There's probably nothing more annoying than a person making pronouncements about a city she only spent six days in, so I will try not to draw too many sweeping conclusions about Berlin. And on the upside, I'd never visited Berlin before this trip, so I won't be peppering everything with "when I was here last…".
However…I have been to Frankfurt and Heidelberg (you know, on my trip with the Candy Bomber) and I remember those areas as some of the most beautiful places I've ever been, so I couldn't help wondering how Berlin would compare.
I read some descriptions of it as an "ugly city" (maybe because so much was destroyed in the war and then rebuilt haphazardly), but I couldn't agree. I thought it was interesting and beautiful. Or maybe the poignancy of its history made it beautiful. Either way, it affected me more deeply than I expected, and left me feeling that melancholy "nothing-gold-can-stay" sort of feeling.
This picture encapsulates it for me.
Part of that strange, thoughtful feeling comes as you walk around the city and see bullet holes and shrapnel scars in the buildings. It's such a…well, I hate to use the cliched phrase "sobering reminder," but it is sobering, and it does bring things to mind that one isn't accustomed to thinking about while strolling around seeing the sights. You can't feel carefree, quite. Not the way Frederick did at Sanssouci, ha ha.
We kept coming across streets like this. Old and new all jumbled together. Contrasts so apparent. You can't help thinking that for every interesting old building you see, probably several others were destroyed in the war.
Sam and I did a lot of wandering around. SO MUCH WALKING. The step counter on my phone was reading nine and ten miles at the end of the days. But there were so many great things to see; something new to discover around every corner. These twin cathedrals, for example. One is called the French Cathedral and the other is the German Cathedral, but I don't know why they're both the same! We walked past one and then right after that, past the other and we thought we had gone crazy!
If you stand by the Berlin Konzerthaus you can see one cathedral on either side of you. So interesting.
We also kept wandering into these little courtyard areas. You'll go through a little alleyway and suddenly it will open up into a secluded open space. I loved this, as it felt somehow like what Germany should be.
Some of them had little boutiques around the edges of the courtyards. This one had the iconic (I guess? since we kept seeing souvenirs featuring him) "Walk/Don't Walk" guy mounted on the wall. I don't know why. He's called "Ampelmann," appropriately enough.
Then, of course, there were other reminders of the war, like this Jewish Cemetery we came across, and the haunting statue of Concentration Camp victims. I read somewhere that the Jewish custom is to leave stones instead of flowers at graves, and this statue and the monument area beyond were heaped with them.
This is the "Memorial to the Murdered Jews of Europe." It's pretty new, I think, and the architect apparently is one of those "Its meaning comes from its lack of meaning" types, so there's no numeric symbolism like each stone stands for a person or anything. Still, we thought the stone blocks suggested cities, or gravestones, or faceless evil. You can walk down in and among the stones, and there were lots of kids, of course, running in and out and playing hide and seek—what kid could resist? It made for an interesting contrast with the otherwise serious mood of the place.
One of the main streets, a big wide beautiful boulevard with shops all along it, is called "Unter der Linden." These were the Lindens we were Unter, I think.
Weird pink above-ground pipes. And a church tower.
Nice rainbow display. I'll take one of each, please!
People lining up to talk to Sam after his workshop.
Another courtyard, from above.
We saw the dome of this synagogue in the distance on the first evening while walking near our hotel, and we did get to go see the inside on another day.
There are bears like this all over (this one was by our hotel). I tried to figure out why, and all I could gather from Wikipedia is that it's a sort of play on words with Berlin. BEAR-lin. Ha, ha. Get it? (??) Nice neck pillow, Sam.
Speaking of our hotel, I loved it. I was particularly taken with the sheer yellow curtains along one wall. When the sun shone in, the light was SO BEAUTIFUL. I want these in my bedroom.
Pretty little square, also by the hotel. It's called Hackescher Markt and it did have a market there on the weekend. This place also felt very German to me.
Sam was very taken with these mer-taurs, part of the decorative railing on a bridge. He particularly wished me to mention them. I present them here without further comment.
One of our hosts who is from Toronto saw this tower and said, "Oh, I like to visit these radio towers in every city. Doesn't every city have one?" Well…Toronto does, yes. Ha!
But I think my favorite thing is to round a corner and see some old church or tower, something that maybe isn't even famous or historic, but just feels like…a discovery. Special because it's beautiful, and because you found it. Like maybe it was put there just for you to enjoy, in the setting sun.
Moon-lantern. So beautiful! I loved this city and I'll have, as always, more to say about it pretty soon. :)