Sunday, January 13, 2013

city of dreams: Berlin

During our 3 flights from Croatia to Germany 3 thing confiscated: my wine opener in Zagreb (what’s a travel wino to do without that in her purse?), Elisa’s bottle of duty free Captain Morgan in Vienna (lesson learned – do not try to separate a German and their alcohol) and a crazy looking knife I picked up in Italy, a near replica of the one my bother got me that was confiscated at the airport in Mexico when I forgot to put it in my checked bag (guess I wasn’t meant to have that knife). But finally after 5 years of wanting to be there……BERLIN!

The home of the one and only Elisa Schlodder! So after 6 weeks of backpacking around, we finally had a place to rest our bones, unpack our bags and do massive amounts of laundry. A place to go grocery shopping and cook for ourselves (and by cook for ourselves I mean Elisa cook for the both of us), a cozy place to hang out, a ‘new’ wardrobe to raid. Ahhh, Berlin, love you already!

Hostess, care giver and friend extraordinaire: some typical breakfasts by Elisa, after a coffee delivered to the bedside. What a gal! 

Julia (Elisa’s flat mate I’ve known since San Diego times) and I worked on some small details her master thesis, then first night out on the town! 

With Ian (Madrid, Croatia and now Germany....summer travel buddy!) and Julia at Luzia's

During my 2 weeks in Berlin we saw and did SO much. It was to the point near the end where I was begging Elisa to have a night “in” and not do anything, of which she firmly refused. Of course, now I am glad that she had such a persistent attitude, because we really did cover so much ground of this mind-blowing city. Berlin is teeming with history, there are interesting and historical things to see and do all over the place, it’s unparalleled when coming from the mid-west of the United States! Arising from the somber history is a resilient spirit – the art that engulfs the entire city is pulsating with expression. The somewhat rebellious essence of the people shines through in little ways all the time. The need to create and re-create can be felt within the progressive stance that is rolling right through the city like a freight train. There is something magnetic about it, something raw and dynamic and so incredibly enticing. The people are real, for lack of a better word, and their very livable home has to be one of the most hip cities in the world!

World Time Clock at Alexanderplatz

the famous "television tower", tallest structure in Germany

So many street musicians

The symbol of Berlin, the bear. They are everywhere in the city - some large and colorful, some on flags, some on beer bottles, some randomly hanging out like these guys

Berlin Cathedral (the Berliner Dom), located on Museum Island

At the time, the most common vehicle of East Germany, the Trabi

Brandenburg Gate (the Brandenberger Tor), a former city gate, much of which was destroyed during WWII. Located very near the Berlin wall, it was restored from 2000 - 2002. 


Konzerthaus Berlin

Checkpoint Charlie - name given by the Western Allies to the best known Berlin Wall crossing between East Berlin and West Berlin during the Cold War

piece of the wall

 Solar, a swanky roof top bar with sweeping city views and sky high prices

Wirtshaus Hasenheide, an amazing breakfast place, 4.90 euros all you can eat. Delicious breads, cheeses, fish, meat, Mediterranean dishes, plenty of veggie options, desserts - very impressive!

Charlottenburg Palace - the last royal palace left in Berlin

East Side Gallery, largest open air gallery in the world. 1.3 km stretch of  the Berlin Wall with paintings from 105 artists, a memorial to freedom

Club of the Visionaries

Party at Ian’s and off to Kater Holzig, an old soap factory turned club with an Alice in Wonderland type feel

Mauerpark – live entertainment, huge flea market, public karaoke. All the makings of a great park!

Victoria Park

Templehof - used to be one of Europe's main airports during WWII to access West Berlin. On former Knights Templar land (hence the name Templehof), the now closed airport is a city park. There are fairs in the hangar, festivals in the summer, community gardens in the middle. People hang out, bike, skate, play music, bbq - very chill place!

Platoon Kunsthalle, an art gallery made from cargo shipping containers

Sony center

Gedachtniskirche - a church damaged during a bombing raid in 1943, parts left in ruins to serve as a memorial

Made my way solo to the Jewish Museum – tons of information about Jewish people and their volatile history with the Germans, with lots of stories of individual families. The Holocaust Tower was the most moving thing – you enter into a nearly pitch dark room with huge ceilings, all made of concrete, so a very cold and immense feeling. There is a sliver of light coming in from the top and also a ladder that reaches to the ceiling, but it starts about 20 feet from the ground, so there is no way to reach it. The feeling while standing inside that room is powerful and what it represents is heartbreaking.

