Monday, June 22, 2009


Happy Summer Solstice! Here are some pictures of the evening sun on Gendarmenmarkt!

War Destruction

All over the city there are signs of WWII. Of course, most buildings are restored and repaired, but several show the marks of the bombings and of artillery. The Kaiser-Wilhelm-Memorial Church is left half-destroyed as a memorial to this destruction, but some individual buildings also still have bullet holes and smaller signs of war. This building has a sign that says "Wunden der Erinnerung", "Wounds of Memory" above the bullet holes.

Potsdamer Platz

Potsdamer Platz used to be one of the busiest intersections/areas in the city of Berlin, but it was completely destroyed in the war and then when the wall was built it went right through here, so it pretty much stayed an empty wasteland after the war.

In the last twenty years it has been completely rebuilt as an ultra-modern center with skyscrapers for the Deutsche Bahn (train in Germany) and Sony. There is a movie theater here too, and mall and stuff, but it's very overpriced and I get the impression it's really just tourists and the actual Berliners don't hang out here.

Potsdamer Platz

Kaffee und Kuchen

It was time for some more pictures of what I have been eating and why I love Germany. :) Lots of cafés have afternoon "Kaffee und Kuchen" specials, and it's totally an accepted fourth meal of the day.

Memorial to the Murdered Jews of Europe

Yes, that is the name of the memorial. German: Denkmal für die ermordeten der Juden Europas. People call it the "Holocaust-Mahnmal" though, the "Holocaust Memorial." In German there are two words for memorial, "Denkmal" and "Mahnmal". "Denken" means "to think" and "Mahnen" means "to warn." It's a huge area filled with grey concrete blocks, varying in height because the ground goes up and down. You can walk through and it gets deeper and deeper until you are way down in the middle of it.

Random Strangeness

This is a campaign poster for a political party running on the platform of trying to get Bavaria out of Germany. It says "Don't you also want to get rid of Bavaria? Then vote for the Bavaria Party. For a Germany without Bavaria."
Maybe you have heard of Aldi or Lidl? They are two discount grocery stores, which now also have branches in the US. Every week they have different specials, and this coming week is like America-Week, with "American" products on sale, including "Amerikanos with Curry Dip" (chicken strips), "Hot-Ketchup" (what?!), "Amerikaner," which are actually cake-like cookies I have only seen in German bakeries...
And best of all...Corn-on-the-cob in a can! (ew)

In the grocery store in the canned foods section they have a mix of peas and corn which is called "Florida Mix." Don't understand that...

Also, we saw a bus with text on the side reading "THERE IS NO GOD". If you look closer it says "THERE IS (with almost certain probability) NO GOD". We also ran into a woman nearby handing out pamplets as a counter-action, reading "But in case there IS." (Und wenn es ihn doch gibt)

Monday, June 8, 2009


This Sunday was the "Environment Festival" in Berlin, which took place between the Brandenburg Gate and the Siegessäule. There were different stands by environmental organizations and political groups, also artists, and farmers, beer brewers, organic foods stands.
Below is a poster from Greenpeace, against genetically modified milk:
Below: steak in a Brötchen (roll), roasted potatoes with quark. Beer from Potsdam (outside Berlin).

We also got to watch a chef for a while...It was funny how the audience interacted with him. One woman stood up at some point and grabbed one of the bottles of oil he was using to look at it. It was a plug for organic cooking.
At one point we listened to a panel for a while (on the stage behind the cook) of various politicians from Berlin talking about pedestrian traffic/bike traffic/public transportation. It was really interesting. Berlin is totally bike-friendly but they were talking about how to make it even more to redesign intersections so pedestrians and bikers have priority over cars, lowering speed limits in residential areas and near schools to reduce noise, making the buses more efficient, etc.

das Konzerthaus

The Konzerthaus, one of the three buildings on the beautiful Gendarmenmarkt, had an open-house so we got to peek inside. It was built between 1818-1821. The interior was redesigned after WWII. It is now the concert hall for the Berlin Symphony Orchestra.

Saturday, June 6, 2009

Seen in Berlin

Some random things I've seen while jogging/biking/walking through the city:

- artists painting the Berlin Wall - The longest remaining stretch of the wall is called the "East Side Gallery" and is painted by various artists. It has been damaged and graffitied and now they are restoring (or maybe just redoing?) some of the works. When we ran by there were bright white places waiting to be painted, and artists in action, behind a wire fence so the new pieces would be protected.

- policemen guarding Jewish sites - Outside the Jewish Museum and "CAFE BETH", a Jewish cafe, there are permanently two policemen stationed.

- people fishing on the Spree - sorry, Dad, I didn't stop to see if/what they were catching

Thursday, June 4, 2009

Zoo, Ku'Damm

Another area of the city is the area around the Zoo, with one of the biggest shopping areas, a street called Kurfürstendamm ("Ku'damm" for short). One building which stands out is the Kaiser Wilhelm Memorial Church, which is left half-destroyed as it was after the war, as a reminder of the damage and destruction. To the left and right of the ruined church are new buildings, with beautiful stained glass. At night they glow bluish from the outside.
Below: Lots of people out shopping
Here is also the biggest department store in continental Europe (Harrods in London is bigger), the KaDeWe, which stands for Kaufhaus des Westens (KDW), Department Store of the West. They have a huge gourmet foods section on the sixth floor (the size of two football fields?!).

This used to be West Berlin, and in 1950 when the store reopened after the war, there was such a flood of people that they had to call in the police to get them out and only let in a few at a time. (picture below) It was a symbol of the thriving capitalism of West Berlin while the city was divided. And what it looks like today:
Here is a New York Times article in case you are interested in the food in this place.

Tiergarten und Siegessäule

yay! bikes! long story but we now both have we took a ride through the Tiergarten (more pictures below, but these are our own) past the Siegessäule (victory column, lined with cannons, commemorates victory against France...) to the Zoo area. On top of the column is a woman called the Goldelse, "Gold Else" and along the base there is a mosaic commemorating 1871, "birth of the German nation."

on the Spree

The Spree is the river that flows through the city. There is a small island in the middle with musuems on it, boringly called "Museumsinsel," Museum Island.


(left) This is one of the symbols of Berlin, and the most definite symbol of East Berlin, the "TV tower," Fernsehturm. Right now it has all kinds of kitschy "ich liebe Berlin" graffiti put on it for the 20 year fall-of-the-wall anniversary.

The square itself is called Alexanderplatz, or just "Alex" for short, and it was the main square of East Germany.

Now it is totally developed, with a movie theater and a shopping mall. Currently there is a special open-air exhibit about 1989 on the square. The banners say WIR SIND DAS VOLK, (we are the people) one of the most famous slogans of the Monday Demonstrations in Leipzig, people's protests which helped lead to the fall of the wall.