Joe Tro's Berlin trip report

Apr 24th, 2007, 06:37 AM
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Joe Tro's Berlin trip report

I am in Berlin in an internet cafe, 30 minutes for 50 cents. I do not have access in my hotel. I am not sure how often I will write, but we will see.

Today was a travel day. I packed, had breakfast at 8:15 and left Bellevue at 9. I checked out, having to pay cash, which is a bit frustrating as I prefer with card. It was a nice hotel and the owners were great. There was an American at breakfast today who lived in Staten Island and worked as a temp. She seemed in her 20s. Anyway, she says she likes the temp because she travels so often. Not quite sure how she manages to live in NY and travel so much on that salary, but whatever. I changed 1000 FT into Euros at the hotel to use up most of what I had, saving a little for the metro tickets.

I took public transport again to the airport. The metro stuff was fine, but the airport bus was not so good. I took it all the way to terminal 2, arrived, and saw that all the flights were national carriers. Crap. I was meant to go to terminal 1, which I had already passed on the bus 10 minutes ago. I looked at my ticket to confirm it was terminal 1. Should have checked that before.

I did not have enough money for another ticket, so I withdrew 1000 FT and bought water to make change. bought another ticket and hopped on to terminal 1.

The line at EasyJet was a bit long, but I got through fine. I bought a chocolate bar with the rest of my money. The flight was pretty short and not that exciting, except for a crying baby 3 rows up from me.

I arrived in Berlin and went through passport control. The officer looked my passport and visa forever and pulled out his magnifying glass. I was a bit worried but he let me through.

I tried buying a 7 day ticket at the automated machines but wanted to pay with card, and that was not possible. I walked the 5 minutes to the train station and bought it there. An elderly couple was in line ahead of me and took forever. I bought it and raced to catch the Airport Express, which I saw, but I had no idea where I was meant to validate my ticket. The train left and I went back to the station to ask again. It was a red box near the stairs which I had missed the first time. It was not obvious at all with no signs. God, I hate trains and validating tickets.

I made the next train and saw the inspector. I looked for my pass and could not find it then realized it was in my passport. My heart skipped a beat or two.

I got off at Zoo and took the S Bahn to Savignyplaty. My hotel is a block away and great. The owner does not speak much English at all, but we managed to understand each other okay. There are three keys I have to use. My room is smaller than at Bellevue and with not nearly as nice of a view, but it looks clean. I had to pay on check in which worries me a little, but the room is clean and fine. The location is great too.

I am off to walk K Damm a bit and then head to Jewish Museum and Checkhaus Charlie.

If you do not hear from me until Monday or Tuesday do not worry. However, since the access is so cheap I may be on anyway each day. I just get worried with using public computers and having to enter passwords to log in places. I would like to check my bank account but am a bit afraid to do so here.

JoeTro is offline  
Apr 24th, 2007, 06:41 AM
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Good to hear you're in Berlin and out and about. Look forward to hearing details!
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Apr 24th, 2007, 06:50 AM
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Thank you for sharing your problems --- and their solutions! My husband and I will be there in 3 wks., and I'm a bit nervous about exactly these things. Your reports have been a big help and inspiration.
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Apr 25th, 2007, 04:22 PM
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yk
 
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Looking forward to more.
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Apr 26th, 2007, 12:42 PM
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Keep it coming. Looking forward to reading more.
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Apr 29th, 2007, 02:17 PM
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I just got back to the UK. It is late and I am quite tired. I may write a little tonight, but more likely I will start again tomorrow.
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May 1st, 2007, 03:50 PM
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The rest of Tuesday night

After leaving the internet cafe, I strolled down to K'Damm and walked it all the way to Marche. The walk was pleasant and had a lot of really nice shops. I don't shop much at all, but I always find it nice to walk down elegant commercial areas.

I took a few photos of the Kaiser-Wilhelm Church but did not go inside.

