Tuesday, July 9, 2013

Berlin: Arm, aber Sexy

We arrived in Berlin on Lufthansa flight 3019  in the early evening. A car service picked us up at Tegel Airport and transferred us to the industrial-chic  Soho House Berlin in the Mitte District which is located in what use to be East Berlin -

The lobby seems barely to have been touched since the Berlin Wall fell,
 save for a few tongue-in-cheek enhancements like a foosball table and graffiti by Damien Hirst.
(image courtesy of Soho House Berlin)

After the very busy days that we just spent in Russia, exhilarating and exhausting in equal measures,  we now had plans to slow down and take-it-easy. The Soho House is a private members’ club without pretension...a bit quirky, yet wonderfully relaxed. We booked a fully serviced apartment which became our refuge for the next four days...

The kitchen was fully equipped, including a combination oven,
dishwasher, Nespresso machine, and a washing machine...very
 convenient. Arrangements could be made to have the refrigerator
 stocked via a grocery delivery service.

The living room was very comfortable and was set up with a cocktail
 tray which offered  in-apartment service of a private bartender...we
did not avail ourselves. The windows lookout onto Sandtorstrasse

The bedroom featured a King Size bed with luxurious linens and
 custom made furniture. What was really fun is the "vintage radio"
on the nightstand which is actually an MP3 player with a fantastic
 play list.

The bathroom included a rain forest shower, a free standing tub, heated
 towel rack, heated floor, a pair of bathrobes and was fully stocked with a
 range of full-size Cowshed products
We unpacked and settled in. Rather than go out, we ordered ice and finished off what vodka we brought with us from Russia. Next we ordered a pizza, the food was delivered in 15 minutes by a typically glamorous staff member, we ate, "got ready for bed," and turned in for the night.

Upon waking at a little after 8:00 am we rejoiced in the usefulness of effective blackout shades. This may have been the first full night of sleep that we had experienced in over a week. A good night's sleep might have been Joan's first of several birthday gifts...
They say it's your birthday
We're gonna have a good time
I'm glad it's your birthday
Happy birthday to you.
 (lyrics from the song "Today is Your Birthday" by the Beatles)
Breakfast was served on the roof top which afforded us an amazing view; however, it was a bit windy. The menu was limited, but the presentation faultless and the food was delicious. Gus had eggs Florentine while Joan had smoked salmon with scrambled eggs; we shared a beautiful fruit salad. Finishing breakfast we returned to our room to take care of a few things and then we were some off to visit Museum Island and most particularly -
 Old National Gallery (Alte Nationalgalerie)
Home to 19th century sculptures and paintings. It came into being in
1861, when the banker Joachim Heinrich Wilhelm Wagener bequeathed
his art collection to the King of Prussia and a new building was erected
 to house it. Having suffered severe damage during the Second World
 War, the Old National Gallery was partially re-opened in 1949, and in
1955 all of its rooms were once more accessible to the public. Due to the
 Museum Island Master Plan, which enabled the gallery's comprehensive
 restoration from 1998, it re-opened in 2001. Together with Altes Museum,
 the Bode Museum, the Neues Museum and the Pergamon Museum, it
 belongs to the ensemble of  Museum Island which is listed as an 
UNESCO World Cultural Heritage site.
A garden is situated in front of the Museum and features several pieces of artwork 
nestled among highly-manicured plantings. On the left, Die Humpty-Dumpty
-Maschine der totalen Zukunft (The Humpty-Dumpty-Machine of the Total Future)
 by Jonathan Meese and on the right, Bogenspannerin (female archer) by

Inside, within the grand foyer, we purchased our tickets and began our tour. 

