Berlin Day #4
Highlight: carbonated gherkin drink
Started the morning with a visit to the Post Office in Alexanderplatz to send home what turned out to be 6.9kgs of paperwork! Obviously heavy in a carrying bag, we opted for the U Bahn (one stop), then followed all the exit signs, emerged from underground, and got lost.
Finding breakfast for two different breakfasters was equally frustrating but then our mission turned to finding traces of Felix Mendelssohn in Berlin. Our route took us past the Berliner Dom, built during the years 1894 to 1905 in the Italian High Renaissance style, bombed in 1944, rededicated in 1993 after considerable construction work, and with completion of the restoration of the dome as recently as 2002.
After the simplicity of the Lutheran Churches I found the busy-ness inside irritating. The 270 steps up to the dome and the outside viewing circle gave me a new focus though – my health and well being, and Gary’s survival! Once outside, the sight of Berlin’s enormous city on a clear blue sky day, was wonderful. I recalled a line in Richard Strauss’ lied “Die Nacht” – “nimmt vom Kupferdach des Doms, weg das Gold” – the night taking away the gold of the copper roof of the dome. It obviously wasn’t night, but to take photos I was resting on the aged copper edging which, unlike in Strauss’ song, was polished from human contact and brilliant in the sun.
From there across the Spree river and canal (so much construction/restoration work), chanced upon the Pierre Boulez/Barenboim Concert Hall but couldn’t see anything inside other than the foyer, and deviated from our path to find lunch. We were now in the shadow of the two mirror image churches, the Deutsche Dom and the Französische Dom (the German and French churches) and the Konzerthaus: the Gendarmenmarkt. Lunch was memorable: my Erdinger beer was almost black; Gary’s was a light colour and cloudy; we ate Berliner classics – currywurst, and meatloaf and potatoes with a fried egg.
We left clean plates and with new energy (and so much information about the Berliner Dom and its Protestant congregation thanks to Gary and Google) we took to Jägerstrasse to find Mendelssohn: nothing.
Next plan was to trace his family’s Judaism and so the exquisite gold dome of the New Synagogue was an attractive destination. Another detour, this time to Dussmann, das KulturKaufhaus (the culture department store) to buy Mussorgsky and Schmidt: nothing.
Although tired, very hot and thirsty and literally ‘over it’, we persevered, making our way back to the river and the first refreshment producing umbrella we could find. Icecream is good for many things but it didn’t unravel my overlapping toes that have been a feature throughout Europe, so when we got up, a slow shuffle was the best I could do; a pace that was not agreeable with Gary’s legs. It seemed a long and unhelpful river to skirt but eventually after all the iconic museums had passed we crossed the river, considered the refurbishment of huge prior palaces into high-end residential, and found the Synagogue. No photos allowed inside; one mention of Moses Mendelssohn; more stairs up to the internal wooden dome; lots of security…
Kept the map in the handbag and with Gary’s expert direction found our way home – with more enjoyable content than the day thus far had produced. We were in Scheunenviertel – an alternative village atmosphere with designer boutiques, galleries, eateries in crumbling buildings, green spaces, and hazardous footpaths. This was a quarter that long ago was full of barns full of hay for the nearby livestock market at Alexanderplatz. We found ourselves in one of the many interlinking courtyards, typical of the area, this one famously the Hackesche Höfe and Gary got the advertised ‘best coffee in Berlin’ and I ordered a refreshing carbonated gherkin drink [???]
How street corners can lead you into different worlds. We thought we’d hit Nirvana last night when we turned left to go to the Laundromat and discovered a great community; to the right is the filthy busy Tor street with a Netto supermarket, but behind our accommodation is today’s welcome discovery, which now with research is adding a preface to my Mendelssohn story.
In our door at 7pm with no desire to see the city lights.