B E R L I N
Part 1 | Part 2
The U-bahn from Adenauer Platz took us to
Richard Wagner Platz and Otto Suhr Allee where we walked
west to the famous Schloss Charlottenburg with its
striking dome. The palace was built as the summer
residence for Queen Sophie Charlotte from 1695-1713.
Frederick the Great added a new wing in 1740-42 which
houses a splendid porcelain collection. The interior is
decorated in opulent rococo and baroque style.
There is a large garden and
woodlands behind the palace as well a mausoleum,
belvedere, theatre and pavilion. Visitors flock to this
landmark for the abundance of photo opportunities.
At the suggestion of Gerd, the
owner of the Hotel-Pension Art Nouveau, we took the U-bahn from Richard Wagner
Platz to Bayerischer Platz to see "Places of
Remembrance". This "art in public space"
project approved by the Senate of Berlin is the work of
Renata Stih and Frieder Schnock, artist and art historian,
respectively. Comprised of signs reflecting the anti-Jewish
regulations and laws that were in place from 1933-1945,
it is a memorial to the Jews deported from the
Bayerischer neighborhood to the death camps. The signs
are in German - some of the English translations are as
"Rental agreements with Jews
can be terminated without reason and without keeping with
set legal deadlines. Jews can be sent to so called Jew
"Jews may no longer keep pets."
"Ban on Jewish musicians."
"Jewish lawyers and notaries
may no longer have responsibilities concerning the city
of Berlin. Jewish judges are suspended." 31.3.1933
After this we needed a bit of
sweetness in our lives. We were looking forward to a
return visit to Tillmann Bio Konditorei, LudwigkirchStr 14. We found they had moved to larger quarters
on the same street. Now there are more showcases to
display their awesome delights and comfortable indoor
seating. All the cakes, tortes, cookies etc. are 100%
organic and produced by hand. They are a leading supplier
to all the organic shops in the city. It took us
considerable time to make a selection dodging between the
anxious customers lined up at the counter. The sweet
staff was very patient with us. We shared black forest
cake and apple-almond torte - to die for. The cappuccini
were perfectly prepared.
Chatting with Christine Tillmann
she recommended we take a short walk from her shop to the
picturesque Victoria Luise Platz with its oval shape,
attractive fountain in the middle, gardens around and
impressive trees lining the perimeter. It dates to 1900
and was named after Victoria Luise of Prussia, the
daughter of Kaiser Wilhelm II of Germany and great
granddaughter of Queen Victoria. Today it is the center
of an upscale residential area in the Schoneberg district
not far from Ku' Damm.
MotzStr proved to be trendy area with many
interesting young fashion shops just as Christine
suggested. I know we just had superb cake and torte but
how do you pass up a cute ice cream shop that was
screaming come on in. Eis, Franken & Grunewald is at
the corner of MotzStr and GossowStr and is now on our not
to be missed list. Judging from the awards and write-ups
posted, many others agree. Rich chocolate, ground bean
cappuccino and strawberry made us believers.
We met Louis near his home at one
of his favorite neighborhood restaurants, Picanto,
BayerischeStr 12. Many restaurants have signs in their
windows and listings on the menu for "Argentinean
steaks", which we assumed was a marketing ploy.
Argentinean steaks seemed to be the specialty of the
house, let's not fight it. At Louis suggestion we chose
the rump steak. What was served was a thick 300gr filet
mignon grilled medium rare, fork tender and juicy.
Argentina does export a lot of beef; guess it's not just
marketing after all. The fried potato wedges were pure
German as was the beer. The owners are very sweet and
take special care of their customers.
The "Memorial to the murdered Jews of
Europe" is located
between EbertStr and WilhelmStr just south of the
Brandenburg Gate. It was built between 2003 and 2005
according to the design of architect Peter Eisenman. His
work had a stunning effect on us. What was the meaning of
2711 gray colored concrete stelae (of different sizes and
shapes) constructed in a grid pattern one can wander
through from all sides with no clear continuous path? As
we chose our own path straight ahead, right, left,
backward we each had our own thoughts and feelings as to
how this experience related to the subject of this
memorial. It was emotional, perhaps the objective of the
The re-awakening of our Holocaust
sensitivities above ground was highly intensified in the
underground information center. Designed by Dagman von
Wilcken it dramatically provides information on the
victims, the places of extermination and today's memorial
sites. The tour starts by surveying the Nazis'
extermination policy between 1933 and 1945.
The personal accounts of fifteen
persecuted Jewish men and women are the focus of the
"Room of Dimensions". The "Room of
Families" reflects the diversity of European Jewish
culture and tradition before the Holocaust. Painfully
documented is the contrast of life before, during and
after the Nazi persecution, the destruction of this
culture and the loss it created. Photographs and personal
documents depict the dissolution, expulsion and
extermination of these fifteen families.
