Thursday, 1 November 2012

Unter den Linden



Walter and I are taking sightseeing at a relatively slow pace, both because it can quickly become expensive and because it is really tiring to go sightseeing with him every day. We’re tackling one segment of Berlin a week, roughly, although we usually can’t see everything we want to in one go (which means we’ll likely spend our last week or two catching up).

Our first excursion together was to the area immediately around Unter den Linden, a delightful street name which translates as “under the lime trees” due to the lime trees that are planted down the centre of part of the street. The Staatsbibliothek where David is conducting his research also happens to be in this area, so we accompanied him there before setting off on our adventure.

I couldn’t get any pictures of the Staatsbibliothek because that branch is currently being renovated (it’s been quite a pain for David’s research as well, since a lot of the books are inaccessible right now). But it is right next door to Humboldt University, and right across the street from a large statue of Fredrick the Great, so we began our tour in that area. Humboldt University also provided a good spot for me to find a free toilet in which to change Walter (finding spots to change him while out & about is always a challenge):

Humboldt at his University
Frederick the Great
Walter napping "unter den linden"

After that we set off to view the beautiful Alte Bibliothek, before heading to Sankte-Hedwige’s-Kathedral. The church just happens to be Catholic and also happens to still be in use as a church, so it was nice to see. Fortunately it was wheelchair accessible, as touring Europe with a pushchair is often difficult!

Alte Bibliothek aka "The Chest of Drawers" due to its curves

Sculpture on top of the Alte Bibliothek

The cathedral

The interior of the cathedral is really neat, because it is very modern but also beautiful (something which can be said for a lot of the design in Berlin, I think). It’s best feature is the amazing double altar which links the altar in the crypt (where daily Mass is said, and where the tabernacle is located) with the high altar in the main body of the church (which is used on Sundays and special occasions). It is quite intriguing visually, and I really love the image of the high altar being grounded in the tabernacle below. The linear effect of the two altars, coupled with some of the artwork, really serves to draw the eye upwards towards the dome. 


I loved the bubble lights

The amazing double altar

From the cathedral we headed to the Gendarmmarket, which preserves a sort of 19th-century feel. It houses the Französischer Dom at one end, the Konzerthaus in the middle, and the Deustcher Dom at the other end. Unfortunately for me, all of the buildings had numerous steps up to their front doors and no immediately visible disabled entrance, so I bypassed on the Huguenot Museum in the Französischer Dom since I did not feel like hauling Walter & his gear up the stairs. Instead, Walter & I located a shady bench, out of the wind, where we sat for a milk-break. Some musicians setup stage at the Schiller Statue which is in the center of the square, so we just sat on our bench and enjoyed the music and scenery. It was very relaxing. 



Schiller

When Walter was done his milk we set off for Wilhelmstraße and the Stasi Museum. Try as we might we were unable to locate the secret police museum! We decided this was because it was a secret. Eventually I gave up, since I was entirely comfortable sneaking around the Government offices that are housed in the same building while I tried to locate it, and we made our way to the site of Hitler’s bunker.

Neat overpass we found en route

Figural representations of the four elements support the arch

For fairly obvious reasons, there is no great memorial or recreation at the site. In fact it is just a desolate, rocky parking-lot with apartment buildings looming over it. There is a sign that gives the history of the spot and that is the only thing to set the space apart, aside from the throngs of tourists. It is a rather creepy feeling place so we didn’t linger for long. 

 


By this time we were ready for a break, and as we turned up the road I saw the Holocaust memorial and the edges of Tiergarten park. I knew the area from our adventure there the previous week, so Walter & I quickly located a string of coffee shops. The one that was easiest to get to with his pram was Dunkin’ Donuts, and I figured what the hell – might as well give it a shot. A nice maple-donut had me thinking of home and we both enjoyed the sparrows that flew to the table as soon as the smell of donut crumbs hit the air. Walter seemed pleased with the outdoor table I’d chosen and spent his time watching the tourist traffic come & go from the Holocaust Memorial.

Berlin Wall art near the Holocaust Memorial

The Holocaust Memorial -- it always puts me in mind of a giant, grim graveyard. It's apparently quite controversial since the artist claims it's supposed to be a symbol of hope...

Very friendly bird

The day was getting late so we ended up cutting things a bit short. We walked to the Brandenburg Gate, as I wanted to see the area on a non-festival day. You can tell that it’s a major tourist draw and it was fun to see all the different people wearing costumes. From there we went to the Reichstag. I had considered going up to the dome, which allows for views of the city, but one needs to stand in a security lineup and I didn’t feel like negotiating that on my own. Those things are much easily done with a second pair of hands to help! So we looked at the outside and then mutually decided (between my tired feet & Walter’s squawks) that it was time to go home. 


Slightly less crowded than on Einheit Tag

Back in time!


We hope to climb to the top of this dome before leaving!


Horse-drawn carriages are a fairly common sight in Mitte

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