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Trip to Berlin, Germany

Thursday May 29, through Thursday June 5, 2014

There is a separate travelogue for our 2011 trip to Germany.


Intro and a bit of history

We have been to Germany several times, but never to Berlin. This capital city reflects the 500 years as the historical capital under the emperors, with associated monuments and city layout - e.g. the Emperor doesn't want to travel far from his palace (on the island) to his hunting grounds (now a large city park).

Most of the reminders of the Hitler era are gone. His influence started as a politician as early as 1919, with anti-Jewish campaigns starting in 1930. In 1933 Hitler was appointed Chancellor, and by 1934 had expanded his powers to basically become a dictator, until his death at the end of World War II.

During World War II much of Berlin was leveled by bombings, or perhaps it would be better to say the buildings were hollowed out, as seen in this historical picture.

Post war, the winning allies (Great Britain, United States, France, and the Soviet Union) wanted to make Germany agricultural, removing the heavy industry that had powered the war, as well as any residue of the Nazi party. By 1950 that plan was dropped by the west, and the German industrial economy started a rapid recovery. However, the cold war ensued, with the strict Soviet control of East Germany, and loose Western control of West Germany. The only problem was the capital, Berlin, was entirely in East Germany, so it, too, was divided. So many East Germans preferred the progress they saw in West Berlin that there was an exodus, causing the East German government to build a wall through the city, nominally to protect their citizens from the corrupt Westerners. Construction of the wall started August 13, 1961, and it stood until November 9, 1989.

With the wall gone, Berlin has become a friendly booming city, a joy to visit. The government has begun to use the term "murdered" to describe the holocaust, acknowledging with regret that blotch on their history, and is moving forward.

Trip Summary

Professor Stephen Berk of Union College (my alma mater) teaches a full semester course on the holocaust, which was offered to alumni. I "took" that course on-line (with Jenny eavesdropping), so we had a list of sites we wanted to visit, beyond the usual parks, monuments, and museums. Our usual trip is about a week in country, so we planned the same. Dr. Berk's recommendations were so compelling that they occupied most of the trip. Of course, that means Jenny has a list of at least 50 reasons to return to Berlin for another visit.

Getting There - May 29-30

American Airlines now offers "more room in coach" for an extra charge (or no charge if you are a very frequent flyer). As you may have noticed, I am pretty tall, so more room is priceless - in an ordinary coach seat, my knees rub against the seat in front of me, and the person in front of me cannot recline at all, so an extra few inches really helps. Most domestic flights now have this feature, but it is only gradually being added to international flights. Therefore we took a wild route to Berlin to get planes configured with the extra room ... Austin to Chicago to Dusseldorf, then a short flight on Air Berlin from Dusseldorf to Berlin. Immigration to the European Union was in Dusseldorf, and token Customs clearance in Berlin.

The good way into the city is the TXL bus (TXL is also the Berlin airport code), that leaves from the front of the airport terminal every few minutes. €2,60 each, or about US$3.40. The ticket line was horribly long, so people suggested we use the ticket vending machines outside. The first two were broken, so back in line. We later found many more working vending machines outside, and learned we could have bought our ticket from the bus driver. Once you have a ticket and are on the bus, "time stamp" the ticket in the machine on bus aisle - the penalty for riding, using an unstamped ticket, is €30, and the police will be glad to take you to an ATM if you don't have the cash. The TXL bus weaves through the center of the city, so in a half hour you are within a few blocks of most hotels. The first landmark we noticed leaving the bus at our stop was a "Microsoft Cafe," apparently an internet cafe pushing Microsoft products.

Travel Tips

We stayed at the Berlin Mitte hotel (Mitte being the center city area). is a Spanish chain of 400 reasonably priced 4-5 star city hotels in Europe, South America, and Africa. We discovered them in Buenos Aires, and liked it even better in Berlin. In the absolute center of everything, our average cost per night with all the fees and taxes was US$138.11. (Their one US Hotel is in New York City for about $200 per night, but reviews for that hotel are not that great.)

