Monday, May 26, 2008


I am of German stock, 3 or 4 generations Americanized. "Hirschhorn" is the German for "Deer Antlers" and beside counting to ten, in German I probably know 40 or so other words, besides my restaurant German. It is no surprise that I really loved Berlin.
The train ride from Prague to Berlin, on a beautiful, warm Saturday ran for 100 miles along the Elbe River. Families were hiking, biking and picnicking and rowing on the river. It was an idyllic German scene.
We pulled into the new main train station, over 100 million, either Euros of Dollars, around 3 PM. The "barnhof", one of my 40 German words, is very modern and beautiful. It was a good beginning to our visit, to a reconstructed Berlin. Our cab driver, named Hirschberg, delivered us to the wrong hotel, also, in broken English, he told us he had a "Jewish" name but that his family has been Catholic for over 700 years. After moving on to the correct Hotel, "Louisa's" Place, 160 Kurfurstendamm, the long "shopping street", we sat down at the desk to register.( The Hotel is a 47 room, suite hotel that has been reconditioned and is very European, but modern)
A hand on my shoulder announced the arrival of our good friends from Holland, Sui Ling and Folkert Schukken, who had come to spend the first two days with us. It is always great to have someone who know the city and language, where ever one visits. Folkert informed us that his original time table for the evening had to be sped up and that we had 20 minutes to unpack and dress.
The Schukken's had arranged tickets to a candlelight dinner and concert at the Charlottenberg Palace. The palace was the summer home of the emperor's wife. We arrived at 6, after touring the grounds and were not seated till 6:30, when wine service began. Food did not arrive till almost 7 and so all the rush had been in vain, but we did have a good visit and a catch up time. All the people involved, servers, hosts, musicians etc were in late 18th century costumes. The dinner was OK, for that kind of event, chicken etc. but the concert, by 20 or so musicians was excellent.
No A/C and a hot night brought all the men out of their coats and the ladies out of their wraps. The people in costumes suffered as their forebear's had.
After dinner we caught a cab back to the hotel where we had coffee and drinks on the terrace of the restaurant, "Balthazar" attached to the hotel. Off to bed for a big full Sunday, coming up.
An interesting side note; during dinner Folkert's mobile rang and he informed us it was their Asparagus supplier at home calling to tell them he had picked the first "white asparagus" of the season. Some people have their priorities strait.
Next morning, after the usual large buffet Breakfast we set off by bus and walking to the Bauhaus Museum. It was terrific. The Bauhaus group, which was disbanded in 1933 by the Nazi's, another reason to hate that regime, was really a leader in design and planning.
After almost 2 hours we left and walked along the main canal, past the National New Museum, to Potsdamer Platz and the Sony Center. More beautiful, striking architecture. From there to the Holocaust Memorial, designed by Peter Eisenman, powerful in it's simplicity and the message it conveys, and on to the Brandenburg Gate. Down Unter den Linden to the Dressler Restaurant, 39 Unter den Linden. Excellent German meal and pastries. After a big breakfast I was only able to eat pigs knuckle and apple cake. M settled for her usual white asparagus and plum cake.
On to Check Point Charlie, where the whole "cold war" history is portrayed in pictures and text along several city blocks of walls, not the original "Berlin Wall".( German students, in American Army uniform pose, with visitors, for pictures. 1 Euro per shot)
Next to Gallery 206 a new, enclosed "art deco" shopping center, with a scrap metal sculpture in the center lobby. It being Sunday all the stores were closed. Back to the Hotel, via the U-Ban (underground), stop less that a block from our Hotel and a farewell to the Schukkens a little after 4 PM. A shower, this one had the best hardware I ran into in Europe, a rest and the S-Ban, above ground, to our restaurant.
Sunday night the restaurant had been recommended by a distant relative, who plays in the Chicago Symphony Orch. as his favorite place to eat in Berlin.
Reinhardt's, Paststrafe 28, was 7 stops away and a walk from the S-Ban. Marilyn made friends with a women, on the train, and when she found out where we were headed she said she lived in the same building and guided us thru construction and a park to the restaurant front door.
