Saturday, July 9, 2011

Berlin and Potsdam

July 3-6, 2011

After school got out, I had some extra time on my hands.  People were busy with this or that, so I decided to take a short trip to Berlin.  My goal this year was to visit countries that I haven't been to.  I have already been to Germany so it wasn't a top priority, but everyone kept talking about how great Berlin was so I decided to see it for myself.  Never being to Berlin before, I figured it counted as a "new adventure".  Exploring the internet, I booked my hostel and researched what to see and do.  Sunday July 3rd, at 7am my adventure began.
Brian and Clay
    The train from Tabor to Dresden was no problem but once in Dresden the headaches began.  Usually outside a train compartment you can see if a seat is reserved or not...well...apparently people were able to reserve seats in Dresden and they hadn't been marked yet.  I ended up changing seats about 4 times, before I found the LAST seat in a packed compartment.  Luckily there were two Americans in the compartment and we chatted the final 2 hours to Berlin.  Clay and his brother, Brian were hilarious....I seriously haven't laughed so much in such a long time.  They didn't have a place to stay yet, so once in Berlin, they followed me to my hostel and booked rooms.  Their sister is in the air force, stationed in Germany so she joined up around 9pm that night.
       I have to say that Berlin is pretty amazing.  The four of us took a 5+ hour walking tour of Berlin on Monday.  We were able to see everything and our tour guide was super funny and we got a great explanation of all that we saw.  The following is some of the highlights of the tour:
Brandenburger Tor:  Our walking tour started here.

Berlin Wall:  There is only a small section of the wall still standing.  There is a long history of the wall.  It was re built many times because people were finding ways of crawling over.  Eventually the smooth, curved pipe was put at the top because people were unable to get a grip and climb over.  The wall came down November 9, 1989 when about 5,000 people from East Berlin rushed through the wall trying to get to West Berlin.

Berliner Dom:  was built in 1905 to "look old" and is a Cathedral.  It is located on Museum Island and is gigantic and beautiful.  Many people gather to have picnics on the green grass/park in front or frolic in the fountain.

Checkpoint Charlie: This was the third checkpoint for people to enter/exit West Berlin and East Berlin. There is a sign next to the checkpoint that states you are now leaving the American zone, etc.  There are many stories of people sneaking into West Berlin.  One many cut a hole in his seat, his flexible girlfriend pretzeled herself inside and the man sewed back up the seat.  When at the checkpoint, the guards checked everywhere, except the seat cushion.  Another story were were told was a boyfriend and girlfriend were separated in W. Berlin and E. Berlin.  He was in the West and she, in the East.  He found a girl in W. Berlin that looked exactly like his girlfriend and they started dating...after several months, he talked the "new girlfriend" into taking a trip to East Berlin (since she had her papers, etc). Once in East Berlin, they stopped to have lunch at a restaurant.  When she was in the bathroom, he stole her papers and met up with the "real" girlfriend outside and they went back to West Berlin using this new girls papers.  Once the "new" girlfriend realized what happened, she called the police but at this point it was too late, and the real couple were happy back in West Berlin.  There are so many more creative escape stories like this.
This is the Jewish Memorial in down town Berlin.  The designer built the memorial in down town so that everyday, people on their way to work would see and remember.  The design is too look like the different stages in the first there was little to be worried about and then the fear gets bigger and bigger.  There is a lot of speculation about the actual design and meaning but the designer wanted each person to have their own reaction and interpretation of what they saw.  Walking through it, it is very overwhelming
The maze takes you to different levels, rows, heights, and emotions.  You can get lost within the labyrinth or go straight from one point to another.
This statue sits in an open memorial.  She is holding her dying son from war.  She is exposed to the elements by a whole hole in the ceiling of the building.  When it snows, she is covered in snow, when it rains, she gets to her are two graves.  One grave is of a holocaust victim and the other the grave of a German soldier.  Some people are very upset by these two graves but the point of the statue is to show that there are no people untouched by war.