Germany is on the Euro, so as frequent travelers we had a small stash of Euro cash for our arrival. If you are not so lucky, I recommend withdrawing cash from any bank-affiliated ATM at the airport. As usual there are many money changers in the airport, which we generally avoid because of high fees or poor exchange rates. In town we were able to get cash, with no ATM service fee (better than in the US), at our choice of ATMs, available every block or so. Credit cards are widely accepted but not universal - for example, at one place there was no apology or regret about "our machine is broken." We always carry enough local cash to cover a meal, and if we don't want to bring the local currency home, we use what's left towards our hotel bill.

Guide books said that the service charge was normally included in the restaurant bills, to which it is customary to add 5-10% more. We never had a service change on the bill - many explicitly noted (in multiple languages) "Service NOT included." Sometimes it was awkward or impossible to include the tip on the credit card, so be sure to have cash available. When we were able to put the tip on the credit card, it came through as two separate transactions

Our return to the airport left the hotel at 5 am, so we were not anxious to wait for a bus. The taxi took less than half an hour at that time of day, and was under €30 with tip. Taxis are plentiful, all a cream yellow color, in every type of car from Prius to Mercedes, but no obvious sign when a particular cab was available for hire.

Friday May 30

After a brief nap in the hotel, we walked the couple blocks to Checkpoint Charlie, one of the portals in the Berlin Wall.

There were numerous actors in pseudo military uniforms who were willing to pose with you at the checkpoint for €2 or US$3. Note that this side is the entrance to the American sector - our hotel is in what was East Berlin.

From the other direction you had a picture of a Soviet soldier and a different sign

The reality wasn't as pretty and neat as on display today. I found this historical picture of Checkpoint Charlie, with Soviet and American tanks facing each other, and a stack of boards (like railroad ties) down the demarcation line in the middle of the cross street.

The primary Berlin wall (not counting the no-man's land, trenches, and barbed wire behind the wall) was a series of prefab concrete segments, one of which was on display at the Checkpoint Charlie museum. The real wall was covered with grafitti - I don't know if this is the original grafitti from when the wall came down in 1989. The top of the wall was rounded to prevent the use of grappling hooks to get over the wall.

A few blocks farther we came to the Berlin Jewish Museum. The classical building on the left was the entrance, but it connected underground to the unusual building on the right. In the new building the floors were not level, and the halls were not at right angles, creating a sense of chaos that the Jews experienced during the holocaust. There were several starkly plain rooms, several stories high, to give the sense of isolation.

I had to go to the internet to get an aerial picture that shows the discordant angles and induced sense of chaos.

One of the rooms expected to be empty was filled with steel discs representing heads of every age and size.

Overall Jenny liked the museum, but I did not - it did too good a job of being weird, and seemed to lack enough subject matter - for example, when it talked about how the Jews were active in the spice trade, it showed three large shelves with large bowls of spices, the first and third sets of bowls were identical - a small shelf with smaller bowls would have been just as effective (but it looked like they were struggling to fill too big a building). In my opinion, there were better ways to spend several hours and €8 apiece admission.

Friday dinner was at Maxmillians - a highly regarded Bavarian restaurant at Frederichstraße 185-190. Typical beer and sausage, and waiters in Lederhosen.

Saturday May 31

Not far from our hotel (nothing was far) the Spree river splits into two branches, later rejoining after creating an island, known as Museum Island. Originally the site of the royal residences, it is now the home of numerous museums and the Berliner Dom.

The Berliner Dom is a large basilica sometimes called the Protestant answer to St. Peter's in Rome (Sorry, but it doesn't compete with St. Peters, nor with the protestant St. Paul's in London). The present building dates from 1905, but is build on the foundations of various buildings dating to 1465. After major damage during World War II, it was rebuilt from 1975 through 1993. Over the years it has been Catholic, Lutheran, Calvinist, and is currently the "Supreme Parish and Cathedral Church" of the (protestant) "Evangelical Church of the Union." (The full name of the organization is "Evangelical Church of Berlin-Brandenburg-Silesian Upper Lusatia.") Even though it was named a Cathedral, technically it is not since the bishop has always been located elsewhere - specifically at St. Mary's visited later.

It was hard to tell from the altar what "flavor" the church is. It had many of the characteristics of the Roman Catholic church, with brief hourly prayers and music to keep the tourists convinced that it is a place of worship.

