Berlin 2009 – Day 4 – Sun 8th Nov

14 11 2009

We’d had quite a bit of death and destruction on Saturday so Alice and I decided to pay a visit to Berlin Zoo.  We took the S-Bahn out to the Zoologischer Garten station where we’d gone on the Friday to go to the Helmut Newton exhibition.  On that day we’d spotted a ruined church and of course I’d wanted to go and photograph it.

The visitor centre in the ruined old church

The Kaiser Wilhelm Gedächtniskirche was badly damaged by bombing during WW2 and the tower now stands as a memorial and a visitor centre.  The mosaics on the ceilings and walls were truly fabulous.  They shimmered and sparkeld, with lots of gold and the detail was very intricate.  So much to look at in what was a very small space.  The floors too were highly decorative and this provided strong contrast to the bare stone walls, stairways and plain windows.  The modern ‘furniture’ sat well with the older style and the only real problem in this free to enter exhibition was a lack of space.

I can only imagine what impact the place would have had when it was intact.

The Christ figure made from tombac

The new church alongside this one was built in the early 1960s and from the outside is a rather ugly concrete octagonal tower with small ‘blobs’ of blue glass embedded in the walls.  Inside was quite a different picture.  The blue stained-glass is everywhere and such vivid blues at that.  Over 20,000 small ‘windows’.  Above the altar is a huge gold Christ figure (with no cross) that dominates the view and provides a stunning colour contrast to the windows.

Both buildings were fascinating in such different ways.  We saw another, much  smaller building built in the same style as the new church and headed over to investigate.  We found inside it a small gift shop which seemed to have no connection with either church apart from its architecture.  The shop sold fair trade and ‘world’ goods including the inevitable incense sticks, astrology books, ornaments, bags, hats, etc.  A lovely little shop – perhaps the proceeds went to the church, perhaps it was only the rent they collected.  There was nothing to say one way or the other.  I bought two little stars for my collection (I don’t do Christmas decorations but I buy one or two stars every year to add to the curly ironwork on the side of my stairs at home – they remain in place all year round).

Knut, the famous polar bear.

Next it was zoo time.  We were too late in the day to fit in the aquarium but were told that we could pay for that separately if we felt we wanted to visit that too.  I only have London Zoo to compare it with (in recent years anyway) and it seemed a little more tatty around the edges, but for that it was actually nicer.  It was good to see some areas just left to ‘be’, rather than being subject to this need to manicure every available space.  There also wasn’t the constant demands to purchase from attention-grabbing signs and shops.  The only real exception to this was the little kiosk next to the polar bear enclosure.  Their young polar bear, Knut, is a bit of a celebrity, being the first polar bear to be born at the zoo in more than 30 years.  He was rejected by his mother and was hand reared at the zoo amidst great controversy.  The kiosk sells Knut merchandise, mostly focusing on images of him when he was a cub.

Feeding time for the big cats

Time passes differently in a zoo.  We wandered through the labrynth taking in all manner of creatures along the way.  As we passed through the big cat area it was feeding time.  Lots of crowds and people moving from one viewpoint to another as the keepers threw in the raw meat.  I stuck around by the tiger and was rewarded when this beauty looked straight at my camera.

Soon it was closing time so Alice and I went off in search of something to eat.  We spotted a pasta & pizza place on the corner of a very busy crossroads.  Initially it looked a little out of our price range but a glance at the menu told us we could afford to eat there after all.  Vapiano is a little different.  We were each given a plastic swipe card as we went in and were told that we should hand this in at each ‘station’ when we ordered food.  We went to the pasta station and watched our chosen meal being prepared in front of us – the fresh pasta was cooked in a little basket into boiling water, and the sauce was prepared in a big wok.  Both were soon combined and served with a few chunks of fresh bread.  There were stations for pizza, salad and desserts, as well as a bar, but we were able to get our soft drinks from our chefs.  The food was delicious and we just loved everything about the place.  When it came to paying we just handed in our swipe cards and paid.  No fuss, no sorting out who’d had what and how much each thing was.  Brilliant.

After that we headed back to the hotel and went to a local bar with the other Graphics students.  Table service and a bill just for drinks seemed a little odd and caused the above mentioned hassle when it came to pay and I think a combination of tiredness and the lack of a pub atmosphere drove us back to the hotel with some bottles bought in an off licence to finish off the night.  A good and busy day

Window detail at the Kaiser Wilhelm Memorial Church

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