The Retirees visit Warnemunde Germany

As we left a thick sea mist settled upon the water. Grey surrounded us and moisture hung in the air. the mist followed us for the two days sailing to Warnemunde and the joyous tune of the “Love Boat” blared into the fog. We killed time with cards and board games, feasting on the smorgasbord and other things which I have now forgotten. Little did I know that a sinsiter shadow was following me all that time.

Resting in our cabin I noticed we had a visitor in the form of a small land bird seeking refuge and probably lost in the fog.

The fog disappeared suddenly as we docked at Warnemunde. This is the port for Berlin 3 hours south. as we had spent 5 fantastic days in Berlin we were not considering sitting in a bus or train for 6 hours going to and from Berlin so we tumbled ashore to see what it had to offer. quite frankly I was pleasantly surprised.

From our cabin we could see a warm day rising. However I was now aware that I had a shadow. Warnemunde is a busy port as you might expect. Warnemünde  literally Mouth of the Warnow is a seaside resort and a district of the city of Rostock in Mecklenburg, Germany. It is one of the world’s busiest cruise ports. Founded in about 1200, Warnemünde was for centuries a small fishing village with minor importance for the economic and cultural development of the region. In 1323 Warnemünde lost its autonomous status as it was purchased by the city of Rostock in order to safeguard the city’s access to the Baltic Sea. It was not until the 19th century that Warnemünde began to develop into an important seaside resort.

We walked along the peir towards the railway station and the crossing into the township passing two other cruise ships of similar size to our SS Regal Princess before we encounter our first opportunity to purchase souvenirs. Out front of this establishment was a sand sculpture – why I don’t know exactly but it was very impressive in its artistry and detail.

A lefthand turn through a tunnel and we were out into the township with the rail station behind us. As we walked we encountered various buskers but this one caught my eye as very clever singing “Sitting on the dock of the bay”. the town’s fishing heritage can be seen with the fishing boats lining the canal whilst the new monarch of the seas stand large in the background.

The towns economy depended on fishing for centuries so you would expect some history around that. I found a well preserved fishermans house which had been enlarged with a modern extension to house a museum. The front entrance takes you back in time to when the last of the fishing families lived there. It is very much like someones home at the turn of the 19th and 20th centuries. as you walk through the home you are lead to the extension and the history of the community. I was impressed with the charm and the stories told by this museum. Like the story of Stephan Jantzen who went to sea at the age of 14. In 1856, he was granted a patent for skipper on a long journey. In the same year, he became captain of the 38-meter Bark “Johannes Keppler”; Jantzen personally commissioned this ship and had shares in this ship, with which he circumnavigated the earth twice in the period from December 1856 to 1866, mostly accompanied by his wife and his firstborn son Magnus. The second son Varelius was born on one of the trips aboard. Both sons of Jantzen later became sailors as well.Jantzen sold his vessel in 1863 and became commander of the local sea rescue stations of the German Society for the Rescue of Shipwrecked Persons and received numerous awards from Germany, Sweden and Portugal for his bravery and daring in rescuing shipwrecked persons.

I was the only one interested in the fisherman’s house so when I emerged I was all alone. I headed toward the town square and found my co-explorers who were oogling the markets in the square. As is the case in small towns and villages of Europe there was a collection of vendors selling everything from suasages to sauerkraut. We gathered a few items for a platter whilst playing cards on the ship. One item that abound in Germany is white asparagus and they are popular. What was unusal was a pub off the square called the “Captain Bligh” from mutiny on the Bounty fame (a bit of the south pacific in Wandemunde).

The town is on the Baltic Sea coast and has large sandy beaches and a unique beach chair. There is not a lot of wave action but the Germans are at the beach in great numbers. Nearby is the mouth of the river and great lines of ships can be seen sailing into the wharves in the river. We walked down the beach and over to an odd shaped building house an inviting cafe serving odd german beers – a Rostocker for Rod and a Duckstein for me. Having quenched our thirst and sampled the odd beach chairs we moved into the fishing wharves area and the major tourist strip. Still our ship was the largest thing in sight.

We returned to the ship ready to rest play cards and nibble on our market snacks. Relaxing in our cabin I realised how industrial the area around thei town has become. Later that afternoon just as we were readying to sail I saw a naval ship sail past. It was only then that I noticed the naval base behind the undergrowth on the island beyound our ship.

 

The Retirees go Abroad – Berlin by foot

Our apartment includes a croissant breakfast. The breakfast arrives at 8.00am and that is when our day starts. Following breakfast we try our hand at the underground (our Berlin pass includes the Uline as the Berliners call it) to get to the ferry terminal. Arriving at Murkisches Museum stop we alight and make our way to the canal. It is cool but serene as we walk along the embankment to find the ticket office. A large canal boat with the word “Tickets” above the boat identifies our destination. An elderly woman is working in the ticket office managing the assembled patrons with aplomb. We are the obvious out of towners and English so she announces to us that the lock is broken (river lock) and the canal cruise does not complete a circumnavigation of the island. A change plans. We will walk back to Alexanderplatz through the old village. We walk past the Murkisches Museum (nowhere near the Uline stop of the same name) with it Teutonic knight at the front door and the radio/tv tower in Alexanderplatz is clearly visible as our beacon to guide us home.

As we stroll in the sunshine, we notice a hot-air balloon rising in the distance. We had passed the tethered balloon site on our Segway tour. It seems the balloon goes up and down on its tether giving the occupants in the cage suspended below a view of the city. There are much easier ways than that.

On we walk to cross another bridge and view the troublesome locks. Crossing under the bridge we find the queue of ferries turning around because the lock is not open. As we climb a set of stairs, we are greeted by two recumbent lions marking the entrance to the oldest surviving part of Berlin. What are now fashionable eateries were once the warehouses of the river. Shortly we come upon a square with St George slaying the dragon in the midst of the square. A closer examination reveals some pock marks very likely from WWII. There is some eclectic street art throughout the village one piece of which portrays Rudolf Heinrich Zille (10 January 1858 – 9 August 1929) a German illustrator, caricaturist, lithographer and photographer. There is the water pump once the central water source for the village. Clean and tidy as you would expect of a German village. Further on is the statue which was to become city’s emblem – a bear holding a shield with a phoenix on the face of the shield. The village is within site of the Alexanderplatz Tower so we use this as our guide back stopping at Haekeresker Market for lunch.

It always surprised us how close everything appeared to be. The radio tower acts as a central point and we always seemed to track from that point. So we spent the afternoon making our way to our apartment for a siesta as we planned on dining on the rooftop of the Monkey Bar in Charlottenburg. We planned that we would all share a tasting plate of the menu whilst taking in the zoo below through into the Teirgarten spreading across Mitte. Sunset was moving further into the evening so that the view remained with us to the very end. The tasting plate was disappointing. Where we had expected a diverse choice of new tastes what we got largely revolved around hommus. Still a unique experience particularly when nature called.

The Retirees go Abroad – Berlin – West and East by Segway

We had booked a Segway tour to show us the East and the West and it commenced from Alexanderplatz, so we bussed it back to Alexanderplatz just in time to commence the tour. There were 7 of us, 4 Aussies (us), two Norweigans and two Japanese women with no ability to speak or understand English. You need a drivers licence in Berlin for a Segway as the vehicles are registered for use on the road. Unfortunately, Kerry forgot her licence and had to run back to the apartment in a window of about 10 minutes. I offered but there was no way I was going to be able to complete the task in that time so off she went. Kerry returned just in time to undertake the obligatory training. During the training Kerry H clipped the wheels of a bike and took a tumble off her Segway. An easy thing to do even for experienced drivers. They say things happen in 3s so our tour guide was on edge particularly as regards the Japanese girls who were first timers on Segways.

We set off following her like ducks in a row. As our vehicles are registered, we travel on the road in the bus lanes but we can cross a road at pedestrian crossings apparently. That is where it happened – the Japanese girls being inexperienced and not understanding instructions fell behind and commenced driving on the footpath. Kerry H had been obstructed by them and was blocked from keeping up so at our first check point our guide had to back track to find them. Kerry H made her way and caught up with the group. Meanwhile the Japanese girls drove down the footpath against instruction and the law and greeted us with dumb grins of relief followed by a distressed tour guide. Kyla (our guide) rang her boss and told him that she could not continue the tour with these Japanese because they could not follow instruction – mean while we waited with bus drivers annoyed that our vehicles were parked against the gutter in the bus lane. Kayla then had to try and explain that they could not continue the tour and that the boss was coming to collect them and refund their money. The boss turned up and took the Japanese back to the office and we will never know if they understood what had happened.

We recommenced our tour driving in the bus lane down to Lustgarten Park, Museum Island and the Dom (Berlin Cathedral). Berlin Cathedral is the common name for the Evangelical Supreme Parish and Collegiate Church and is located on Museum Island in the Mitte borough. The Dom is a parish church of the organisation Evangelical Church of Berlin-Brandenburg-Silesian Upper Lusatia. Berlin Cathedral has never been a cathedral in the actual sense of that term since it has never been the seat of a bishop. Museum Island is the name given to the northern half of an island in the Spree River in the central Mitte district of Berlin, the site of the old city of Cölln. It is so-called for the complex of internationally significant museums, all part of the Berlin State Museums, that occupy the island’s northern part:

The Altes Museum (Old Museum), The Neues Museum (New Museum), The Alte National Galerie (Old National Gallery), The Bode Museum on the island’s northern tip, and The Pergamon Museum(the Pergamon contains multiple reconstructed immense and historically significant buildings such as the Altar and the Ishtar Gate of Babylon). I will talk more about the Dom and the Pergamon after our visit later in this trip. The Humboldt Forum will open in 2019 in the Berlin Palace opposite the Lustgarten Park.

We drove around to the entrance to the Pergammon the Old and the Neuse Museums to view the bullet marks in the gallery fronting the museums and then moved onto view an old French church from Napoleonic times and then to Checkpoint Charlie – not the original checkpoint between East and West but a replica in the same location surrounded by tourist souvenir shops. Checkpoint Charlie (or “Checkpoint C”) was the name given by the Western Allies to the best-known Berlin Wall crossing point between East Berlin and West Berlin during the Cold War (1947–1991).

East German leader Walter Ulbricht agitated and manoeuvred to get the Soviet Union’s permission to construct the Berlin Wall in 1961 to stop Eastern Bloc emigration and defection westward through the Soviet border system, preventing escape across the city sector border from communist East Berlin into 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 Berlin Crisis of 1961.

After the dissolution of the Eastern Bloc and the reunification of Germany, the building at Checkpoint Charlie became a tourist attraction. It is now located in the Allied Museum in the Dahlem neighbourhood of Berlin. There are displays of events of the days when it was a genuine hotspot and the trigger of the Cold War. You will see in my photos a line of bricks in the road – this line replicates the position of the Wall.

After hunting for a souvenir (not a chip of the Wall) we moved on to the last remaining section of original wall in an as is condition following the breaching of the wall and the end of east and west. The wall has been hacked at with all sorts of instruments and remains in that condition. This is also the point of one of the most dramatic escapes across the wall. A guard with his family used a flying fox to escape over the wall which heightened the tension on both sides. Moving on from there we went down a back street to the last remaining guard tower hiding behind an office building and roadside landscape. Remember everything happens in 3s – the Japanese did not eventuate into a disaster and we relaxed. I was following one of the Norwegians and was stunned by uncovering a true guard tower taking my sight off the Norwegian in front of me who stopped, I swerved but clipped his vehicle and this sent my vehicle out of control into a spin throwing me to the ground. I hurt my pride, my left knee, my right knee and left palm in that order. I got some pictures of the guard tower (not the injuries) boarded my Segway and we moved on to the Bunker.

The Bunker – well its actually the site of Hitler’s bunker. The bunker has been destroyed but a sign has been erected describing what was found when they dug it up. The Führerbunker was an air raid shelter located near the Reich Chancellery in Berlin, Germany. It was part of a subterranean bunker complex constructed in two phases in 1936 and 1944. It was the last of the Führer Headquarters used by Adolf Hitler during World War II. 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 World War II in Europe. Hitler married Eva Braun there on 29 April 1945, less than 40 hours before they committed suicide. After the war, both the old and new Chancellery buildings were levelled by the Soviets. The underground complex remained largely undisturbed until 1988–89, despite some attempts at demolition. The excavated sections of the old bunker complex were mostly destroyed during reconstruction of that area of Berlin. The site remained unmarked until 2006, when a small plaque was installed with a schematic diagram. Some corridors of the bunker still exist but are sealed off from the public.

The site is presently a carpark and attracts people believing in the principles of the National Socialist regime much to the disappointment of the residents of the area. Only steps away is Peter Eisenman’s famous Memorial for the Murdered Jews of Europe – our next port of call.