The organ is magnificent, with 113 stops, four manual console, and even three ranks of 32 foot pipes. (Many organs don't get beyond one rank of 16 foot pipes). You can see the organist in a blue jacket buried among the pipes!

From the balcony, where we could see the organist, we could also look up to the inside of the dome.

The climb to the tower is less intimidating than many similar climbs, and includes rooms with many of the architectural models. One pundit said it took over 50 years for committees to design it, but only 10 years to build it. The picture at the right was one of many interesting models. Position yourself (or your camera) at the center of a roughly 10 inch hole, as I did, and you have a great perspective view of the planned ... whatever, in this instance, a staircase. Back up a little or move to the side and it is more like a shabby doll house.

The park in front of the Dome is called the Lustgarten (Pleasure Garden). It was originally (16th Century) the kitchen garden for the palace, then became, in turn, a formal garden, a sand covered parade ground, and a landscaped park. Later it was paved over for political rallies, first against the Nazis, then for pro-Hitler rallies. Although largely bombed during the war, it was rebuilt in 1997 as a park in the heart of the reunited Berlin.

Looking across the park, you can see countless construction cranes on the skyline as Berlin continues to rebuild, even 70 years after the end of World War II.

As we approached the park, one building didn't look quite right, so I went to examine it more closely. One corner was real, but the rest was scaffolding covered with flake board, in turn covered with a heavy duty canvass picture of the building. It almost had me fooled, but from the dome, you could see that not much was really there.

We could also see the river boats carrying tourists on both sides of the island.

Back down to the main level of the Dom was the gaudy tomb of King Frederick I (across the aisle from the equally gaudy tomb of his Queen Sophia Charlotte).

Why was the grim reaper at the foot of the tomb?

In the crypt (basement) are 94 more tombs of Prussian royalty, though none as gaudy as these.

In the bookstore was a featured book with a familiar cover. The title translates as "The House of Windsor and your German Origin."

Back outside we saw a group of three "Big Bikes" going by together. Each bike carries 6 to 16 people (up to 8 pedaling) plus a professional driver, and is rented for 220-280€ for a two hour tour. Beer is extra, with a max of 1 liter per person per hour, by law, and no limit on the number of potty stops. Some things are important to know.

As we headed to the Brandenburg gate we passed Konzerthaus Berlin (Concert House, but you knew that). Visitors were allowed to look into the concert hall as the symphony rehearsed. At the left and right on the same square are the French Cathedral (restaurant and Hugenot museum) and German Cathedral (museum of German History), neither of which are primarily churches.

While we were sitting, resting, half way up the red carpeted steps, an American tour guide did a brief presentation to his group at the foot of the steps. Towards the end he got very serious - "Berlin is very nice, but you should never come here for more than two weeks." Why? "You will never leave. I came for a month to study German 10 years ago, and am still here."

A few blocks farther we came to the Brandenburg Gate, a symbolic gate like the Arc de Triomphe in Paris. The Berlin wall ran a half block behind the gate, leaving the gate on the East German side.

From the back of the gate, you can see where President Reagan stood to pronounce "Mr. Gorbachev, open this gate! Mr. Gorbachev, tear down this wall!" The wall was approximately where the black car is in the picture at the right, with the top of the Brandenburg gate clearly visible behind President Reagan.

The memorial to the murdered Jews of Europe was only a block or so away. The original plan was for 4,000 concrete pillars of various heights on undulating ground, but by the time it was adapted to available space and wheelchair access, there was only room for 2,711 pillars, from inches to over 15 feet tall, each about 3 by 8 feet, roughly the length and width of a coffin. Still, for each of the pillars, 3,000 people were murdered.

The pillars are coated with a special material to minimize graffiti. Only when the project was half done did someone notice that the company with the best coating, which was being used, had also made the Zyklon B cyanide based pesticide used by the Nazis to murder 1.2 million people during the holocaust. Zyklon B is still being manufactured and used today as a pesticide, but under different names.

Wandering through the rows, people appeared and disappeared in more than symbolic ways - really making you think about what happened. The next time you appear, you may be much higher or lower - note the way the ground waves. Spooky. The names of the 6 million Jews known to be murdered in the Holocaust are in the underground information center at the site.

