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July 27, 2015 / Jim Fenton

Europe Day 20: Touring Berlin

Monday, June 22, 2015

After breakfast, we walked over to the Kaiser Wilhelm Memorial Church on Kurfürstendamm, which was heavily damaged in World War II with a modern successor built next to it. We walked around, but we were there a little before opening time. We continued to Europa Center, a shopping mall built in the 60s that is unremarkable except for a clock that keeps time using water and siphons. I wanted to see if the clock is still running (it is) and show Kenna and Celeste.

We then boarded one of the many hop-on hop-off bus tours like we had taken in England. The commentary, in English and German, was quite good and we ended up riding the entire two-hour tour without hopping off at all.

I had arranged to meet Paul Kallnbach, one of my colleagues from the DAViCal open-source project, for lunch. We went over to his office, a small co-working facility in Kreuzberg, a working-class neighborhood. It was very enjoyable meeting Paul, and he gave us some further tips on things to do and see in Berlin. Lunch was at a nearby restaurant that specialized in Spätzle dishes, which we all enjoyed.

After lunch, we went to the vicinity of Checkpoint Charlie, the famed cold-war border crossing. We first went one block east, to the corner of Charlottenstraße and Zimmerstraße, where I had a picture I had taken of a colleague in 1987. Now, instead of a graffiti-covered wall and a You Are Leaving The American Sector sign, there is a busy intersection. Very different.

My colleague Perry Tomboc at Charlottenstraße and Zimmerstraße, 1988

My colleague Perry Tomboc at Charlottenstraße and Zimmerstraße, 1988

Jim at Charlottenstraße and Zimmerstraße, 2015

Jim at Charlottenstraße and Zimmerstraße, 2015

We next went to the Museum at Checkpoint Charlie, which was much as I had seen it but updated with newer information. It also has quite a bit about things and people, such as Raoul Wallenberg, not directly related to the Wall. There is a huge amount of information to read in the exhibits, and it took somewhat longer than we expected.

Checkpoint Charlie, 1988

Checkpoint Charlie, 1988

Former Checkpoint Charlie, 2015

Former Checkpoint Charlie, 2015

We took the U-Bahn to Alexanderplatz and walked to the DDR Museum. The DDR Museum gave a good overview of life in East Germany (the DDR). I got to sit in one of the notoriously poor cars, the Trabant, that East Germans often had to wait 16 years to get. I’ll keep my Mini, thanks. It also showed examples of lifestyle, clothing, vacations (often clothing optional), and surveillance devices used by the Stasi. Speaking of surveillance, it seemed ironic that the museum’s free WiFi network required users to first check in on Facebook. I, of course, didn’t do that for the same reasons that I publish my vacation blog after returning home.

We then walked into the Mitte district of Berlin and to a very good Bavarian-themed restaurant for dinner, before returning to our hotel.

I should mention the construction on public transit. Berlin’s subway system consists of two systems, the U-Bahn and the S-Bahn. It is widely used by Berliners, but it can be a little confusing to outsiders. Add to that there is construction going on, causing extra connections to and from the station serving our hotel. We never got lost, but sometimes it took a few minutes to make sure we were doing the right thing.

This article is part of a series about our recent vacation in Europe. To see the introductory article in the series, click here.

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