimed the nice young lady was trying to pull her fingernails off. Not a great success.
We ate lunch with a collection of well groomed and dressed German business folk in the great Borchardt Restaurant, probably lowering the tone of the place significantly.
Then, burdened with less bags than we had hoped for or expected, we headed back.
Another thing to note about Berlin is the profusion of well behaved dogs. They are everywhere, on the public transport, at the back of shops, quietly sitting and not bothering anyone, except the allergic, I suppose. We had even noticed a young man training a puppy on the train out to Potsdam, teaching him to sit quietly and not bother anyone. It really seems like a good idea.
We dined at an Austrian restaurant near the hotel, as we had to leave for Prague early the next day.
We had noticed, in Berlin, the fact that every restaurant and bar had tables outside. Even if you only had a seat on a strip of concrete with a superb view of the building site across the narrow street, they were still sitting outside. I’m an inside sort of chap, myself, and the benefits of this were clearly displayed when the people sitting outside the window we were at where deluged by water from some apartment about, causing much yelling in german (I have no idea what was said, unfortunately) and the restauranteur putting out his awning (presumably to prevent a recurrence).
It’s nice to be right every so often.
Perfectly normal day in Berlin, right?