It was Saturday evening so we decided to attend Mass at the Cathedral of St. Hedwig. As a Catholic church built post reformation, it is relegated to a side street. It was scary with 11 hymns (all in German) listed on the hymn board, but with German precision, mass was over in precisely 60 minutes.

The stained glass windows were in traditional patterns used by quilters, to Jenny's delight.

Sunday June 1

Rick Steves does an extraordinary job as a publisher and guide to touring Europe. Jenny had downloaded his audio walking tour of Berlin, which covered many of the areas we had already visited, but covered them far better, so we took the tour on Sunday morning. Look under "Listen" and "Berlin City Walk" in the link above to download the free walking tour that we enjoyed. And this picture of Rick Steves is in Florence, not Berlin.

The walking tour starts at the Reichstag - the people's house, legislature, or the house of commons, just beyond the Brandenberg gate.

The building caught fire on February 27, 1933. Common feeling is that it was set by the Nazis, but they blamed the communists, and used it as a pretext to suspend most rights provided by the 1919 Constitution. When it was rebuilt in 1999 it had to include a fancy dome, like so many other buildings in Berlin. Apparently the lighting is dramatic, but advance reservations/tickets are required to tour the dome, so we did not.

The title of the building translates to "To the German People," or some would say less literally, "The voice of the people." Look closely at the patches to the war damage the sign and the decoration near and around the sign.

At the side of the building are a series of steel plates in the ground, representing the legislators who disagreed with Hitler's approach, and who then disappeared. The liquidation camps were not confined to Jews.

On the edge of each plate is the name of the person, his birth date and date of disappearance, and the mode of extermination when known. Note Sachsenhausen listed on at least one - the concentration camp we visited on Tuesday.

In front of the Brandenburg gate is a good place to see the path of the wall. In many places, it is marked by a double row of red bricks, set in whatever street paving is used there.

We had expected a straight wall slicing through the city. In fact it had lots of turns and bends, as Jenny is pointing out.

At many of the bends, there is a bronze plaque (in German) labeling it as the route of the wall.

Almost next to the Brandenburg gate is the US Embassy. They required so much clear area for security that it didn't fit into the neighborhood, so this front only has a token (unused) entrance, with the primary entrance in the back of the building, not here.

Not far away is the soviet embassy, with less concern about distance from the street. The windows have the distinctive hammer and sickle decor.

Also nearby is the luxurious Hotel Adlon, made famous as Michael Jackson dangled his infant child out the window.

A block or two away, along the path of the wall, is a small memorial to the people who lost their lives trying to escape from East Germany, across the wall.

Perhaps the saddest is the last one... Chris Goeffroy died just a few months before the wall came down.

Hitler's bunker is not on any of the tourist maps, but we were led to it by Rick Steves. The Soviets had tried to remove all remnanats of the Nazis, but the bunker was too deep and well protected (13 foot thick concrete ceiling up to 25 feet underground), and survived several attempts at demolition. All that is there is one sign, placed in 2006, explaining how the bunker was configured. The top of the bunker, deep underground, was finally removed, since it was not suitable as a building foundation, and the bunker was filled with dirt. Not much to see except a place that was an important remnant of history.

The bunker itself? Now a shabby parking lot for the nearby apartments. Maybe after the fill settles enough it can be paved, but not yet. The apartment buildings were placed over other Nazi buildings, as part of the Soviet attempt to eradicate the Nazi history.

Our walk took us through Museum island, where we had already spent a lot of time, and on to Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels plaza. One guide said their fine statues looked like a couple tired pensioners.

Practically everywhere we went, there were pink, blue, and other construction pipes. Why? Berlin soil is very marshy, so every basement fills with water and has to be pumped out until a waterproof foundation and wall can be built. Okay, problem 1) If the soil is soft and wet, then over 10% of the bombs dropped on Berlin during the war just stuck in the ground and did not explode, so every excavation can be exciting. Problem 2) They wanted to extend the subway by drilling large holes underground, rather than digging huge ditches all the way to the surface. How do you do that? Freeze the ground (more pipes) while you are drilling, and keep it frozen until the waterproof concrete lining is installed.

A little further along we came to St. Mary Church, dated from before 1292, and prior to the reformation, was Roman Catholic. Before the war it was in a heavily populated area, and a very busy parish. The surrounding homes were so completely destroyed it is now largely isolated. Technically it is the cathedral, rather than the Berliner Dom, since it is the church of the bishop.