I had a salad, a piece of bread and a soft drink at Marche for 6.75. I thought the salad was a bit pricey for the bowl I got (thought I'd gotten the medium sized one but I think I was charged for the large). At any rate, it was nice to get what I wanted and have some good spinach lettuce.

I then metroed to the Jewish Museum and had a fairly good walk from the station. The area seemed a bit sketch with a good bit of graffti, and I was a bit glad I did not do it at night.

I thought the museum was very affecting. I loved the ground floor (the Holocaust stuff) and the 2nd floor. I almost broke down a couple of times. The exhibit was very comprehensive, and even though I arrived a touch after 6 and I made it all the way to 8 pm. Unfortunately, I'd missed the 1st floor which I think had the big silence room or memory room or whatever it's called. Was that a big deal? I was sorry to have missed that.

I then went to Checkpoint Charlie, and I loved the exhibitions on the outside with all the historical information. It was amazing to stand where the Berlin Wall was and to consider the lives lost to cross such a short distance.

The inside of the museum was a big hot mess. So much information and not very well organized. Plus what was up with the random exhibitions about communism in a bunch of other countries or the religious tolerance stuff? At any rate, I found the escape stories to be pretty interesting, although it took me a while to find all of them as the exhibition was so poorly designed.

I loved being a part of history with that museum, and I was especially moved by seeing a picture of the Cafe Adler with the wall right there, when I had just taken a photo of it beforehand with of course no wall. It was amazing to have stood there. I can't even imagine what it must have been like to love under the Wall.

I stayed until probably 9:30 or so and was pretty tired. I could have used more time at both museums I suppose, because I missed the Memory Room at the Jewish Museum and I went a bit fast through Checkpoint Charlie because I was tired and confused.

I am also very tired now and am off to bed. Will write more tomorrow.
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May 1st, 2007, 04:30 PM
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I am so glad that you are posting, JoeTro. I was contemplating nagging you! Your account of the Jewish Museum and the Checkpoint Charlie is quite interesting. We didn't get to either one, so this is useful in thinking ahead to our return to Berlin in Sept.

I'm trying to remember your itinerary - maybe the Gemaldegalerie on Wed.?
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May 2nd, 2007, 02:03 AM
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Wednesday

What would be the first of many mornings like this, I decided to sleep in a little. I had the nice breakfast included with the hotel. 3 kinds of cereal, bread, meats and cheeses, etc.

I went to Neue Synagogue, arriving just before it opened at 10. I was honestly a bit disappointed, especially after seeing the one in Budapest and the Jewish Museum the night before.

I then took the S Bahn to Wansee, which took a bit of time as I had gotten the slow line. I bussed it to the Max Liebermann Villa. The ride as nice, past a lot of other pretty villas and trees.

I enjoyed my time very much at the ML Villa. It was mostly populated with older people. The gardens were nice and very peaceful, and the weather was glorious. It was great to walk to the banks of the Wansee and hear the water lapping against the edge. I love impressionist art but was not that crazy about many of the pieces. It was still cool to experience an artist's home and see where he drew inspiration for many of his pieces. My entrance fee was 3 Euros as a student.

I had read about needing to see the art gallery at the Villa next door, which I thought was called something like Johann Hampson but was actually something like the Dr. Thorg villa. I was one of only like 3 tourists there, a contrast to the ML villa next door. I liked these paintings better, but the gardens were almost non-existant and the villa not as pretty. I'm very glad I went though. Kind of an undiscovered gem.

I then metroed back to Savignyplatz and wandered in search of lunch, eventually deciding to skip it. There were a few places recommended with a set menu, but the places had menus on blackboards and I got a bit scared at what I assumed would be the lack of English. I went to Perlizer Berg to look for Gugelhof, which was closed for lunch. I had a nice scoop of gelato at the Italian ice place next door, though, for 80 cents.

My next stop was the Topography of Terrors. I was getting a bit hot, and being outside didn't help matters, but the audioguide was very helpful.

I then went to Gendenmarket and wandered around there for a few minutes in seach of dinner. I went to the shipping centres nearby, especially 205, which I really enjoyed. The Galleries Lafayette building/foodhall was incredible, but too expensive for me thinking. I wondered to Unter Den Linden and had a sandwich outside the opera, where I was due to see Marriage of Figaro.

I was pretty disappointed in the opera house, as it was rather plain inside. I had to purchase an English summary for 50 cents. I stayed for just the first half as I was really not getting anything out of it due to the language barrier. I'm glad I went but it reconfirmed a bit that I'm just not crazy about opera and should stick to classical musical concerts while in other countries.

I decided to have a dessert at Cafe Schwartz near my hotel. I had a divine piece of cherry cream cheesecake with blueberry icecream and some water, but the service took ages to get my bill. I swear it took 1/2 an hour and the waitress seemed to be ignoring me. I think the bill was like 7.30, and I paid 8.

It was around 11 pm, and I was ready for bed!
JoeTro is offline  
May 3rd, 2007, 06:32 PM
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You did a lot! The villas sound very interesting, and the area around there. I hope you were able to get a few proper meals at some point.

Please continue - I know that I am not the only one reading, and waiting for more Berlin details.
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May 4th, 2007, 05:54 AM
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Thanks for your support, Noe. I do eventually have proper meals.

Thursday

Is my daytrip to Potsdam. I arrive at Potsdam HBf a little after 10 and wait for the 695 bus to Sans Souci Palace. The bus is mobbed, but make it to the palace no problem. It is a little confusing as to where to go, but I eventually manage to find the entrance.

I purchase an all day pass for 10 Euros, and the first timeslot I can have is the 11:30 tour. I accept and wander around the gardens and the kitchen for a little bit. The gardens are a little disappointing, to be honest. I suppose I was spoiled by the fountains and music going on at Versailles and I was thinking of that when comparing the Sans Souci gardens.

While waiting to be called in at 11:30, a few people somehow cut in front of us. There is a group right behind me of 4 elderly British people, and one of them comments that the cutters "must be French." I laughed really hard then and was glad to find I'm not the only person who can be a bit disparaging of the French at times.
The palace itself is nice. We all have to wear slippers which are far too big, so I basically glide along as if I am skating. There are 40 people per group. A guide opens/closes the rooms for us, but we all have our own audioguides. It is a bit frustrating not to have free range, but I understand why they do it that way. I think the tour takes 40 minutes.

I then want to go to Neues Palace but get lost going there. I try to head back to the bus stop to take the bus there but end up at Louisaplatz where, in spite of 2 explanations from the Tourist Information Office, I cannot find the appropriate bus terminal. I then walk back to Park Sansouci and just walk there myself, which I should have done before. I get a bit lost along the way but manage to stumble on the Chinesehouse, which is not open but interesting from the inside. I walked quite a lot more than was needed and wasted some time. I was also quite hot and glad to finally reach the palace.

Neues Palace is huge, and I once again have a set tour time at 1:40. I wait outside for 20 minutes and then go in. The tour is all in German, but the man speaks perfect English, so I ask a question about something I thought he was saying about Queen Victoria. He was nice, and the rooms were certainly more impressive than Sans Soucci. The tour takes a little more than 50 minutes, and there is a helpful English instruction booklet with good information. There are 30 people per group.

I then bus to Ceclienhof, which required a connection at Jagertor. This was the least impressive palace in terms of the beauty of the rooms, but the outside was neat, and just having the history was amazing. I loved getting to be in the conference room as the Big Three were. I highly enjoyed this visit and learned a lot of good history. I went at my own pace with printed instructions in English. It took me a little more than 30 minutes.

