Berlin 2009 – Day 3 – Sat 7th Nov

13 11 2009

Geared up for tourism

No alarms this morning, and no intention of joining the group for whatever it was they had planned.  Had a lovely long lie-in and a leisurely getting ready.  Alice and I headed out to Checkpoint Charlie.  I hadn’t really known what to expect but was not particularly surprised by what I saw.  The ‘checkpoint’ (a replica) was there with two ‘guards’ with whom some of the tourists were having their photographs taken.  Along the streets were small stalls with people selling GDR and Soviet memorabilia – mostly hats and badges.

You could hire these but I had enough problems crossing the road.

We turned off and discovered a huge hot air balloon (tethered to the ground) from which you could get a view of probably all of Berlin, and a business hiring out Trabants – the little East German cars almost everyone used during the days of the GDR.  What a noise they made!  I was very tempted to have a go but I was having quite a few problems just crossing the road with the cars being on the ‘wrong’ side, so thought it probably unwise to take to the roads in a vehicle.

We carried on until we reached the only remaining part of the Berlin Wall still standing (of any size).  There wasn’t much graffiti on it, unlike many of the sections we’d seen so much of in photographs, and it wasn’t as high as I thought it would be.  I suppose it didn’t need to be very high.  It was quite difficult to take photographs too – one side of the wall was inaccessible and the other was on the shady side of the street (at that time of day) with no pavement and behind a fence.

A gap in the stretch of the Berlin Wall still standing, near Checkpoint Charlie. You can see the Martin Gropius Bau in the background.

At the other end of this stretch of wall was the Martin Gropius Bau.  We were tempted by the Futurist Exhibition but misread the sign and thought we had missed it so settled for a coffee and a pineapple torte (would have been rude not to) before setting off again.

Alongside the gallery was the Topography of Terror exhibition which detailed events in that area which had been the site of the Gestapo and SS offices.  The exhibition was outdoors and consisted of huge display boards with many photographs and lots to read.  Unfortunately we entered on the ‘wrong’ side and saw the exhibition backwards, with details becoming more horrific as we went along – starting with current plans to create a permanent exhibition building on the site, going backwards through WW2 and ending with the coming to power of the Nazis.  It was also very cold as we weren’t walking very quickly.  It was, however, a fascinating exhibiton.

After that Alice and I went back to Checkpoint Charlie and decided to go to the exhibition in the Haus Am Checkpoint Charlie.  Fascinating stories of escape attempts – some successful, some fatal.  A whole range of emotions in this very human and often very personal document of the years of the Berlin Wall.  Such ordinary people doing such extraordinary things, and taking unbelievable risks.

We decided to check out a restaurant in the east that Alice had spotted in the in-flight magazine while looking for decent vegetarian food.  The Frittiersalon was very busy when we went past and looked like a British chippy from outside, with mums and puschairs, and a chipshop style counter.  We walked along the street, which had lots of restaurants, but didn’t find anything that really grabbed us so we walked back and found that there was now space at the Frittiersalon so, having made an effort to get out there and find it, we went in.

Alice at the Frittiersalon

The food was great and the service was friendly.  Quite a mixture of people in there too.  After our walk along the street we’d discovered that this was quite an ‘arty’ area.  We’d found a little theatre which was about to put on a production (we were told this in broken English by a charming old gentleman with a fantastic moustache).  It must have been a church at some point in its history but was now covered in graffiti and paste-ups (one of Gary Coleman!).  It would have been nice to have gone to see the show, but hunger prevailed.

I had a halloumi burger with fries and a bottle of AfriCola.  I don’t normally buy any cola that’s not Coke or Pepsi because I’ve yet to like the taste of any of them, but I risked it and wasn’t disappointed.  I think if we’d had time we might have gone back there.  Certainly one on the list for next time I go.

Finally we headed back to Mehringdamm and the hotel before going out for a drink in a local bar with the other Graphics students – just seven of us in total, three from Level 3 and four from Level 2, the rest of the group comprising Photography students.  We got back to the hotel cafe/bar to find some of the Photography students had been having quite a drinking session and soon the noise drove us to our rooms, though it was a very late night for all of us.

Checkpoint Charlie - now a major tourist attraction

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