Friday, October 2, 1987

1987 Low Countries: West Berlin (10/2/1987)

Friday, October 2, 1987
At 1:00 in Hamm, West Germany, there was all this activity to shuttle cars to make a tremendously long train headed to Berlin, Warsaw, and Moscow. At about 3:00 we were awakened by the polite and smiling East German border guards, who checked our faces against our passport photos, and issued transit visas from their portable desk valises hanging around their necks.
Transit visa front
Transit visa back
At 5:45, the conductor checked our tickets and told us they were for second class.
Train ticket for East Germany
We moved to a compartment where the occupants were sitting up rather than sprawled across the seats. The sun was coming up and I saw frost on rooftops. Kent noted lots of Soviet tanks.
We arrived at the Berlin Zoo station on time at 7:19. First we found a baggage locker, the conventional kind with a key, and Kent got the change we needed from locker attendants. Next we reserved cuchettes on the night train to Köln for the following night, which cost us 58 DM/$31.35. Then purchased the train tickets through East Germany for 67 DM/$36.20. This process went more quickly and smoothly than in Amsterdam. We used the restrooms with me needing 40 Pfennig/20 cents at the pay stall. We ate at the station restaurant, Zapf-Hahn, ordering breakfasts # 1 and #2. I had hot chocolate with a roll with butter and strawberry jam, and Kent had coffee with two rolls with butter and sour cherry jam, a slice of brown bread, a packaged triangle of processed cheese, two slices of pimento loaf, and a slice of sausage. We left 14 DM/$7.50 at the chest high table in a booth we had to climb into.
We left to start our tour, crossing the street to check out the zoo, established in 1844 as the first zoo in Germany, covering 74 acres and containing more species than any zoo in the world. That is impressive having been rebuilt after WWII with only 91 surviving animals. The zoo wasn’t open yet, so we walked through the commercial downtown to view the Kaiser Wilhelm Memorial Church, originally built in the late 19th century in Neo-Romanesque style, and it had been totally destroyed during the war. Only a shell of the 1895 tower remains, and it is kept that way as a reminder. The church was rebuilt in modernistic style as a hexagon with the walls made up of small squares of blue-toned stained glass in a honeycomb pattern in 1961. It seats 1200 people. On the other side is a tall yellow cylinder of the same architectural style, the carillon, and the locals call the complex the “lipstick and powder box,” and it is highlighted with neon lighting.
Kaiser Wilhelm Memorial Church
In the next block was the tallest building in Berlin at only 15 stories, called the Europa Center, housing a shopping center.
Europa Center with Broken Chain (1987) by sculptors
Brigitte Matschinsky-Denninghoff and Martin Matschinsky
We walked up to Budapeststrasse to see the main entrance to the zoo, guarded by stone elephants.
Berlin Zoo entrance
Next door was the aquarium, the largest and most comprehensive collection of aquatic animals in the world with 200 tanks, and over 6000 fish, reptiles, and amphibians. There was also a terrarium with crocodiles and an insectarium.
Berlin Aquarium
A fish tank on the outer wall had pockmarked glass. We headed through the Tier Garten, an immense park of 412-600 acres. During the war, all the trees were cut down for fuel, and later war rubble was piled up and eventually became hills. Now just a quiet wooded area full of walkways. We came to a large traffic circle around the so-called Grosse Stern/Large Star, although it was more of a square than star-shaped, a red granite base for the Siegesäule/Victory column, 1873 hollow yellow sandstone column with 290 steps to a 210-foot high observation deck, and topped with a 27-foot gilded bronze sculpture of Victory, commemorating the Franco-Prussian War.
Siegesäule/Victory column
Traffic signal for bicyclists
Bismarck Memorial (1898) by Reinhold Begas
We walked around and behind to the English Garden opened by Anthony Eden, and often called the Garden of Eden. Massive sculptures surrounded by chain-link fencing.
Continued up to Schloss/Castle Bellevue, a residence of the Bundesrepublik Deutschland (BRD)/West German president, which is undergoing renovation.