The names and short biographies of
Jews across Europe who were murdered or presumed dead are
recited in the "Room of Names and Pages of Testimony
from Yad Vashem". In an adjoining foyer visitors can
search victims' names in the database of names from Yad
Vashem in Israel.
The "Room of Sites"
documents the geographic spread of the genocide of Jews
across Europe. The tour ends at the Holocaust Memorial's
own database where computer terminals provide access to
information on current events at historical sites and on
research institutions throughout Europe.
Our day of remembrance continued
with a visit to the "House of the
Wannsee Conference Memorial and Educational Site". Wannsee is about 15 minutes south west of
the city by S-bahn from the Charlottenburg station. Bus #114,
outside the Wannsee train station took us to the site.
Exquisite villas, one of which was built by an
industrialist in 1915 and used by the SS from 1941 to
1945 as a conference center and guest house, surround
Wannsee, a beautiful lake.
"On January 20th, 1942 fifteen
high ranking representatives of the SS and NSDAP and
various ministries met to discuss their cooperation in
the planned deportation and murder of the European Jews.
The SS representatives reported to the state secretaries
present on the murder campaigns which had been carried
out by special units in the Soviet Union since August
1941 and on the killing methods already in use."
"The meeting was chaired by
Reinhard Heydrich, head of the Reich security main office.
His deportation expert, Adolf Eichmann drew up the
protocol of the meeting, which was found in 1947 in the
foreign ministry files. The Wannsee Protocol documents
with alarming clarity the plan to murder all European
Jews and the active participation of Germany's public
administration in this genocide."
The invitation to each of the
participants of the conference ended with, "the
meeting will be followed by breakfast" - just
another day at the office.
The permanent exhibition documents
the prehistory of the National Socialist persecution of
the Jews, the process of social exclusion, deprivation of
rights and expulsion between 1933 and 1939, and the
deportations, confinement to ghettos and murder of the
European Jews in German controlled territories. The
central focus is the conference that took place in the
dining room. Short texts in German and English describe
these events, which are recorded in documents from the
perpetrators files as well as victims' statements,
photographs, sound and film recordings.
The history of the fifteen
participants is documented. From their prewar lives,
military careers, to their ultimate fate. Unfortunately
some escaped or had only mild punishment. Some are alive
and living ordinary lives, enjoying breakfast everyday.
There are various programs offered
to youth groups, school classes, trainee teachers and
school teaching staff and adults engaged in political
education or vocational training. On this day we saw
several groups of young people being guided and informed.
Wherever we travel we most enjoy
the local traditional home style favorites. Gausthaus Krombach, MeinekeStr 4, came through for us just as
it did in 2002. The Konigsberger Klopse (large meatballs
with caper sauce) served with boiled potatoes, and
crisply grilled bratwurst with divine mashed potatoes and
heavenly sauerkraut were exactly as we remembered, as was
the Krombacher beer. This is the place for simple
traditional German fare at reasonable prices.
While waiting outside our hotel for
Louis, the attractive, hand made, gold jewelry in the
window of the UK (Ursula Kranz)
jewelry shop next door
caught our eye. We went inside and were impressed with
the unique collection on display. Ursula is charming and
obviously talented. If you're in the market for a unique
piece of jewelry, check out UK.
Louis suggested we take the U-bahn
to Alexanderplatz to walk east along Karl Marx Allee. The
square is the transportation hub in the Mitte district
with both S-bahn and U-bahn connections. The station
design features the opening scenes from movie Flightplan.
The 6 level extraordinary Kaufhof Department store is
worth a visit and if you're a shopping addict there is
the Alexa Shopping Mall.
Other sights are the Brunned der
Volkerfreundschaft, Fountain of Friendship amongst
Peoples, the World Time Clock and the 365m high TV tower
topped by a globe with a rotating viewing platform (Berlin's
tallest structure). Nearby is the glorious Rotes Rathaus
(Red City Hall).
Karl Marx Allee is a monumental
socialist boulevard, about 90m wide and 2km long. It was
built by the GDR between 1952 and 1960 as a model for
East Germany's reconstruction program after the war. The
tall 7 to 9 story buildings that line this colossal way
are a testimony to the classic socialist design of the
1950s. They were built to provide workers with large and
luxurious apartments. At each end are dual towers at
Frankfurter Tor and Strausberger Platz, which were
renovated after the reunification.
There are restaurants, cafes and
shops along the way as well as a hotel and giant cinema.
The contrast between this and the city west of Alexander
Platz was stunning. It was Saturday and considering the
density of the buildings, it was remarkable that there
were so few people on the street. We had the area to
ourselves or I should say, we felt lost on the street.