It is close to and overshadowed by the large TV tower, built by the Soviets as a demonstration of their superiority. About the same time they were removing crosses from all the church steeples. Notice the light reflecting on the TV tower "ball," appearing as a cross. Many joke that reflection was God getting even with the Soviets, by putting a cross on their prize project.

As plain as the church seems on the outside, it is beautiful inside. One thing seemed odd - the pews in the right front quarter of the church faced the center rather than facing forward. I asked one of the ministers and he explained, that was so people's back would not be to the preacher in the pulpit part way down the church.

At the end of the Rick Steves tour we came to City Hall and Alexanderplatz. A kiddie carnival was winding up, and we couldn't escape fast enough.

Several references suggested taking a ride on city bus line 100, which is a double decker bus. It goes from this area at the Eastern end of the city through many areas of interest (but you have to look as fast as a city bus moves past the points of interest) and ends up at the zoo in the west.

Along the way we saw this tower, later identified as the Berlin Victory Column. What victory? Well there was one in 1864. They used it for another victory in 1866 even though the tower wasn't completed until 1873. Then a victory in 1870-71, which inspired the 35 ton sculpture on the top. Then something in 1938-39, which led to relocating the whole monument. Then modifications in 1945 to remove symbolism that might be offensive to the French (who had recently helped free Germany). And more modifications in 1987 to partially undo the 1945 changes (although some components are still in Paris). Whatever.

At the end of the line, near the zoo, is a restaurant and entertainment area (where we ate dinner) and the Kaiser Wilhelm Memorial Church. The church tower was destroyed in 1943, and the church was rebuilt in several new buildings surrounding the skeleton of the original church. The stated plan is to keep the old church as a memorial hall, although the signs suggesting donations of 50-500€ make it seem that they would be glad to rebuild the old church if they only had enough money.

Monday June 2 - House of Wannsee

On January 20, 1942 high ranking members of the SS, the police force, the Nazi party, etc., met in the Villa Minoux on the Greater Wannsee Lake to discuss the "final solution of the Jewish question." It is a short train and bus ride South of Berlin, and since 1992 has been open to the public with a requested donation of €2 per person. They have done an exceptional job of documenting the meeting, both for individual visitors, and for academic groups that wish to do research and use their library.

The house, generally referred to as the House of Wannsee (after the name of the lake), is beautiful - other than the horror of the meeting held here. The murdering of all Jews in Europe, and the elimination of any history of them such as synagogues and cemeteries was understood prior to the meeting. The agenda included the methods to be used for extermination and disposal of the bodies - the building of industrial facilities for volume killing and disposal. Smaller issues included the handling of children who appeared Aryan (as part of the ideal super-race, they were sometimes taken from their families and sent to Berlin for adoption).

One of their working maps showed the percent of the Jewish population in each country or area, with the actual numbers below the "pie chart." The house was filled with documents and historical displays, leading to a very interesting but sad day.

Click here for a full size picture where you may be able to zoom in and read the details (depending on your web browser or picture viewer).

It was hard to separate the beauty of the house from the horror that happened there. This was a door leading to the dining room (if I remember right) where most of the meetings were held. (As a furniture guy, I had to notice the door, despite the overall depression thinking about what happened here.)

The ceiling of the dining room was equally dramatic. I believe this is the room where most of the meetings were held, where the despicable decisions were made.

The back of the house faced a nice lawn sloping down to the lake

Can you imagine a break in the meeting with groups congregating on this lovely porch, deciding the fate of millions of people who were at least partially Jewish?

As Professor Berk explained, there have been many instances of genocide, but never before as a massive industrialized process. Trains taking Jews to the death camps had priority over using the trains to provision the German army.

On the far side of the lake is a beach that has been a favorite recreations spot of Berlin for over 100 years. A marina is to the right of the beach.

I hope this person is just planning the next step of a vacation, and not something related to the meeting here 72½ years before.

As you can see, Jenny and I had perfect weather for this trip.

On the way back to our hotel we passed this store with the most interesting window display... that went on for twice as many sewing machines as in this picture. It appeared to be a clothing store.