Schloss Bellevue (1786) designed by Michael Philipp Boumann
We followed the canal-like river Spree to the Kongesshalle/convention hall, which was the US entry in the 1957 Interbau, an international architectural exhibition with buildings designed by 50 architects from 22 nations. Most of these buildings are in the Hansa quarter of Berlin. The Kongresshalle is known as the “pregnant oyster.”
Kongresshalle (1957) designed by Hugh Stubbins
with Large Divided Oval: Butterfly (1985-86) by Henry Moore 
We walked along John Foster Dulles Strasse/Street towards the Berlin Wall, passing construction of a black marble carillon tower for Berlin’s 750th anniversary this year. Near the wall was the huge Reichstag/National Diet or Parliament, first built as an opera in 1884-1894 in Neo-Italian High Renaissance style.
It was reconstructed in 1933 after a fire. It was used by Hitler, and is now used for political conclaves. There were a lot of people in sleeping bags on its great lawn. All along the Berliner Mauer/Berlin Wall there is open area, and directly behind the Reichstag the wall is 25-feet high and 3-feet thick, although it is no longer topped by barbed wire, or at least not visible from the west side. There was a guardhouse on the east side. We followed the wall to the Brandenburger Tor/Brandenburg Gate, viewing it over the wall from stands. A pair of guards were pacing back and forth in front of the gate. At the end of Unter den Linden street in east Berlin, the Brandenburg Gate is a set of columns crowned by a beaten copper quadriga (chariot drawn by four horses), created by Johann Gottfried Schadow in 1793, inspired by Propylaea of Parthenon in Athens. It was destroyed during WWII, but the molds were still available for West Berlin to recreate the statue to give to East Berlin. The Brandenburg Gate was the gate to the city in 1787.
Brandenburger Tor/Brandenburg Gate
Berlin Wall
Berlin Wall
We continued down along the wall to end up at the yellow, wavy-roofed Philharmonic, built in 1963 in a modern functional design as home to the world-renowned Berlin Philharmonic Orchestra.
Philharmonie/Philharmonic (1960-1963)
designed by Hans Scharoun
It seats 2200 people around the orchestra.
Beyond was a simple Romanesque church of St Matthew, out of place surrounded by modern buildings.
St Matthäus Kirche (1845) designed by Friedrich August Stüler
Also the National Library, the largest in the world,
Staatsbibliothek/National Library (1967-1978)
designed by 
Hans Scharoun and Edgar Wisniewski
and the New National Gallery with lots of glass (the gallery itself was below ground level) and surrounded by unmarked modern sculptures.
Neue Nationalgalerie/New National Gallery
The Gallery was designed by Mies van der Rohe, built 1965-1968, and contains Impressionist to modern art and sculpture.
Modern buildings with Têtes et Queue (1965) by Alexander Calder
St Matthew Church and Têtes et Queue (1965) by Alexander Calder
We followed a little canal waterway back to the city center and began the search for a hotel. Took a hike down Kantstrasse and found a recommended pension, but it was full. The proprietor noted my Swiss accent! Tried several others on the way back to the train station, but all full. Seems a Marathon is to be run on Sunday, and so this weekend, everyone is booked. An expensive (240 DM/$130) hotel clerk said he might have a room if we came back in 10 minutes. Well, we returned to the station to the tourist bureau and got into the fairly close Pension Seifert for only 90 DM/$49. Paid a 30 DM/$16 fee to the bureau (okay, the hotel cost $65 in total!), retrieved our luggage, and walked up Uhlandstrasse to check in.
Pension Seifert receipt
What a great place! A huge room with a very high ceiling, new chandeliers, our own bathroom with a shower, garderobe, huge windows opposite of the street side, even a telephone, a down comforter, and breakfast in a very nice dining room was included. We didn’t mind the ten-minute wait for the room, or the soaked carpet covered by an Oriental runner.
Pension Seifert room
