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Berlin, Germany 2021
Erica and I took U bahn (underground train) to the Leonardo Hotel on Wilhemsdofer, where we would stay for our visit to Berlin. Our room was small but comfortable and close to the places we planned on visiting. Erica suggested we find a German restaurant for our first meal, but all were full even on a Wednesday night. Instead, we ate at the excellent Italian restaurant, named Bertolini.
The next day Erica arranged to meet her friend from Paris, Beatrice, for coffee, so I enjoyed an well-stocked, German style buffet breakfast at our hotel. We ate there every day from then on.
That day we visited the Berlinische Gallery for Modern Art, just a few blocks away. We visited three exhibits, one with an installation by Alicja Kwade then an exhibit of the work of Ferdinand Hodler, a Swiss artist who was part of the modernist movement in Berlin at the turn of the 20th century until the end of WWI. and enjoyed them both. The third was the work of the Berlin sculptor Louise Stomps of her work created between the late 1920s and the late 1980s. All three were very interesting.
We took advantage of the very good restaurant in the building to have our lunch. Our unplanned visit turned out very well.
Beatrice, who has a German mother, has bought and refurbished an apartment for herself in Berlin. Beatrice had invited the owners or tenants of the other apartments in her building, to get to know them and she invited Erica and me to join them. It was an interesting eclectic group the eclectic group, including Beatrice’s mother and her 15-year-old daughter, Heloise, whom I had met years ago on our first Christmas ski trip to the French alps in 2010.
Another day we visited the Pergamon Museum to see their extensive collection of good Roman, Ancient Near East and Islamic Art.
That afternoon we were invited for tea at the apartment of another friend of Erica’s. Julie is Canadian who made Berlin her home after she married a German man. Her apartment was a new rebuild in the former East Zone. Julie earns her living doing German to English translation.
We left and walked through some of the remains of the famous wall, just a block from Julie’s place. There were small tour groups stopping the view the displays and info along the way. It was very interesting. We walked along part of it, in the increasing dark, and found the underground station to get to the Brandenburg Gate.
When the wall was erected, the Russians made sure they included the Brandenburg Gate on the eastern side. We took photos and walked through to see the back side of the gate. We could see the dome of the Reichstag lit up in the dark. The US, British and Russian embassies, are very close to the gate.
The Memorial to the Murdered Jews of Europe was just a block away. 2,711 coffin-shaped slabs cover an entire city block. We first came upon slabs laid on the ground, then a sea of pillars set in straight orderly rows to the other side of the block. Walking through the rows we noticed that the ground was not flat. The different heights of the pillars over the undulating ground seem to simulate rows of people walking to their death. We walked past the site of Hitler’s bunker but did not stop.
We ended our evening with a treat. We had tickets for a concert at the Berlin Philharmonic. The stage for the orchestra is in the center of the auditorium, surrounded by seats on all sides. We had reserved seats on one side at the top of the 2nd of 3 tiers of seats. We had a good view of everyone in the orchestra and the acoustics were perfect.
The conductor this evening was Marie Jacquot, a young French woman, who is also a conductor at the Oper am Rhein Orchestras. The first number, a suite that Francis Poulenc composed for Les Animaux modèles, a ballet dating from 1940 to 1942. Next was a 1959 concert for cello and orchestra by Dmitri Shostakovitch, with the 40-year old French cellist, Gautier Capuçon. It included long solos for Capuçon, allowing him to flawlessly display his talent. After the intermission Sergei Prokofiev’s music for the Cinderella ballet. It also was excellent.
The next day we toured the Jewish Museum. There was more in the museum than I expected. The building is a modern, black concrete block with windows and openings slashed across the sides. The self-guided tour starts at the lower level and proceeds up through several levels. The lowest level has three corridors, representing historical developments of Jewish life in Germany: exile, Holocaust and continuity. There is a lot to see. We were both glad we went.
We returned to the hotel in time for Erica to back up and leave to fly back to Paris, leaving me to stay for another few days on my own.
I learned that museums and buildings, such as the Reichstag Dome, are very popular and require prior booking. I didn't have a reservation. Instead, I walked through the Brandenburg Gate and followed part of a walking tour from my guidebook. the Inter den Linden Walk, intending to visit the German History Museum. The museum is under renovation and was not open but the new, glass enclosed addition was hosting Politics and Art exhibit. It had started to rain so an indoor visit was in order. The building was highlighting an art exhibit first held in 1955, featuring artists who were against the official policies for art that existed during the Cold War Era.
My plan for Monday was to do two of Rick Steeves walking tours. I managed to do both. After breakfast I took the trains to Hackescher Market to start the Old Jewish Quarter Walk. I did the walk a bit differently when I missed the first turn, but it didn’t matter. The second walk was to be the Prenzlauer Berg Walk to see a neighbourhood relatively unscathed by WWII bombings, as it was outside of the central target area. A lot of the apartments have kept their exteriors, but most have been extensively renovated inside and have become the “place to live”. There was a lot to see and the walks were well documented in my Rick Steeves book.
Tuesday, 9 November 2021, was my day to get to the airport via the U Bahn for my flight back to Paris. I made it without any problems
Go back to Paris 2021 to read more about our trip and see photos in an Album.
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