Berlin – December 23, 2013

Before I start this entry, I want to warn you.  I just discovered Pixlr Express.  It’s a free online photo editing / collage making program.  This is going to be fun.  I’m going to play around with it in this blog entry.  You have been warned.

Mr. MM and I were staying at our family’s house in Zehlendorf while my mom, sister, and a couple family friends rented a flat nearby.  The quaint German house where they rented deserved a ‘vintage’ filter …

House with rental flats.

House with rental flats.

Most of our daily adventures started with either the bus or the S-Bahn from the Zehlendorf station into Berlin Mitte.  As you’ll soon conclude, I love photographing graffiti.  And so it started on the S-Bahn platform that morning.

Views of the Zehlendorf S-Bahn station.

Views of the Zehlendorf S-Bahn station.

Arriving in Alexanderplatz, the first thing we saw was a large Christmas market sprawling over the plaza northeast of the train station.  I absolutely loved all the Chtistmas markets even though you tend to see the same sorts of tchotchke being sold.

Alexanderplatz Markt.

Alexanderplatz Christmas Markt.

When I travel, I buy souvenirs that are items I’ve been looking for instead of the typical t-shirts, snow globes, etc.  This way, the item comes home with the story of the travels attached.  I’ve been in the market for a incense smoker but wanted one that could be used throughout the year … so no St. Nicholas for me.  With so many to choose from, it was tough to choose just one.

My mom and sister just couldn’t pass up the Berlin Buletten (Berlin-style hamburgers).  They were particularly good at this stall in the market.  They were given the stamp of approval from mom.

Remember that we were in the former ‘East’ so street trams abound and the communist-era buildings are an eyesore.  But Germany has done an amazing job at brining the ‘East’ up to western standards in regards to conservation/restoration of its historic buildings, infrastructure, and general capitalist expectations.

Onwards to the Marienkirche (St. Mary’s church) completed in the 14th century.  Thanks to Martin Luther, many of the churches we visited in Berlin are Protestant.  This Gothic beauty is no exception.  Carved from alabaster, the pulpit beautifully decorated with bas-reliefs of John the Baptist and personifications of Faith, Hope, and Love.

L: Pulpit. R: Marienkirche & Fernsehturm (Television Tower).

L: Pulpit. R: Marienkirche & Fernsehturm (Television Tower).

Much to Mr. MM’s dismay, we stumbled upon another Christmas market in a plaza between the Fernsehturm and the Rotes Rathaus.  We managed to herd the cats and proceed to the nearby Nikolaiviertel.  This district was completely destroyed in June 1944 and was rebuilt by the DDR (Deutsche Demokratische Republik) / GDR (German Democratic Republic) in the early 1980’s to re-create some of the old heart of Berlin on the site of the city’s medieval core.  It is a mix of exact replicas of historic buildings and overly stylized ‘old Berlin’ buildings.  It might be a bit hokey but it’s a welcome architectural break from the GDR’s typical method of leveling an area and building a enormous concrete edifice.  Unfortunately, the streets were empty except for us tourists.

Around 2 pm we were ready for a late lunch.  One thing I love about traveling with Mr. MM is that he always has marked up maps locating various beer bars/restaurants.  This day was no exception.  Zum Nussbaum, a pub dating from the 16th century, was a favorite watering hole for Berlin artists when it was located on the other side of the Spree.  It was destroyed during WWII.  We ate lunch in its Nikolaiviertel replica.  Which is a faithful copy, including the walnut tree in the tiny front garden.  Traditional German food and a decent beer selection.  Sister and I split a Wiener Schnitzel (complete with egg on top) and I had a nice hefeweizen.

Nikolaikirche bell tower.  Vignettes from the Nikolaiviertel.

Nikolaikirche bell tower. Vignettes from the Nikolaiviertel.

After lunch, we followed Propststrasse past the side of the Nikolaikirche all the way down to the River Spree.  There a statue of St. George and the Dragon met us.  The plan was to follow the River Spree around toward the Hackescher Markt so we could see Museum Island from this side of the river.  That plan was foiled due to a huge infrastructure project and construction fencing.

We eventually found our way to the Hackescher Markt train station and caught an S-Bahn toward ‘home’.  Wanting an afternoon cup of coffee, we mistakenly got off at Potsdamer Platz.

A little Potsdamer Platz history.  Prior to WWII it was one of Europe’s busiest plazas but the during the final battle for Berlin in 1945, Potsdamer Platz was bombed into a mountain of rubble.  It became a vast open space in the shadow of the Berlin Wall where tourists would climb up to high observation platforms to look over the Wall.  After the fall of the Wall, development started and in 1992 Potsdamer Platz was the largest construction site in Europe with $25 billion having been invested.

We didn’t realize that unless we wanted to go to Starbucks, there’s not much to be had.   Well, at least the evening brightened when we went to dinner at a family friend’s house.  Home cooked Indian food.  Stuffed and content surrounded by family and friends.

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