We showered and changed clothes, and set out again in search of a restaurant. At Uhlandstrasse and Kurfürstendamm we saw the largest (because it is the only) Mengenlehreuhr/Set Theory Clock based on the theory of sets. Designed by Dieter Binninger in 1975, it had a circle light on top blinking every two seconds, then a row of four red lights, if lighted, to indicate sets of five hours, over another row of four lights each indicating a single hour. Next a row of 11 lights showing sets of five minutes, with every third light in red instead of orange to indicate the quarter hour, over a bottom row of four orange lights, each being one minute. Once figured, it was easy to tell the time by adding the lighted lights, but otherwise it was a great mystery! We headed in a westerly direction and saw lots of ethnic restaurants. Arrived at a pedestrian street and stopped at Alt Berlin cafeteria in the Hertie department store. I had Rahmschnitzel/pork cutlet in a dark salty gravy that came with large portions of canned peas and mashed potatoes. Kent had the Holsteiner Bratwurst with gravy, and mashed potatoes and red cabbage. He had a Berliner Kindl Pilsener and I had a Selters Mineralwasser, all for 20 DM 05/$11. We then hiked, quite a ways it turned out, to the Schloss/Castle Charlottenburg. Saw a couple murals of interest on buildings along the way.
Mural and apartments (KSS)
Trompe l'oeil mural
Also passed many sex movie shows and game rooms with slot machines, but cleaner, quieter and bigger than in Amsterdam. No bums, drunks, or drug users, though. Finally arrived at Charlottenburg at 15:00, but the museums in the guardhouses were closed on Fridays! The guided tour in the Royal Apartments was only in German, and Kent wasn’t that interested. But the building was impressive, the finest example of royal Prussian architecture in the city. Built in 1695 as a summer country house, it eventually evolved into a Baroque chateau.
There was a statue of Elector Friedrich III (the first King of Prussia) by Andreas Schlüter.
The 157-foot cupola was topped by a gilded statue of Fortune.
Charlottenburg cupola
Charlottenburg cupola
We rounded the castle to the gardens to see the columned rotunda, with stucco reliefs of Prussian princely virtues in mythological terms. The grounds were in Baroque style with clipped hedges, pruned trees, designed flower beds, etc.
Charlottenburg garden
Kent in Charlottenburg garden
There were busts of Roman emperors and friends. A woman asked in German for help with her camera, and I replied that I didn’t know cameras that well. When I explained to Kent what we had said, he said he would have at least tried, and so we made an attempt to find the poor woman, but she had disappeared. We sat on a bench to rest and Kent nodded off.
Later we headed back towards the hotel, and came across a U-Bahn station. Went in to figure out the system, and bought 2 DM 30/$1.25 tickets from a machine.
U-Bahn ticket
We needed two transfers to get to our stop. Again it was the honor system and you opened the doors as needed. Powered by third rail.
We stopped in a great toy and gift shop with unusual items, but expensive. Back at the pension, Kent fell asleep, so I worked on the journal. At 19:30 we went out for dinner. Lots of nightlife with the street full of people and the stores were still open. We bought postcards and pens with “Erich” and “Kai” on them. People were handing out coupons (for meals), “sandwich board” men carried circular signs telling of theater showings, cars careening everywhere (never stopping unless they had to, and we yielded to them rather than forcing them to stop), and lots of bicycles. Kent noticed makes of cars and tried to figure the US complements.
We ate in Dubrovnik, a Balkan restaurant with paper napkins, beer coasters, plastic flowers, and big portions! I had Hungarian goulash with huge chunks of falling-apart beef in a tangy sauce, along with several steamed potatoes and a salad with pickled cabbage, lettuce, red peppers, and cucumbers. Kent had the Balkan plate with a grilled kebob of a pork cutlet, a veal cutlet, a thin beef steak, and a hamburger, as well as Dubjek rice (in a tomato-based broth with peas), French fries, and a salad. Very good! I had two glasses of mineral water, and Kent had two glasses of draught Schultheiss beer. We noticed no one left tips, so we didn’t except to round off the bill of 43 DM 60/$24.
Dubrovnik bill
We were stuffed! On our way back to the hotel we found a Swiss Merkur shop to buy a Theresina Tobler truffle chocolate bar for our sweet tooth (or chocolate tooth). Wandered through a maze-like shopping arcade before returning to the hotel. I lost the “pearl” in my earring somewhere.

Next: East Berlin.

No comments: