Today Katharina took Wendy and I into the heart of Berlin. We are staying beside the Wannsee lake near the Glienicker Bridge, famous for being the point where people where exchanged between East and West Berlin and divided by the Wall. The bridge has featured in lots of spy movies. We are within a spit of three Schloss and in a very gracious part of Berlin. Over the bridge you enter Potsdam.
After cruising the main Strasse we visited KADEWE department store to look at the food section with so much exotic and beautifully displayed ( expensive) produce. We checked the wine for Australian labels and found a few. I believe the Australian Wine industry has had a big promotional exhibition recently( according to the German friends we met on the way from Le Puy).
Before we parted company we had a beer in the beer bar. Katharina is renown for saying I am German I drink beer! Check out the pretzels and the bar man pouring all the beers. They need to settle a bit before he gives it to you after a top up.We wandered into an area near Alexandra Platz in search of Sushi but had to settle for Thai.( Guess who is missing Australian variety?) Katharina then left us to explore on our own and as Wendy had a couple of days under her belt we managed to cover most of the important places before catching the train home. I saw this as an orientation day for me. There are lots of museums and art galleries here so we need to be selective.
The weather was so humid everything is hazy and while I am impressed by the symmetry of the buildings and the grand strasses ( boulevards) I can’t help finding all the statues on the roof lines a bit strange, like cake decorations! Everything seems so grey and as a lot of Berlin was rebuilt after the war, especially in the East there is an ugly utilitarian feel to it.
Some of the platz( plazas) seem just empty and so many streets have weeds and overgrown grass. The city is gifted with beautiful parks but once again everything seems shabby and untidy. I feel it must be a reaction resulting from 6 weeks in France where even dead bushes are topiaried!
The official buildings are very imposing-really huge. The Reischstag, the Cathedral, the Brandenburg Tor but I am really fascinated by the history and the impact of the wall. Katharina told us she helped a family escape when she was a young student by bringing them out hidden in her combi, but her boyfriend a student doctor at the time, got caught and spent three years in prison before his parents were able to pay for him to be released. It was a time when you could get a pass to drive through East Berlin and the guards could not ask you to open the car, just look in. Afterwards she was told by the police she could never drive through again because the Stasi would arrest her. She had to fly out of Berlin if she was to leave, which was difficult as her parents were living in the south of Germany.
Wendy and I returned home but missed our bus stop which is before the Schloss and had to leap off before the bridge and rush back so we would be ready for dinner with Katharina. Even with the orientation I still can’t get a sense of direction in Berlin.