The Reirees in Berlin – Potsdamerplatz, the Monument for the Murdered Jews of Europe, the Brandenburg Gate and Ballhaus

After visiting Berlin’s Victory column we jumped a bus and found we were riding the 200 bus which meant we reached Potsdamerplatz and its shops. There we found the Sony building  which had three extraordinary features – its domed roof a lego giraffe and the Corroboree Restaurant. We all felt a cringe to find an Australian Restaurant calling itself “Coorboree” so we moved on. The menu did not appeal as a genuine Australian restaurant. We found an underground shopping centre which exhibited a series of photos showing Potsdamerplatz during the cold war with the Wall intact and the celebrations after the Wall came down. In the background you can see the Esplande Hotel which had been the mecca for high society prior to WWII. My last photo shows the same site today.

Our plan was to hop off the bus at Potsdamnerplatz and make  our way to the Monument for the Murdered Jews of Europe. Although we had visited the monument during our Segway tour we had not visited the information centre below the monument. It does not take too much to realise this is not a place of joy. Tragic tales of individuals and families as well as the history of the development of the Final Question does not make for enjoyable reading – just the opposite – it horrifies just how wide spread the camps for the detention of Jews were across Europe. I put down my camera as this was not the place to be taking happy snaps.

We needed a lift after that. So, we walked passed the US Embassy back door to the Brandenburg Gate to pick up a bus and found the Gate was cordoned off – some big wig was due to arrive and the whisper among the assembled crowd was that it was Charles and Camilla. This made sense – tucked in beside the Gate is the US Embassy beside which is the French and around the corner the UK Embassy. We determined how to circumnavigate the obstruction but as we did so the Royalists amongst us decided they needed to get a peek of the Royals.

Not so much me. I found a seat in the sun and waited. The others did get to glimpse the Royal couple (not quite sure what joy that brought) and then joined me. But this Regal interruption had also caused a disruption to the bus service. More shoe leather. Eventually we found a tram which we thought would take us to Ballhaus – the only remaining Berlin dance hall. Now the tram was not a problem but finding this relic was proving difficult. I spotted the Titanic Hotel and across the road Hostel Ballhaus Berlin – it is now backpacker accommodation with the dance hall not open tonight. However, there is a small dinghy bar claiming to be Berlin’s oldest surviving pub – it looked the real deal. So, to drown our sorrow we ordered some drinks and sat at a table in the beer garden when I spotted standing forlornly in the yard two sections of the Berlin Wall. I started looking closer and further into the yard were four more sections of the Wall. The bar keep told us that the owner of the pub had bought them following the destruction of the wall on the basis that they may be worth something one day. Well from what I have seen these bits of Wall are as rare as hen’s teeth and are probably worth more to buy than the entire pub. What a great find but no one was putting it in their handbag to take home.

The Retirees in Berlin – The Wall and Berlin’s Victory Column

Kerry H had a desire to see the remnant of the Berlin Wall that had been turned into a story board by local artists. Once again using our Berlin pass and shoe leather we found the monument. I was completely disgusted by the rubbish that had been splashed onto this landmark. It appeared that none of the artists (and I query that term) had respected the opportunity afforded them to enrich the history of the city. I have provided photos of the rubbish and what I consider the only serious attempt I could find to say something of the Wall and its impact on the city.
With some more shoe leather and another train ride we returned to our apartment via our favourite pub Bistro Kneipe. This time I grabbed a photo of the schnitzels that we enjoyed so much.


Each day we had travelled on the buses we passed the Berlin Victory column. The featured image at the top of this blog is the Angel of Victory atop the column. This time we stopped for a closer look. The column is in the centre of a large roundabout with tunnels accessing the monument from the edges of the roundabout. The Victory Column is a monument to commemorate the Prussian victory in the Danish-Prussian War, but by the time it was inaugurated on 2 September 1873, Prussia had also defeated Austria and its German allies in the Austro-Prussian War (1866) and France in the Franco-Prussian War (1870–71), giving the statue a new purpose. Inside the tower is a history of the tower and other monuments around Germany and the development of Germany through these wars. Remember until unification Germany was made up of various principalities called Electorates (Hanover, Prussia, Saxony by way of example). So it should not surprise that looking on from the Teirgarten are Bismarck, Roon and Moltreg the architects of unification. One of the other monuments picutured is Kaiser Wilhelm (I think) at the intersection of the Rhine and Mosel Rivers at Koblenz which we visited whilst living in the UK.


