Sunday, August 23, 2015

Bernauer Straße...

Day 2

Today I woke up at 730am. I have no idea why, given the night before I went to sleep around 2am. Anyhow, for bettor or worse I'm up and no one else is. I took a few pics of outside from the apartment and putted around the apartment for about three hours until I got tired again and went back to sleep. Around 1pm Jared woke us up and we all got ready. While Ash and I got ready, Jared went to the nearby coffee shop and got a cool green juice for me and coffee for the two of them. I really liked the green juice, although the only things I knew were in it was cucumber (there was a slice there) and a stalk of celery. It had a bit of spice to it, so there was something else in there.

We all decided we wanted to see what's left of the Berlin wall, so we made our way to Strauss street and quickly found the wall memorial. We learned later it didn't have remnants of the actual 'wall' there later... more in my Thursday blog post...

This memorial site is more than just a memorial.  It was the scene of several famous events.... the place where East German Soldier Conrad Schumann jumped the wall + barbed wire fence to defect to the West German side; where Ida Siekman leapt to her death from her apartment window trying to jump across the wall to West Germany (see full story), and the area of several successful escape tunnels dug along this area. 

A few observations at the memorial:

  • - There was a representation of the wall made out of iron rods in the ground, in a line but staggered so one could walk through them. This I thought was a great representation of the structure with the ability to freely walk and see to the other side. It seemed like a symbol of the freedom they have today yet remembering the time they were torn apart.
  • - There was a little bit of the original inner wall left to show visitors what it was like (3meters high), made of concrete. It had some worn holes in it, and the information on the sign said that people on either side of that inner wall could look through the hole and see the other side. In the early days of those holes being there, one could get into trouble if you went up to the inner wall.
  • - The guards had a mandate to find 'fugitives' before they even attempted to get over/under/through the wall. Their goal was to arrest a fugitive before they left their home. Talk about heightened paranoia!
  • - The East German guards were responsible for every attempted or successful breach of the wall, so they worked hard to put in as many measures as possible to deter 'fugitives' from getting close to the wall - including putting in iron spikes on the other side of the wall so even if you try to jump you would get hurt landing on the spikes; dogs on a dog run that would alert guards of 'fugitives' closeby and catch them if they happen to make the jump over the wall; motor vehicle blocks anchored in concrete that would high center a vehicle if it tried to go through the wall; the inner wall, additional sensors and volunteer guards. The information said that even the East German Police assisted in this massive effort, and the East German secret police monitored it all - even the EG Police and the EG Guards!
  • - There were two tunnels represented at the park, showing how guards could get from one side to the other.
  • - This place had a somber feel to it, I could feel anger, distrust, paranoia, anxiousness, despair, sadness and helplessness while walking in the area, from the inner wall out to the other side of the tunnels.
  • - Today's modern Berlin seems really open and understanding of all walks of life, even celebrating those who are very different.

After the wall memorial visit, we were on the hunt to find a place to eat. We found one not far from us (about 5 blocks) and we headed over to the restaurant. We noticed family members riding their bikes with kids in rolling baskets, parks and shops scattered along the way. It was a beautiful neighborhood. All of the homes were typical of what we've been seeing, large apartment buildings, each building seeming to have their own 'style' with facades on the windows, colors of buildings to separate one from another despite the fact they were all built side by side at the same height and width. I noticed very similar architecture in Brugge also. Some buildings white, others yellow, and others grey.  There were several little parks tucked within the area, and lots of flyers about learning German.  Something told me it was a popular expat area.

We ended up at this restaurant called "Ex Berliner Restaurant" that was fantastic.  Each of us got something different but we enjoyed it all.  Definitely a recommendation if you go to the memorial in the late afternoon or even morning to catch for dinner or lunch.  This restaurant is open 24/7.  The staff speaks some English, and they have menus that are in English.

After dinner we walked back to the apartment, but not before taking a scenic detour around the blocks near the place.  We discovered an interesting gallery, bookstores, an open (not blocked off or hidden)  adult novelty store, some interesting restaurants and stores.

To finish off the day, we went to this dessert coffee shop not far from the apartment and indulged in delicious cheesecake (J), raspberry cake (me) and carrot cake  (A) along with fresh amazing apple juice (me) and coffees (J and A).  This place is a gem!  We plan to be back.

Today's observations:
  • The restaurants bring out a plate with utensils, knives on the bottom, criss-crossing forks on top of napkins
  • The people are really cool - the ones we encountered today
  • T-Mobile really has a handle of the mobile market here in Berlin.  We see hotspots and stores everywhere
  • We are starting to be able to use a little German (A and I), but still staring like we're frozen when someone talks to us normally

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