Seated Victoria, Throwing a Wreath,
by Christian Daniel Rauch
Die Familie des Malers Fritz Rumpf
 (The Family of Painter Fritz Rumpf),
by Lovis Corinth
by Anders Zorn
Flötenkonzert Friedrichs des Großen in Sanssouci
(Flute Concert with Frederick the Great in Sanssouci),
by Adolph von Menzel
 Im Etappenquartier vor Paris
In the Troops' Quarters outside Paris,
by Anton von Werner

Spangenberg Zug des Todes anagoria
(Procession of Death),
by Gustav Spangenberg

Frauenbad in Dieppe III
Women Bathing in the Sea Near Dieppe,
by Carl Spitzweg
by Anselm Feuerbach

Knight's Castle,
The following oil painting is partially, if not primarily, responsible for us including Berlin on this trip. Back in 2011 we first viewed The Isle of Death (second version) at The Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City. Joan was drawn irresistibly to the painting. The artist, for Joan, may have captured the very personal and subjective truth of human mortality.

The Isle of Death (third version), by Arnold Böcklin
A widow shrouded in white accompanies her husband's draped coffin in
 a rowboat to a rocky island whose cliffs are carved with tomb chambers.
 Böcklin painted five versions between 1880 and 1886.
In 1933, this version was put up for sale and a noted Böcklin admirer, Adolf Hitler, acquired it. He hung it first at the Berghof in Obersalzberg and, then after 1940, in the New Reich Chancellery in Berlin. 

Böcklin completed the first version of the painting in May 1880 for his patron Alexander Günther, but kept it himself (now in Kunstmuseum Basel). The Metropolitan Museum owns the second version of "Island of the Dead," which was commissioned by Marie Berna when she visited Böcklin in his Florence studio in April 1880. At her request, he added the coffin and female figure, in allusion to her husband's death 15 years earlier. Böcklin's dealer, Fritz Gurlitt, prodded Böcklin to paint three more versions, all with a lighter sky. The third is in Berlin (1883, Alte Nationalgalerie), the fourth (1884) was destroyed in World War II, and the fifth is in Leipzig (1886, Museum der Bildenden Künste).  
Arnold Böcklin bust by Adolf von Hildebrand

L'Après-midi des enfants à Wargemont
(Children's Afternoon at Wargemont),
by Auguste Renoir
Leaving the Museum we headed to Alexanderplatz to see if we could find a Grillwaker -
These contraptions are a fairly common sight in central Berlin.
 Its makers call it a grillwalker and it's, as you might have guessed,
 a portable barbecue, designed for cooking Bratwurst placed in a
roll with mustard or ketchup.
 While eating our sausages we walked past -

An incredible street performer break dancing

and -

The Neptune Fountain (Neptunbrunnen)
 This elaborate fountain was completed in 1891 and designed by Reinhold Begas.
The fountain depicts Neptune holding court over a quartet of buxom beauties
 symbolizing the rivers Rhine, Elbe, Oder and Vistula.   

and over to the Ferneshturm (TV Tower) -
Fernsehturm itself consist of three main parts; the
 base, the sphere and the antenna. The antenna
 transmits a vast number of radio and TV channels
 on a daily basis. The  sphere covers seven stories -
 two of which are open to  the public.  On one level
 is the Tele-Café while the other level includes an
 observation platform. The view from the platform
 is said to be simply outstanding.  Not only does it
provide a great view, the sphere is also moving;
rotating twice every hour.
The tower, completed by the East Germans in 1969, once served as the biggest symbol of a regime that maintained its power by spying relentlessly on its citizens. It’s now a piece of harmless Cold War kitsch—a soaring concrete column with a shiny top resembling a disco ball.

We thought that we could simply walk into the base of tower, buy tickets, take the elevator up to the observation platform, experience the magnificent view, find a table in the Café , enjoy a coffee or a beer, and descend back down to Alexanderplatz. Wrong! We soon found out that after waiting in line to buy tickets we would then be required to wait for two hours to get in line for the elevator ... we decided that it was not worth it. 

