Sunday, June 19, 2005

In Berlin

We arrived in Berlin rather early this morning. I am not sure that overnight trains are the best way of getting from one place to another, as a correspondent noted. Gus however found it quite an adventure. We did not have the compartment to ourselves as I had hoped, but the third guest was a pleasant enough fellow. It was interesting to see firsthand the possibilities inherent in the severability of the cars of a train. When we left Gdansk, we were the last car in the train, and I spent a few minutes looking out the back of our car at the receding Polish countryside.

When I woke up near the border with Germany there was a Russian train car there. Apparently there was a Ukrainian car elsewhere in the train, and for some reason we were no longer facing the same direction.

Today we walked around Berlin. Saw the new Holocaust memorial. It is a bunch of grey blocks arranged in neat rows. There was one fellow who was jumping from one to another, which looked like fun, but is verboten. It is almost poetic in the German: nicht von stele zum stele zu springen (or something like that). I could not resist showing Gus that the stelae were close enough together that a chimney like climbing technique was possible. That also is verboten, as a very polite security guard pointed out when he gestured for Gus to come down.

I hope that does not seem too disrespectful. The memorial is so bland as to be almost odd. It did not have much of an effect on me. I used to live not far from the Vietnam Vets memorial in DC, and that is a different story. That one works. The memorial here is rather a failure, at least for me.

Perhaps it will prove not to be so bad. There is an exhibit underneath the field of blocks which we did not enter, figuring that perhaps the line would be shorter on another day. Possibly that exhibit makes sense of the memorial.

We walked past the Brandenburg gate, which is one of those places you instantly recognize, even if (like me) you have never before been to Berlin. There is a book fair going on in the plaza in front of it, and an interesting mural explained the history of the gate.

After that we went to the Bundestag, and saw the new dome. Good views of the city. Walked from there up Unter den Linden stopping occasionally to look at really cool Peugeots (they have a showroom there, with an amazing concept car on display, and the Pikes Peak car fellow Albuquerquean Robby Unser drove to victory a few years back) or have a cool drink. It is pretty hot here today. BTW, why is it so hard to get a cold soda in Europe? Usually they are "cool" but not "cold". Is it just me? Or is there something about American refigeration that is better?

Stopped by the Berlin Cathedral, which oddly enough has statues in it of Martin Luther, Melancthon, and Calvin. I could not figure that one. Like walking into a Synagogue and seeing a statue of Moses, or maybe the Rabbi who founded American Reform Judaism. Whatever. Does anyone know what the heck is going on? Is there a mosque somewhere with a statue of Malcolm X in it?

Also got some tickets for a Daniel Barenboim Piano concert, copied down the location of a "Grand Prix" style place, and noted the starting date of the beach volleyball tournament not too far from where we are staying.


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