Outside the museum is the Garden of Exile, which symbolizes the feeling of the Jewish people expelled        from their homes and families and the utter displacement that they encountered after. Huge concrete slabs all at an angle, all around you. So when you walk through you feel disoriented, dizzy and even sick to your stomach if you focus too much. Again, a very poignant exhibition that makes you wonder how such atrocities continue to exist, even present day in some countries, in this modern interconnected world! The ultimate reminder, for me anyway, was the importance of loving and sympathizing with your fellow man.

Happy to be alive after that. And happy to have met up with two old friends that night! Bar hopping in Neukolln

Anna from Russia, we met in Chiang Mai at an NGO

Thomi - our Spanish friend from studying in Amsterdam, so good to see him again, he hasn't changed a bit!

Many bars have this look – like a Grandparent’s basement from 1960, so charming! Only drawback, you can still smoke inside, leaving you feeling like (and stinking like) it really is 1960.

Hackesche Höfe

Hackescher Markt

Indian summer beer along canal

Kunsthaus Tacheles (Art House Tacheles), a house that has been “occupied” for over 10 years. When the Berlin wall came down the artists took it over and gave it the name "Tacheles", Yiddish for "straight talking".

My friend Andrew from UMSL lives in Berlin and Elisa and I had met with him the week before at Aufsturz for a beer and some catching up. So good to see him (and his Cardinals hat)! He'd invited me to tag along to see a football game, so I met him and some of his colleagues to head to the match with them – Hertha HSC v. Dresden! They were all kinds of excited about Hertha, which made me excited as well. The matches are held at Olympic Stadium (“built by an Austrian jerk”, as Andrew put it), which is quite an impressive place made even more sensational by the enthusiasm of all the fans outside. Big beer drinking crowds outside, everyone singing, flying flags and chanting inside. Ran to our seats and joined in – what amazes me the most about the football matches that I’ve seen in other countries is the unification of the fans. Everyone sings the same songs at the top of their lungs, all the chants get started and picked up by the whole stadium in no time. I love Cardinals baseball, and our fans really are the best, but I feel like we’re lucky if we get a “wave” going throughout the crowd during the regular season. Was wonderful to be next to an old friend for this match (and they won!)

Pergamon Museum – first thought on walking in: shocking. There is a whole Roman alter re-constructed in the main room. To the left is a room of Athena – huge statue, columns, alters, all massive and incredible! Another impressive room has all the Greeks from mythology listed like a giant family tree, from floor to ceiling and the ceiling was a mirror. Made it feel even more overwhelming and vast, what rich history! I stood in that room in awe for quite a while. Another highlight is the re-constructed Ishtar Gate from Babylon….. its bright blue hue had me delighted, all the Christian schooling in my past contributing to that!

Reichstag – where the Parliament meets. There’s a huge dome made of windows, it’s very high tech and provides perfect panoramas as you walk up, up, up! Learned a bit of history from the audio guide and had an excellent view the whole time!


Back to the Bradenburg Gate (and the best pretzel ever from a cafe just near there!)

Holocaust Memorial

bar's name translation: Your Place or Mine

 Admiralsbridge (Admiralsbrücke)

Also made our way to the Weinerei one night to meet Andrew, his wife and friends. It's a place with a nice “homey” feel to it, tables and couches for groups or couples. The menu has 10 or 12 wines, you drink what you want and then give what you feel it’s worth in the end. They had a small buffet with some simple but tasty pasta, salad and bread as well. Great concept!

Stattbad Wedding – an old pool center turned club. 12 euros to enter, there was a DJ in the bottom of the swimming pool and one in the boiler room. We spent most of our time in the boiler room, dancing and drinking and breaking Club Mate with vodka bottles, whoops! Turns out Thom Yorke (Radiohead) was doing a late night DJ set in the pool after their show that night – we passed through there at the end, but hadn’t realized it was him DJing. Still, we were there, man, we were there!

(well, sort of)

some random art around Berlin

Last night in Berlin was fortunate enough to meet up with two lovely girls I’ve know from previous travels. Carmen and I met in Thailand, some of my first days in Chiang Mai were with her and her friend Julika just when I’d moved there. And Sevi and I met when Ritchie and I arrived in Yangon, Myanmar, and then we met up again in Chiang Mai when she passed through. Love the reunions!



I really fell in love with this city during my time here – it’s not just about the sites and the places, although those are great, but it’s really about the feel. Getting to know all the nooks and crannies, all the little cafes and shops, all the performances and music and things that make is such a unique place, and one that I will always hold so close to my heart!

And THIS girl is who made it all possible!! Love ya with all my heart, amiga!

Berlin....du bist ein schatz! You are the best! 

"The World is a book, and those who do not travel read only one page." - St. Augustine 


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