Instead, we returned to our hotel. With 3 hours before our reservation for dinner we were able to enjoy some "down-time" at The Club Floor. The bar was empty -
The Club Floor is built around a central bar with sitting
 room. The sitting room features a mixture of over sized
 sofas, banquette seating and comfortable chairs.
(image courtesy of the Soho House)
We selected a comfortable sofa and ordered two glasses of wine. The wines were recommended by our server and were "regional" yet not Rieslings. For us, time had stopped. Whether it was a moment, a minute, or an hour it all seemed to be the same ... we were enjoying the present.
Returning to our room we cleaned up and dressed for dinner. Tonight's dinner was to be a
gastronomic adventure ...

dos Palillos berlin
The head chef is Albert Raurich, who spent time as Ferran Adrià’s right-hand
 man at El Bulli. The 42 1/2-foot-long counter that faces an open kitchen invites
 guests to come and talk to the chefs, just as it was intended to do. Diners
watch gingerly as the chefs prepare clean and straightforward Japanese and
 Chinese dishes made primarily with organic ingredients and presented like
 sculptures on elegant but unpretentious ceramic dishes.
(image courtesy of smow)

The name and head chef are Spanish, the food is Asian and the designers are French.
De Gustibus & Joan's Menu Dos Palillos Festival
An aperitif of watermelon, orange, vodka, and cava
shime saba - pickled mackerel with kombu
(paired with 2012 Müller-Thurgau Einfach)
oyster with ponzu sauce
(paired with 2012 Müller-Thurgau Einfach)
sunomon - fresh Japanese seaweed salad with mollusks
(paired with 2012 Müller-Thurgau Einfach)
summer roll filled with crispy chicken skin, cucumber, and mixed greens
(paired with 2011 Immich-Batterieberg Riesling C.A.I.)
sashimi of squid with yazu
(paired with 2011 Immich-Batterieberg Riesling C.A.I.)
navajas thai - razor clam with curry oil and confit onions
(paired with 2011 Immich-Batterieberg Riesling C.A.I.)

shrimp "hot and cold" with green tea
(paired with 2011 Immich-Batterieberg Riesling C.A.I.)

chawanmushi - Japanese salty custard with salmon roe
(paired with Azuma Rikishi Honjozo Saké )

cherry tomato tempura with wasabi and a dusting of sea salt
(paired with Azuma Rikishi Honjozo Saké )

steamed shrimp dumplings
(paired with Azuma Rikishi Honjozo Saké )
2011 Peter Max Pinot Noir
Crystallum Wines, Walker Bay region of South Africa
(paired with te maki and namban zuke)

te maki - do it yourself sushi
tuna served with sheets of Nori seaweed

namban zuke - vegetable salad with fried red mullet

japo burger - German beef, homemade black sesame steam bun, ginger,
 cucumber, chiffonade of shiso, and soy ketchup
(paired with 2009 Vall del Calàs, Merlot, Garnacha, Tempranillo)

yakitori of free range chicken
(paired with 2009 Vall del Calàs, Merlot, Garnacha, Tempranillo) 

bone marrow with bonito flakes
(paired with 2009 Vall del Calàs, Merlot, Garnacha, Tempranillo)
(image courtesy of Benn Glazier)

ibérico pork jowl Cantonese style from a charcoal robata
(paired with 2009 Vall del Calàs, Merlot, Garnacha, Tempranillo)

2002  Jungfer Riesling Spätlese
Weingut Prinz
Rheingau, Germany
(paired with the desserts )

annin dòufu - Chinese almond custard with caramel
 mochi with strawberries

dorayaki - Japanese pancake with yuzu filling
handmade mochi
A total of 21 dishes, deeply delicious, imaginative, evocative, beautifully presented, and each respecting its main ingredient. Service was extremely friendly yet efficient, the atmosphere was warmed by the open kitchen making it comfortable yet chic ... a most memorable birthday dinner ... Whoa!, a "most excellent adventure" for Joan and Gus.

After spending nearly three hours at the "counter" of dos palillos we left and enjoyed a "walk of digestion' back to the Soho House.

The next morning, after over sleeping, we quickly showered, dressed, and took advantage of the Nespresso machine in our apartment along with the "tin of biscuits." We had arrangements to join a walking tour of "Infamous Third Reich Sites" with -

original berlin walks
After a somewhat frantic taxi ride - passing along the way what has been described as Berlin Water Pipes You Don't Smoke -

Pink Pipes of Berlin
It all starts in Potsdamer Platz, the square where all the trams in earlier
 times met, and from here intricately entwine all over the city  springing
mysteriously out of the ground and looming over your head making
 intricate bends and straights like the best Brio before they disappear
 into the distance.
we arrived at the meeting point in what was formerly West Berlin, a taxi stand outside -

Zoo Station

N.B. "Zoo Station" is a song by the  band U2. It is the opening track from their 1991 album Achtung Baby. The song's lyrics were inspired by a surrealistic story about Berlin from World War II that lead vocalist Bono heard, when overnight bombing damaged the zoo and allowed animals to escape and wander around the city's rubble. Bono was also inspired by the city's Berlin Zoologischer Garten railway station and used it as a metaphor for a reuniting Germany.

Our tour, led by the engaging and entertaining Jonny -

was to last approximately three hours. Wasting very little time we checked-in, bought U-Bahn tickets, and boarded the subway. We disembarked at Berlin Hauptbahnhof (sometimes translated as Berlin Central Station). 

Berlin Hauptbahnhof
Located close to the government district is the main railway station in Berlin.
Leaving the underground we headed towards the German Chancellery - 
The German Chancellery (Bundeskanzleramt)
The modern Expressionist-style Bundeskanzleramt is one of a complex
 of buildings situated around the Reichstag, the seat of the German
 Parliament, built to house government institutions following the relocation
 of the German capital from Bonn to Berlin between 1991 and 1999.
 Contains the offices and residence of the German Chancellor.
Unfortunately, due to security measures, only politicians and government employees are allowed inside the Bundeskanzleramt. Visitors must be content with snapping photos of the attractive structure from the outside.  

Walking around the Chancellery, to the west, we unexpectedly caught a military band rehearsing for German Chancellor Angela Merkel's meeting with Prime Minister Alenka Bratušek of Slovenia.

Ceremonial Courtyard of the Bundeskanzleramt

The Reichstag Building
The seat of the German Parliament, is one of Berlin's most historic landmarks.
In 1933 fire broke out in the building, destroying much of the Reichstag. It is to date still unclear who started the fire, but the Communists were blamed. It gave a boost to Hitler's Party, the NSDAP, who would soon come to power. After the war, the Reichstag ended up in West Berlin. It was reconstructed between 1958 and 1972 but the central dome and most of the ornamentation were removed. During Berlin's division the West German parliament assembled here once a year as a way to indicate that Bonn was only a temporary capital. After the unification the decision was soon made to move the Bundestag (Germany's Parliament) from Bonn to Berlin. This decision resulted in a renovation which started in 1995 and was completed in 1999.
While it would have been worthwhile to enter and view the dome of the Reichstag Building it was closed to allow cleaning and maintenance work to be carried out from 8-12 July.

Memorial to the Murdered Members of the Reichstag
This row of uneven cast iron plaques is part of a memorial to the 96
 members of the Reichstag who were persecuted and murdered because
 their politics didn’t agree with the National Socialists. They were part of
the Weimar Republic, the weak and ill-fated attempt at post-WWI
 democracy in Germany. These were the people who could have stopped
 Hitler. So they tried…and they became his first victims. Each slate slab
 memorializes one man: his name, party, and the date and location of his
 death — generally in a concentration camp. They are honored here, in
 front of the building in which they worked. It is a simple and inconspicuous
 memorial, but a noteworthy one.

Serves to honor the Sinti and Roma victims of the Nazis’ racial purge
 of Europe while reminding the living of their duty to shield minority
populations from harm. The Roma and Sinti are often referred to as
 Gypsies, a term many consider offensive. The exact number of Roma
 and Sinti who died during the Holocaust is unknown, but the Council
 of Sinti and Roma puts the figure at half a million.

