Friday, October 22, 2010

Germany is Delicious

It rained on us during our last day in Amsterdam and our first day in Berlin. It was off and on light to semi-heavy rains. We had to take cover a couple of times. But we ventured out still. On our first night in Berlin we got in at about 10pm and luckily the rain had let up. We got off on the wrong train stop (because we don't speak German and the train announcements were all in German and all we heard was "Berlin") so it took us a little longer to get to our hotel but we still found it using the underground system. We had a small and late dinner at this Spanish place. They had this amazing dip for their bread. It was like an herbed sour cream dip. So good!

The next day it was still raining but we wanted to take a tour, so we bought an umbrella and braved it. We took the Third Reich Tour and it was really awesome! They took us to all of the old Nazi sites around Berlin. And some of the memorials too. These are sites that absolutely require a tour guide because most of the buildings are no longer standing, are unmarked, or have a history that is not fully explained by the small posted signs. It seems the Germans have been hesitant with confronting their past. They're just now starting to put up signs and all of the memorials are fairly new. Past generations had the mentality to just sweep things under the rug but that idea is fading away (thank goodness).

We started our tour in the Mohenstrasse underground station. The guide told us to pay close attention to the red italian marble that lines the station. He'd talk more about it at the end of the tour. We walked down Wilhelmstrasse, the street where all the important Nazi offices were. Only small parts of buildings were left after all the bombings in the city practically destroyed everything. Now it's just apartment buildings and restaurants. We went to the old headquarters of the Gestapo, the SA (Hitler's local police) and SS (Hitler's special ops and concentration camp operators). We saw an old Nazi building that is practically exactly how it was back in the 40's. It survived (along with a few others) because of a camoflouge net that was put over parts of the city and important buildings to make it look like parks. Because of the tour, we now can pretty easily identify the old Nazi buildings. They are all very big, very thick, very heavy-looking, made out of concrete and completely bland. We also saw the Brandenburg Gate and the Reichstag (the seat of the German Parliament) on the tour. We learned so much from the rise of the Nazis up until the last days. Toward the end of the tour, we saw the site where Hitler's office was. At the spot where the entrance used to be, now sits an Asian restaurant. Here the tour guide referred back to the red italian marble in the train station. That marble is from Hitler's offices. They were going through the rubble and preparing to demolish the building and the Soviets (they had control of that area) simply took all of the marble tile and used it in the train station a block away. The last site of the tour was Hitler's bunker. It sits under a parking lot for an apartment complex. We had to just stand there and use our imagination! The filled in the concrete bunker with gravel and more concrete after several failed attempts to use explosives to destroy it.

We left the tour probably with more questions than we had in the beginning. But we were cold, had been walking for 3 hours and had been rained on all day so we went to a good German restaurant down the street to warm up and relax. And it was REALLY good German food (recommended by our tour guide). Everything was cooked perfectly, was savory and rustic and flavorful. I had sauted potatoes with onions, an herb butter and a nice steak. Andrew had a platter with pork roast, a meatball (more like a hamburger patty) and a sausage with sauted potatoes.

All of the food was really good in Germany. On our second night there we ate at another German place where they had these awesome, thin, crispy German pizzas. We got one with apples, bacon, onions and this sort of feta cheese sauce. It was amazing. And then of course, more meat and potatoes. They have these little bakery and sandwich shops all over Berlin called Kamps. It was fast food but of a cafe quality. Every bread we tried on the trip so far (and especially in Germany) was delicious. The sandwiches were fresh. And they had so many danishes, strudels, rolls, twists, etc. The thing that was astonishing for us was these cute little sandwich shops and bistros and fast food places were in the train stations too. You would step off the train and right away be hit with all these great smells. We had the same experience in Brussells too. They had waffle carts everywhere. It smelled like heaven. Such a change from what we're used to. You step off the train in Chicago and New York and you're not hit with the smells of baked goods and steaming cups of coco and coffee. The smells of homeless people and steaming puddles of urine are more like it!

