Flora, fauna, food, festivities, and former days of glory (I couldn’t think of a synonym for history that starts with “f”) were hallmarks of our next two days in Berlin. Each day began with a search for coffee and pastries in the neighborhood around the Berlinerhof Hotel. Many coffee shops didn’t open until 9 and early birds seemed to open at 8. I stuck with cappuccino as I could order it and know what I was getting without figuring out what they meant by the various offerings on the menu. Germans didn’t seem to be familiar with iced coffee, as they thought we crazy Americans wanted ice cream first thing in the morning. The pastries were fantastic– I had no idea the Germans had serious pastry talents!
We wanted to take in more of the city, including some museums. The U-bahn whisked us off to the vicinity of Museum Island via the Bebelplatz. Bebelplatz is a plaza featuring grand and beautiful buildings such as St. Hedwigs Cathedral, the Humboldt University Library, and the Berlin State Opera House.
As with most of Berlin, there is a lot to the story of this location. Frederich II build St. Hedwig’s for the Catholic community as a sign of religious tolerance (in the 18th century).
St. Hedwig’s Cathedral, Berlin
It was here in Bebelplatz that on May 10, 1933, some 20,000 books from the University Library (pictured below) were burned by the Nazi regime. These books were said to be authored by degenerates and Nazi opponents. The University was then known as Frederick William University and it was closed in 1945.
Humboldt University Library, Berlin
During the Cold War, the University was located in communist East Berlin and was reopened and renamed Humboldt University while another University was established in West Berlin and named Free University (Freie Universitat) of Berlin, emphasizing that it was part of the “free world” as opposed to being under communist control. After the German reunification, Humboldt University was “decommunized” and both Humboldt and Freie Universities continue in operation to this day. As a matter of fact, the main reason for us traveling to Berlin was to attend a graduation event held by Freie University. We, the proud family members of one of the graduates, were able to attend an evening celebration which was held at a unique art deco restaurant in a renovated former train station in Berlin.
But I digress. Our explorations of Berlin continued.
View toward Berlin Cathedral and Fernsehturm, the futuristic TV tower
There was construction everywhere. Has it been like this since the War? I’m sure it has. The above photo shows such a mix of ancient, modern and under construction. The pointy tower is Fernsehturm, the 365 meter-tall TV tower was erected in 1965-69 in East Berlin and was intended to be the tallest tower in Europe. I found a story online about the legend of “The Pope’s Revenge”: “although it was intended to demonstrate technological advance it was doomed to an ironic fate. To the embarrassment of GDR authorities – the steel sphere below the antenna produced the reflection of a giant cross. Hence the popular joke, not appreciated by the SED government, that this was the Popes’s revenge on the secular socialist State for having removed crucifixes from churches.” The awe-inspiring Berlin Cathedral peeks into the left side of the photo.
The magnificent Berliner Dom: The Berlin Cathedral
The Berliner Dom website merely points to the Cathedral as the “vital center for the Protestant church in Germany.” The parish was established in 1613, though several church edifices have occupied the site, with the most modern one (before the present one) was completed in 1905. The building suffered extreme damage and destruction in 1944 and the congregation and parish was split by the Berlin Wall. The Cathedral was situated in East Berlin, and a new West Berlin parish center was subsequently built to serve the West Berliners. Restoration and rebuilding work on the Cathedral from 1975 to 1980 at which time enough of the cathedral had been restored to hold services there. After reunification in 1989, the East and West parishes came together again and the building restoration was completed in 1993. We did not have time to tour the Cathedral, unfortunately.
Close-up of details on the Berliner Dom
We moved on to see more amazing architecture and tour some museums.
The impressive and brilliant blue Ishtar Gate displayed in the Pergamon Museum. These gates were built in Babylon during the reign of King Nebuchadnezzar II in about 575 BC.
Ornate Charlottenburg Palace, named for Prussian Queen consort Sophie Charlotte (who lived from 1668-1705), constructed from 1695-1713.
Rear view of Charlottenburg Palace
I found these four beauties inside the palace.
We even worked in a visit to the famous zoo while we were in Berlin.
Some penguins were swimming toward them, much to the little guy’s delight!
Of course, while in Berlin, we sampled German fare and beer at a variety of biergartens: lots of pork and potatoes!
A feast of curry wurst and schnitzel at Schlogl’s.
A feast of pork, peas and potatoes at Lemke.
And who could resist one more stop at Rausch Schokoladenhaus? Not me!
We were treated to a special light show in the evenings during our stay.
They were holding a Light Festival in Berlin while we were there. Music accompanied crazy media being projected onto the landmarks.
But, eventually our stay in Berlin was up and it was time to load ’em up and move ’em out. To the train station!
Everybody has their game faces on for travel day– or maybe they just didn’t have their coffee yet.