I'm A Legal Alien Now

Tuesday, November 28, 2006

Berlin: A Pictorial Report, Part Ein.

It seems whenever I fly out of DC the weather turns horrid. This was the coldest I've been since I got here (today, by comparison, is positively balmy). Very weird for last week of Fall. After all the dire predictions of chaos at the airports because of Thanksgiving, I got to Dulles very early and it was totally deserted. Straight through check in and straight through security. Got yelled at by the TSA for leaving my scarf on. I don't think they thought I spoke English. Possibly because I was flying Air France. Anyway, Dulles is a major international airport yet they don't have a bureau de change open at 7pm which was a bit irritating as it meant I had no Euros. Didn't sleep much on the flight over, but it was fantastic to get to work the French and having the perfect French flight attendants dropping 'monsieurs' all over the shop. Seriously, I was swooning. It was a little embarrassing.

Changed money entirely in French, so this was quite pleasing. Hiked into Belgium for Terminal 2D at Charles de Shithole which was undergoing renovations and as such was woefully short on amenities that are considered fairly standard for a major airport such as seating and toilets (two, I counted, for the entire terminal) and was badly overheated so I was a bit tired and grumpy. Anyway, eventually boarded flight to Berlin where I promptly fell asleep. Slight drama as we came into land when the crew couldn't wake an old man up (I think he had some sort of diabetic moment because they were giving him orange juice). Found Leonie in the airport and we had a bit of a tram adventure to their ex-Soviet apartment in former East Berlin (were the wall still up, it would be across the street). It's surrounded by train lines and under Tegel's flight path but the metre thick concrete walls mean you don't hear anything.

I was going to try and POWER-THROUGH (a bit of a catchphrase for the week) but by about 5 it felt like my face was falling off and not helped by the fact it gets dark at about 4.15 in this part of the world in late November. So I slept for an hour and it was lucky Sam got home from work when he did as otherwise I probably wouldn't have got off the sofa. Wurst for dinner! Then a bit of an evening stroll- we ended up going down the Unter den Linden (Berlin's Champs Elysees I suppose) to the Brandenburg Gate-

(I'm still no good at the night feature on my camera as I can't hold still enough but you get the idea)

- past the wonderfully pompous-Soviet architecture Russian Embassy. Strangely, the place was entirely devoid of tourists (the weather perhaps?). The museums in Berlin are free on Thursday night, so we went to the Altesgallerie, or Old Gallery, which has German Romantic Art and the Impressionists. Berlin is a very dark city at night, but they flood their historic buildings with lights so it makes them seem even more dramatic and beautiful. What is most extraordinary however is that many of them still have bullet holes in their stone facades.

Dragged myself from bed at 9am. Leonie had a half day at work so we planned to meet at DITSCH in Friedrichstrasse Bahn at 2pm. Toddled off the Pergamon, which I suppose is Berlin's answer to the British Museum (also on Museum Island). It has a pretty impressive collection of Hellenic, Roman and Assyrian bits and pieces including this complete shrine in the foyer which is massive. In the Islamic Art section I got told off by a museum guard in German but I'm not entirely sure what I was doing. I was sitting on a bench, so perhaps it wasn't a bench after all, but I think I've been in enough museums to be able to separate the exhibits from the fixtures. He was quite pleasant about it, but it soured me a bit anyway. I was going to go to the Altesmuseum for their Egyptian stuff, but instead just sat outside the Pergamon (it was quite sunny and beautiful- the only sunny day I had really) for a bit. Looking at the scene in the Lustgarten outside the Berliner Dom (cathedral) with the 70s TV Tower in the background. There was a sensational accordionist. I don't usually go for piano accordion at all but this was absolutely gorgeous.

I had to walk back up the Unter den Linden to meet Leonie, so on the way I stopped at the German History Museum. I only looked at their 20th Century rooms but by golly they were sensational. The genocide bits were done very tastefully and were very sad, and the stuff about the divison was brilliant. They had a sweat rag there- when the DDR (East) were suspicious of someone they discreetly collected a smell sample from a chair or something and stored it so their Alsatians could track someone down if needs be.

Found Leonie. Success! Bought a crepe entirely in German which made me boast I was fluent for the rest of the trip. We went to Potsdamer Platz which is where I found my new overnight bag in Mandarina Duck. Headed over to Tiergarten which wasn't that interesting (despite the Outdoor Gaslights Museum! who would've thought?!). Didn't see much of the Tiergarten, saw a bit of the famous zoo for free over a wall then by this time Sam was knocking off so we were able to meet him nearby. This area of Berlin is probably the most 'downtown' like neighbourhood of this very fragmented city. We began our pursuit of a Christmas Market in earnest at this point, but the only one nearby didn't open until Monday (a recurring theme, it would turn out).

In this area there is a church that is quite stunning that was left as it was after the war so it's more of a shell than a church, then they built the 'new' church next door which is essentially a hexagon of glass.

We popped into KaDeWee (Berlin's Harrods) which was fantastic and, brace yourself, we saw the Prince and Princess of Prussia. I know! I practically wet myself too! Sam and Leonie bought their first Christmas decoration as a married couple which was a bit sweet and I think I caught diabetes from the moment. Astute readers may recall a question on the 2000 QCS test which featured the following item from Berlin. 1 Point if you know what it is, 20 points if you can work out what it's saying.

We had a sensational schnitzel dinner at Berlin's smallest brewery, which presented me with another opportunity to marvel how German can make even the tastiest foods sound disgusting in language. One of Leonie's workmates was having a birthday celebration in this tiny bar in a very trendy area of the former East. Had a great time in this atmospheric smoky (god I love Europe- even the indoor haze caused by dozens of cigarettes doesn't bother me) bar with a foosball table. Sam and I played four games progressing from a convincing win to a humilating loss.

Part Zwei to follow!


Blogger anney said...

Ah Foosball. A truly wonderful game, a must-do for all Australian travellers. The beauty of the foosball table - they are in hostels and pubs, no matter where you are in the world.

11:14 PM  
Blogger Ian said...

It turns out that I'm quite good when I'm the blue team but suck when I'm red. Sam and I read this as a political allegory.

7:03 AM  

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