  This picture is definitely not a highlight but one that I found important.  Below the unkept grass is Hitler's bunker.  Below the ground, Hitler hid at the end of the war and it is the same place that he and his wife committed suicide.  As you can see in the picture, it is now a car park and where dogs go to do their business.  Our tour guide took us here to show us that you build memorials to victims, and this is how you remember Hitler...

TV Tower:  Also known as the eye of Stalin this is a giant visual in Berlin.  It was built in 1969 by the East Berlin government to show West Berlin that they are advanced in technology as well. 

There of course were many many more highlights on tour but I think enjoying local food is just as important as seeing the sights.  I do have to say that Germany has some GREAT food.  If you like to eat, Berlin is the place to go.  The first night started my eating with a curry wurst.  It is a sausage with curry sauce but unfortunately at this place, it takes like an Oscar Meyer hot dog with ketchup.  Nothing quite special.  But not all was lost, Berlin has GREAT beer and my local food tasting only got better.
I do have to say though, that the potato salad is to die for!! YUMMMMMMMMMMY

I also tried Snitzel...super....two thumbs up, and my absolute favorite was the rump steak and potatoes....oh my gosh....heaven.  The steak melted in your mouth and the extra blend of fried onions, sauce, and potatoes would take any food connoisseur into a new love of food. Unfortunately I don't have a picture because by the time I realized I should take one, the food was gone...
        On Wednesday the four of us took a day trip to Potsdam.  I HIGHLY HIGHLY recommend going to Potsdam. It is a beautiful town located about 30-40 minutes by S-Bahn train from Berlin.  Here are some of the highlights from Potsdam:

Brandenburg Gate

Gardens of Potsam.  The park is ENORMOUS.  You could spend hours and hours inside the park.  A maze of flowers, hedges, statues, and structures takes you on a sensory overload.  If I lived here, I know I would be spending most of my days in the park, reading, writing, and getting my visual stimulation of nature.

More views of the park

As were walking through the park, we caught sight of this building through some of the tall hedges.  We walked over and explored the beautiful building.  I am not joking when I say that you can get lost in the park and you can discover hidden gems among the hedges.

Down another turn in the park, you can find yourself at the Chinese Tea House.  The design is brilliant and breath taking.

This church is also in the gardens.  As you walk down the path, you come upon this gorgeous church sitting on a pond.  Swans and ducks swim in the pond and you can enjoy the serenity of the surroundings.  Surrounded by trees you can easily forget that civilization lives beyond the trees a short distance away.

We booked a tour at the Sanssouci Palace, but we have about an hour to wait.  During the wait, we hiked up the hillside of the park to some ruins.  Funny enough, we found out later that the ruins are actually fake.  The king created the area to house the water for the fountains of the park and wanted an old, ancient feel to the area.

We had some fun taking pictures and being silly.  At the "fake" ruins, we decided to be "fake" statues.  Each of us took a pose and my camera captured it. This is one of my favorite pictures and we just had so much fun.

We took a tour of Sanssouci Palace.  The palace sits in the middle of the park and the gardens surrounding the palace are beautiful.  We all commented how awesome it would be to grow up here. You could play hide-n-seek in so many cool locations and have a lot of places to explore.

View of Sanssouci from below the castle.  The maze pattern consists of plants, flowers, and grapes as you wind your way up to the palace.

On the other side of Sanssouci Palace.

After Sanssouci Palace, we continued our exploration of the gardens.  We found ourselves at the "New Palace".  Unfortunately for us, it is not open on Tuesdays so we could not explore inside.  But it didn't stop us from doing our own outside explorations.

The New Palace closer up

With all the statues, it was fun to find a statue at the Palace with a little sense of humor.  The child is giving the "two thumbs up" and looking a little mischievous.  I haven't seen a statue like this before and I kinda like it.

 The four of us....I used my natural gift of self-portraiting to take this picture... Luckily my head got into the picture but it is still a favorite picture of mine.

In the picture:  Jill, Clay, Brian, and my head :)

1 comment:

  1. What an interesting blog, introduced by a thought-provoking photo. The unusual wall painting of the dwellings is also a strangely modern interpretation. Something like this hieroglyphic view of a park by Swiss painter Paul Klee,
    The image can be seen at who can supply you with a canvas print of it.