I wandered around the gardens for a few minutes and the back of the palace, and then I walked off to Marble Palace. It was about 4, and I sincerely hoped I would make it. I got a bit lost roaming through the gardens but made it okay. Part of the outside was under wraps, but the inside was definitely open. I snagged a tour at 4:30 from a receptionist who spoke very little English. I was imagining a big deal like the other places, but I end up being the only one on the tour. We walk through a TON of rooms, and my tour guide is nice. He is not super helpful and I end up reading a lot of the information sheets in each room, but he offers a bit of commentary at each place. I felt bad that he had to do this just for me and tried to tip him at the end, but he declined. I had 45 minutes here and found this my favorite palace. I loved all the classicism and getting to see so many rooms, perhaps more than the other 3 palaces combined.

I make it back to the S station around 6 and by this time realize I am not going to fit the Neue Nationalgalerie and Gemaldiegalerie in before 10 ... nor would I want to. I stop at Savignyplatz for a second to drop some stuff off and rest for a second and then head to Potsdamer Platz. I grab a quick sandwich at Gosch (G1) for 3.50 Euros, which ends up being basically like the fish that goes with fish and chips on a bun. It was tasty, quick and cheap, though not substantial.

I then walked to Neue Nationalgalerie and remembered why I did not allot very much time for it. I do not like 20th century art much at all. However, there are some nice Munch paintings and 3-4 great rooms of expressionist paintings. I overhear an American woman say at one point that a particular painting could have been done by "a monkey with crayons and a piece of paper". It's all I can do to not lose it with laughter right there, as that's kind of what I think of modern art. I just wouldn't have thought to use that analogy.

It is probably about 8:45 by this point, and although I could have gone to Gemaldiegalerie, for a bit, I pass and head back to the hotel.

I really loved Potsdam today and definitely pushed myself quite hard. I will say that it probably merits more than 1 day, especially if one visits in the summer when a lot of stuff is open that was closed in April.
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May 4th, 2007, 06:07 AM
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yes, people are reading. I'm a bit worried that if it's already hot there, what it might be like in August!

Joe, would you mind giving a little background on who you are? I'm thinking you're a college or grad student from the US on a year exchange abroad? I am very impressed with your independence and love of history and culture.

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May 4th, 2007, 06:17 AM
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FRIDAY

Despite being a bit "palaced-out" I decide to stick to my original plan and visit Schloss Charlottenberg. I arrive a bit later than expected, about 10:30. I walk from the closest S-Bahn station, which ends up being a mostly nice walk along a residential area. I buy an all day pass for the palace, as I both want to see the old and new wings.

To see the old wing requires an all-German guided tour, which I take. The rooms are nice. The upstairs area is less interesting, but there are some great bits in the silver rooms. Lots of good silver and porcelian.

I want to visit the new wing, but I decide to take a break and head to the nearby Bruggen Museum. I purchase the 3-day pass for 7.50 Euros, which ends up being the best investment ever. I spend an hour at the museum. I like the works by Matisse but am not crazy about most of the Picassos.

I then visit the New Wing, which I think is more attractive. I spend a bit more than an hour there and then wander around the gardens before departing. I like these gardens more than those at Sans Souci.

I then head back to the Kultureforum, where I first visit the Kupersferkabinett. However, there's no "there" there, as it is mostly all in the study area. There is no permanent collection as such. I spend maybe 5-10 minutes looking at the temporary exhibition and then head to the Gemaldiegalerie. The audioguide here is very good, and I swear that Judi Dench's voice is on some of the descriptions. At any rate, I realize I won't be able to see the whole thing, nor do I want to. I visit the Blue, Green and Gold areas, leaving the Red (mostly Italian) for another day. I like many of the works by Cranich and Bruegel, and there is one Vermer painting that I also really like (I'm really starting to love his works ... just like a picture). But quite honestly I am not super into the Old Masters. There are a couple of nice portraits as well by British artists.

