Berlin – Pre New Year (29-31 Dec)

Berlin – Pre New Year (29-31 Dec)

I arrived in Berlin in the morning after having to rig a bed sleeping on the seats in the train. After meeting Susanne, my second au pair, at the corner near her brother’s apartment in East Berlin, I took a shower and we went out with Bea, her friend, to do some low-key exploring of Berlin. Susanne’s brother Urs lives in East Berlin and so she and her friend were spending New Year’s there. I luckily got to tag along. We walked to Alexander Platz where one Berlin Wall Exhibit was displayed.

Berlin Wall Memorial in Alexander Square

The exhibit was powerful and had some very moving photos of the events that eventually culminated in the fall of the Berlin Wall.

Protest at Alexander Platz 4 November 1989

Evening just after the press conference was held in which the speaker told everyone the barrier was lifted as of tonight, 9th of November 1989.

The guards had no idea what was going on, and the higher ups were watching opera at the time and could not be contacted so the guards called the only person they could get a hold of who told them first to wait around a bit and the crowd would disperse, which it did not. Next he told them to allow anyone through who had papers, and there were 2 tourists over for the day who had papers so the guards let them through. With the gate open, the guard in the middle of the street looked back at the crowd, shrugged his shoulders, and stepped aside as millions of people rushed through to start one of the largest parties ever. At the end of the long weekend, they returned home but the wall was down. The East German government had lost its mandate and its control over the people quickly disappeared.

But it was super cold out so we decided to get some lunch inside but not before snapping this shot:

The famous Weltzeituhr with Susanne and me in front.

Then we jumped on a city bus to check out the city from the warmth inside. We stopped at the center to visit the Kaiser Wilhelm Memorial Church which I had been wanting to see. It was a huge church that stood in Berlin but was repeatedly bombed in WWII so that only a small portion of it remains. The ruins were left to memorialize the victims in the war and to remind people of the war so that it won’t happen again.

The Kaiser Wilhelm Memorial Church

I saw that ignorance common in many Americans that gives us a bad name whilst in this church. A teenage girl was reading ahead in the exhibit and when her father finally reached the point she was at she pointed and said, “Look at the new modern church (part of it is the thing to the left in the picture above) and now look at the other plan they voted against (a more traditional church that resembled the original but didn’t keep the ruins). I understand that it was the 60’s, well late 50’s and people were sorta out there during that time, and going for the modernism effect, but that other church was way prettier.” Whoosh! The whole idea of a memorial including the original ruins was completely lost to her. Super embarrassing especially when earlier on in the exhibit it said why the ruins were kept. The dad muttered something under his breath and shrugged, either realizing his daughter’s idiocy, or also contributing to that ignorant American mindset.

Inside the ruins.

The organ in the new church.

The next morning I woke to do a free walking tour of the city. It was hosted by SANDEMAN’S company and I highly recommend it. In fact, I switched one of my cities just so I could take another one. The company operates free as well as private tours in 9 cities across Europe. Here is the website: The tour guides are energetic and keep the tour funny and give a lot of trivia and cover history of the city in 3 hours time.

Brandenburger Tor. The symbol of modern Germany. Finn, my tour guide on the right explains the gates history.

Apparently, Napoleon liked the Lady of Peace on top of the gate and stole her. But the Germans didn’t like that so they stole her back. To mock the French, they replaced her olive branch with the Imperial Cross and Eagle and renamed her Lady of Victory. In addition, they turned her head to gaze upon the French Embassy instead of facing down the square, and named the square: Paris Square. The Germans have a good sense of humor.

I’ll include some of the highlights of the tour.

We saw the Jewish Memorial as well. It is a whole bunch of these rectangular cubes of different height lining a field which changes its height as well. There is no given interpretation, but I see mass burial graves of victims stacked on top of each other.

Urs (Susanne’s brother) told me later that people sun bathe on them in the summer time and run through the maze. While some people might get offended by this, I think it’s great. Not only does this memorialize the deaths of so many, but it creates life where other memorials fail to do so.

Hitler’s Volkshalle. It was never built but it was Hitler’s goal to build a monstrosity whose dome passed through the cloud level, on top of which an eagle would gaze out across the sky. It was supposed to hold 250,000 people and have surrounding gardens that could hold 1 miliion. It was to be the central point of the city. The Brandenburg is on the left, and the Reichstag is on the right for scale size. His architect, after Hitler’s death, explained that it never would have worked. Berlin is swampland, so if it didn’t sink into the swamp (unlikely), the building would create it’s own climate and would continually rain persperation from the people inside.

We are now standing over Hitler’s bunker. To my right about 30 paces, his body was covered in gasoline and burned. After which point the Soviet’s recovered a jawbone, had Hitler’s dentist identify him, and then ground everything that was left of Hitler to dust.

One of the few SS buildings still standing, behind Finn. You can still see the bullet holes in the wall, and damages from shrapnel.

