Saturday, October 3, 1987

1987 Low Countries: East Berlin (10/3/1987)

Saturday, October 3, 1987
Down for breakfast at 9:00, wow! Coffee, cream and sugar on the tables, and I had tea since they didn’t have hot chocolate. There were rolls (we took a couple extra for later), a nutty brown bread, and dense “gray” bread, butter and jams. Slices of cheese, a fine sausage, and salami, and we were brought soft-boiled eggs. Fully sated. Then last use of the toilet where you can view the goods on a “shelf” before flushing them away!
We checked out and took the luggage by subway, getting day passes for 8 DM/$4.30, to the train station and put them in a locker. I went to change more money and Kent went to buy stamps to mail a few postcards. Back on the U-Bahn to the Kochstrasse station, which was across the street from Checkpoint Charlie.
U-Bahn pass
West Berlin U-Bahn and S-Bahn Map

We first went to the Haus am Checkpoint Charlie Museum (for 3 DM 50/$1.90 each) with lots of information about the Wall, and escapes both successful and not, with a running tab on the types of escapes.
Checkpoint Charlie Museum ticket front
Checkpoint Charlie Museum ticket back:
"Politics is like the fabled Sphinx,
who devours all those
who cannot solve its riddles."
There was documentation of a wide variety of escapes with photos and actual maps, implements (cars, balloons, wire hangers, gas tanks, missiles, uniforms, etc.). Also some political history on passive resistance, artwork interpretations of the Wall, and a couple movie documentaries (but in German). It was more interesting than it looked form the outside. Next we wandered past the Allied Checkpoint Charlie, and no one seemed to care, neither the West Berlin police nor the US Armed Forces.
Checkpoint Charlie
But then it was time for lines and lots of waiting! Waited to have passports checked in a locked booth, then for day visas sold for 5 DM/$2.70 each. Next in line to change 25 DM/$13.50 per person per day into East German marks (1:1). Then to fill out a declaration form of currency and gifts to be given to the East Germans, which was checked by yet another official. Another person opened the gate and checked our documents before letting us into East Berlin and the Deutsche Demokratische Republik (DDR).
The streets were empty, buildings looked locked or abandoned, at about 12:30 on a Saturday. Little cars sounding like mopeds were scarce and moved slowly. But there were signs of a lot of construction.
Signs of construction
Intrigued by gold-topped domes, we found ourselves in Platz der Akademie with huge buildings, but no sign of what they were.
Dome of Französischer Friedrichstadtkirche/
French Church of Friedrichstadt
Some boys were playing dodgeball in old-fashioned clothing, and we soon saw that they were filming a movie with old cars in the scene.
Boys in period dress in Platz der Akademie/Academy Square
Filming a movie
Philharmonie Ost-Berlin/East Berlin
(1818-1821) designed by Karl Friedrich Schinkel
Französischer Friedrichstadtkirche/
French Church of Friedrichstadt
Tiled façade
We continued north, but detoured east again to St Hedwig’s Cathedral, a huge old domed building, but surprisingly modern inside with a recessed basement surrounded by chapels. We reached Unter den Linden, a famous boulevard, to go into a building guarded by two stiff soldiers. This was the Tomb to the Unknown Soldier and memorial of the sacrifice to Fascism and militarism.
Grabmal des unbekannten Soldaten/Tomb of the Unknown Soldier
Schlossbrücke/Palace Bridge with sculpture of the goddess Nike
supporting a wounded warrior (pre-1857) by Ludwig Wichmann
Schlossbrücke/Palace Bridge with sculpture of the goddess Athena
protecting the warrior attacking the enemy (1854) by Gustav Bläser,
with the Berliner Dom/Cathedral domes and TV tower in the background
Lots of immense buildings such as Humboldt University, from which many archaeological expeditions were sent, as well as producing Max Planck (quantum theory) and Albert Einstein. The Zeughaus was now the German History Museum, which we didn’t want to tackle with everything being in German. Next the Altes/Old Museum in a 19th century building fronted by 18 ionic columns and lots of statues, as well as a large marble basin. We paid 2 DM 50/$1.35 each to enter, and I had to check my “large” bag for 20 pfennig/11 cents.
Altes Museum ticket
Altes Museum bag check ticket
Altes Museum/Old Museum with Kent
For Berlin’s 750th anniversary, they had a special exhibit on “Art in Berlin,” presented in chronological order. Saw several Edvard Munch paintings, which were considered scandalous by Hitler (the low necklines or the slovenliness as in The Morning After?). Lots of Adolph Menzel, some Socialist art, and flat diamond-shaped faces of Georg Scholz, as well as sculptures of Karl Friedrich Schinkel, Johann Gottfried Schadow, Andreas Schlüter, etc. Across from this museum was another huge church. We walked north to more massive buildings, including one that looked bombed out, of the National Gallery, and then to the Pergamon Museum.
Pergamon Museum
Since the museum was filled to capacity with visitors, we had to wait as they let in small groups as others left the museum. We were in the third group allowed to enter, and considered ourselves lucky when we left and passed the extremely long waiting line.
Pergamon Museum ticket
