A perfect day starts out with a balanced breakfast. We went to the café across the street from the palace we've been staying (thanks Jonathan!) and played the "I Have No Idea What This Means But I Hope It's Delicious" game when ordering from the menu. I got a plate with a hard-boiled egg, cheeses, meats, butter and amazing house-made marmalade, accompanied by a basket of baguettes and slices of hearty German bread. The Dude had the XL version, with smoked salmon, fruit slices and horseradish spread. This kept us full all the livelong day.
Next stop was Tacheles, recommended by my friend Jessica. Originally built in 1907 as a department store in Berlin's Jewish quarter, it has since housed a Nazi prison, the Free German Trade Union Federation, and a movie theater. Shortly after the wall fell (and right before the building was scheduled to be demolished), an artists' initiative took over the building. It has since been used as an art center and night club.
According to their website:
In the course of changes since the wall came down, Tacheles has been confronted with the difficult challenge of remaining true to its roots and ideals without becoming too sentimental about the old squatter times.
The building was partially bombed during WWII and it's completely covered inside with graffiti. Each room features work from different artists-- collages, paintings, photography-- and there's a sculpture garden out back. I thought of many of my Portland buddies who would drool at such a gnarly artist collective.
Next was the Neue Synagogue down the street, which was way overpriced for the amount of information. We went to the German Historic Museum on Monday and paid 4E for three hours' worth of moseying through their gigantic exhibit, and we paid 3E50 for two small rooms of info at the synagogue. Lame.
We were totally parched by this point, so we stopped at a local watering hole for my new favorite refreshment: apfel schorle. It's like fizzy apple juice. So delish. As we were sitting outside the sky opened and started thunderbooming, so we were forced to move inside and do shots of jägermeister. Those are the rules.
When the rain let up an hour or so later, on the recommendation of my buddy Kathryn we headed down to Bernauer Strasse, which has a couple of museums dedicated to my favorite subject: The Berlin Wall. The first had videos of the history of the wall (which left a German woman in the row in front of us in tears) and an explanation of the death strip, the 100-meter zone between walls on the East and West sides filled with sensor-triggered barb wire, patrol dogs, beds of nails, trip wire, and of course lots of lots of soldiers ready to shoot at anything that moves.
There was a park adjacent to the museum that had some old pieces of the wall on display, as well as informational panels about what had happened. It also had photos of the 136 people killed as they tried to cross the wall.
We arrived at the second museum 15 minutes before closing, so we only had time to climb up to the observation deck to see a preserved section of what the death strip actually looked like.
Minutes after we left we got caught in another thunderboom, so we hopped the streetcar to the grocery store to buy the fixings for a big dinner for Jonathan and his roommates.
Today is our last day in Berlin, and I have the sads. I can definitely see why so many people love it here so much.