A mural on the Nazi Airforce building, which turned into the headquarters of the East German government depicting communist life in all its greatnesses. Behind me on the ground there lies a mural depicting communist life in its reality. But it was covered in snow. Wait, maybe that was the bleak reality?

A part of the Berlin Wall still left standing. Ironically, it is bordered by another wall. This is to keep people from graffiting it and stealing souvenirs.

Checkpoint Charlie, one of the few border crossing points at which people could go from west to east Germany and vice versa. On the sign, there stands an American soldier, and on the other side, a Russian one.

A Christmas Market, and on the far side, a French Cathedral, which I return to.

The square in which the famous book burning night of May 10, 1933 took place. Humboldt University in the background on the left.

The memorial for those books beneath us: Enough shelf space to hold all the books burned that night.

Berlin War Memorial: memorializing all who have died because of war. It features a mother holding her dying soldier son.

The Berliner Dome. A huge cathedral near Museum Island. To its right originally stood the Prussian Palaces, demolished by the East German government. The Alexander Tower stands behind it.

Funny story about that tower. The East German Government under Kronecker wanted to construct it so that West Germany would always look up at East Germany. Unfortunately, as Berlin is built on a swamp, the East German architects couldn’t get any designs to stand up in the marsh, or if they did stand up, the tower would sink. Kronecker secretly shipped in Scandinavian architects to help them build this tower. And today it still stands.

The tour ended here and I decided to go inside the Berliner Dome. An organist was playing so I was treated with a small concert. I took a video of it too:

Afterward, I wanted to visit the Pergamon and New Museum but the lines were too long and I wouldn’t make dinner. So instead I went back to the French Cathedral and that Christmas market and climbed to the top of the French Cathedral’s tower for some pretty good views.

Atop the French Cathedral’s Tower looking across at the German Cathedral.

Back towards Alex and the Berliner Dome.

More of the square this time.

Looking down the tower I had just climbed. Gave me the shivers occasionally.

Above me, the bells hung.

Then I went back to this chocolate store we had passed earlier because there were some pretty amazing sculptures inside.

Chocolate Sculptures. This is Kelsey’s kind of museum. The Brandenburger Tor. These things are massive. This one is about 2 ft wide.

The Reichstag, about 4 ft by 4 ft.

Kaiser Wilhelm Memorial Church.

I headed back to the flat where I was to meet Susanne and Bea to get ready for dinner. They had made reservations for a delicious Vietnamese place. This is what I ordered.

Salmon topped with a coconut cream sauce, wrapped in a banana leaf and cooked. I’ve never tasted salmon like this before. Some bites were soothingly sweet, while others were zesty with a lot of spice. Sometimes I would be in the middle of a bite and it would even switch. It was delicious.

Smiles all around! Susanne and I.

Susanne & Bea.

The next morning was New Year’s Eve Day. My plans were to go visit the Pergamon and the New Museum and catch anything else I missed. Unfortunately, I slept a little late and so after checking out The Reichstag, whose roof access was closed due to bad weather:

The Reichstag.

I missed entrance to the Pergamon and New Museum who had closed for the holiday. So I decided to check out the park dedicated to Felix Mendelssohn.

Mendelssohn Bartholdy Park. That little abstract monument in no way illuminated the fact that this was a memorial park.

Disappointed as this day had become mostly a failure, I stopped at Potsdam Square on the way back home to check it out as I’d heard it was cool. Well the square was pretty bland, but I could see the Sony Center at one end of it. And guess what’s at the Sony Center?

Sony Center Plaza. Red Carpet beneath where all the stars walk for premiers.

More importantly, there was a movie theatre here. A really good one. The best sound I’ve heard in a movie theatre before. Yes, that means I watched a movie here. Which movie? Oh, I don’t think it’s that hard to guess.

Avatar. But not in IMAX, and not in 3d. I didn’t trust the technology yet and so wished to view it on the flat screen first. When I return home I’ll check out the 3d. It was a wild ride. Of course the special effects were amazing; but I thought the plot was good as well (shoot me if you think it was dumb and simple and whatnot). I liked Cameron’s geeky jives at other sci-fi flicks. At first, I admit I thought parts were kind of cheesy, but after sliding back and forth of getting into the film and thinking cheesy, I was converted and enjoyed the rest of the film, which was a lot. I was a little disappointed with the music; but, as my sense of sight was being overwhelmed, I didn’t focus too much on the music. I only remember that I don’t remember any of it and so it wasn’t memorable, no standout themes. But yeah, I liked it.

The screen even had curtains, which were annoying as hell. They kept opening and closing them between advertisements, previews (only 2 LAME), and the feature film.

But the curtains were once more pulled back later that night as I went to the largest party I’d ever been to, and had copious amounts of fun. But I didn’t talk like that. Nor did I talk like Akon in David Guetta’s “Sexy Chick” song which I heard for the first time at the party.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *