Posted on August 3, 2013
Our last three days in Germany left us steeped in Old World impressions. We loved every minute of the trip. It was great to have Eva along, a native German who absolutely understood the minutiae of the customs, and of course, the language.
And then there was Suzi, half German but to whom most everything was off her usual radar and was fascinating, if somewhat foreign and hard to relate to. But she continually amazed us with her sense of direction and awareness of place and observational powers. Ever daring to approach people and use her limited German language, she ran circles around her parents in seeing interesting things, approaching strangers when she had questions, and knowing exactly which way was up, all while wearing a constant smile. We so enjoyed having her along, the perfect travel companion. We are so lucky to be her parents.
I was in my element, enjoying all the differences, especially the food and architecture. We walked a lot, like all day, most every day. We did nothing in particular mostly, just enjoyed seeing how the people were living their street lives, enjoying the rich architecture, the details. No time or need to visit museums and such. Living the moment.
Before we left on our trip we snagged a hotel near the Charlottenburg rail station, so had easy access to the whole city by subway and urban train.
We were in Berlin not to play tourist but to visit German friends we knew well from decades ago in California. Our friend, Barbara Wolf, gave us a driving tour of lovely Potsdam, its Dutch quarter, palaces, and the Glienicker Bridge, infamous during the Cold War where the Allies and Russians exchanged spies and bad guys. Unfortunately Helmut was not able to join us.
After the tour we lunched at their lovely home on the leafy edge of the former American zone, not a mile from where I crossed a spooky checkpoint in 1962 when I drove my tiny VW across East Germany into the divided Berlin as the wall was being built.
Next day we sought out the 16 century Ermeler House in the former eastern zone. We were especially lucky to get a personal guided tour. The Ermeler House, the family home of Eva’s great grandfather, is said to be one of two patrician homes spared by Allied bombing. It is now used for weddings, receptions and such.
Eva’s other side of the family is represented in Berlin by a bronze statue of her maternal namesake, Albert Lortzing, noted composer, in the Tiergarten, the city’s downtown “Central Park”, near the Reichstag, center of Germany government.
Along the way we passed the Soviet remembrance of their war dead during the taking of Berlin. A bit heavy on the might-makes-right side, seems to me.
At one point we popped in to the brand new Apple store on the main Kurfuerstendamm shopping boulevard to take a look at the iPad mini, the appropriate travel computer and camera.
Still we managed to see quite a bit of the city that any tourist would have on a list. Check Point Charlie, Potsdamer Platz, Brandenburg Gate where East and West zones met, Alexander Platz, Unter den Linden, KaDeWe department store.
On our last day we so appreciated the bus stop around the corner from our hotel where a punctual bus got us to Tegel airport in only 16 minutes, just as dawn was breaking.
The sun was skimming the landscape as we landed an hour later in Amsterdam. The Shiphold airport is such a marvel for travelers. They provided an area of lounge chairs for weary travelers, and even tucked away places with beanbag mattresses on the floor for actually sleeping. I grabbed one of these for an hour’s snooze.
Five weeks mostly in Germany. Wow, what a vacation it was, but now it’s time to say Auf Wiedersehen. Till we see you again.