Tuesday June 3 - Sachsenhausen Concentration Camp

A short train and bus ride (zone C, requiring an ABC ticket for €3,20) North of Berlin in Oranienburg is Sachsenhausen Concentration camp, now preserved as a memorial (Gedenkstätte). It was a concentration camp, as distinguished from an extermination camp. Being close to Berlin, it was a training ground for SS officers who then moved on to manage other camps. It was primarily used for Nazi political prisoners from 1936 to 1945, then was taken over by the Soviets as a prison until 1950.

The entry gate led to the main camp, with the watch tower (and machine gun) over this gate. The barracks were laid out radially from this point, most now only represented by an outline on the ground. About 200,000 people entered here during the Nazi period; many were moved on to Auschwitz for extermination. About 30,000 died here from the poor living conditions or extermination.

The saying on the gate means "Work makes you free." Ironic since this was not a prison where you served your sentence and were then released.

Very few people escaped. The tall stone wall had an area for armed guards with dogs, then a lethal electric fence (white posts) and barbed wire. Any prisoner in the gravel "death strip" inside the fence (left on this picture) was subject to immediate execution without warning by a guard, who was awarded with extra leave for his action.

Every morning and night all the thousands of prisoners were required to line up in formation on the Appellplatz between the guard house and barracks, to be counted. This could take hours as missing (or deceased) prisoners were located.

If somebody tried to escape or deserved other punishment, this gallows would be placed in the middle of the Appellplatz and up to two prisoners at a time would be hung while the others watched. There was no rush to remove the dead bodies.

Those that were counted went to the very crowded barracks to stay until it was time to be counted again in the morning.

The toilets were not at all fancy

And the cleaning facilities were disgusting. The pits on the right were to wash your feet, the sinks in the center were for the rest of you. I don't see any private baths or showers, or provision for adding clean water.

A small number of prisoners were kept in solitary confinement in cells like this. In one sense that looks pretty luxurious compared to the barracks.

Around the Appellplatz was a stone walkway, but inside the walkway was another track with various surfaces, from broken concrete to mud to gravel - it was the test track where prisoners were required to march/run 15-25 miles per day to test various synthetic materials to use as soles on army boots (since rubber was in short supply). No attempt was made to use the proper size shoes for the prisoners doing the testing.

You can see one of the reconstructed barracks buildings, representing the hundred or so originally here, just beyond the track.

Even though this was primarily a concentration camp (prison) rather than an extermination camp, when a truck load of prisoners arrived for extermination, the truck backed down this driveway into the execution trench. Guards would shoot the prisoners as they got out of the truck. The door led to the storage area for the bodies prior to cremation. The white building at the top of the hill will be explained later.

The execution pit was lined with logs to collect the bullets to be recycled, and to prevent ricochets.

Towards the end of the war 13,000 Red Army POWs were brought here. As the prisoners were nominally being measured for uniforms (the usual horizontal bar that slides on a vertical track to the top of your head, with a scale on the track) a gun would shoot through the track on the wall into the prisoner's neck. An estimated 10,000 of the 13,000 POWs were executed that way.

Underground storage rooms were used to store stacks of bodies until they could be processed and cremated.

An autopsy was required for every death, so there were two autopsy tables like this. However, there were not enough pathologists, so other prisoners were required to make the big "Y" cut and sew it back up, and choose one of 7 causes of death... Old age, cancer, heart attack, TB, and several others. The 7 acceptable options did not include starvation, being shot, being worked to death, suicide, or other more honest choices.

This is the crematorium - the large white building at the end of the execution trench was built to protect the crematorium from further degradation from the elements. The original plan was that, since this was not an extermination camp, any bodies would simply be trucked into Oranienburg to the public mortuary. That was fine until a truck came open and dumped bodies along the street in town. The camp then built a crematorium, and soon found it inadequate so built four crematoria. This is nothing like the industrial scale bulk crematoria of the extermination camps.

At numerous places around the camp are markers such as this where human ashes were buried, often ashes 6 feet deep in each pit.

Near the entrance is a model of the concentration camp as initially built, before it was dramatically expanded with industrial areas where prisoners worked. The part at the bottom of the model is staff housing. For orientation look for the semi-circular Appellplatz in the middle. Click here for a full size picture, that you may be able to examine more closely depending on your viewer.

