June 29, 2005. It was only my second time in Germany (the first having been earlier the same year, in January). Now I was in Europe for a mah-jongg tournament and business. Both having been successfully concluded, I had a little time to spend in Berlin before flying home. I suppose other folks would have done it differently than I did. I took a cab to the Brandenburg Gate, then went for a little hike from there.
Looking on a map, in the center of Berlin there is a large east-west patch of green. I've had a hard time finding a map that would tell me the name of this place, but my best guess is it's called the Tiergarten (else Tiergarten-Süd). It's roughly akin to New York's Central Park, or the Mall in Washington, D.C.
I suppose if one had only a few hours to spend in New York City, that it might be regarded by some as a waste to only take a walk in Central Park - but I believe that if one had only a few hours in Washington, that to spend it walking the Mall would be a few hours well spent. (Of course I believe that, since that's what I did when I was in Washington in 2002).
At the eastern end of this large patch of green stands the Brandenburg Gate. And I wanted to see it. So that's where I went.
So here I am at the Brandenburg Gate (Brandenburger Tor). It had been extremely hot in the Netherlands, so I'd used up more T-shirts than I'd expected. Had to buy one in Amsterdam (seen here), and had to buy one here as well (and another disposable camera too). The T-shirt I bought here says "die mauer" ("the wall") on it.
This gate was, of course, a focal point of the Berlin Wall throughout the Cold War years.
|Behind the gate to the east is a curved wall. Walking around it, I saw that they'd set up a black-and-white panorama of what this place looked like at the end of WWII.|
|In the center of the panorama is a blue circle. Stand on it and you can take a photo that shows the wartime scene at the bottom, juxtaposed with the restored top of the actual gate.|
||Immediately to the north of the Brandenburg Gate is the Reichstag.|
|Walking past the Reichstag, you arrive at the river Spree. There were a lot of young people here enjoying the beautiful warm weather.|
|At the riverbank are these crosses, memorializing people who died trying to cross the Berlin Wall (die mauer) here. I didn't see any vestiges of the old Wall. Just beautiful new buildings and a vibrant modern city.|
|Looking back at the Reichstag you can see all the young people. And the German flag flying from atop the building.|
|I found this view enchanting as well. This image is quite small (you can click it to get a larger view), and because I'd been forced to use a cheap disposable camera, then scan the print, you can't see the details. Beneath the arching overhead, at the left side, there are several folks sitting and enjoying being outdoors on such a fine day. And on the far bank, behind the passing boat, the red line is a passenger train. It's heading towards the left, and is just about to pass into the large semi-tubular structure beneath the construction cranes. It's a train station. Perhaps I should see about getting the negative blown up larger, then I could try to do the scene justice.|
|A nice juxtaposition of the old and the new. This bridge's decorative statuary makes a nice counterpoint with the new construction by the train station on the northern bank of the Spree.|
|Eventually I came upon a riverside cafe, behind the House of World Culture (Haus der Kulturen der Welt). A biergarten in the Tiergarten. I took a table and ordered a salad (ruccola salat) and Berliner Pilsener (um... beer). It was delightful. And I further amused myself by pretending that I could speak German. With the aid of my Berlitz guide, I conversed with the waitress using no English whatsoever. I'm sure she wasn't fooled (guy reading an English-language book, wearing an Amsterdam T-shirt and a hat with a Chinese character on it? Gimme a break). But I felt quite worldly. Like James Bond or something.|
After my enjoyable lunch, I chose to wander through the Haus der Kulturen der Welt rather than go around it. For one thing, I figured there'd be a restroom in there. And I was right. Refreshed and relieved, I was on my way through the front hall of the place towards its front door, when I was startled to see a big marble wall dedicated to a quote by Benjamin Franklin. I stopped to try to read it, but it was all in German, of course. A woman came in through the front door of the place. The place was pretty much deserted, and part of me worried that she (who clearly belonged there) would order me out. But of course James Bond is a master at appearing to belong wherever he is. So I remained calm. As she passed, she greeted me: "Guten tag." I responded, "Guten tag." Then I remembered that I looked all the world for a tourist anyway, wearing my Amsterdam T-shirt and my Los Angeles Chinatown "Dragon" hat.
Going out the front door, I saw a marvelous modern sculpture. It's kind of like shopping carts in a murky pond. And just to make me feel at home, they've even put litter in the disgusting water...
Turning around to look back at the Haus der Kulturen der Welt, I saw yet another Benjamin Franklin wall. Curious.
Then I continued my walk, farther west along the river Spree, then turned south on a path through the center of the Tiergarten.
A man and his fish.
Curiouser and curiouser.
Siegessäule. I had to cross several busy avenues here, most notably Strasse des 17.Juni. If I was a better tourist, I'd know what year's June 17th was commemorated by that...
From here I walked south. As best I can tell from the map I used, the path I took from here is called Lichtenstein-Fasanerieallee.
On my walk through the park, I chanced upon this meadow where several folks were sunbathing in the nude.
So much history.
...And so much graffiti.
After passing this spot, I found myself walking past the zoo. I saw exotic animals, I heard the call of peacocks (which I recognized from my lost decade in Cincinnati, when I lived near the zoo there). I was out of film. I found a taxi and enjoyed conversation with the driver. Back at my hotel, I caught up on my emails. The next morning I flew home on Air France.
Funny story. I'm always telling people that I can't speak French anymore - it always turns to Japanese. Like the one time I was in Paris, and I asked the ticketseller on the Paris subway, "Combien à Champs-Élysées desu ka?" Heh. Well, after spending a day on a French airplane, when I went to my neighborhood Japanese bookstore to pick up my mah-jongg manga, I said, "Kindai Majan, s'il-vous plaît."
Yeah. Well, I thought it was funny.
The next morning as my airplane took off, I had a spectacular view out the window. I could see the entire Tiergarten area where I'd walked the day before. I could trace my route from the Brandenburg gate, along the Spree, through the park.
On this trip I also visited Nijmegen, Amsterdam, and Poland...
A day in Amsterdam
Business in Szczecin
A previous visit to Germany
The 2005 Open European Mahjong Championship
Copyright 2005 Tom Sloper. All rights reserved.