We saw most of the major sites in Berlin. We went to the DDR museum all about life in East Germany before the wall came down. It was very informative and interactive. You could get into the old cars and walk around a model of the apartments, even handle some of the old books, appliances, clothes, etc. Our hotel was right next to this awesome chocolate shop with big chocolate sculptures. We went in and browsed around. A few things were easy to interpret (a rum and a "wodka" filled chocolate, nuss=nut) and some words were the same. But we were left guessing more often than not. As a result, we walked out of there with a few "surprise" things. What Andrew thought was plain chocolates, turned out to be chocolate covered gingerbread cookies. That was a pleasant surprise! And I ended up with chocolatey nut-toffee discs. In addition to the chocolate shop, our hotel was also walking-distance to lots of things including all the Nazi sites and Brandenburg Gate. Here are our Berlin photos. There are lots:

Our first, dark, rainy view of the Brandenburg Gate (on our tour).

Up close view!

The Reichstag (Parliament).

We took a walk at the East Side Gallery, a large section of the wall left standing with a bunch of paintings crated by people from all around the world. Took a lot of photos here. In this one, there is one rose painted, each representing 136 dead.

This one had some really great cartoon characters!

This one had Albert Einstein and Andrew wanted his photo next to him. He's looking rather studious, don't you think?

Taking down the wall!

Can you tell which face is Andrew?

This little girl was too cute! Plus the flying horses(?) with heels and boots on was funny.

This one had an American flag.

The dove was pretty.

Okay, here are the shots from the chocolate shop. This was a real, working chocolate volcano. Pompeii should be so lucky!

Large chocolate bear at the chocolate shop. Wanna snuggle with it?

A chocolate titanic. I'll sink that baby!

A chocolate Brandenburg Gate. This stuff was real. You were overwhelmed with the smell of chocolate when you stood by it.

This was part of our afternoon walk (after the East Side Gallery). It's me standing on the former wall!

Checkpoint Charlie!

An area of the Topography of Terror (former site of SA, SS, and Gestapo headquarters) where you could see the former prisons.

Part of the prison cells.

Prison cells.

These are pieces of the former gate marking the entry to the headquarters. Anyone questioned by the SA, SS or Gestapo passed through these gates.

There were lots of displays like this along the Topography of Terror, explaining the events of the time. This one talks about how Hitler always positioned himself in a place of power with subtle (and not so subtle) cues. His forms of control were numerous.

Just part of the Topography of Terror. With a Nazi building behind it. See what I mean? HUGE and heavy and colorless and boring.

Me standing at the Mohenstrasse station station adorned with Hitler's red italian marble tiles.

Our walk later that night... the path of the former wall.

One of the buildings by the Brandenburg Gate. They had a festival of lights going on. This building had a bunch of apps projected on this building. Cool!

Okay, I can't decide which photo of us in front of the Brandenburg Gate I like best. So I'm posting them all!

A different angle.

The Gate in an orangey tone!

Oooooh, black and white!

Andrew getting ready to walk through the gate.



The walk/don't walk signs in former East Berlin (where our hotel was) remain the same as they were since the 60's - the little communist man in his hat. We thought it was cute!

Don't walk (obviously).

The American Embassy. Very American (and well-lit). It was right across the street from the Memorial to the Murdered Jews of Europe.

Memorial to the Murdered Jews of Europe. Lots of concrete. It's supposed to symbolize disorder that appears to be in order, is supposed to be perplexing and make the viewer feel somewhat uncomfortable. Google it if you're more interested.

More of the memorial.

Memorial - some of the pilars were really tall.


They had some old cars on display (I don't know much about cars so I don't have much to offer by way of explanation). This wrapped up our evening walk and the next day we were on our way to Prague!

1 comment:

  1. It looks like your having an awesome honeymoon. When I saw your picture of the Memorial to the Murdered Jews I got the same feeling when I was standing there 3 years ago. It was kinda crazy. Did you know that the chemical they use on the Memorial to protect from vandels with spray paint is the same chemical that was used to kill Jews. It caused a bit of an uproar there for a while. I also thought it was strange that hilter's old bunker is a parking lot for an apartment building. When I was there there was a swing set not more then 9 yards away. On way of hiding the past. Hope you enjoy the rest of your trip.