Monday, December 28, 2009

Berlin

Berlin Hauptbahnhof (Central Station)...it's huge, and when you're not trying to meet someone or find your way out of it, it's beautiful. It's even fully equipped with a McDonald's, Burger King, Starbuck's, and 24-hour drugstore for those accustomed to convenient travelling. :)
View into one of the Parliament buildings...they have all been recently rebuilt in a modern style with plenty of glass so that proceedings are visible to the public. If you're willing to wait in a queue, there's free access to this dome, which gives a nice view of the city and the main council meeting room.
The Milchmeyer Christmas tree, traditionally adorned with real candles!
Gate which used to be the border between East Berlin and West Berlin in what used to be no-man's land
One of the few remaining sections fo the Berlin Wall - didn't get a picture of Checkpoint Charlie, but I did see it and other wall sections, including the one from which Laura's dad took two pieces!

This must be one of the longest streets in Berlin. It used to be near the wall so I think it was a sort of no-man's land as well. It's runs through what used to be the royal hunting grounds, which are now a public park. On Sylvester, or New Year's Eve, the street is packed with up to a million people celebrating. You can see the preparations already beginning above, as well as the gate from the previous picture in the distance.
For whatever reason, all the traffic lights in Berlin are in the form of this little man with a hat! There are even shops filled with memorabilia bearing his image, and one single female trafficwoman in Dresden.
The statue in front of a little Legoland store...this one's for Jonathan. There was also a Lego statue of Albert Einstein with his tongue out which reminded me of Dad.
The Berlin Wienachtmarkt (Christmas markets) were just closing down, but this one was still offering people a glimpse of true winter and an escape from the rain with this artificial sledding hill!
Bears such as this one were given to various artists a few years ago, decorated, and then auctioned off and placed around the city...they're everywhere!

This is definitely one of the nicest monuments I've seen. Built just 5 years ago, it honors Holocaust victims. At first sight, it just looks like a plaza full of identical rectangular blocks, but when you start walking between them you see how huge the area is, and also that each block is a different size, and that the ground slopes up and down to make them seem even more massive. (See the view below.) It's vast enough for children to lose their way, and grand enough to at least inspire a sense of awe in the rest of us.

View from one of the main squares

View along the river between the parliament buildings and train station. In the summer, there are cafes with artificial beaches along the way!

I had another interesting experience on the train. The older gentleman next to me spoke English, and after he struck up a conversation was absolutely bewildered to hear that I am American, but study in Bosnia, and went from Austria to Belgium alone by train for only a week, and was on my way to Berlin for a day...I have to be honest, in the midst of internationalism I sometimes forget just how strange it is. In return, I was slightly bewildered to hear that when I said I'm from St. Louis, he automatically associated it with Monsanto.

My next stop was a short stay with the family of a coyear, Laura Milchmeyer, in Berlin. It took us a while to find each other in the station, but once we did they got right to showing me their city with a view of the building where Angela Merkel works and a visit to the dome of the parliament building, which has a great 360 view of the city during the day. All this buildings are new in Berlin, and all are intentional constructed in a very modern style with lots of glass to make all the council proceedings visible to the public.

The next day, Laura and I spent hours walking around to try to fit in all the major sights. It was neat to finally see a city with so much recent history, and even cooler to hear her parents' firsthand accounts of it!

1 comment:

Jane said...

Happy New Year Leah! It is so interesting to read all about your travels. It seems you have organized a great trip with lots of variety. How much fun this must be. Yes I live vicariously through these types adventures. As I tell Andy, I am so glad for you all, but secretly wish it were me doing all these fun things. Thanks for sharing.