Wednesday, March 3, 2010

From the ashes

Berlin, Germany, February 17, 2010

On our morning jog around the immediate neighborhood no buildings clearly date to before the war. Buildings are all several stories tall, immediately adjacent to each other. We pass a church, but it's almost indistinguishable from the buildings on either side.

The hotel has a complimentary breakfast buffet. It's Ash Wednesday, so I avoid the bacon and sausage and stick to eggs and what look like little breakfast potatoes. The latter turn out to be mini-wienerschnitzel.

Today is a museum day, so we subway east to Museum Island. Berlin's must-see museum is the Pergamon, which includes displays of the Pergamon Altar, Market Gate of Miletus, and the Ishtar Gate. While I took photos, everything's already at Wikipedia Commons.

We took a break at the museum cafe. I ordered the special, Pfannkuchen (Berliner) und Kaffe. A Berliner is topped with powdered sugar rather than covered with granulated, so it isn't as sweet as an American jelly doughnut; advantage U.S.A..

Next we go to the Neues Museum (New Museum), heavily damaged in the war, and not reopened until last year. It features Egyptian antiquities. The prize exhibit is the Nefertiti bust.

As we leave we cross the street to the Lustgarten (Pleasure Garden) which is actually just a nice little park.

Beyond it is the Berliner Dom (Berlin Cathedral). Repairs of war damage were finally completed in 1993.

Across another street and we're at the Marx-Engels-Forum. East German kids would, before Christmas, sit on Karl's lap. They knew if they asked for an AK-47 he'd reply "You'll shoot your eye out", so instead they asked for the Workers Paradise, but it never came.

The figures have their backs to the site of the East German Palast der Republik (Palace of the Republic), its parliament building, demolished after reunification. They face toward Alexanderplatz, which was downtown East Berlin. [Berlin Alexanderplatz (1929) by Alfred Doblin had been another possibility for vacation reading.] While we never quite made it to the platz itself, we couldn't miss the Fernsehturm (television tower).

We continued east to the Nikolaiviertel (Nicholas Quarter), the oldest remaining section of Berlin, surrounding St. Nicholas Church, now also drawing tourists for shopping and some restaurants. It's not near a subway stop and we wind up walking all the way back to Potsdamerplatz, missing by a block or so a remnant of the East German border wall. (The Berlin Wall ultimately included the "border wall", the "hinterland wall" within East Germany, and the "no man's land" or "death strip" in between.)

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