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Back from Berlin

Berlin is quite an easy city to get around in. You buy a week ticket at the Kundenzentrum in the new and shiny Hauptbahnhof, validate it once, and can then get on the Strassenbahn, S-Bahn and U-Bahn, which seem to run continuously and always on time, without a second thought. There are no portals, and no rummaging in bags or riffling through pockets to find the blasted thing and gain access -- you just get on and get on with it. It's pretty relaxed, and that's my overriding impression of the the city as well.

Prices in Berlin are pretty relaxed, too; esp. in the former East-Berlin, where a slap-up meal for two including dessert and coffee set us back around 35 euros, and lunch frequently cost no more than a tenner.

I like Berlin. It's not as vibrant or as busy as London, Paris or New York, but it's got its own, uniquely pleasant, atmosphere. And there's loads and loads to see. On the last full day of my trip for instance, I visited the Babylon Mythos Und Wahrheit exhibition in the Pergamon Museum, which I would advise anyone to take in if they have a chance. You never saw so many Mesopotamian artefacts together, top pieces from all the most prestigious collections in the world, from the Ishtar Gate to the Codex Hammurabi, and several scale models of E-temen-an-ki, as well as statues and everyday objects.

Here I am at Bernauer Strasse, where a stretch of the Berlin Wall has been preserved which is going to be turned into an even more impressive monument over the coming years.

We also paid a visit to Rathaus Schöneberg, because my travel companion, who studied politics at uni, has a particular interest in dead world leaders...and he was in for a special treat, because while he had come for the plaque outside commemorating Kennedy's 1963 visit when he uttered those cryptic words 'Ich bin ein Berliner', inside there was an exhibition about the life and career of Willy Brandt, which was also quite interesting.

The obligatory pose...These bears are everywhere, presumably because Berlin's coat of arms (behind me) shows one.

Marlene Dietrich was M.'s favourite moviestar, so in his view no visit to Berlin would be complete without a pilgrimage to her grave, which we found in a very beautiful, well-kept little graveyard off the Südwestkorso. It's an Ehrengrab des Landesamts Berlin, but according to the sexton who showed us where to find it, that doesn't mean the city pays for its upkeep. On the contrary, it's the visitors that tend the grave and keep it covered in fresh flowers almost on a daily basis. Also, she said, it's mostly tourists and young people, not Berliners and certainly not the older generation, who still haven't forgiven her for her defection in the 30s.

In the same graveyard, and in the same row of graves, Helmut Newton's last resting place.

The Hufeisensiedlung in Neukölln, which has recently been declared a World Heritage Site, much to the disgust of the inhabitants, who fear that the rent will go up.

Another look at this architectural gem of the 1920s -- I'll always be an architectural historian at heart ;-)

The commemorative plaque to its architect, Bruno Taut.

I love the food halls in the Kaufhaus Galeria on Alexanderplatz. All that produce displayed to its best advantage...and these vegetables I'd never seen or tasted, called Schmorgurken (between the tomatoes and the artichokes). From their name, I would guess they're related to the cucumber, but I wonder how you serve them?

A stroll in Volkspark Friedrichshain takes you past the Märchenbrunnen, which has only recently been restored, after having been almost totally destroyed in the war.

I also met and spent an evening in the company of the lovely scatterheart, which helped make this visit a complete success.



( 6 Speak Like A Child — Shout To The Top )
Sep. 22nd, 2008 04:19 pm (UTC)
Glad you made it back home safely! ;) Now I want to go see the Babylon exhibition, but I doubt I'll get around to it.

From their name, I would guess they're related to the cucumber, but I wonder how you serve them?
There are lots of ways to serve them, but usually they're filled with minced meat, or fried and served with fish.
Sep. 22nd, 2008 05:06 pm (UTC)
filled with minced meat, or fried and served with fish.

Ooh, that sounds good! I'll have to try some next time I'm there (because there's definitely going to be a next time!).

You may still get a chance to see the Babylon exhibition -- they open till 10pm! Though be prepared -- it took me 2 1/2 hours to go through it all!
Sep. 22nd, 2008 09:20 pm (UTC)
Ich bin ein Berliner will forever be the funniest thing ever.
Sep. 23rd, 2008 07:15 am (UTC)
I never got what he meant by that, and I'm sure I'm not alone in that. Besides, to me it's all ancient history, and has no relevance to today's politics. But I could be wrong in that.
Sep. 22nd, 2008 10:32 pm (UTC)
Another friend of mine just got back from Berlin and loved it, too. She's a museum nerd, and went for the Long Night of the Museums.

Just curious: there are no gate barriers to the public transport system? How to they ensure people buy tickets fairly?
Sep. 23rd, 2008 07:22 am (UTC)
I wondered about that too, but then the answer presented itself in the form of -- well, conductors, I suppose...they get on at one of the stops, disguised as ordinary members of the public, and then when the carriage moves again, show you their ID and ask to see your ticket. Then they get off again at the next stop. It's kind of a hit-and-miss system, but it seems to work sufficiently well for them not to invest in portals.
( 6 Speak Like A Child — Shout To The Top )
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