April, 16th to 23rd, 2011
Saturday, April 16th
I leave Aarhus on the super comfy ICE-train for Berlin at 7.56. The trip down is on 1’st class, because it was almost as cheap as 2’nd. The train is a direct Berlin train, so it’s very easy.
I arrive at Berlin Hauptbahnhof at 2.30. Then it’s a short S-bahn ride to Friedrichsstrasse. Then a short walk to Hotel Maritim ProArte booked through Priceline.com. Room 238 is very nice.
I check in and pack out, and then it’s time for my first spaziergang. First I walk to Oranienburger Strasse. There is an alternative culture house called Tacheles. It’s threatened with closure. A bank is going to buy it. This calls for a demonstration. There is one today. I sign to make sure Tacheles will stay alive.
I continue down Oranienburger Strasse. There is no McDonald. If there were, I would walk in and ask for an Oranienburger. I’m heading for Alexanderplatz. It’s an ugly place, but you have to take a look at the local TV-tower. But you have to wait for an hour to get up there. I don’t want to wait that long.
Instead I head for Mitte again. I pass a funny little DDR-museum, full of old stuff from the DDR days. Among them is a picture of one of my favorites. Jürgen Sparwasser. Footballer. Scored for DDR against West Germany in world cup 1974. DDR won by 1 to 0. Then I cross Museumsinsel, and walk down Unter den Linden. There is road construction all over. I reach my hotel. There’s a specialty at the hotel. You can hear the TV-sound on loudspeakers at the bathroom. It’s kind of disturbing when the Snooker-audience at Eurosport suddenly applause.
The hotel is very central. In the evening there’s a short walk to Brandenburger Tor and Reichstag. Maybe you can have a Brandenburger at McDonalds?
Sunday, April 17th
I start the day with a trip to Prenzlauer Berg. It used to be a neighborhood with low status. It’s not so anymore. Now it’s very trendy. I get off the U-bahn at Senefelderplatz, and then take a walk through the area, with nice houses and plenty of Café’s. And then there’s the old water tower called Fat Herman. Now it’s been made into apartments and looks very cozy. It wasn’t as cozy during WW2 where Hitler used the place as a KZ-camp.
The walk around Prenzlauer Berg ends at Mauerpark. There are lots of people here on a Sunday. There’s a flea market up here, which attract a lot of people. You can also watch the remains of some of the Berlin Wall painted with graffiti, or hang out in the park listening to a terrible folk-singer, drinking beer or smoking pot. From here I continue down Bernauer Strasse, where there are more remains of the wall, and also a tiny wall-museum. It’s been a long walk so I catch the S-bahn at Nordbahnhof and returns to the hotel.
At the hotel I take a well deserved nap, before I head out again. This time with the S-bahn to Ostbahnhof. Here are more remains of the wall. It’s a long stretch called the East Side Gallery. Professional artists have painted this part, and it’s very nice done. At the end I cross the bridge called Oberbaumbrucke. There is a U-bahn station on the other side of the river, and a train to take me back.
My evening stroll is up and down Friedrichsstrasse. That’s one of Berlin’s major shopping-streets, but on a Sunday night, there is no shopping, so it’s ok for me. I turn around at Checkpoint Charlie.
Monday, April 18th
The first trip today is off the beaten track. I take the S-bahn to Treptower Park, in the southern outskirts of Berlin. Here is a nice park down to the river Spree, but that’s not why I’m here. I’m here to see a special park – or exhibition if you prefer – with monuments back from the Soviet days. In one end of the park there’s a mausoleum, with a Soviet soldier on the top holding a child in one hand and a sword in the other. Then there are a number of monuments showing soldiers and citizens doing heroic things. On the side there are quotes by Josef Stalin. At the other end there’s a huge monument in red granite, with 2 soldiers kneeling. The place is pretty vulgar, and it’s hard to imagine that this was part of daily life here about 22 years ago.
From here I head back for my afternoon-break, before something completely different. A trip to the Zoo. Knut is not among us anymore, but a Zoo is always nice with ice-bears, giraffes, penguins and many other different animals. I stroll around for a few hours taking pictures of strange animals.
Then I head on for the KaDeWe, a shopping-place recommended to me. I take the escalators up and down to 7’Th floor, wondering why this was recommended. This always happens at shopping-malls for me. But outside there’s a nice Imbiss with a good Curry-wurst. Then I take the U-bahn and S-bahn back home.
The evening trip is to Alexander-platz. I have to go up that tower. It’s damn expensive, the wait is long and the views are pretty crap. An excellent tourist-trap.
Tuesday, April 19th
Berlin has had its share of essential historical events. 2 of them are on the program for today.
First I take the U-bahn down to Kochstrasse. From here there’s a short walk to The Jewish Museum. There are 2 things that make this museum interesting. The first one is the building. The architect is Daniel Lieberkind. He has made a building with strange lines. There are no “normal” rectangular rooms or straight hallways. It’s all going zigzag – including the windows. That is probably part of the idea of the museum. The other is the exhibition itself. It tells the story of 2000 years of Jewish living in Berlin. It’s not just about WW2 and the terrible things that happened then. There is so much information – so many stories, so many pictures, so many things – that I can hardly cope with all of it. I get over fed with information, which unfortunately happens way to often for me at museums.
Back to the hotel for a break, before another historic part of Berlin life is taken on. I take the S-bahn and Tram to the old Stasi-prison at Hohenschönhausen. If you look at an old Berlin-map there is nothing here. But there is. There is a prison where they held political prisoners for interrogation. Afterwards they were sent to real prisons. A guide shows us around the place, which is made out of 2 separate parts. The old one used right after WW2, and a new one built later. The guide talks about the physical and especial mental torture that was used, to make the “prisoners” confess. And it all happened not many years ago. For instance – the Doctor, who “took care” of the prisoners, still have his praxis just on the other side of the road. And if you were a prisoner, chances are that you still meet your guard as a police-officer in the German police. It’s a very exiting place to visit.
