Wednesday 27th October 2004 back to index
For some reason, we were a bit slower waking up this morning! Neither of us had sore heads, we were just knackered! Our itinerary for today only consisted of a visit to the East Side Gallery and to the Jewish Museum, which I found extremely difficult to say properly this morning. I kept on saying "Jewish Musheum" ??
©Steve Jones

Time for "Frühstück". We only knew this German word for breakfast because on our way down in the lift there was a sticker saying "Frühstück / Breakfast" conveniently opposite the floor number required.

It made me think how lazy we are as a nation when it comes to learning foreign languages. Most of my German language skills come from watching Second World War movies!

By the way, here's a photo of the toilet with a view, the patented "pan-o-rama". Every home should have one, it feels like shitting in the woods!

We really enjoyed our breakfast, and took a more leisurely approach this morning.

We relaxed and enjoyed people watching. There was quite an eclectic mix of guests, most of which were funny to look at! (and I'm sure we could include ourselves in that!) Steve commented on one couple, two ladies who were obviously a couple. They looked as miserable as sin, but what caught Steve's eye was that one of them, (who he called "Marty") was wearing unfeesably pointy shoes! Did she only have two toes? They were also completely out of character to the rest of her dowdy wardrobe.

Anyway, we finally stopped assinating people's characters and decided to make a start on the day. I suggested that we walked from the hotel to the East Side Gallery.

On the map it didn't look that far. Just pass the scene of last night's exorcist incident, down to the end of Simon Dache Strasse, then turn right for a wee while until we meet Warschauerstrasse, and follow that strasse down to the river. Easy.

It was however a couple of miles, I'm sure, at the very least!

Having got there though it was worth the blisters!

We had seen many postcards of art work from the wall and it was such a buzz seeing them for real.

At the begining of this stretch of wall there is a souvenir stall but we already had our pieces of concrete from Franco Frank yesterday.

We walked alongside the wall for a while until we found a renowned piece of work. This famous one of Breshnev and Hoeneker kissing with the words "God Save Us From This Evil Love" in Russian was amazing to see eight feet tall.

Although I have my suspicions that this one could have been a copy!

Hoenecker looks a bit too green compared to the one on the postcard. Perhaps it's aged badly.

It certainly had been badly graffitied over, and pieces of it were flaking off. In fact, all I did was just touch the wall and a piece fell off. So Steve had a go!

If everyone did that there would be nothing left to see. Vandalism pure and simple. We should be ashamed of ourselves!

The wall stretches out for over a mile with countless classic artwork. Many of them have deteriorated badly and some are being renovated by the original artist using modern longer life paint.

©Steve Jones

There were many new paintings also that had only recently been commisioned.

The one of the "Brandenburg Gate in 1980" was interesting as it clearly shows how it was lost in the middle of the no man's land.

Others, near the souvennir stall, were more cartoon in style and clearly showed that Germans do have a sense of humour!

The one below left was excellent, especially the Aldi supermarket and Volkswagen cars tempting the East Berliners to the West, and the Karl Marx tattooed buttock!

We decided not to walk the full length of the wall in attempt to conserve what little energy we had. We had a long day ahead of us!

We crossed the river over a very decorative bridge called Oberbaumbrücke.
©Steve Jones

This bridge was once one of the eight checkpoints allowing authorised movement across the border. An information board on the West side told the fascinating story of the bridge during Berlin's division.

Again it was really interesting to see the photos of people rushing across it in 1989.

Halfway across the bridge, looking towards the TV tower we spotted the work of a very determined graffiti artist! They must have rowed out to this sign in the middle of the Spree, climbed up the pole, and painted those yellow fists. My only question was " WHY?"

The question why is also what springs to mind when we looked south between the arches of the railway bridge and saw the two 'molecular men' of Treptower Park. What's going on there then ?

Next stop was the Jewish Musheum.

From Oberbaumbrücke we walked to the nearest station which was Schlesischles Tor and caught the train to Hallesches Tor. It was a straight forward line, with no connecitons, but we almost caused ourselves an injury trying to pronounce them!

At least it cleared our throats!

It was midday by the time we turned up at the Jewish Museum.

The building is very different in its design and viewed from above it looks like a fragment of the Star of David. The architect/designer is Daniel Libeskind who also designed the Imperial War Museum in Manchester.

