Sunday, 22 September 2013


Saturday 21st September 2013.

We get the bus into Berlin centre. I am given the task of memorising the bus stop, where we get on, so we can find our way back.

I understand the logic. If the task is given to me, and it goes wrong, ie, we get lost, it is my fault.

I carefully study the information at the bus stop. I know we are in an area called Spandau, and, there is a sign on the bus stop reading "Rathaus - Spandau", I know this translates as Town Hall, Spandau. Quite reasonably, I think, I conclude this stop is at the townhall, Spandau. I am a little puzzled that I cannot see any large building which may resemble a Town Hall, but, hey, you cannot have everything.

The bus (M45), arrives, as expected, we board, pay our fare and take our seats. The bus sets off, stopping here and there, as buses do. After 5-10 minutes, we stop outside of a large and impressive building, which is clearly, Spandau Town Hall. This means of course, wherever we got on, it was not "Rathuas - Spandau". I decide to keep this bit of information to myself, and worry about it on the way back.

In due course we arrive at the Zoo on the edge of Tiergarten. I am given the task of reading the street map, and trying to keep Kathleen under control as she walks off in various directions at double time.

We manage to take-in the Willem Memorial Cathedral, mostly a ruin (bombed in 1943) and in the process of being restored. There is quite a sobering exhibition of the futility of war.

I manage to keep Kathleen on track, and we walk through Tiergarten, to the "Victory Monument". I am not sure which victory this commemorates, clearly not 1918 or 1945.

I jest of course, the Germans may have lost the (don't mention the) war,but, they certainly won the peace, this place is magnificent. There is success showing everywhere you look. Everything just works! 

Next we come to a memorial erected by the former USSR, to the two thousand Russian soldiers who died in June 1945, during the final days of Berlin's resistance.

There cannot ever be a good time to be killed I suppose, but, fancy getting killed when it was just about all over, talk about bad luck!

Next, we wander along to the Brandenburgh Gate. A memorable sight, from many a cold war spy film, but, I thought, not nearly as impressive in real life as it appears in films.

Basically, it is not as big as I imagined it would be. What is impressive is the quality of the restoration, from photographs taken after the fall of Berlin, this area was a heap of rubble, you would never know it now.

Through the Brandenburgh Gate, and you are into what was, until some 25 or so years
ago, East Berlin of course. All very nasty at the time, but, I think it is all a bit tacky now.

There is no doubt however, they are certainly laughing about is now, people dressed as border guards, etc etc.

Plus one person dressed (I think) as a character out of Star Wars. I am not sure what point he or she is trying to make, well, there is at least one in every major city I suppose.

Inevitably there are people driving around in restored Trabant cars, the ultimate joke of the Soviet system. 

Finally, a very novel bar, where you can sit on your bar stool, drinking your beer, and peddle to get your exercise! The bar is propelled around the streets by the efforts of the drinkers, I am not sure who, if anyone is steering however!

We take in the restored Parliament building, and then wander to Potsdam Platz, via the memorial to the Murdered Jews of Europe.

At Potsdam Platz, there are some bits of the infamous Berlin Wall, not in their original state, or original situation, but as exhibits from the past.

We stroll some more, in the autumn sunshine, and come across a canal, with this definately "uncity like" view. 

As we wander past pavement bars, we notice everyone is drinking enormous glasses of beer.

We have to have one, and take a seat to have a drink and be entertained, by this chap doing hand stands on a skateboard, followed by an acrobat and a very young boy, playing the clarinet.

One last thing to do, before catching the bus back to the stellplatze, have a Bratwurst.

I cannot convince Kathleen to join me, so, she amuses herself taking a photograph of this very simple, but, effective public toilet (for men), and women who can pee standing up.

We board the bus, and, I have to now own up, I do not know where to get off. We have to wait until we reach the "Rathaus", and then take a guess at the appropriate stop, the fact I am writing this, tells you, we made it.

I redeem myself by finding the nearest Catholic Church, via Google.

It is not far (about 2.5km, the sat-nav tells us), but, we have no idea in which direction, and, since the sat-nav is built into the van, we cannot take it with us.

Google maps to the rescue, and we are able to get both a walking route and a cycling route.

Sunday 22nd September 2013.

 It is dry and mild, so, it is decided, we will cycle to the church. It is a mixture of dedicated cycletrack and on road cycle lane, so, not difficult at all.

Working on the off chance that I am wrong, and there is a god, and, he is a Catholic, I do hope he will take note of the efforts I have gone to, to get one of his flock (Kathleen) to church, no matter where we are.

While Kathleen does the church thing, I have a wander of the surrounding streets, a combination of looking for interesting sights, and checking out likely eating places for our lunch.

The plan is to have a little gentle exercise (walking or cycling) after Mass, followed by Sunday Lunch (although, I doubt it will be Roast beef and Yorkshire pudding).

We are still in Spandua district, but, this area is the "old town", at least I think that is what the term "altstadt" means.

There is a river or canal at the end of the street, with a busy lock.

There are also some rather quaint buildings which according to the signs on them date back to the 1700's.

Kathleen duly emerges from church at 11:00, too early to eat, and it is decided, we will cycle for an hour or so, to sharpen our appetite.

We head to the lock, and then cycle along the river, we think we are heading in the

direction of Berlin Centre, but, since we have no map, the strategy is to keep the River in view, so we do not get lost.

Suitably hungry, park our bicycles and have a very enjoyable lunch.

We walk a little to allow lunch to settle, then head for a coffee and cake shop, to drink delicious coffee and devour enormous portions of cake.

The Stellplatze is on the site of a former barracks. There is a large building next to the site, which we assume was the barracks, and, which now appears to be used as flats. As we arrive back, we are greeted by a very enthusiastic group of some 8 or so children, aged not more than 10 years, waving from one of the windows.

Kathleen waves back. This turns out to be a mistake. Before we can blink, we are surrounded by them. From their appearance, they are immigrants, they are fascinated by our folding bicycles. They speak a little English and in addition to introducing themselves, ask for a ride on the bicycles. We oblige, and two at a time, all 8 of them have a turn at whizzing around the site. Some are not too steady at riding a bicycle, Kathleen is concerned they will injure themselves (or someone else!). We discover while they can speak enough English to ask for a turn, they do not appear to understand "be careful" or "Ok, that is enough". Kathleen eventually coaxes them off the bicycles with biscuits all round.

Once they have demolished the biscuits, they run around the site, playing hide and seek, and, as far as we can see, doing no harm, just being children.

But later in the afternoon, there is some form of upset, and eventually, the Police are called. Kathleen's German is not up to understanding what is going on and we are not brought into the discussion, nor are we ejected from the site, so, I assume it is not us who have caused the upset by indulging them. A mystery.

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