Berlin- City of contrasts

Trip Start Sep 24, 2012
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Trip End Nov 02, 2012


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Flag of Germany  , Berlin,
Saturday, October 27, 2012

Having ruminated on my shoe purchase from yesterday, and the plaza we shopped at yesterday being on route to the market we were heading to, I thought a small diversion (just in case there was any other excellent shoes) was 'necessary'. It turned out that I was right (that is, it was necessary) as I found the perfect brown boots for next winter. I was a efficient shopper and we were off in no time to the market.

Despite it now being zero degrees and almost snowing, Berliners were out in force to buy their weekly provisions and a range of winter clothing items. E.g. Hats, ear muffs, gloves, jacket and jewellery. The food range was vast- homemade dips, fresh meats and fish, cheeses, flowers, fruit and veggies. I was getting cold and entertained buying a hat. I even found some ear muffs with my name on them (see photo). Not really for buying though. Some Pho soup warmed us up instead.

For our last walking venture in Berlin we took ourselves on a self guided walk in the Hackescher Markt and the old Jewish quarter. Michael taking on the tour guide role again, his chance for a reprieve after yesterday's problems. He only got us lost once and he learnt about the challenges of guiding others (as Mark and I have done over our travels) and we had money. On the itinerary was the oldest baroque church tower in Berlin-Sophienkirche 1844, the
Handwerksvereinshaus -trade corp building, first labour organisation, site of many various party conferences, and in 1920 and 30's the head of the socialist and communists parties. Some buildings here had terrible remnants of gunshots from the war with small holes and many chunks of plaster missing.

The old Jewish cemetery from 1827 has now been moved but 2 headstones have been kept in the memorial park, which also houses a plaque and sculpture for the 56,000 Berlin Jews sent to death camps in WW2. The sculptures eerily captured the mournful, harrowed, starving and desperate look of the people.
As often seems to happen, around the corner the atmosphere changed as we entered the Hackescher Markt shopping area. Christmas displays were out, many young families out along with tourist groups. A striking tourist group was young men on 'Bierbike Berlin', with even younger men hitching a ride on their skate boards. (See photo as it is hard to believe). A small bar on wheels surrounded by seated men peddling and drinking beer to make it move along in the traffic. My sons may have even been on one but not told me. I will be asking when I get home.

Combining some important history and modern art is the Otto Weidt's workshop and Anne Franks house both in a lane-way now dedicated to graffiti artists. Otto was an unacknowledged hero who employed blind and deaf Jews in his workshop and protected them by arranging identity cards, when they were the most vulnerable to being sent to death camps. His workshop was lost in the disrepair of post war and only discovered by young squatters who found it when looking for housing.
The graffiti art work is of many styles and sizes, and not being knowledgeable about this art I did not know which are meant to be the most famous. I photographed what I liked and some of what I heard the English guides describe in their tours.

It continued to get colder and we had a rest at the hotel before our evening trip to the Berlin Opera to see Turandot. We had set ourselves a challenge of an Italian Opera with German sur-titles, but we were (almost) up to the task; particularly when we were given some assistance by an English opera buff in Berlin for the weekend. It was very enjoyable, with the Nesum Dorma aria being so moving. The modern adaption with very plain clothing was a disappointment as the spectacle was not there, but the big cast and chorus made up for this. It was the only occasion I have dressed up since we have been away so I insisted a photo had to be taken. Wearing the same jeans and shirts for 5 weeks (washed along the way i hasten to add) it was certainly time for something different.
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