The section of the city is called Hackscher Market and has the Mayor's House (office), the largest Protestant Church and the Raddison-SAS Hotel.
It was a beautiful night and so we ate outside, not a bug dared to interfere.
I again found Bombay and along with a German beer the evening drinks wre handled. I had grilled Bar-B-Qued spare ribs. It was my challenge for my favorites, "Walts". The ribs were very plentiful and not at all fatty but the sauce was what you would pick up in an American super market. My potatoes were great and M ended up sharing mine instead of eating hers, which were served with her main course, white fish over creamed cucumbers. We skiped dessert, as the lunch cakes had been enough. Marilyn had her decaf while I finished my beer.
Monday, our hired "Jewish Guide", Sue Arns, picked us up at 9:30AM, we parted with her and her husband, who drives the van, at 2:30 PM after lunch again at Dressler, had to try other cakes.
The German Government and people are still living with the collective guilt for the Holocaust and Berlin is full of small and large memorials and remembrances. I could write pages but sufficed to say there are reminders everywhere. "Stumbling Stones" slightly raised plaques in streets, where Jews lived or worked, and sidewalks, lamp post signs with drawings and Nazi anti Jewish regulation. Temple plaques, where buildings once stood, warehouses which were deportation centers and on and on.
Around 3 we went to the Pergamine Museum, ancient temple, market place, Babylonian street and gate and other buildings of antiquity. It was a very warm day but we walked along "museum island' and finally to the S-Ban and back to our hotel. The S-Ban stop was two long blocks away from our Hotel.
Monday was Pentecost so many stores and restaurants were closed. Dinner was at "Leibniz-Klause" about 5 blocks from our hotel. Wonderful, typical German restaurant with dark wood, heavy tables and nice and efficient servers. I had a "wurst" platter, 5 different sausages with fried potatoes, and sauerkraut, while M had, by now, her usual Wiener schnitzel( she thought the best of the trip). Of course I had Bombay and Beer while M had her decaf and shared "angry" (sour) cherries over vanilla ice-cream.
Tuesday, our last day, was cooler and overcast, but still pleasant. Took the bus, train and feet to the Jewish Museum, designed by Daniel Liebinkind. The building and exhibits could take a full day or more, but we were running out of time. After a full morning and early afternoon we walked back, thru "Checkpoint Charlie to Quarter 206 and a quick visit to several shops.
Lunch at "Bocca di Bacco", Friedrich strafe 167, wonderful Italian food. M had "angle hair" with fresh tomatoes and Basil while I had "angle hair" with fresh clams. A glass of white wine finished one of our lighter lunches.
In the afternoon we went to the top of the Reich stag after about a half hour wait. A wonderful view of Berlin, then by bus to "Ka-Do-We" where I met my "Waterloo". The whole top floor of this large department store is a giant food market. You name it, they have a counter or stall selling it, and plenty of places to order prepared and not, with counters, tables and chairs. We behaved, although it was hard, and only shared a large slice of Apricot torte, as we had had a reasonable lunch. A bus back to the Hotel and after a shower and rest dinner at "Schildkrote", the Golden Turtle, a recommendation from someone here in the states. It was not disappointing. It is located at Kurfurstendamm 212, again about 6 blocks from our hotel. It is actually around the corner from the nearest number marked building.
The last meal was in another picturesque German Restaurant with the beer spigot open constantly and the barmaid either pouring or cleaning. I was talked into a hugh, unfortunately excellent, Pigs Knuckle, red cabbage and fried potatoes, while M again had schnitzle and white asparagus. Back to Balthazar for M's decaf and a speech, in German, from the head of a company entertaining about 40 employees.
Pack, bed and a 5:30 AM cab to the Airport. If you fly Air France from Berlin don't brake your neck getting to the airport, regardless of departure time, as the Air France people don't arrive before 6 AM. Fourteen hours later we were back in Cincinnati after 16 wonderful days.

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