Berlin 2009 – Day 6 – Tue 10th Nov

16 11 2009

Today Alice had planned to visit the huge department store for some research for her self-elected project.  I wanted to go to the Jewish Museum.  I had a late breakfast with Lauren who was suffering from a late night combined with a nasty chesty cough, then headed out on foot.  The Jewish Museum isn’t that far away from the hotel so I thought I’d take in some of the local area and get some photos along the way.

Hotel Transit - basic but good

The Hotel Transit, where we were staying, looked dreadful from the outside, especially as we arrived at night when the grille was down between the road and the main entrance.  However, inside was a different matter.  The dining/communal area was bright and clean with friendly staff, and the rooms were basic but very clean and comfortable.  Most rooms were for five sharing but there were only three of us in our room.  It was also in a great location for transport and there were lots of shops nearby and places like Checkpoint Charlie are in reasonable walking distance if you fancy it.  I would certainly recommend it if you’re travelling to Berlin in a group.  Single rooms are also available I believe (the staff who came with us must have paid extra for these!).  Breakfast comes with the package and they’re quite happy for you to bring takeaways in and eat at the tables.  They do drinks and coffees etc 24 hours a day and you can get soup and other light meals too.

Curry 36 - always doing a roaring trade

Just along the road (which I think is called Mehringdamm, as is the u-bahn station) is Curry 36.  We saw this as soon as we came off the u-bahn on the first night and it was packed.  They do all sorts of fast food, but mostly of the sausage variety.  Apparently their currywursts are ‘legendary’.  They must be because I never saw it without at least a small queue of people – day and night.  I was only able to sample their chips (I might have tried a bit of currywurst but I’d had a dodgy stomach for a few days so wasn’t going to risk it with alien food, being a vegetarian and all) which were very tasty, dusted with curry powder and lavished with fresh tomato sauce.  A great snack.  They also sold their own merchandise!

Exterior wall of Begraebnissplatz der Jerusalems und Neuen Kirche

After passing both Mehringdahm u-ban station exits I turned right into Baruther Straße and walked along the outside wall of a large cemetery.  Tempted though I was to go in and have a look around, I knew this would take up a lot of time and I’d not get to the Jewish Museum at a reasonable time, so I contented myself with photographing the extensive graffiti along the walls.  I was struck by the large rooftops and structures I could see that were attached to the fabric of this wall.  They looked as though they might have been large tombs – but so many of them and such sizes.  I decided I’d have to go inside another day.  Click the photo for a closeup of some graffiti.

Jüdusches Museum - Libeskind Building

Finally, after a little detour towards Gneisenaustraße for a look around, I got to the Jewish Museum.  I’d heard about the amazing building and seen a few photos but it was quite something to see for real.  However, inside was even more interesting.  After going through a lot of security once again, I first visited the permanent exhibition down a large staircase.  Here the floors, walls and ceilings were distorted and I felt a bit like Alice after the mushroom walking up one long corridor and getting taller by the moment.  Along the walls were everyday items – photographs, crockery, suitcases, parcels, letters, etc – belonging to people who had either fled Germany during the Nazi regime, or who had died because of it.  These items and the stories that went with them had been donated to the museum by the people themselves, or their relatives.  I find such personal histories much more interesting than the big political stories.  It was the best part of the whole museum for me.  The rest of the exhibitions on the other floors explored a few individual stories alongside national and international contexts and once again there was a lot of reading to do.  The unusal shape of the building and the layout of the spaces meant I had to check that I’d not missed anything before ascending to the next floor up the huge staircase.  There were also areas put in by the architect to allow for reflection and to experience a profound sense of something or another.  Art’s like that.

The Brandenburg Gate

I got back to the hotel and gradually we graphics students found one another.  We decided to pay a night-time visit to the Reichstag.  We got the u-bahn to Potsdamer Platz and walked along the route where the dominoes had been the previous night – stacks of barriers still lingering, along with various vehicles.  This time we were able to get up close to the Brandenburg Gate which seemed very peaceful this night, in comparison to the night before.  We needed to get to the Reichstag before the 10pm cutoff for visits and did so, standing in the cold queuing for some time before being let in.  Once again much security before being taken up into the magnificent dome with audio tour headphones attached.

Inside the dome of the Reichstag

It’s difficult to describe the impact of entering the glass dome which sits atop the 19th century building of the German Empire.  The building was heavily damaged before and during the Second World War and this modern construction was added in the 1990s.  The dome sits above the Plenary Hall where government doings take place.  The view is of all of Berlin – described by our audio tour guides as we walked up the spiral towards the top of the dome.  I would love to visit again in the daytime for a different perspective.

Vapiano

 

Finally, very hungry and a little cold, we headed back along Ebertstraße to Potsdamer Platz and the Vapiano restaurant there.  Having had such a good experience in the outlet near the Zoo on Sunday we were keen to visit again and we weren’t disappointed.  Different layout in this one, and smaller, but the food was just as good.  I have since discovered that there is one Vapiano restaurant in the UK – in London – so I’m determined to go there when I’m next in the city.

Looking down at the Bundestag Eagle and the Plenary Chamber from the Reichstag dome.

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