Berlin (Euro Trip 2)

A fairly busy day, starting with a walk into town to see the major outdoor sights. From our apartment it’s about 4km – I’d hoped that we’d pass some interesting sights, and found a few: more graffiti of all kinds (including corporate graffiti – a giant wall painting devotd to the Brazilian soccer team, which impressed me until I saw the sponsor’s logo in the corner. All this facing a ruined building covered in art and political graffiti). We also passed the New Synagogue, which had an interesting design – a combination of Byzantine and Gothic influences.

We strolled across a bridge to the German parliament – the Bundestag (new Parliament) was surrounded by media crews covering yesterday’s election and the Reichstag (the older Parliament) by tourists – we passed on the chance to queue for two hours (!) in order to make a reservation to visit the Reichstag later in the day, and instead visited Brandenburg Tor (historic city gate, site of many famous speeches including those by Kennedy and Reagan) and a simple, moving memorial to Roma, Sinta and other victims of the “gypsy” holocaust.

At this point one of my occasional sugar lows hit, luckily Rhonda rescued me by finding a department store cafe. Restored, we headed to the Jewish Museum. Architecturally, the museum is superb, with empty spaces cutting through several levels to symbolise the absence of Jews from German life; a jagged floor plan based around a broken Star of David; a 24 metre high empty tour that commemorates the Holocaust; pillars with olive trees on top to commemorate the Jewish diaspora, etc. The content of the museum impressed me less – it was good, but at times felt overwhelming, like the curators had decided to include every single Jewish-German item they could find, regardless of its value. Sometimes, less is more, and I would probably have enjoyed the exhibition more if there had been less of it.

We ended our tourist day by checking out the East Side Gallery – actually the last major stretch of the Berlin Wall, covered in art. This disappointed me slightly – I was expecting the original street art that had covered the Wall on the Western side; but most of what was visible was on the Eastern side and had been painted after the Wall came down. And while the sentiments (of peace and freedom etc) were laudable, the art wasn’t particularly good.

Returning to the flat, we settled on the well-reviewed Rosenthaler Grill for dinner. It was fine, but the reviews had led me to expect the greatest kebab in the world. I didn’t think it lived up to the standard of your average Dalston kebab, but it was good enough and the service was friendly.

(Oh, last night’s sleep wasn’t great thanks to leg pain/restless legs combined with a really, really noisy bed that creaked whenever I moved. Let’s hope tonight is better).

About simonchamberlain

New Zealand librarian and music fan, living in London.
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