Wednesday, May 7, 2014

Final Week in Berlin 2014

Hello Folks,

Today is our last day of visiting in Berlin and it has been getting close to a week since my last posting on the blog.  Tomorrow we have an early flight from Amsterdam to Los Angeles, which means that from Berlin we have to catch a super early flight to Amsterdam, which in turn means we have to get up super duper early in order to get to the airport in time for the flight and check in.  We have already done our online check-in, all that remains is showing up on time and making the connections.  In any case if we manage to make everything work out, we should be back in LA Friday afternoon, seriously in need of a nap.

Linda and I spent our last week visiting a lot of interesting places and for the most part doing things that we have not yet done on our other trips to Berlin.  While we did have one day where we did a whirlwind tour of the  Museums on Museum island, seeing some of the best of the best sights and some new visiting exhibitions, we did find quite a few new things to do and see.  We are also planning a few more new things to go and do in a few minutes as we go out to enjoy our final day.

It might be easiest to cover this last week by working backwards in time, it is the way that it is easiest to remember things for some reason.  Yesterday we went to Dresden using a regional train to get us from the main train station in Berlin to the main train station in Dresden.  Whilst in Dresden we were able to get to the main attractions by walking. Dresden is a beautiful city, the old town had to be completely reconstructed after the war, but it was done very well.  We did have to dodge a few rain clouds, but we were able to work that in as a museum visit interspersed with touring the town, visiting the buildings, and climbing the towers.

On the train to Dresden

Old town - Old Guy - Dresden from the Elbe

Grounds - Der Dresdner Zwinger

Linda at Der Dresdner Zwinger
On our museum island day, we made the national galery our first and main stop, and then stopped off to see the old (real old) favorites like the gates of Ishtar, the Pergamon forum, and artifacts from Rome, the Etruscan, and Egypt.

Linda!  Watch out for the snake.
National Gallery


We were lucky to be able to catch a tour inside the air terminal at Templehof which was built just before the war and was for a long time the larges building in Europe. It was a massive terminal with quite a history as a civilian airline terminal, an manufacturing site for fighter planes during WWII, and the base for the Berlin Airlift during the cold war.  It was fascinating.

A US C-54 (Candy Bomber) used in the airlift

Film Storage Room used during the war - burned by the Russians

Basket Ball court in the Templehof terminal

We found a small museum outside of the main part of town called "Das Brücke Museum" ("The Bridge"), a selection from the early 20th-century expressionist movement.

The Brucke - Emil Nolde
We traveled out to the Rathaus Schöneberg, the city hall for the borough of Tempelhof-Schöneberg in Berlin where John Kennedy gave his famous "I am a Berliner" speech.  It is kind of special visiting the sites of history that was being made during our lifetime.

Commemorating JFK's speech

In front of the town hall

One other site we did finally get around to finding was the site of Hitler's bunker and suicide.  It turns out that it is just a short 5 minute walk from the apartment, just around back actually.  It is a study in understatement.  There are a few signs that talk about the bunker and the final days, but no permanent markers.  The place is being used as open space, a children's park, a parking lot, a place to walk a dog, and in one corner there is an area where a dumpster is parked.  It seemed like a good way to use and mark the spot, but you can see why there aren't a lot of pictures of the place, there is absolutely nothing remarkable about it.

We have added several pictures (toward the end) to the Picasa web album for Berlin if you want to see a few of the things we have been seeing.

Anyway, we are going out for our final day of visiting soon, home early to pack and then tomorrow we start our journey home.

We hope you are all doing well,

Stephen & Linda

Friday, May 2, 2014

Berlin - our first week

Hello folks,

It is a beautiful Saturday morning now, one short but action filled week ago, we were getting on the train in Amsterdam and heading to Berlin.  We have had a great week, with great weather and for the most part very mild temperatures.  We had been waiting for a gray and possibly rainy day for our "Museum Day" and it finally arrived yesterday, but even then the rain was just an occasional light drizzle. The rain came with a marked drop in temperature, so the extra layer of water resistant clothing felt good.  Linda and I haven't had to wait long for "Museum Days" in past visits, and we were wondering if one was going to pop up during this first week of visiting with our friends Vickie and Karin.

Karin - Ready for Rain
We were able get the most out of the week of springtime weather and see a lot of sights with flowers in bloom, and everything green and pretty.  Some of the things we visited were completely new to Linda and I, and some of them were favorites from past visits.

One of our days, we spend visiting the farmer's market in the Turkish neighborhood near Hermannplatz, and then after stocking up on fruit and vegetables, we headed out to the botanical gardens in the area called Steglizt.

Karin, Vickie, and Linda at the Farmer's Market
Vickie, Linda, and Karin at the Botanical Garden
We spent another one of our days by renting "city bikes" and riding around Templehof.  The old airfield at Templehof was made into a historical great park that is both a monument to the Berlin airlift and a fun place for cyclists, Rollerbladers, and even some windsurfers on wheels.  The neighborhood around the airfield is quaint and pre-war with many of the roads done in cobblestones (you notice them when cycling).  We finished off the day with a German style meal at a local restaurant before dropping off the bikes and heading back to the apartment.

Coffeeshop Bike at the Templehof Great Park
 We spent another day touring the Reichstag, and then exploring the French and German Cathedrals in the Gendarmenmarkt.  The Reichstag and the cathedral tours both got us up to great views of the city along with real interesting histories of German political development.  We actually visited the French Cathedral twice that day, the first time to climb the tower and the second time to listen to an organ concert in the evening.

At the Reichstag

The Reichstag

View of the Gendarmenmarkt
For our museum day, we went to the Gemäldegalerie (Picture Gallery) to see the collection of old masters paintings.  It was spectacular.  We finished off the afternoon with a visit to a fascinating technology museum that focused on human body mechanics.  It was a wonderful demonstration of interactive learning.



Here is a link to some additional pictures from the last several days.

We hope you are doing well.

Stephen and Linda