You enter the museum through the original Berlin Museum and then along an underground corridor. It was slightly confusing at first as to which way to turn, but a friendly member of staff told us to start at the top floor and work our way back down. She directed us to the Stair of Continuity at the far end of the underground corridor, but we found an elevator near the toilets that saved us from having to walk all the way to the top.

The museum allowed the use of cameras which I thought was great. No flash though.

The story started from the history of the Jews in Germany, about how there was a migration of people during the middle ages, and where communites established themselves.

Even back then the Jews were persecuted and blamed for everything, even as the cause of the Black Plague!

An element of the musuem covers what it means to be Jewish, explained circumcision, a traditional marriage and so on.


It gradually followed a timeline. Showing decorated German Jewish soldiers with their Iron Crosses, and famous German Jews of screen and stage during the 20's.

Then you enter the Third Reich phase of German history. The yellow "Jude" star that every Jew had to wear, the Nazi propoganda, and then culminating in the concentration camps and the extermination of millions.

Both Steve and I were brought to tears by what we saw.

This image (left) was possibly the least distressing but struck a chord because he was only thirty five years old at the time the photograph was taken.

He was a survivor from the Buchenwald concentration camp.

Photos of the Auschwitz mass burials of pitiful bodies piled high were all too disturbing to look at. I even feel sick now as I write these words because I can still remember the faces of the dead.

This was an act of pure evil.

As you walk through the musuem there were some windows that did not look outwards, but inside, into a room that you could not enter, filled with the representation of the faces of death.

Libeskind called them ‘voided voids', and they did somehow convey the despair.

As you left the museum you were given an opportunity to leave your own message on a computer database. I couldn't really find the appropriate words but I could certainly feel them.

I just couldn't translate.

We left the museum proper and went into the "Garden of Exile and Emigration". This was 7 x 7 square of tall concrete monoliths, with an olive tree planted in each. The significance of the 49 blocks was based on fourty eight (from 1948, the year Israel was born), plus one for Berlin? For me it lacked any impact.

What lacked even more impact was the "Holocaust Void". We stood in an empty room, at the base of a tall concrete tower, in the dark, and that was it. It stirred no emotion, not even mild claustrophobia. I think it was meant to represent isolation; but nope, it didn't work on me.

As we left, into the obligatory musuem shop, Steve commented on how expensive everything was. Without thinking I said "There's the Jews for you".

It instantly hit me how terrible that remark was. Where did it come from? I'm not by nature anti-semitic or racist yet I still said it? After everything I had witnessed over the last three hours, had it meant nothing to me? Obviously I said it in jest, but there's simply no excusing it. I was very ashamed of myself.

We were very tired by now. It was only 3pm and we could hardly walk another step. So that's why we decided to go all the way across to the other side of the city to find the Hard Rock Cafe for lunch!?

We stepped out of Kufürstendamm underground and we didn't know which way to turn. Left or Right, East or West ?

We decided to walk towards the Kaiser Wilheim Gedächtniskirche (Memorial Church).

Severely damaged during World War Two the church was scheduled to be demolished and rebuilt but a storm of protests erupted.

Berliners agreed to leave the ruins as they stood as a monument to peace and reconciliation.

A modern church, and the rather ugly honeycombed hexagonal tower to the right, was built in 1961.

We were now in the heart of the shopping district and were heading for the famous Ka De We department store. It is reputedly the largest department store in Europe! As we both wanted to return home bearing gifts, there was nowhere better to shop.

We didn't get much further than the perfumes before I started developing a rash. I call it my "shopping allergy". At times of parting with my money for over-priced items I have been known to almost collapse!

I did manage to survive long enough to buy Julie a bottle of Givenchy Truly Irresistable Toilet Water, and Hannah a small bottle of Issey Miyake perfume. Steve bought Liz the Liv Tyler promoted Truly Irresistable and bought himself the Givenchy Pour Homme. We both spent more in Ka De We than the cost of the flights over!

We did have a look around the jewelry stalls. The name of the jewellers was 'Christ' and when we saw that €8000 watch that's exactly what we said!

After we shopped, we stumbled, all the way down the Kufürstendamm. Our legs could hardly carry us any further.

My back was crippling me; Steve's feet were expanding beyond the boundaries of his shoes, but we had the Hard Rock Cafe in our thoughts, pushing us on.

