Thirty five years ago today we got married at York Register Office; a very low-key affair after the previous day’s lavish Royal wedding of Charles and Di.
To celebrate our achievement we decided to treat ourselves to four days in Berlin this week.
Our good friends Fi and Vic, who were on their way to Poland via Berlin, met us at the airport on Sunday afternoon with a laminated board bearing our name. Their first class taxi service was brilliant and they provided us both with a chilled bottle of ‘bier’ from a fridge in the boot of their car before dropping us off at our hotel. We agreed to meet up again in the evening for dinner.
It is 40 years since I studied German for GCSE and regrettably I’ve forgotten most of the vocabulary from that time. However, Storm was quite impressed when I managed to order breakfast for both of us on Monday morning and even more so when the waitress brought us exactly what we’d chosen.
After that we headed to the train station for a train into the centre of Berlin. Our DK Guide of Berlin made buying tickets sound easy but we failed to even find the ticket machine, let alone the ticket validation machine. We think we’d got the hang of the system by the time we left on Friday morning. The ticket machines are located at various places within the station complex, and are not always in the most obvious place.
We headed first to the DDR Museum, billed as ‘a hands-on museum that gives an insight into the daily lives of East Germans and how the secret police kept a watchful eye on the people before the fall of the wall in 1989.’ We felt that this museum would be a real eye opener to today’s young people who cannot live without their mobile phones and internet and who expect everything to just be there for them in today’s global economy!
The mid-day heat hit us as we left the museum and we sought some chilled medication to keep us going.
In the afternoon we headed towards the Jewish Museum, passing through Check Point Charlie. Gone are the gates, barriers and barbed wire that once surrounded it and instead a replica booth, complete with sandbags and now invites photo opportunities.
We resisted and instead took a detour to the Topographie des Terrors; a museum documenting Nazi crimes. During the time of the Third Reich this was probably the most frightening place in Berlin as in 1934 three of the most terrifying Nazi political departments had their headquarters here, e.g. SS, the Gestapo et al. It is possible to see a preserved section of the Berlin wall here which runs alongside the museum.
Despite being indoors, it was still uncomfortably warm and we had to stop for a cool bier and a bite to eat before heading to the Jewish Museum.
This building was designed by Daniel Libeskind, the Jewish Polish Architect who also designed Manchester’s Imperial War Museum. His design of narrow galleries with slanting floors and sharp zig zag turns are designed to make the visitor feel uncomfortable and vulnerable. We felt that the Garden of Exile was the most successful space.
After the museum we headed to Fi and Vic’s apartment for another cool bier from their fridge before heading out to a Thai restaurant they’d discovered nearby. This challenged us as we had to order our complete meal at the inside counter by number only and then return to our seat and then be able to recognise our order when it was called out in German by a little Thai lady with an eastern accent. It helped that we were listening out for 8 numbers being called in quick succession. When the food arrived it was superb and was probably the best Thai meal we’ve ever had and we thought our favourite restaurant back home was good!
We managed to find our way back to our hotel using the underground. Our room was very warm as someone had closed all the windows and having opened the windows as wide as they would go we both took a cold shower to cool down before trying to get some sleep in the airless room.
… to be continued