So my ankles are aching and I have begun to bore a hole in my sandals which I fear may not make it to Poland. But Berlin is worth it. Today, on a perfect sunny day, I set out for Prenzlauer Berg, a trendy neighborhood with leafy pocket parks, pretty architecture, fun boutiques, and one enticing restaurant after another. Sort of reminded me of a mix of the east and west village of NYC. I hAve been using a somewhat outdated but still useful guidebook my London friends lent me, called 100percent Berlin, which has six walks. Beyond the fact that they are longer walks than my feet can handle, they steered me to some good spots, including Kulturbrauerei, a sprawling complex of art venues in an old brick brewery complex; the shops around Kollwitzplatz, And shops along Kastanienallee. Some boutiques didn’t take credit cards, which is a bummer. Alone took visa but not MasterCard; another took MasterCard, not American Express. I bought a few high design little paper journals, a retro Berlin tea towel, and two little cardboard VW buses that you assemble (the whole store was these ingenious cardboard things that you assemble, from boxes to waste baskets). (See http://www.werkhaus.de) The paper store was called Georg Buchner Buchladen.
I had the best chicken schawarma hummus I have ever had at Babel, a popular Lebanese place on Kastanienallee. Lots of people were eating at picnic tables there, which did turn out to be a good sign. Each slice of chicken had a crispy crust full of flavor but the meat was still moist. How can that happen? I also had a delicious chocolate bottomed macaroon at Lindner, one of the many pastry shops.
I went on to the Berlin Wall Documentation Center which gave me a far better understanding of the wall and what it did to Berliners than sites like Checkpoint Charlie. First of all, you get it visually because a section of the wall (or walls since there were actually two walls facing each other across a grassy no man’s land) remained. And stretched out across a long corridor of grass where remnants of some a building and church that were knocked down to build the wall. There were also displays with photos and recordings and old home movies showing how the wall tore families apart (one in particular showed a couple getting married on one side of the wall while the bride’s parents watched from a window on the other side). There were also photos and movies of people jumping out of windows in buildings lining the wall so they could get to the west…including a nine months pregnant woman. And then there were photos of people being evicted from these buildings and the building windows being bricked up to stop the jumpers.
From there I went to the grand Neue Synagogue which was built to resemble the Alhambra in Granada in the 1800s, but didn’t survive the war, nor did most of its community, of course. Some parts have been restored and there is an interesting exhibit about jewish life now and then, plus you can schlep to the dome for great city views. Definitely worth a visit.
On the way back to the s Bahn I picked up at excellent pork Vietnamese Bahn mi sandwich (hey, I am nothing if not a reform Jew, and an Iowa transplant, hence the love of pork) at Babane, a “banh mi deli” which I am eating at a table on the fifth floor roof top patio of my lovely hotel in Wilmersdorff. On the way back here I stopped to people watch for awhile at the Brandenburg gate, which is awash in tourist of all stripes. my favorite site was two veiled middle eastern women taking a photo, as requested, from a guy in a cowboy hat! I took the other scenic bus west, the 100, which did not disappoint.