It wasn't on the main shopping street but down a side street called Meinekestrasse. Our little faces lit up when we saw the familiar HRC sign.

Hallelujah! I've never felt such relief to sit down!

The place was suprisingly empty for 4:30pm. One of the staff came up to us and spoke, naturally, in German. We apologised for our linguistic ineptitude and he slipped seemlesly into English.

He also slipped into character mode. It's quiet difficult to describe but it was like listening to Arnold Schwarzenegger trying to do a Mickey Mouse impersenation!

And action ...

"Hey, youz guys don't vant a small beer, you need a biiig beer"!

Cut. Thanks Arnold, but don't give up the day job!

Steve had a Pig Sandwich, not a whole pig obviously, just a few slices, and I had the Mediteranean Veggie Sandwich. (Which wasn't a whole Mediteranean Vegetarian either!)

It was exactly what I had in Manchester (UK) a week or so ago when I took my father to a Titanic Artefacts exhibition, but the Berlin version was far tastier.

On the down side, this was the most expensive meal we had in Berlin. I guess that's what happens when you fall for a gimmick such as the Hard Rock Cafe.

Despite feeling disgruntled I still ended up spending even more when I bought my father a HRC Berlin badge (in the shape of a Trabbant) for his collection.

Having refuelled we mustered up enough energy to return back to Hotel Agon.

©Steve Jones

Despite being dead on our feet we had a good laugh on the train. It was fairly busy and when we got on we had to stand and hold on to a pole. I told Steve that he looked like he was about to do some pole dancing, which for a split second he obliged! Ha Ha!!

I then spotted an empty seat and told Steve that I was going to sit next to Albert. I sat by the side of this elderly gentleman chuckling uncontrollably to myself because he was the spitting image of Albert Einstein. I found myself so funny! We were very tired by now, and perhaps a little mentally challenged!!

We had a couple of hours rest at the hotel before going out for our last night in Berlin. We had planned for an early night as we were flying home tomorrow, but it was almost 9pm already. We weren't overly hungry so we decided just to have a pizza from a small take-away place called Escuendo, just off Simon Dach strasse and guess what? It was probably the tastiest pizza we had in Berlin!!

Steve bravely went for Pizza Milano which had listed as one of its toppings and ingredient called 'knoblauchwurst'. "That sounds like Pig's Penis Sausage" I joked. We still don't know if I was right or not but it apparently tasted great despite being topped with 'knob sausage'!! My choice was Pizza Pecorino which curiously didn't have any pecorino on it, but had Feta instead. I guess its sheep cheese so it's close enough. The wood fire oven in the corner certainly cooked these pizza's to perfection, and at only €5.40 for a large pizza and a large beer it was exceptionally reasonable.

We moved on to Hundertwasser. We walked up to the bar, pulled up two stools, and that's where we stayed all night. Our mate Walter was serving again, and we had a great night just talking to the guy. He told us all about his life. I'll not repeat most of it as to respect his privacy but he told us he was the black sheep of his wealthy family. The poor bloke was skint, and ran away from his troubles to Nepal. He stayed there for a few years before having to return to Germany.

He was 45 years old and his worn face carried the scars of his worries, yet he had jet black hair; of which I was deeply envious!!

We lost count of how many beers we drank, but I do remember that we sank a bizarre herbal liquer. It was green and thick and had a hint of aniseed to it. Walter said that it was good for us, in a medicinal way, but once as a young lad I was violently ill on Pernod, so aniseed is not my favourite flavour!

I seem to recall we also drank cofee, to aid sobering up before leaving, but we somehow ended up drinking some more alcohol for at least another hour. It was gone 2:30am when we decided to move before we fell off our stools. Our parting gift was a rendition of our favourite hymn. All night we had stressed to Walter that whilst we were British, we weren't English, but Welsh and damn proud of it. So as only true Welshman can, we sang "Calon Lan", a tubthumping hymn, which is also a favourite on the terraces of Welsh Rugby matches!

Walter, and a waitress, stood there polite and smiled as they waved us good night. I bet they wondered what the hell was going on? What bizarre planet did these Welshmen fall from?

On our way back to the hotel Steve noticed that his feet had been cured by the miracle herbal remedy we drank earlier. Hallelujah! He once could not walk now look at him prance. Praise the liquer!!

Twinkle toes quite literally jigged his way back! He could have danced all night!

I was just comfortably numb.

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