Back to the hotel via Alexanderplatz. A little shopping at the elecronic-shop called Saturn, which is all over Germany. Not recommended, but much more useful than KaDeWe.
In the evening I sit back and relax at the hotel.
Wednesday, April 20th
Spaziergang Nummer Eins is along Karl Marx Allee. This is old eastern European architecture, with apartments build like a pie. The trip out there is with the S-bahn and U-bahn to Frankfurter Tor. Here the old workers- and farmers republic build some huge houses. This was no place for workers or farmers. This was the place for the Party top and their henchmen. This is the way it looks all along Karl Marx Allee. To make sure things wasn’t to tight the build the Allee 90 meters wide. Then there was room for some nice military parades as well.
There is a special museum out there that I check out. Computerspielmuseum with old computers and games. I really need to test my skills in Space Invaders.
From here I head back to the hotel.
Spaziergang nummer Zwei start at Kochstrasse and head over to the museum called Topographie des Terrors. It’s located where SS and Gestapo had its head-quarters. It’s a very seriously place. They use a lot of photos to tell the story. This area of Mitte is strong in history. There is a short walk to Potsdammer Platz – no-mans land during the cold war – but not turned into a glass and steel complex with shops and offices.
A little north is Holocaust Memorial. That’s a memorial for the many Jews that were killed during WW2. There is 2711 sarcophagi made of cement, which rises from the ground. I don’t count, but I trust my guide-book
From here I return to the hotel, where I spend the rest of the day – relaxing.
Thursday, April 21st
I wake up late today. When I finally get up, and have done my morning breakfast ritual at Starbucks cross the road, its time for another museum. This one is The Ritter Sport Museum close to Gendarmenmarkt. Finally a museum I can cope with – this is not too big. Takes five minutes to cover it all. Some would call it a chocolate-shop, but who cares.
Then I continue to Gendarmenmarkt to take a look at the 2 churches Französischer Dom and Deutscher Dom. They look very muck alike. Then I head for a local bar to grab a bear and some sausages.
This gives me the guts to keep on. I decide to walk all the way out to Kreuzberg. A mistake on my map (or is it me?) means that the walk is a little longer than expected. The walk takes you through different residential areas.
Finally I reach Kreuzberg. This is an ethnic rich area, full of café’s, graffiti etc. The graffiti on the local firehouse is very nice. There are more parks as well. At Görlitzer Park people are out in numbers, sunbathing or making sausages on their barbecues. At the end I turn down Cuvrystrasse with more apartments and graffiti. At the corner at Schlesische Strasse there's a mural by Italian artist Blu and French artist JR. From here I head for the local U-bahn-station, and returns home.
My evening spaziergang is in the local neighborhood, along the river Spree – and some grocery-shopping at Edeka at the station.
Friday, April 22nd
Another sunny day in Berlin. I wasn’t expecting just wearing t-shirts on this trip.
This Good Friday, I head with the S7 to Grunewald station in the western part of Berlin. It’s a small suburb with a dramatic story. It was here the Jews were deported to the KZ-camps in Theresienstadt, Auschwitz etc. during WW2. It all happened at track 17 – Gleiss 17. Now it has been turned into a nice memorial. For each deportation a metal plague is laid down, telling when, where and how many were deported on each train. In the beginning it was about 100 with each train – but in the spring of 1943 one train to Auschwitz had more than 1800 people on board.
From this tragic part of history I head into the forest of Grunewald. Many trees have just blossomed, so the place and the colors are very nice. The goal is Teufelsberg in the center of the forest. Teufelsberg is the highest hill in Berlin. It was made out of bricks that were brought here from the bombings of Berlin at the end of WW2. At the top there’s a special sight, not even mentioned in my guidebook. I have found it on an internet-page instead. It’s an old demolished listening-station, where the allied used to keep an ear out to what was going on, on the other side of the curtain during the cold war. Unfortunately as I reach the place there’s a closed gate at the entrance. No admittance for visitors. But – a nice guy from inside shows up. Of course – this is Berlin – so a few people have decided to move in, and they are happy to let you in for a small fee for the “spendekasse” for their small community. And if “Security” shows up, you just have to tell them that you are a friend of the place.
It’s a fantastic place if you fancy things like this. It’s a ruin of a listening-station with graffiti all over, and a great view on the top. There are only 3 tourists at the place. You have to take a little care, because there are no fences or other things making the place safe. And do look around where you put your feet – there might be a deep hole. And the sound of the place is magic. The wind blowing in the metal plates of the buildings is fabulous.
From the top you can see across to the Berlin Olympic Stadium. That’s my next stop. I walk down the hill, find a great pizza-place at the bottom and then take the S-bahn one stop for the Stadium. This place has its history as well. There are pictures at the place showing Hitler at the opening of the Olympics in 1936. The building itself is also great. It’s build in limestone – and build to last. The only thing that is missing is a game of football.
Then I head back to the station, and take my train back home.
A late afternoon trip is a more common tourist-thing. 1 hour of sailing on a tour-boat on the River Spree. It takes you past the “Washingmachine” – also known as the Bundeskansleramt, where Angela Merkel is residing.
Saturday, April 23rd
I am heading back home today. The train leaves Berlin Hauptbahnhof at 11.26 am and arrives at Aarhus Hauptbahnhof at 6.15 pm. Das war’s