There is also a model as the camp exist today. Note the wooded area to the left of the main entrance - it is an area where groups are welcome to build memorials to their friends or countrymen who lost their lives here. Click here for a full size picture, that you may be able to examine more closely depending on your viewer.

Happy note

Spring is Spargelsaison - Asparagus season. But the Germans love white rather than green Asparagus (made white by keeping the growning stalks covered with dirt so there is no photosynthesis to create the green). I finally got a dinner with a substantial portion of Spargle!

Wednesday June 4

Our last full day in Berlin, so we focused on some happy walking around times.

Unter den Linden - under the linden trees - is the main east-west street through central Berlin. There was such an uprising when Hitler cut down the many hundreds of years old Linden trees that he replanted them. They were in full pollen while we were there! The main building of the prestigious Humboldt University was on Unter den Linden, and traditionally there are used book vendors in front of the University - apparently full time.

The square at Humboldt University, and the state Opera building, and St. Hedwig's Cathedral is called Bebelplatz. It was the site of the May 10, 1933 Nazi book burning. A glass plate is set into the cobblestones showing empty bookcases in the underground library, sufficient to hold the 20,000 books burned that night.

During one of our visits to Brandenburg gate, there were many hundreds (perhaps thousands) of motorcycles gathered behind the gate, with police blocking the streets for them. (Of note, all were Harley Davidson). Then on signal they left, 2-3 abreast, through the large Tiergarten park (once the royal hunting grounds). In our country we would probably call it "Rolling Thunder." I don't know what they were doing, or what it was called, but it was well organized, peaceful, and oh so loud!

I guess this is art. It was large - notice the Coca Cola umbrella and the chair from the sidewalk cafe at the lower right.

I guess this is art, too. We didn't check closely enough to see if the figure was just looking into the window, or if it's head was in the window.

I like this art better. This cute fountain was apparently at a residence.

We did visit the Berlin Wall Museum at Checkpoint Charlie. One of the displays was how a false bottom was put in a Volkswagen beetle trunk, where a person could be hidden and moved through the checkpoint.

Now that we knew what to look for, we found signs of the Berlin Wall throughout the city.

We didn't have the opportunity to attend the Symphony, as we might have on other trips, but we did see the inside of the concert hall as the symphony was rehearsing.

I believe this is one of the government buildings, but Google couldn't help me identify it. Interesting architecture anyway.

This is another interesting building that we could not identify.

But we were able to identify this non-traditional looking Hilton hotel.

The German history museum has some interesting architecture.

And as a woodworker, I cannot pass up a picture of a wooden bicycle, apparently for routine use.

And finish with one last picture of a church cross and the Sun's cross on the TV Tower.

Thursday June 5 - Return

We left our hotel at 5 am, Traveled from Berlin to Milan Italy to JFK in New York, then on to Austin arriving around 8 pm and home by 9. But don't forget to add 7 hour time difference, so the trip home took 23 hours.

Sad part

This was a wonderful, mostly pleasant trip, but there was more history than we usually experience. I recommend the Wikipedia page on World War II casualties for more than you wanted to know - why 60 million deaths in World War II may be a conservative number. Why some countries lost 15% or more of their total population. Best estimates of the Jews murdered in the Holocaust is about 6 million, but the total number murdered due to Nazi polices (Jews plus Gypsies, prisoners of war, Slavs, handicapped, gays, Jehova's Witnesses, political opponents, etc., brings the total to 12-14 million, with some scholars estimating as high as a total of 19 million people murdered.

Last Travel Tip

For years we favored the small Berlitz pocket guides, about 6 ounces each, like the one on the left for Prague. Convenient, but not very complete, so extra maps and things had to be carried, too.

Then we went to the larger more complete guides like The Fodor's South America guide on the right. Bulky, and about 18 ounces. Not fun to carry with you constantly.

This trip Jenny discovered the Frommers Berlin guide, with a general fold out map, and a larger folding map in a pocket. Only 8 ounces and a size that was easy to carry. We have a new favorite.


Creating these travelogues are fun, but a lot of work. I would love to hear from you, with comments such as too much/too little ____, too many/few opinions, errors, bad attempts at humor, etc. Send e-mail comments to Charlie@Plesums.com

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