Monday, August 8, 2011

In Which Adam Goes to Europe: Part 1.1: Berlin

So off I go to Germany! But first, the flight. The long, long flight. Eight hours of sitting there, reading my Rober Bakker book that I got out of library, listening to the Kamen Rider OOO soundtrack on my ipod, and ingesting terrible airline food. In spite of this though, I have always had something of a fondness for flying. Look down at the clouds or the ground from so high up, it just seems to give a very strange quality to the scenery. Fields of clouds look more like a range of snowcapped mountains than anything else. And once the plain begins flying over Europe, the long tracks of German farmland begin to resemble something like a grid of computer circuitry. Its all a bit odd, but I like it.

Anywho, I get to the Berlin. Local time is about 9:00 am. New York time is 3:00 am. Yikes.

But I meet my brother in the airport, and we get to the hotel. The Adrema hotel, which we are staying at, is quite frankly, absolutely lovely. The lobby is a big mass of marble and pillars, and the dining room has magnificent lighting, and overlooks a nearby river.

The breakfasts at the Adrema are equally splendid. Fresh bread, coldcuts, eggs, sausage. Oh, and the honey and butter are something I must describe separately. The honey is dark and thick, much richer then what you can get in most stores at the states. And the butter, and I am not particularly much of a butter person, mind you, is so much more creamy and flavorful then what I am accustomed to. Just lovely.
Also of interest are the eggs. The yolks are orange! How peculiar.
My brother, stuffing his face. Delightful.
Ah, but then we get to our rooms. I am usually not the sort to go talking about bathrooms, but this very much bares mentioning. Look for yourself:


The walls are transparent. Now, I will repeat this, as it bares repeating.

The walls of the bathroom are transparent. I swear, I suddenly wish to smack whoever the designer for this place was upside the head. He has made a stay in a otherwise rather lovely hotel somehow reminiscent of a jail cell. Lovely.

Moving on.

Immediately as I sit down, my brother and I have to go meet with the Huebners, Jurgen and Margit, friends of my grandmother in Germany who wish to show us around. They're a rather sweet older couple, who incidentally have more energy than me and my brother combined. Oy.

And so the tour begins!

Unlike New York, the large majority of travel in Berlin is done by bus rather than subway. Fortunately, the map is a lot better put together, so it's not too hard to navigate.

We start by working our way to the Zoological Garden area, which seems to be sort of the central hub of Berlin. from outside, it looks like a lovely zoo, and I am frankly rather sad that I never got the chance to go visit it. (sad emoticon)

From there, we take a bit of a bus tour around the area, looking at landmarks, etc. Now personally, I have a distaste for guided tours. I feel like I'm being told what to think, when I'd much rather be able to look around on my own an draw my own conclusions. Sour grapes, anycase.

One thing that can be said about Berlin though, is that it is absolutely gorgeous, easily the nicest looking city I will visit on this trip, (yes, including Paris.) All of the buildings are enormous masses of neoclassical architecture, giant white stone columns and statues integrated into them. Just lovely.

We start out looking at some churches. There are a lot of old churches here. A lot. Its all rather Jesus-ey, but hey, the architecture is quite lovely. 

Next is something I quite happen to like. "Museum Island," it is called. And it is exactly what it says on the tin, a small island in the middle of the river, with a variety of art museums. We will get back to here later, when we go see the Neue Museum, the largest one here. 

Following this, we go to the Holocaust memorial, which I am afraid I was unallowed to take pictures of. This is rather unsettling location, an enormous field of variously sized stone tablets, all rising out of the ground like oversized gravestones. It is somewhat jarring, seeing such a solemn place right in the middle of a bustling city.

Underneath the memorial is a small museum, also devoted to the victims of the Holocaust. It too is very quiet, and very minimalisticly decorated, generally just a history of the events, as well as personal histories of a select number of the victims.

Possibly due to a mix of the emotional nature of the place, and my pretty nasty case of jetlag, my body pretty much just gives out at this point. I manage my way back to the hotel, and pass out, despite the local time being only about 5:00 pm. 

And thus ends my first day in Berlin. A very busy day overall, which will turn out to be something of a pattern for my time here. 

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