The retirees in Berlin – the Reichstag

The Reichstag is a historic edifice constructed to house the Imperial Diet (German: Reichstag) of the German Empire. It was opened in 1894 and housed the Diet until 1933, when it was severely damaged after being set on fire. After World War II, the building fell into disuse; the parliament of the German Democratic Republic (the Volkskammer) met in the Palast der Republik in East Berlin, while the parliament of the Federal Republic of Germany (the Bundestag) met in the Bundeshaus in Bonn.
The ruined building was made safe against the elements and partially refurbished in the 1960s, but no attempt at full restoration was made until after German reunification on 3 October 1990, when it underwent a reconstruction led by English architect Norman Foster. After its completion in 1999, it once again became the meeting place of the German parliament: the modern Bundestag. In today’s usage, the word Reichstag (Imperial Diet Building) refers mainly to the building, while Bundestag (Federal Diet) refers to the institution.
It must have been galling to have an English architect restore the Reichstag but he has done a damn fine job. Whilst we did not visit the Bundestag, we were able to dine on the roof top and visit the central dome of the building. Travelling up in the lift was rather eerie with the mirrored walls reflecting our images like the entomb warriors of China.
On the rooftop we had fabulous views of Berlin, the Teirgarten Brandenburg Gate and Alexanderplatz radio tower. I was even able to photograph the Carillon (bell tower) or in German Glockenspiel that I had spotted from the Monkey Bar. Lunch was delightful and the ambience very comfortable.

The Retirees go Abroad – Berlin by bus to Pergamon and the Dom

I was keen to visit the Pergamon Museum. My book “the Ghost Empire” had whetted my appetite for more on the middle east and that’s what I got. The Pergamon Museum houses monumental buildings such as the Pergamon Altar, the Ishtar Gate of Babylon, the Market Gate of Miletus reconstructed from the ruins found in Anatolia, as well as the Mshatta Facade. The museum is subdivided into the antiquity collection, the Middle East museum, and the museum of Islamic art. I was bowled over by the Ishtar Gate of Babylon. The following photos include all of the main exhibits. The museum of Islamic art felt somewhat overwhelmed by the displays below it and really deserves its own preserve. I found myself just unable to compare it fairly. For me the most interesting of the museum of Islamic Art was the rug making and the development of the designs and the ages of some of the earlier pieces.

Outside of the gate were some standing stones called “steles”. These had been excavated from Ashur in ancient Mesopotamia  which were but a few of the 140 excavated and the purpose of the steles is unknown. They were found in two rows one row being for Assuryian Kings and queens and the other for lesser nobles dating from 1350 BC to 650 BC. Steles were a common structure in Mesopotamian times and were more often used to record major events like victories over other civilisations. From there we saw the archeological finds of many civilsations with many of the exhibits being conserved but in a way that you could see what was original. Paintings of archeological diggings and minatures of camp sites all making intriguing viewing. Before going upstairs to the Museum of Islamic Art we saw more from Ishtar.

From Ishtar we moved to the Art of Islam through the ages. As commented above I did not see it as being as impressive as the Assuryian history but still impressive for other reasons. The Mshatta Facade was one example which was very impressive. The Mshatta Facade is the decorated part of the facade of the 8th century Umayyad residential palace of Qasr Mshatta, one of the Desert Castles of Jordan, which is now installed in the south wing of the Pergamon. It is part of the permanent exhibition of the Pergamon Museum of Islamic Art dedicated to  Islamic art from the 8th to the 19th centuries. There was a section dedicated to carpets and the skills of Persian carpet makers – one example being dated from the 15 century and one other being the remnant of a burnt carpet.

After the Pergamon we visited the Dom (Berlin Cathedral), the cathedral that is not a cathedral. It has all the grandeur but has never been the seat of a bishop and is in fact a protestant church. I am not sure how the church justifies this departure from the austere plain houses of worship typical of the protestant religions. We attempted to climb to the top of the dome. When about 100 steps from our final goal the staircase narrowed to a one-way track and passage became almost impossible. We abandoned the quest and returned to ground to meet Rod and Kerry as we were off to the Reichstag.