The Großer Tiergarten
The oldest public park in Berlin is a favored
 destination of both locals and visitors who
 enjoy open green spaces. 
However, there's more to see in the Tiergarten than just trees and flowers. The park is still home to the Berlin Zoo, completely restored and occupying the southwest corner of the Tiergarten. Guests to the park can also visit The Victory Column (Siegessäule). Not far north from the Victory Column you'll find the Schloss Bellevue or Bellevue Palace. Another eye catcher in the Tiergarten is the Haus der Kulturen der Welt (House of World Cultures). Lastly,  
Soviet War Memorial (Tiergarten)
The inscription on the side of the memorial reads:
This war memorial was built to honor the Soviet soldiers that fell in the battles against the German army in the Second World War. It was located in what would soon become West-Germany which meant that it was beyond everyday reach for the Soviet Army. To be able to visit the memorial it was agreed that Red Army troops had free passage to the memorial on certain days of remembrance. Around the time in the early 1960s, when the Berlin Wall was erected, the presence of Soviet troops on the streets of Berlin awoke much anger among the West-Berliners. Soviet military vehicles were, on many occasions, bombarded with stones from angry protesters. The memorial is constructed as an arch with a bronze soldier on top of it. The design actually resembles the Brandenburg Gate which is located only 100 yards away.

Brandenburg Gate (Brandenburger Tor)
The main entrance to the city, surrounded by the wall for thirty years, was known
 throughout the world as a symbol for the division of the city and for the division
 of the world into two power blocs.
(photo taken looking east on Straße des 17. Juni)
The Brandenburg Gate is one of Berlin’s most important monuments – a landmark and symbol all in one with over two hundred years of history. A former symbol of the divided city, it drew visitors who used to climb an observation platform in order to get a glimpse of the world behind the Iron Curtain, on the other side of the barren “death-strip” which separated east from west Berlin, geographically and politically. It was here that in 1987, Ronald Regan issued his stern command to his cold war adversary admonishing him with the words: “Mr. Gorbachov – tear down this wall!”. Bill Clinton  spoke at the Gate in 1994 declaring "Berlin is free!" The Gate is NOT where John F. Kennedy in 1963 declared to the world "ich bin ein Berliner," but rather from the Rathaus Schöneberg.

When Germany was reunified following the fall of the Berlin in November 1989 the Brandenburg Gate quickly reinvented itself into the New Berlin’s symbol of unity.

The Victory Column 
Erected to celebrate the Prussian victory over the Danes in their 1864
 war. Before the column could be completed, the Prussians had knocked
off two other victories, in wars against Austria in 1866 and France in
 1871. The 35-ton figure atop the column is the Goddess of Victory. The
 base of the column is adorned with bas-reliefs of battles.
(photo courtesy of The Jakarta Post and taken looking west on Straße des 17. Juni)

In 2008, then Senator, Barack Obama’s campaign explored the notion of its candidate speaking at the Brandenburg Gate. But German Chancellor Angela Merkel said nien to the idea. This was followed by allegations that the Bush White House was involved in Merkel's "nein"-ing, Merkel then denied said allegations, and then one of Obama’s foreign policy aides said that the candidate himself thought Brandenburg was a "presumptuous" location. So where did Herr Obama speak? Der Siegessäule, the Victory Column.

Memorial to Homosexuals Persecuted Under Nazism
Made of concrete; on the front side of the cuboid
 is a window, through which visitors can see a
short film of two men kissing.

The homosexual victims of Nazism were not officially recognized after 1945. During the 1950s and 1960s, Paragraph 175, the law that outlawed homosexuality, was still part of the German penal code. In the 1980s, these "forgotten victims" were finally discussed. In 1985, for instance, President Richard von Weizsäcker remembered homosexuals as a "victim group".

Continuing on our walk we exited the Tiergarten and crossed Ebertstraße and encountered
a Forest of Pillars.

Two thousand, seven hundred and eleven gray concrete slabs, or stelae.
 They are identical in their horizontal dimensions (reminiscent of coffins),
 differing vertically (from eight inches to more than fifteen feet tall), arranged
 in a precise rectilinear array over 4.7 acres, allowing for long, straight, and
 narrow alleys between them, along which the ground undulates. Yet, the
 installation gives no indication who is to be remembered. There are no
 inscriptions. One seeks in vain for the names of the murdered, for Stars of
David or other Jewish symbols.

A bit surreal. For Gus, it seemed less of a solemn site of Holocaust memory and more of a challenge to all its visitors to open themselves to imagination and to experience what it might have been like to be a Jew in Germany -- the hopelessness, the claustrophobia, the sense of entrapment that Jews must have felt under the Third Reich.

