Berlin Wall Day and meeting up with Blerta and Sophie (Interkultur/Verdi Requiem Barcelona)
Highlight: Gary and the BIG yellow bus
Took the U Bahn to Wittenberg Platz. That was the easy bit. Gary stepped confidentally in an unknown direction and we trotted down a semi-pedestrianised major street (Tauentzienstrasse) towards – in the far distance – a church that had lost its steeple.
We passed an interesting sculpture, but the further we walked the more insecure I became about our direction, and with a definite time for meeting Blerta & Sophie, out came Ms Google. In her recognisable fashion, she turned us around to eventually take us almost in the direction we had been heading. (Gary knew this!)
We found the address (31 Pariser Strasse) but were confounded by a small shop frontage Travel Agency and intercom for a collection of residences. All sorted with a phone call; out came Sophie and Blerta arrived from elsewhere. She recommended a café on their street so for an hour, two Tasmanians were sitting outside at a Portuguese café with an Albanian and a Luxemburger, happy and chatty.
From there to walk to through the Tiergarten to the Brandenburg Gate. The area we were in was super exclusive with top-end furniture showrooms and all the names associated with high fashion and jewellery.
The buildings were photogenic and the tree-lined streets with inviting open-air eating added to a delightful atmosphere. This was the Kurfürstendamm boulevard.
It took a while but we found our way back to the church with the ruined steeple which turned out to be incredibly significant. This was the ruined Kaiser Wilhelm Memorial Church in Breitscheidplatz, and adjacent, the new church from 1961, which took our breath away and reduced me to tears.
The ruins still bore witness to the once rich interior with wall and ceiling mosaics emblazoned in gold.
The interpretation signage acknowledged in plain language what a hideous mistake Germany had made. (Again, the words of our woman from Halle, our audience neighbour, resounded.)
With the organ playing and knowing that we would see something special, even though the outside was drab and of the 60’s, we entered the octagonal church. Nothing could prepare us for this. The light of the world was filtered through umpteen tiny panes of coloured glass, predominantly blue, and we were cocooned in a space that seemed intimate, but in reality can seat 1000. We were both overwhelmed and even after the final cadence, sat in wonder.
Outside it was hot and touristy and icecream time. Little did we know we were sitting in the area where in 2016 the truck ploughed into innocent people at the Christmas Market. How unexpected life can be.
We skirted the Zoo and entered the Tiergarten immediately after the Landwehrkanal; a bit tired and leg and foot weary by now. Bear this in mind when we’re still traipsing the streets at 7pm! The birds were happy but my attempts to record them were interrupted by happy tourists.
Following essentially the Lichtensteinallee and photographing some absolutely brutal bronze sculptures along the way we arrived at the Victory Column (the Siegessäule) which is central to 5 major roads. Celebrating which victory I asked? Gary to the rescue: designed after 1864 to commemorate the Prussian victory in the Danish – Prussian War; however by the time it was inaugurated in 1873, Prussia had also defeated Austria, and France. These were called the Unification Wars and inspired the addition of a bronze 8.3 metre high, 35 tonnes ‘Victoria’ – the Roman personification of Victory just to be clear… to the column of four solid blocks of sandstone. And it was moved here having previously stood in front of the Reichstag.
With the miniature Brandenburg Gates ever so slowly growing bigger, and opting for the uneven paths within the gardens, we made slow progress. The sight of 29 tourist buses lined up did nothing to speed us up, and our arrival at the towering gate was underwhelming for Gary. We both needed refreshment not architecture and history.
The revised plan now focussed on Potsdamer Platz and choices for eating.
The Berlin Wall came into the conversation, but it was not immediately in sight which surprised Gary. Although subtle, the indication of the wall marked in the road and pavement by a different material, clearly indicates the curious positioning of the wall; not straight but very crooked.
Very hot and sticky and shade-less.
The stark grey blocks of the Memorial to the Murdered Jews of Europe provided some relief but the sad reality vividly expressed in the underground museum was only hurriedly surveyed.
The bits of remaining Berlin wall (the total German divide was 830 mile long) were ignored as the umbrellas of eating beckoned us. Potsdamer Platz is an area of buildings designed by top international architects and out of all the options our innocent choice was a restaurant called ‘Corroboree’ – yes, an Australian restaurant.
From here I could see where the TSO Chorus celebrated after the Mitsingkonzert 2017. Observations elaborated upon: Ketchup on the table; no ‘hamburger with the lot’; no recognition of Australians dining; fish fillet resembling a farmed rectangular fish; Fosters coasters and beer; chips immediately reminding me of the chips at the Somerset Drive-In, and a welcomed reference to ‘extra’ cold beer. Of course, it was only slightly colder than tepid. We relished this experience nonetheless all the while entertained by the pianists having a go on the communal piano; this one was distinctively red, others in railway stations have looked quite inconspicuous with the players being of greater visual interest.
New resolve – so close – let’s look at Checkpoint Charlie even though my recollection was of a ghastly dirty area infested with tourists. We followed the line of the wall and it was here that Gary stepped out in front of a bus. Hmmm – that old Australian ‘look to the right’ for traffic habit is hard to break! No harm done; the bus made lots of noise, Gary’s leap was worthy of a Road-Runner Cartoon, and our hearts could be seen and felt pounding from either side of the road.
Checkpoint Charlie lived up to its reputation: lots of scantily dressed young females donning army hats and posing provocatively next to a boy soldier.
The interpretation wall however came up with the answer to our biggest question: which side was East, which side West?
And so, the aim of the day was achieved.
A U Bahn and not a U Boat finally took us home. We ventured out later to try out the nearest Laundromat and discovered Volkspark Weinberg – a green area brimming with happy people, happy dogs; a happy community, and the surrounding area, Rosenthaler Platz, equally interesting with the bustle of busy open air restaurants.
We had wine in the most curious glass (they were almost thimble-size…) and wished we’d found this area sooner.