Tuesday, July 1, 2008


I think Berlin was my favorite city so far. When you live in a big city and spend a lot of time there, you can forget how exciting it really is to live there. Staying in and around Stuttgart has kind of toned things down for me, so when we emerged from our hotel on Saturday morning, fed and caffeinated, I got a bit of a rush.

Along Ku'damm

We managed to cram a lot of the Berlin sights into two measly days, and then a friend and I spent Monday shopping since the significant other had to go back to work. On our first day we walked down the main shopping drag: Kurfürstendamm, abbreviated by locals as just Ku'damm. We emerged onto a plaza:


According to our guide, a genuine Berlin local, the church next to the Europa Center was extensively bombed during WWII. He told us that the top of the church has been restored in this particular manner, with the panels meeting at jagged angles, "to always remind us." Moving on, we entered Teirgarten and walked down Straße de 17 Juni towards the Brandenburger Tor. They were getting ready for the final game of the European 2008 cup:

Pre-Final Festivities in Teirgarten

Giant tv screens, port-a-poties, and food stands lined the street. We walked up to the Brandenburger Tor and crossed innocuously over the path of the former wall dividing the city in two. As we walked into the portion of the city formerly controlled by the DDR, the weather was appropriately gray and dreary.

Path of the Former Wall

There isn't much left of the wall standing in the original location, most of the remaining bits have been transported to different sites. This makes sense to me. I imagine most of the residents of Berlin don't want to keep such a powerful symbol of division preserved where they have to look at it every day on their way to work. Instead, you must seek the wall out. I thought of the hundreds of thousands of people crossing blithely back and forth across this line as they watched the final game on Sunday evening. I wonder how many of them think about the wall every day. I wondered how many of them would be too young to remember its existence. I wondered how many of them would be old enough to have known people who lived on the opposite side, and how many would be old enough to remember the time before it went up. The people in "my generation" often mark ourselves as the last set of people to remember the fall of the Berlin wall. I was barely aware of how television worked when the wall came down, and although our family's old globe had an East and West Germany, I didn't really understand the implications of German reunification until many many years later. I feel a little guilty identifying with an event that didn't have much impact on my formative years. I can't claim it as my own. I think I'd rather leave that to those who cared desperately about the wall and what it stood for. I am a westerner, and the wall is not really my symbol.

As we walked through former East Berlin, we approached the iconic TV Tower, another landmark immediately identifiable with the DDR, and the Berliner Dom.

Berliner Dom and TV Tower

This was all before lunch on Saturday, so there was lots of walking! In the afternoon we had to take a bit of a siesta and plan out the rest of our weekend. We went to see the Eastside Gallery, which is a bit of the former wall that has been graffitied to bits. Underneath the new art, there are works from East Berlin artists painted on the wall and set up as a public open-air museum. It's not original art from the wall (one would not have been allowed to write on the wall in the East), but the graffiti-on-top-of-more-graffiti aspect is interesting to contemplate.

On Sunday we saw the Gemäldegalerie, which has two fabulous Vermeer paintings, and a TON of Rembrandts. Very highly recommended. I've adored Vermeer since I read Girl with a Pearl Earring. I'll admit it,I'm a huge fangirl when it comes to art-related historical fiction. Perhaps seeing all of Vermeer's paintings should be a life-goal? Not sure. The Gemäldegalerie took more time than we were expecting, so one half of our little party went back to the hotel, and the other went to get seats for the final game. I was part of the boring half, but I felt no shame. We watched the game in an open-air cafe, the way God intended, and listened to the horns and singing. Germans love driving around honking their car horns so much that they kept it up until at least 1 AM, even though they didn't win the Euro cup. Way to keep up the national spirit! We lost one person to a flight home and another to work, so it was just us two girls on Monday. We did what any female would do in the capital of a European nation on a weekday with no sights to see: we shopped. I bought some clothes. We went into five (5) different locations of H&M, had a fabulous lunch, and drove back to Stuttgart.

I finished the Covelite Jaywalkers in the first hour of the return car trip. My driving companions asked if I would finish them before we got home. I had ten rounds left before the toe, and the drive would take about 6 hours, so I told them that I would certainly finish before we got home. I think they were a little shocked that it only took about an hour and a half to complete the sock and weave in all the ends.

Finished Jaywalkers

We also got stuck in a truly epic traffic jam (the car was literally turned off on the Autobahn for about an hour) and we got a bit bored. Our friend, who was driving, asked to see the sock and he actually was impressed. I don't think he had too high an opinion of handknit socks when he saw them the first time, but I gave him one of the finished ones to feel, and you know what his response was? "These are really nice! My birthday is in April." We got so bored, I made a new knitter out of our other traveling companion. Once she got the hang of it, she hopped out of the car and knit while walking on the Autobahn.

Knitting on the Autobahn

I also started my new project on the car trip. I hope Stuttgart doesn't feel too boring after Berlin.

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