"For whoever takes even a few steps in finds himself -- almost without transition -- alone. Submerged in a space of reflection in the middle of the city, the noise of the surrounding streets muffled. Lost from the sight of your companions, able to make contact only by calling out, you are entirely thrown back on yourself, on your own thoughts."

"If you didn't know it was a Holocaust memorial, you might be forgiven for mistaking it for a vast field of modern art."
Peter Rigny, an associate producer on FRONTLINE's, A Jew Among the Germans

 Leaving the Memorial we headed to "Luftwaffe Headquarters," south down  Wilhelmstraße.

Ministry of Aviation (Nazi Germany)
At the time of its construction it was the largest office building in Europe.
For eighty years, the Air Ministry Building has witnessed and has  been a 
part of Germany's turbulent history. Throughout, it has served three very
 different political masters. First it was the headquarters for the Luftwaffe.
 Post WWII it was used by the Soviet military administration until 1948, and
 from 1947-49 by the German Economic Commission which became the top
 administrative body in the Soviet Occupation Zone. Later the building served
as the home to the Council of Ministers of the GDR . Today it houses the
Federal Ministry of Finance which is charged with the administration of
national tax policy and collections. 
Walking further along Wilhelmstraße we noticed a marker of where a portion of the Berlin Wall once stood. 

Berliner Mauer
Double rows of cobblestones now mark the course of the Wall
 accompanied by metal plaques in the ground bearing the inscription:
 “Berliner Mauer 1961–1989”
The official purpose of this Berlin Wall was to keep Western "fascists" from entering East Germany and undermining the socialist state, but it primarily served the objective of stemming mass defections from East to West. The Berlin Wall stood until November 9, 1989, when the head of the East German Communist Party announced that citizens of the GDR could cross the border whenever they pleased. That night, ecstatic crowds swarmed the wall. Some crossed freely into West Berlin, while others brought hammer and picks and began to chip away at the wall itself. To this day, the Berlin Wall remains one of the most powerful and enduring symbols of the Cold War.
Berlin Wall Art
The segment on the left is unknown yet memorable while the segment
 on the right was painted by French graffiti artist Thierry Noir

Housing neighborhood  for members of parliament and staff.

Site of Hitler's Bunker (Führerbunker)
Located in, or rather under, the garden of The Reich Chancellery .
 There's nothing left of the Chancellery (it was leveled by the Russians),
 so the exact spot is difficult to find. The site includes an information panel
explaining the layout and construction of the bunker.
The Führerbunker was an air-raid shelter and was part of a subterranean bunker complex which was constructed in two major phases, one part in 1936 and the other in 1943. It was the last of the Führer Headquarters (Führerhauptquartiere) to be used by Adolf Hitler. Hitler took up residence in the Führerbunker on 16 January 1945 and it became the centre of the Nazi regime until the last week of WWII in Europe. Hitler married Eva Braun here during the last week of April 1945, shortly before they committed suicide on 30 April. With Hitler's suicide all German officers were released from their oath of allegiance. Two days later, the capitulation of the "imperial capital", a week later, the unconditional surrender of all German land, sea and air forces in Europe.

The erstwhile military Checkpoint Charlie, controlled by the Americans, next to the
 Glienicke Bridge was the most famous border crossing in Berlin. The other two border
 checkpoints were Checkpoint Alpha, and Checkpoint Bravo. GDR leader Walter Ulbricht
 agitated and maneuvered to get the Soviet Union's permission for the construction of the
 Berlin Wall in 1961 to stop Eastern Bloc emigration westward through the Soviet border
 system, preventing escape across the city sector border from East Berlin to West Berlin.
 Checkpoint Charlie became a symbol of the Cold War, representing the separation of east
 and west. Soviet and American tanks briefly faced each other at the location during the

We finished our walking tour with our outstanding guide, Jonny, at -  

Exhibition trench at the site of the Topography of Terror
Behind the section of wall used to stand two buildings: the
 Gestapo and Schutzstaffel (abbreviated SS) headquarters. Today
 it’s a memorial site with a museum and archive.  The wall here
 was never demolished and is used to display images and the history
 of the Nazi era.
We plan to return tomorrow to complete our tour and view the photo and text exhibition that is displayed in the trench.