This monument is also known as the Holocaust Memorial and is a memorial to the Jewish victims of the Holocaust and surprisingly just 150m from the site of Hitler’s bunker. It consists of a 19,000-square-metre (200,000 sq ft) site covered with 2,711 concrete slabs or “stelae”, arranged in a grid pattern on a sloping field. The stelae are 2.38 metres (7 ft 10 in) long, 0.95 metres (3 ft 1 in) wide and vary in height from 0.2 to 4.7 metres. They are organized in rows, 54 of them going north–south, and 87 heading east–west at right angles but set slightly askew. An attached underground “Place of Information” holds the names of approximately 3 million Jewish Holocaust victims. Building began on April 1, 2003 and was finished on December 15, 2004. It was inaugurated on May 10, 2005, sixty years after the end of World War II in Europe and opened to the public two days later. It is located one block south of the Brandenburg Gate, in the Mitte neighbourhood. The cost of construction was approximately €25 million.

From the memorial it is a short walk and even shorter Segway drive to the Brandenburg Gate. The Brandenburg Gate is an 18th-century neoclassical monument, built on the orders of Prussian king Frederick William II after the (temporarily) successful restoration of order during the early Batavian Revolution. One of the best-known landmarks of Germany, it was built on the site of a former city gate that marked the start of the road from Berlin to the town of Brandenburg an der Havel, which used to be capital of the Margraviate of Brandenburg. It is located in the western part of the city centre of Berlin within Mitte, at the junction of Unter den Linden and Ebertstraße, immediately west of the Pariser Platz. One block to the north stands the Reichstag building, which houses the German parliament (Bundestag). The gate is the monumental entry to Unter den Linden, the renowned boulevard of linden trees, which led directly to the royal City Palace of the Prussian monarchs. Throughout its existence, the Brandenburg Gate was often a site for major historical events and is today considered not only as a symbol of the tumultuous history of Europe and Germany, but also of European unity and peace.

On the occasion of our return visit 3 days after our Segway tour it was also the site for a public walk by Charles and Camilla much to the delight of the “Royalists” amongst us – I sat outside a souvenir shop as that seemed fitting and appropriate.

Our Segway tour continued to the Reichstag Building. We were at the furthest end of the park in which the building is located peering through chain wire however a few days from now we would visit the building to see the new dome (designed by an Englishman).

Almost at our journey’s end and with 3 events of misfortune behind us we set sail for Aleanderplatz and the Segway base. However, one more surprise awaited us – my Segway battery failed but within walking distance of the base so after breaking some laws by taking our vehicles across a public open space we returned thoroughly satisfied that we had done it all on the segways.

The weather has been good, cool in the morning warming up by 1.00pm until about 4.00pm when it chills but sunset is after 8.00pm so we find ourselves doing things and walking places until it is dark and then looking for a place to eat. I haven’t got much further with my book at this stage but between travel and exploring Berlin I am pretty tired and footsore. We plot tomorrow’s adventure of a river cruise around the island in the Spree and then to bed to sleep.

The Retirees Go Abroad – Brisbane Singapore Helsinki & Berlin

Things are different now. Our holidays have to fit in with the other things in life whereas it was the other way around when we were living in the UK. We both miss that time but it was too good and we knew it could not last. So, we had our New Years in Sydney and our tour of the N.S.W highlands at Xmas/New year and we have done a few odd things thereafter (odd as in various not “odd”) and now we are preparing for the “big trip” – 25 days in the Scandinavian regions and central Europe.

As we pack, I pull out my copy of the “Ghost Empire” by Richard Fidler. A thick tome all about the Byzantine Empire and the author’s bonding with his son on a trip to Istanbul and back in time to Constantinople (the Second roman empire of the East), I have put off reading due to the business of life. I expect some of you reading this will know Richard – he was host of “Conversations” on ABC radio. I found his show fascinating and did not listen to it often enough.

Our trip to the airport and our wait for the plane gave me the opportunity to start reading. From the moment I read the Acknowledgements (who does that?) I was hooked and did not want to put it down. Knowing the author’s voice, I felt as though he narrated the whole book to me. At the airport in Brisbane, on the plane to Singapore, in the airport at Singapore, on the plane to Helsinki and then on the plane to Berlin I read the book lost in the world of the Romans from the time of the Assyrians through the birth life death and resurrection of Christ to 330AD when Constantine I founded and built Constantinople. I did have dialogue with Kerry and I did commune with the world but always I could not wait to get back to Constantinople.

