Thursday, December 18, 2008

Wow! This post is LONG overdue. My daughter Courtney and I took a trip to Berlin and Paris in May of 2007. She speaks both languages having had 5 years of French between high school and college and then in college changing her major to German and international studies, spending her last year at Wayne State University studying in Munich, Germany.

There are a lot of pictures to look at here but that was the original intent of this blog - travel and pictures. I'll be posting in two parts. First, Germany then Paris.

Richard happened to be flying out on the same day as we were so we all headed to the airport together.
Courtney and I flew into Frankfurt and had a long layover so we rented a room at a quaint little hotel recommended by our cab driver. I can't remember if this picture taken from the plane when we were flying into Frankfurt or into Berlin.
Courtney has had bad experiences with luggage on flights as shows on her face in this shot in Frankfurt. Not to worry; our bags came through just fine. (We were on Lufthansa, I believe.) When she went to Germany for her last year of study, British Airways lost her luggage for a week! There she was, knowing no one and on her own with no luggage except for what she carried (which wasn't much.) They never did reimburse her for anything. In blog part two of this trip I'll tell you of another British Airways blunder.
Hotel rooms are very tiny in Europe and this one in Frankfurt was no exception. Plus, there was no elevator.
Here we are just after checking in.
And the tiny bathroom with sliding doors that slide against the wall to save space; the shower is to the right, sink in front of you as you step in and the toilet to the left. Very space efficient.
Looking left out the window...
And looking right...And Courtney doing what we came here for. It was a wonderfully warm day in Frankfurt. One thing that I find amazing is that the windows in cities in Europe don't have screens on them. They just open to the world! No bugs to deal with.

Here is a video I shot of this tiny space they call a hotel room.

On our way to Berlin; Courtney grabbing a bite to eat in the airport.
Once we got to Berlin, we had to take a couple trains to get close to the hotel at which we had reservations. Here we sat waiting for the train at 8:45 pm.
After getting as close as we could by train, we had to walk the rest of the way which was about a half-mile. It was getting dark by then and this shot was taken on our way. This tower is called Fernsehturm and is the second tallest structure in Europe and rises out of the center of the famous square, Alexanderplatz.I didn't get more pictures of what happened next but it was quite a bummer. When we got to our hotel, Arena Hotel, which was located in an area of downtown Berlin, the woman at the desk told us that we couldn't stay there because they were being shut down. She said they had just been told by the authorities that morning and couldn't continue to operate. She told us that she had made reservations for us at another hotel and they would pay for both the cab fare to get us there and for renting the hotel room. We waited quite a while for the cab to arrive and when we finally got on our way we drive...and drive...and drive...Way out of the city! Good thing Courtney could speak German because we finally said something to the driver and told him what happened. He stopped the cab and made a phone call and told us that he knew of a better hotel for us to stay and it was in the city. Yes, it was a better hotel, about triple the price come to find out at checkout. The driver told us a price but somehow he was wrong. Oh, well. It was nice to stay in a hotel that had spacious rooms.
After we cleaned up a bit we went out to a hostel where a friend of Courtney's, Adrian Dosti, works. Here's a little video of them seeing each other again.

I had never been in a hostel so I took a video of the inside common area.

Their mutual friend Federico (I call him "the cute boy from Italy") arrived a bit later and you could tell that they really liked being all together again. The four of us spent a day sight-seeing in Berlin.
This is the Brandenburg Gate, the only thing remaining of what used to be a series of gates through which visitors entered the city. It was completed in 1791 with an extensive renovation prior to Germany's hosting of the World Cup in 2006.
The former Berlin Wall ran through the plaza on one side of the Brandenburg Gate, which was closed from 1961 through 1989. The wall is gone now but the outline remains perserved in the street so visitors can picture what the area looked like when it was fully divided. In 1987, President Reagan delivered his famous "Mr. Gorbachev, tear down this wall!" speech just inside the West Berlin side.

I took this video in the plaza of the Gate. There are a lot of performance artists that hang out there.

Other art in the plaza:

This is the Reichstag building, the country's capital building. It first opened in 1894 as the center of government. It was refurbished, rebuilt, and reopened in 1999 as the capital of unified Germany.
A street view near the capital.

On our way to the Berlin Hauptbahnhof (translation: main train station) we walked through an open park and through the Holocaust Memorial, designed by architect Peter Eisenman. It opened in 2005 and is made of two parts, the above ground part that takes up a whole city block, and below where there is an information center. The ground level part is composed of rows of concrete slabs of various heights. Quoting Wikipedia, "According to Eisenman's project text, the slabs are designed to produce an uneasy, confusing atmosphere and the whole sculpture aims to represent a supposedly ordered system that has lost touch with human reason."

Here are a couple pictures of Courtney's friend Adrian walking through the memorial.

Federico and Courtney walking through the sculpture.The park on the way to the hauptbahnhof had one of those cool fountains that kids like to play in and get wet.

Also inside this park across from the capital is this sculpture. The only information I can find on it states that it is a memorial to the 96 Reichstag member of the opposition parties killed by the Nazis. I thought it was quite a stunning piece.

As you can see, the names are part of the slabs.

Now, on to the Berlin Hauptbahnhof. It is a very modern building, huge enough to house stores and such. It reminded me of a mall here in the US with trains running through it. The station sits alongside a pretty river, the river Spree.
This was pretty cool. There were chairs set up along the river facing the hauptbahnhof. Anyone can go sit and relax. Another view of the river. These next three pictures are taken inside the train station.

Of course, a trip to Berlin is not complete without seeing 'The Wall.'

Here is a hole in the wall. There was a gap in the wall and you could see the other side, along the river. There was a lot of creativity displayed on the wall.
We saw a young artist finishing his touches. These shots were taken while crossing a bridge on our walk from the wall to the shopping area of downtown. Trains and cranes everywhere! It seemed like the whole city was undergoing a transformation.
This is the famous Kaiser-Wilhelm-Gadachtniskirche. Gadachtniskirche translates to 'memory church.' After an allied bombing raid on Berlin in 1943, only part of this church was left standing.The church was known for its beautiful glass mosaics decorating the interior.
I wanted to experience the bus in Berlin so we took a short ride while we were exploring downtown. Here's a cute girl I saw on the bus!I caught her trying to take my picture. I call it 'Taking me taking you.'We actually saw a small, green park in downtown while looking out the bus window.
A busy downtown. The building shown in the background is called The Hackescher Markt.
This is The Sony Centre on Berlin's historic Potsdamer Platz. It consists of a complex of buildings grouped around a central atrium. Eight individual buildings are used for offices, apartments, cinemas, and an art museum. I thought it was perfect photographic material.I believe this shot was taken somewhere around the Sony Center.This was a cool store window display. I got a kick out of this vehicle. I think I remember these being 'for hire.' I could be wrong, though.

We took a break for lunch.
I had to get this picture for Richard. Adrian ordered wienerschnitzel, as you can see. Richard is a BIG fan of the German staple.
Here are a few pictures taken in various train stations.
Cute ad.Nothing's free! Gotta pay to pee!

Sometimes there were button pushers to close and open the doors to the trains. Looks like a fun job, eh? I guess you could have fun with it if there were belligerent people :) !
We stopped to grab another bite and drink later on and I took a few pictures using a cool color setting on my camera. Here are a couple of TCBFI and one of Courtney.

And I'll end this posting with a few more pictures taken out and about. It was a fantastic trip, especially spending the time with my daughter. Watch for the second posting, the second half of this trip: PARIS!