Monday, September 3, 2012

Day 2: Berlin diary - a rollercoaster day

All is not perfect, after all.

This nice grand hotel is flawed.  It sits next to a concert venue, and my room is in the wing that absorbed its full effect until 1-friggin-AM!!! I reasoned that it's a Saturday night, and tonight ought to be better.  And what do I see when I openned my eyes after only a few hours of shut-eye?  Well, hello, another 4 pairs of eyes staring back at me!

Yup, in this pristine and Berlin-reknowned hotel, the receptionist decided to give this arachnophobe *points finger to chest* a room that came with a residing spider. Needless to say, my first response was to call the front desk and send someone up to kill that darn thing. After getting dressed in lightning speed, I opened the door to the bell hop who was armed with... wait for it... a feather duster. "So... you're going to kill the spider with a feather duster, huh? ...Seriously?"  I guess he didn't understand me.  He walked straight to the wall and triumphantly scooped the spider onto his duster. Without warning, he marched right past me with that thing, and that's when I let out a few octaves high scream that probably woke the entire sleep-deprived wing. Did I miss something here?  Are these 8-legged creatures somehow sacred in Germany? 

After I recovered, I decided it was time to start the day. Breakfast was easy.  There was a huge buffet of breads, cheeses, fruits, and cured meats - lots of it - at the atrium.  I worked out the map of the city, the transport system and planned my day and off I went to explore.

At 6.50 Euro, you can get a day pass that lets you use buses and trains in the city.  Quite convenient and reasonable. I decided to tailor my excursion to avoid the spots where my group tour on wednesday would take me. First on the agenda is the holocaust memorial. I have never visited the holocaust museum in DC for 2 reasons - 1) I have been taking the fact for granted that it's too close that I can go there whenever I want, and 2) Eric always said that it's too depressing to see that you wouldn't want to go there when you're happy, or when you're sad, or even if you're just feeling so-so.

Off I went to take the bus M41; the stop is just outside my hotel and it ran every 10 minutes. I then walked from Potsdamer Platz to the memorial. The holocaust memorial was as I expected - emotionally crushing. It consists of a field of slabs, 2711 slabs to be exact, giving me a feeling of a mass grave, albeit not nearly enough to represent the 6 million jews who perished. Underground is the information center, which also served as a small museum. The pictures of emaciated and naked bodies piled high were gruesome. However, what surprisingly disturbed me most were photos of Jews being embarrassed by the Nazis.  One photo showed an orthodox jew whose peyos, or side curls, were being cut, and he stoically stood there shrouded in his tallit, while surrounded by laughing Nazis. Another photo showed 3 Jewish men being asked to perform dances or exercises of some sort, again, amidst laughter.  There were also letters from the victims - poets, mothers, brothers, and children - describing their fears of dying either by starvation, bullet or the gas chamber. Now I know why Eric couldn't go back to the museum in DC.

After that draining experience, I knew I had to sit down somewhere and eat too. I took the U2 train from Potsdamer Platz to Stadmitte, and hopped on the U6 train to Platz der luftbrucke in the trendy district of Kreuzberg. I walked up Mehringdamm to Bergmannstrabe, where the mediterranean flare pervades. I challenged myself to find a good local restaurant and pick an edible food from an all-german menu. Sounds difficult enough, right?  After a while, I eyed a restaurant that fit this description.  I knew Kofti was popular among the local cause there were families with strollers and dogs on the patio, and I could see that it was a popular meeting place for bruch as well. But boy! There are smokers everywhere here. The weather is too pleasant to eat indoors, so I decided to table hop a few times and simply crossed my fingers that a non-smoker sits in the empty table next to me.

My server didn't speak English - so this was promising - then he handed me their only menu which was in German. Yes! I looked through it, skipped the selection that said "salami", and ordered the one with what seemed like "marmalade" and  "olive" and surely butter to me.  How bad can it be?  I was just hoping it came with bread as well.

The food arrive, and - Success! -it was a pretty plate of marmalade - with bread served, and olives in the middle.  I had a marmalade-tasting party of one, and I was a happy camper. I tried to guess at what the flavors were without looking at the menu, and swore I could taste fig (or was that guava?), strawberry, honey, an unidentified flavor, and lastly, rose???  ROSE?? I looked at the menu, and sure enough, there's "rosen" which I can only assume is rose. It was delicious.

Then it was time to head back, as my meeting was scheduled to start in a few hours.  I took U6 from Platz der Lubrucke to Tempelhopf where I changed train to the S42, which took me to my hotel in Sonnenallae.  Of course, the best part of going back to the hotel was that I got to skype with my darling husband and daughter.

Hey, if anyone of you out there is considering joining the amazing race, keep me in mind as your partner.  As this adventure is proving, you'd be lucky to have me on your team.  *wink*

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