Thursday, September 28, 2006

In Berlin

We got to our hotel around noon yesterday. The window in our room overlooks a plaza that is surrounded by shops and some little take-out and fast-food restaurants. I was amazed
that there was a Dunkin Donuts down the block on the corner -- they
don't have any Dunkin Donuts in the Bay Area, but they do in Berlin. We still haven't tried it, so we'll see if it's as good as back in Chicago. We ate a quick lunch at a little doner stand (think Turkish gyros) down the street. It drizzled on and off all day.

After lunch yesterday we went to Checkpoint Charlie, which has an interesting
little history exhibit about the Wall, Cold War, etc, but is overrun
with people selling silly souvenirs and other touristy garbage. After
a short time there, Nathan got extremely tired, so we sat for a bit
and then took the U-Bahn (subway) back to our hotel. It's really easy
to take the U everywhere; we can see the station entrance from our
room and we've never had to wait more than 5 minutes for a train. And
it goes everywhere we've wanted to go so far, and probably everywhere
we'd want to go.

We got back to our hotel around 5 and immediately went to bed. We
slept almost 12 hours, and hung out in our hotel room until breakfast
time. Breakfast is included with the room and is a buffet, with eggs
one of three ways, lots of tasty bread, cheeses, lunch meats, fruits,
veggies, yogurt, and juice. There were also some...meat loafs? They
were these slices of something that reminded me of these soaps I've
bought called Primal Soaps. The slices are made of something clear
(fat?) and have bits of meat and maybe peppers and maybe olives
suspended in them. I tasted one. Very strange.

We were out of our hotel by 9 a.m. armed with a guidebook and our day
pass for the U-Bahn, purchased at the front desk. We got to the Mitte
(middle) section of Berlin, but only after being delayed by one stop
because of our car being crammed full of kids on some kind of field
trip; we couldn't get to the doors in time! But the next stop was
close enough to our destination, so we got off and walked a bit south
to Unter den Linden (Under the Linden Trees), a main promenade through
central Berlin. This took us to the Brandenburg Gate, which, if you
did a Google Images search, you would recognize from the fall of the
Wall, when the East Germans stood on top of the wall as it was coming
down in front of Brandenburg Gate. It's huge and has an amazing statue
on top.

Then we walked a little further to the Reichstag, which is more than
100 years old and is now one of the main parliament buildings. We took
an elevator to the top (after waiting "only" an hour) to view the city
from the glass cupola, which has at its center a structure that Nathan
thought looked like a device a villain in a Bond movie would use. I
thought it looked like a cousin of the Bean in Millenium Park. After
that we took a boat tour on the Spree River, which is the main river
running through the city. The tour covered the Reichstag, several
other government buildings, the spot where Berlin originated as a
fishing village in the 1300s, the Berliner Dom (Berlin Cathedral,
modeled after St. Peter's in Rome) and Museum Island. This includes
the major museums in Berlin, including the famous Pergamon, which we
plan to hit tomorrow. It's supposed to be amazing!

After the boat tour we walked around for a while looking for a lunch
place. We finally found an authentic-seeming German place where Nathan
ate Currywurst (a sausage with curry sauce on it, also commonly found
on the street for a Euro) and I had some goulash, which the waitress
warmed me was "really hot." I figured the German definition of "really
hot" was different than mine, and I was right. I enjoyed it. The restaurant had the
tables mashed together, so we sat by the open front window and some
businessmen on lunch sat next to us and offered to help us translate
the menu. Most people know English, it seems; we encountered another
friendly volunteer translator on the subway this morning.

It's about 4:30 p.m. and we're at our hotel relaxing for a bit. We
plan to go back out again in a bit and maybe check out Potsdammer
Platz, another big site in the main part of the city.

Here are a few pics!

1 comment:

Nemesis of Evil said...

Don't besmirch the value of the touristy stuff. The official uniform of the President of the Los Altos Water Polo Alumni Association includes a hat from checkpoint Charlie.

Hope you're having fun. Let me know when you get to Italy. I have some suggestions on good places to go to get ripped off by tourist industry workers.