We took the U-bahn to Hausvogtei
Platz to visit Gendarmenmarkt and found a shop that
features a realistic model of the city center.
Gendarmenmarkt is a spectacular square and a
tourist favorite. It's the site of the Knozerthaus and
the French and German Cathedrals, each a beauty. In the
center is a statue of Germany's poet Friedrich Schiller.
Most of these buildings were badly damaged during the war,
but have been restored to the original state.
Four and five star hotels along
with restaurants and cafes abound in the vicinity. The
famous Fassbelder & Rausch Chocolatiers am
Gendarmenmarkt has an enormous selection and spectacular
presentation. It was a zoo with eager buyers queuing to
pay. Unfortunately there were no samples offered.
Berlin's parliamentary quarter is
comprised of four buildings; the Reichstag and three new
dynamic buildings linked by a series of tunnels and
walkways. The Jakob Kaiser Building and the Paul Lobe
Building lie on the western bank of the Spree River along
with the Reichstag. The Marie-Elisabeth Luders Building
graces the eastern bank, connected by a double footbridge,
the lower level of which is open to the public.
The contrast of the historic
architecture of the Reichstag and the modernism of the
three new edifices vividly illustrates the vitality of
the city of Berlin, the old living in harmony with the
Louis again joined us for a final
stroll around the neighborhood. He had two Jewish sites
in mind to share with us. The first was the Judisches
Germeindhaus (Jewish Community Center) and It's Gabriel's Kosher Restaurant on FasanenStr just north of Ku' Damm.
We wandered the streets looking for
a spot for coffee and pastry. Arriving at KantStr we were
getting desperate and suddenly there in front of us was a
window filled with awesome delights. Kant 138 Der Kuchenladen
was a dream come true. Each item displayed in the
showcases and shelves was individually designed with a
keen sense of color and shape. Only natural ingredients
are used (other than a few decorations), the textures are
dense and the flavors intense.
There are only 4 tables and they
were all full so we had time to make our choices. We were
there for about one hour and in that time there was a
steady stream of patrons walking out with boxes and bags
brimming with goodies. Made to order cakes and novelties
are very popular. Word got out that we were from Toronto
and a delightful young lady appeared from the kitchen to
tell us she too was from T.O. and had just moved to
Berlin. She chatted with us a while explaining that we
were in an Asian area. She recommended the best
restaurants - next trip!
A table finally opened up and we
placed our orders. I chose a beauty named Chandera, a
white cake about six inches high irregularly layered with
chocolate fudge, whipped cream and fresh raspberries and
topped with crunchy muesli and sour cherries. Linda had
plain cheesecake, which she claimed was better than New
York cheesecake, until now her all time favorite. Louis
had the fresh plum tart. Linda was further thrilled with
her hot chocolate made with real chocolate and thick
whipped cream. The cappuccino and latte were perfection
too. This was our lucky day!
Just how lucky we didn't even know
at this point.
Louis guided us to nearby PestalozziStr 14-15 where the
plaque on the outside of a red brick apartment building
indicated it was the Pestalozzi Synagogue. As we were
trying to determine how to find the synagogue a senior
couple and their daughter-in-law came toward us and asked
if we would like to see it. They lived there and opened
the entrance door of the U-shaped apartment building.
There in a courtyard behind the lobby stood the Pestalozzi Synagogue.
The synagogue was built in 1911-12
as a private place of worship until it was taken over by
the community in 1919. It was common for synagogues in
Berlin to be tucked away behind an inconspicuous entrance.
It has a massive red brick facade typical of German
There was only slight damage from
fire during the Kristallnacht pogrom. It was used as a
community laundry during the war. Services resumed in
1945 with the congregation sitting in garden chairs. It
became the community center for those who survived
underground. It was renovated in 1947.
Though now a liberal synagogue with
an organ and mixed choir, seating remains separated by
gender. We were not able to go inside as it was closed on
Sundays. We were most fortunate that these kindly people
exposed this hidden treasure for us.
The restaurant Lutter and Wegner dates back to 1811. We went to the one near
us at SchluterStr 55. There is another in the
Gendermenmarkt. Both claim to be the original.
This one feels like a German Bistro.
Lower walls of dark wood topped with large framed posters.
There is a short list of traditional offerings on the
menu, which is supplemented with daily specials. The
house breads and chive cream cheese along with a Berliner
beer made for a comfortable beginning.
Linda enjoyed a vegetable plate
with a spicy potato goulash while I had excellent roast
duck with red cabbage and soft sticky potato balls. The
evening would have been perfect if our waiter was not so
aggressive trying to sell us appetizers and wine.
Berlin is a city of bountiful
experiences that should be on your must visit list as it
offers something for everyone.
Bus #109 whisked us to the airport.
Our flights were on time and the fine KLM service made
the trip home comfortable and relaxing.
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