It was around lunch time and Gus was absolutely intent on eating a currywurst. While you can find decent currywurst on almost every street corner in Berlin, Gus wanted to sample some the city’s finest currywurst so we jumped into a taxi and headed to Schönhauser Allee 44 B in the trendy  Prenzlauer Berg district, the home of Konnopke's Imbiß

Konnopke's Imbiß
Considered by many Berliners as the best Currywurst. The simple
 snack shack is located below the tracks of the Eberswalder Strasse
U-Bahn station and is run by the Ziervogel family who started selling
 their famous sausages at this spot over 80 years ago. There always seems
 to be a long line of people waiting for the wurst, buletten, and French fries.
(image courtesy of Oscar in the Trash)

What is it? Just a deep fried pork sausage (here without skin) cut into
 slices, drenched with an oddly addicting curry ketchup, and dusted with
 curry powder. Often served with crispy fries and mayonnaise. Paper
 plate, spear-folk, and napkins included.
(image courtesy of theguardian.com)

We each ordered currywurst and fries; Gus added a large, cold bottle of German beer. The quick "Imbiß" became our lunch. Both our hungers and curiosities satisfied we decided to return to the Soho House.

A 20-25 minute walked turned into a 2 hour stroll through Berlin's "boho chic" area. First we stopped to have coffee at An einem Sonntag im August, a "hipster dive café" ... our real, yet unstated, goal was to use their restroom (unfortunately, the only good thing to be said about the toilets was that they functioned)  ... however, the coffee was excellent and an over sized leather couch contributed to an experience that turned out to be very pleasant.  We moved on, walking southwest on Kastanienallee. Without plans we wandered by a small shop that called to us to come in -

The Flagshipstore
Offers a wide selection from more than 30 young Berlin-based designers.
Most of the items that are in the collection are unique pieces and only
 available at the Flagshipstore.
The Mitte area, which was the center of the German-Jewish garment industry throughout the early 20th century, was home to the first wave of young new designers after reunification. As luxury labels and upscale boutiques moved Mitte, the younger fashion designers migrated a bit north to Kastanienallee. Nicknamed, by certain critics, "Casting Allee" because of the catwalk crowd it attracts, this area is the heart of the city's fashion scene. Joan was successful in selecting a few very unique, chic and high quality items of clothing.

Dinner tonight, once again relied on room service and a 375 ml bottle of red wine. Tomorrow is to be our last day in Berlin.

Our exploration today was to involve the U-Bahn. We walked to Rosa-Luxemburg-Platz underground station. We purchased Day Tickets with plans to -
  • familiarize ourselves with Berlin's underground,
  • revisit the permanent outdoor exhibition on display in the trench alongside the excavated segments of cellar wall on Niederkirchnerstraße; the exhibition addresses National Socialist policy in Berlin and its consequences for the city and its population,
  • shop for dinner at KaDaWe, and
  • return to our hotel for late afternoon spa treatments at Cowshed Relax.
Obviously, a very casual and relaxing day.

Boarded the underground at Rosa-Luxemburg-Platz, named after the German revolutionary
communist Rosa Luxemburg Traveling on the U2, we arrived at Mohrenstraße 12 minutes later.

Upon exiting we walked southwest and past ...

McDonald's billboard promoting "healthy food' of
A Snack, A Drink, 2 Euros
As a country, Germany has the sixth most McDonald's outlets in the world. In spite of the yoga instructor levitating, McDonald's in Germany is not much different than McDonald's in the U.S. except for the fact that the outlets serve beer!

Soon we were juxtaposed and standing next to -
Most of the Berlin Wall has been dismantled, but some parts still stand. The above
 two pictures are of the same section of the wall; however taken from opposite sides.
  This fragment of the Wall, designated a historic monument in 1990, now forms
 part of the Topography of Terror Documentation Center.


