Friday, October 13, 2006

A Berlin Excursion

On September 30, my sister, my youngest brother, and I decided to go on a tour of Berlin. Ideally, the tour would give us a chance to enjoy ourselves, to see some of Berlin, and to gain familiarity with the public transportation system here. At first, we wanted to organize something like a scavenger hunt or Amazing Race (the reality show) on a smaller and less complicated scale. The idea was that we would each be given a list of locations, then we would try to visit all of them, taking a photo of each, and make our way home as quickly as possible. We decided, though, that it might be best to do the tour together (at least the first time).

Accordingly, the evening before the 30th, my sister and I chose eighteen places in Berlin that would be worthwhile visiting, then I spent half the night devising a route by which we could pass from location to location as conveniently and with as little walking as possible.

We ended up leaving around noon on the 30th. I hadn't had any sleep, but I was excited enough that it didn't make much of a difference. In any case, my sleeping hours have been rather irregular for a while now. We brought along a small stuffed owl (our "Siegeseule"), intending to include it in our photos, so that there would be at least one owl photo for each of the places we visited.

Our destinations, by the way, were:
Staatsbibliothek zu Berlin
Keith Haring Sculpture of Two Boxers
Unter den Linden
Sculptures of Prussian Generals near the Staatsoper
Berliner Dom
Rotes Rathaus
Brandenburger Tor (inevitable)
Reichstag (also inevitable, I suppose)
Schloß Bellevue
Zoologischer Garten (the Elefantentor)
Schloß Charlottenburg
Schloß Tegel (also called the Humboldtschloß)
St.-Annen-Kirche (where my parents were married)
Botanischer Garten (specifically, the Gewächshäuser)
Rather an ambitious programme, eh? In truth, we only got as far as the Siegessäule. By then it was getting dark, and taking photos would have been more difficult without a better camera or better skill in using ours. In any case, we had already been underway nearly six hours, so there wasn't really any sense in staying out longer.

Now for photos and brief commentary on the places we saw . . .

Staatsbibliothek zu Berlin: As I think I mentioned in an earlier post, the Staatsbibliothek is the largest library in Berlin, or one of the largest. It has two branches — one in a modern building on Potsdamer Straße, and the other in an old, lovely building on Unter den Linden. We visited the Potsdamer Straße branch.

Keith Haring Sculpture of Two Boxers: A sculpture near the Staatsbibliothek and Potsdamer Platz. My interpretation: "Those who act violently either had neither reason nor feeling to begin with, or will shortly find themselves deprived of both." Alternatively, "One needs neither courage (guts) nor intelligence to engage in violence." Eh? Eh?
(The yellow buildings in the background are the Philharmonie and the Kammermusiksaal.)

Unter den Linden: We had in mind, specifically, the area around the Humboldt Universität and the Unter den Linden branch of the Staatsbiblithek. The plaque in the photo reads something to the effect of "Max Planck, discoverer of the elementary quantum h, taught in this house from 1889 to 1928." The plaque is mounted on one of the Humboldt University buildings.

Sculptures of Prussian Generals near the Staatsoper: They were, unfortunately, obscured by scaffolding the day of our tour — undergoing renovation, no doubt.

Berliner Dom: A domed Dom! (That is, a domed cathedral.) The building was much larger than I expected, and has an ornate design. I was rather surprised to see that there is a mosaic (which I initially took for a painting or fresco) above the main door. I would have expected statues or reliefs, if anything.

Rotes Rathaus: Also obscured by scaffolding . . . Tsk, tsk.

Gendarmenmarkt: We sat and rested on the steps of the Konzerthaus for a while. The statue in the photo is one of two, placed on either side of the steps.

Brandenburger Tor: The sun was shining very brightly, and the area was crowded. A considerable number of people were gathered around a group of performers, who were dressed in North American Indian costumes. I do have a photo, actually, but I didn't upload it because it's not particularly good, and now it would be too much trouble. :o)

Reichstag: Around the Reichstag and the Brandenburger Tor, there was a sort of fair in celebration of German Unification Day (or whatever it's called), which actually falls on October 3. Due to the festivities, some buses were not running as usual, which was inconvenient. Ah well. At least it gave us a chance to get some waffles.

(Note the arrow. It was actually pointing in the opposite direction. He he.)

Schloß Bellevue: The official residence of the German Bundespräsident (head of state) — a very symmetrical, elegant affair. It was amusing to see a security guard in a black suit walking about at the entrance of the palace. We were quite far away, kept from approaching by a carefully tended lawn, forbidding in its neatness, and a spiky black metal fence. The red structure upon which the owl is perched was formerly used in case of fire. I'm not sure whether it was only used to raise the alarm or also to access water.

Siegessäule: We didn't actually go up to the top (although I do want to at some point); we only gazed from a distance. By the way, just to clarify my little pun earlier: Siegessäule (zeeg-ess-zoy-leh) = victory pillar, Siegeseule (zeeg-ess-oy-leh) = victory owl. Get it?!? :o)

Afterwards, we walked about in the Schloßpark (particularly the Englischer Garten). The park was bordered on one side by the black metal fence that surrounds the grounds of Schloß Bellevue. There were security cameras at regular intervals along the fence, and security guards (at least one of which had a dog) could be seen walking about.

A Bismarck monument at the entrance to the park:

Assorted photos of the park:

(Note the aforementioned black metal fence.)

Now for another six weeks of silence . . . >:o)

Note: All of the above photos are hosted by flickr and edited using Adobe Photoshop.


At 10:41 p.m., November 07, 2006, Blogger Edithor said...

You could write a new post, of course . . . :)


Post a Comment

<< Home