It is just about 6, and I head back to Savignyplatz and eat at 12th Apostle, which came highly recommended. The food is great. I have a huge pizza (Paolo, I think ... it comes with Italian ham and rocket). They have 12 pizzas, one for each apostle. These pizzas are very thin crust, which I love, but this is a massive pizza. Since it is the only thing I've eaten all day apart from breakfast, I make it through a good bit of it, but not nearly the whole thing. My bill is around 15 Euros including a large soft drink. My waitress is very nice and reminds me of a cuter Annika Sorenstam.

I then head to the Reichstag on bus 100, which ends up being one of the highlights of my trip. It took 30 minutes to get in and 15 minutes to go though security. The weather was glorious, the sun was beginning to set and there were so many people out. I loved the energy of the place and the great views. I walk around a lot on the viewing platform and then go up to the dome. A nice Welsh/Scottish/Irish man takes 2 photos of me. They are not super, but when you travel alone you take what you can get. I really loved this part of my trip. I just loved being outside, feeling the wind against my face and seeing the sun set.

I leave about 9:30 and head back to Schwartz Cafe again for another try. I have a chocolate cake with some kind of liquor sauce. It is even better than the first cake, but the service is even worse this time. I pay 9 Euros including a large bottle of water. It is past 11, and I am quite tired, so I head to bed.
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May 4th, 2007, 06:19 AM
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Hello.

I'm a graduate student on a one year Masters course at Oxford. I also spent a year at Oxford as part of my college studies. I'm from Texas.

The weather was perfect most days, in the high 70s, but with me walking so much I did get a little hot at times. My room felt a bit warm at times as well.
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May 4th, 2007, 03:11 PM
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yk
 
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Sounds like a wonderful trip so far. Makes me really want to return to Berlin soon (who knows when?)

I like Vermeer, and have seen about 22 out of his 34 known paintings.

For Bruegel, I have seen about 27 of his 43 (?) known paintings?

BTW, when does your year end in Oxford?
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May 4th, 2007, 03:36 PM
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I am surprised you were not more impressed with the Sammulung Bergruen. I thought that the acoustiguide gave the best explanation of what Picasso did in his various periods I have heard anywhere. It was narrated by Mr. Bergruen. If you did not get the acoustiguide tour, that would have been too bad.

I am enjoying your trip report. I spent almost 2 weeks in Berlin several years ago on a home exchange and just loved it. Unfortunately, the Jewish Museum wasn't open yet when I was there.

I did see Sans Souci but never got to the other palaces in Potsdam. I did see the Cecilianhof, Wansee house, etc. I also went to the Disney musical "The Hunchback of Notre Dame" (based on the cartoon) in the theater at Potsdammer Platz. I have always wondered why that one never came here. The language was no problem as I knew the plot outline from the cartoon (not to be confused with the original novel).
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May 6th, 2007, 10:11 AM
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yk
 
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Joe- hope you're planning to finish the report.
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May 6th, 2007, 12:52 PM
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I do plan to finish the report, hopefully late tonight.

I have always loved Vermeer but never really Bruegel, until I went to an exhibition around Christmas with my Dad. It was a private collection at the Dallas Museum of Art, and my dad spent ages looking at a Bruegel. So after that I have started to pay much more attention to his works. I liked his Sermon on the Mount and the vices one at the Gemaldiegalerie.

I'm leaving the UK August 10, but I have to return for a couple of days in September for the oral exam.

I did like the audioguide at the Bergruen museum but certainly did not listen to each painting, just the ones I liked or wanted to know more about. The explanations were quite good, especially one of the ones about how psycho Dora was that she started stabbing at her hand to see how close she could come. That really attracted Picasso, though I must admit I would have ran the other way!
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May 6th, 2007, 03:42 PM
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yk
 
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Can you elaborate more about the Bruegel? There are very few Bruegels in the US, and AFAIK, there are no Bruegels in Dallas. Are you talking about Pieter Brueghel the Younger or Jan Brueghel?
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May 6th, 2007, 04:08 PM
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It was a temporary exhibition at the Meadows Museum (not the DMA, sorry) about Cranach to Monet. I believe it was Brueghel the Younger
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