We returned to the underground and traveled to Wittenbergplatz station. Exiting the underground we found ourselves in Wittenberg Platz.

(pronounced Kar-de-vay)
With 645,000 square feet, the equivalent of eleven American
 football fields, 380,000 items offered  for sale, 40,000 to 50,000
 visitors a day, this is the legendary, largest department store on
 the continent.
KaDeWe has eight floors, each one focused on a different type of merchandise. It is a high-class department store in which shopping becomes an exceptional experience.
  • The ground floor is all Beauty Accessories. Some of the services offered include beauty salons as well as nail and foot spas. The so-called "Luxury Boulevard" is also situated here, with Bulgari, Burberry, Cartier, Céline, Chanel, Chopard, Dior, Fendi, Gucci, Hermès, Miu, Montblanc, Longchamp, Louis Vuitton, Prada, Rolex, Tiffany & Co., Tod's, Vertu, Wellendorff and Yves Saint Laurent stores.

  • The 1st floor is Men's Apparel.

  • The 2nd floor is devoted to Women's Fashion.

  • The 3rd floor is referred to as "the Loft" and represents Germany's biggest luxury shoe department. Women's leather goods and lingerie are sold here, too.

  • The 4th floor contains interior and design items.

  • The 5th floor is arts, entertainment, electronics, toys, office supplies, and souvenirs.

  • The 6th floor is devoted entirely to food and beverages. It has around 110 cooks and 40 bakers and confectioners supplying more than 30 gourmet counters. It’s like the Harrods' Food Hall in London without the crowds.

  • The top floor (added in the early 1990s) includes a winter garden with a 1000-seat restaurant surrounded by a cafeteria-like concession.

 One of four swanky champagne bars on the 6th floor.  In the photo to the left ...
Joan's flute of Moët Impérial  is on the left with Gus' Rosé Impérial on the right.
 The menu on the right suggests pairing with lime,  mint, or orange ice.

Culinary heaven with its many food preparation areas catering to all
 palates. Smoked salmon from Norway, thick Devonshire double cream
 from England, Echire butter and fois gras from France. KaDeWe boasts
  34,000 different items, 3,4000 wines and 1,300 types of cheese and an 
almost endless array of sausages and wursts
(image courtesy of WhereaboutsPhoto.com)
We found ourselves most desirous of the prepared salads of seafood (squid, prawns, and white anchovies), pasta (orzo with mirepoix), vegetables (roasted beets), and a fresh baguette. The salads and bread were gladly wrapped for take away. Venturing up one floor, we picked up a slice of apple cake for dessert -
Apple cake with "mingled" nuts
(Apfelkuchen mit gemischten nüssen)
 Top floor Wintergarten with a 1000-seat restaurant surrounded by an all
 windowed wall offering a breathtaking view across Berlin.
 Cafeteria offering wonderful fruits, vegetables, and main dishes.
 Tempting desserts

Leaving this magical yet elegant department store, with tonight's dinner, we re-entered the underground and soon were on our way back to our hotel. 

One item we noticed on our ride, while politically incorrect in the United States, captured the "old" and the "new" of Germany -
"Public Service Announcement" in U-Bahn
Our trip to the spa & hamman was mixed. Our gemischten review may have been driven by what we were familiar with ... our experience everywhere else in the world has generally included a calm and peaceful environment, comfortable bathrobes and sandals, attentive and instructive staff, and refreshing beverages upon request ... Cowshed Relax was busy, a bit noisy, and overall unsettling, we did now receive bathrobes but rather two large towels, no footwear was provided, the staff at check-in provided little information, and the entire facility was open to both sexes. Gus went straight to the waiting area for his massage while Joan wanted time in the hamman. Whoa! Naked men and women outnumbered those few with towels appropriately wrapped; awkward, uncomfortable, anxious, embarrassing. Well, "Que Sera, Sera (Whatever Will Be, Will Be)". The 90 minute massage treatments were adequate at best ... disappointing! Yet ...

We returned to our room and enjoyed the bounty foraged from KaDeWe. Tomorrow we tour Dachau Concentration Camp outside of Munich

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