Paid 2 DM/$1.10 each and first came to a huge room half-filled by the Pergamon Altar of white marble from the Greek city of Pergamon. A temple with 27-30 steps to a colonnade, with some copied columns to complete the look. There was a virtually intact frieze around the bottom, dated to 150-160 BC, depicting the struggle of the gods versus the giants from Hesiod’s Theogony, all in bas relief jutting out 6 feet in places, and about 15 feet high. The museum had loads of Greek and Roman statues, including the goddess with a pomegranate (575 BC), which was found in South Attica wrapped in lead and buried for 2000 years. A huge extensive coin collection, showing both fronts and backs. Some mosaics, urns, clay tablets with cuneiform (with text translations that contained many blanks and question marks!). We went back to see the huge Roman market gate from Miletus (now Turkey) done in Asia Minor marble. The next “room” had the Ishtar Gate in brick mosaic of glazed brick in blue with yellow lines and red and green accents. Impressive was just the size of these things! Continued to the Processional Way of Nebuchadrezzar, from Babylon (580 BC). Saw glass and metal works, jewelry, ceramics all from a time when Europe was still primitive. Lots of pieces of smaller temples. Whew!
At about 15:00 we left to find a makeshift beer garden on Unter den Linden and bought a beer (Pilsator that Kent said was his best so far) and a weak Cola for only 1 DM 86/$1 total, plus a 20 pfennig/11 cent deposit for the glasses, which we got back in return. Also two bratwurst with mustard for 1 DM 60/86 cents. We ate those with the rolls from breakfast; very good!
East Berlin S-Bahn train
Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin/
Berlin Humboldt University
We headed down Unter den Linden/Under the Linden Trees (Tilia cordata/Small-leafed Lime) with smallish trees, having been planted after WWII when they were destroyed or cut for firewood.
Unter den Linden/Under the Linden Trees
Detoured to see a modern white skyscraper that was not marked (N. B. built 1976-1978, design and construction was done by the Japanese Kajima Corporation as an office building, now the International Handelszentrum/Commerce Center).
Part of the Handelzentrum with East German flags
Ended up at the Berlin Bahnhof/train station Friedrichstrasse, but the post office, stamp and souvenir shops were all closed. Returned to Unter den Linden to walk to the Brandenburg Gate with the sun setting behind it, and the clean whitewashed Berlin Wall, no graffiti like in the west!
Brandenburg Gate
Unter den Linden
WPA-like mural
We hiked over to Potsdamer Platz where the three sectors (US, British, and Soviet) meet, and the place was a deserted expanse here on the East German/Soviet side. We saw cameras mounted on old buildings pointed towards the Wall. While walking back along Leipzigerstrasse, we discovered the postal museum and went in for 1 DM 05/57 cents each.
Postal Museum ticket
Four floors of stamps, coins, cancellation marks, old letters, photos, and old postal windows. Kent bought one each of the current series of East German stamps for a total of 14 DM 60/$7.90. Now in search of a place to eat, most of the restaurants were filled with well-dressed people, the opera crowd. Lots more action in the streets than earlier!
We decided on Restaurant Arkade, which had a shorter line. Mostly for coffees and desserts, but they did have a dinner offering of pork steaks. Kent ordered a beer at the last minute before the bar closed at 18:00 (restaurant is open until midnight!) and I had a lemon soda with our pork cutlets topped with creamed chicken and accompanied by peas, pickle slices, lettuce and tomato, and crispy French fries. The bill came to 17 DM 10/$9.25, which left us with just a handful of East German change. The restaurant also had comment cards, but everything was great!
Doily for stem of drinking glasses
Arkade bill
We hiked to Checkpoint Charlie and the guard let us in the booth. The same guy took our declaration forms, and then we had to wait a good half hour before the passport check, because three Arabs didn’t seem to know to go through the door when someone came out, and the door kept locking. Several feisty Brits came in, ringing the bell several times, so that when someone did come out, we all crowded into the booth. The same guard who checked our faces against the passport photos when we arrived was there for when we left! A long work shift! He took our visa, and we were free to go and catch the U-Bahn to the train station.
Kent checked the phonebook and found 39 S families, starting with an Albert and Alfred! Wandered around the shopping area, bought postcards and chocolate, went to McDonald’s for coffee and a chocolate milkshake, and Kent bought a Herald Tribune in English. We sat outside, but it got cold. In the station to retrieve our bags, then showed our ticket at the gate to be allowed in to the platform. Kent read the newspaper and I worked on the journal in the hours before the 23:13 train to Köln. Kent got another beer, some teetotaler he is on this trip! The train came in at 23:00 and there was one other person in our compartment. Left on time. The girl left for another compartment, so that we were alone for the night. The porter brought us pillowcases, then sheets and explained how to make up the cuchette beds, then he took our tickets and Eurail Passes.
East Germany train ticket
When the East German passport control came, they were more serious this time. Made up the beds and turned in.

Next: Köln.

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