Thirty-eight hours of travel and we landed in Berlin. We had a brief stopover in Singapore and then in Helsinki where we boarded an EasyJet to Berlin. Our travel plans worked well, but all seemed to unravel when we land at Tegal Airport in Berlin. We caught up with Kerry and Rod Hayes who were to be our travelling companions. Kerry H had booked a taxi for us at Tegal but the driver was not waiting with his sign for us when we exited the terminal. Low level panic ensued with all of us searching the terminal and Kerry phoning him. Thirty minutes later our driver presents – he did not have a cab and therefore had to park some distance from the terminal at another terminal. Of course, we made it to Flowers Apartments in Mitte the centre of Berlin.

Berlin is strange in that it does not have a central business district. This may be a result of the city being divided after the Second World War. The east is being revived and the west is somewhat stagnant. Our apartment was large for a studio apartment. It was long and narrow, so we got the benefit of many windows pouring in daylight. This proved somewhat of a trap in that the sunset was after 8.00pm at night. Knowing we were only here 5 nights we got the necessities from our suitcase showered and changed into fresh clothes and set off exploring. Strangely there were a number of empty blocks around the city. Immediately across the road from us was an overgrown vacant block, at the end of our street Mulack Strasse. Where it joins Alte Schonhauser Strasse, is a street with tram lines and no tram except in emergencies. No traffic either. Really strange for the centre of the city. The buildings are all low rise but 20th century architecture – this once was East Berlin.

Everywhere there are push bikes. Some have been abandoned. There are scooters lying about like drunks just as we have them in Brisbane and community motor scooter/bikes and cars sitting around waiting for the next driver. We walked along Alte Schonhauser Strasse to Weinmeister  Strasse in the general direction of Alexanderplatz one of the major squares in Berlin where we found the Metro which would be handy later on and Rod and Kerry discovered Father Carpenter their favourite coffee shop. It is tucked inside a small square at the end of an alley. At the very end is evidence of the old East Berlin.

 

Our goal was in sight – Alexanderplatz has a major television tower planted in the middle of it and it stands as a directional landmark above all surrounding buildings. In the square it is market day (Saturday and Sunday the markets set up to tap into the tourists milling through Berlin). Food is a central theme. Huge wok like frying pans containing prepared sausage dishes to mushrooms to chips are available at reasonable prices. A few vendors provide the foods in a bread shell. It can form part of your meal or if discarded it does not pollute the environment but feeds every kind of bird. There were the traditional BBQ and deep fried something stalls but no strudel stalls. How disappointing.

We decided to have a more substantial meal and went back towards Weinmeister Strasse encountering Bistro Kneipe. A small establishment brewing its own beers and providing pub meals. Rod and I tried one or two of the beers and each of us enjoyed our substantial meals. Again, the price was quite reasonable.

I noticed that Berlin (in fact the whole of Germany) was in the midst of an election. Angela Merkel is retiring so the political advertising was everywhere. One of the things we went to the Platz to obtain was our public transport “Berlin Card”. Berlin has buses, trains and trams and this card for 30 euros each gave us travel on all public transport for 4 days. The key bus routes are the 100 and 200 routes. These routes terminate in Charlottenberg but there is an immense amount in between – the museum sector, the Teirgarten (Berlin’s Central Park), some embassies (the picture of the Aeroflot Building hides the Russian embassy), and the Brandenburg Gate ( close by the American embassy, beside it the French embassy and around the corner the British embassy). The 100 line bus takes its passengers  past the Reichstag and Bundestag through the Terigarten past Charlottenberg Schloss (palace), past the memorial to the unification of Germany by Bismarck to Charlottenberg whereas the 200 line skirts the Teirgarten passing through Pottsdammer Platz and the Memorial to the Murdered Jews of Europe back to Brandenberg Gate and onto Aleanderplatz.

Charlottenburg is now a suburb of Berlin. It is home to the Berlin Zoo and includes a remnant of WW2 in the form of the shattered remains of a church. However, our goal was to find the Monkey Bar. We circled around a bit before realising any place that advertises it is open 25 hours a day has to be monkeying around. A non descript hotel concealed on its top floor a bar with fabulous views back towards Mitte overlooking the zoo and the Teirgarten. But this was not all half of the floor included the restaurant “Neni” with similar views and atmosphere. The food seemed interesting and reasonably priced but no booking available. We decided to return to our apartments crossed the road to pick up the 200 line bus and while waiting entered an arcade to find a weird water clock. We arrive 5 minutes before 12.00 noon so we could wait to see the culmination of 12 hours of water dribbling into various flasks and beakers.