Berlin Catch-up Pt. 3 – Last Day

Saturday, October 14 – We took some time to study what we might want to do on this, our final (and beautiful!) day in Berlin (our plane out of Berlin’s Tegel Airport was scheduled to depart at 6AM on Sunday, October 15, with a change in Amsterdam and another in Detroit, landing us in Greensboro around 5PM [the plane out of Detroit was late, so we actually ended up in GSO circa 6P] on the same day, after about 18-20 hours of travel). We wanted to take advantage of the weather, Page was planning a lovely send-off meal for us for the evening, and Ini was working at the antiques shop all day, so we figured more walking would not be amiss.

Page had wanted to re-visit a Nazi War Crimes memorial that he highly recommended to us, and so we set off to Grunewald, a suburb of Berlin.


Here’s the scoop about Grunewald Station, then I’ll show you some somber pictures.

Grunewald Station was inaugurated on August 1, 1879 and called “Hundekehle Station.” It was renamed Grunewald Station in 1884. In 1899, Karl Cornelius built the station building, the architecture of which is very similar to the buildings built at the same time in the residential area of Grunewald.

The residential area encompasses about 234 hectares. To drain the marshy area, 4 artificial lakes were created (Lake Diana, Lake Hertha, Lake Koenig, and Lake Hubertus). In 1899 the residential area became an independent municipality, and was incorporated into Berlin in 1920 as part of the district of Wilmersdorf. The avenue Koenigsallee is the main thoroughfare. The lake properties were in demand by industrialists, bankers, publishers, writers, and scientists—among them very important people who wanted to build their villas in large parks. There was a high proportion of Jewish inhabitants.

Some of these residents were notables including Karl Abraham, Max Alsberg, Vickie Baum, Karl and Dietrich Bonhoeffer, Isadora Duncan, Lion Feuchtwanger, Samuel Fischer, Carl Fürstenberg, Maximilian Harden, Engelbert Humperdinck, Alfred Kerr, Fritz Kreisler, Lilli Lehmann, Franz von Mendelssohn, Friedrich Wilhelm Murnau, Max Planck, Walther Rathenau, Max Reinhardt, Ferdinand Sauerbruch, Hermann Sudermann, Hans Ullstein, and others.

From October 1941 until February 1945 the goods (freight) station at Grunewald was one of the deportation stations for Berlin, from which more than 50,000 Jewish citizens of Berlin were deported to the extermination camps, where they were murdered. A commemorative plaque and two memorials remind us of these events.

On April 3, 1987, a commemorative plaque with a Hebrew inscription was placed at the signal box. On September 18, 1991, the memorial to the right of the station building’s entrance was unveiled, created by Karol Broniatowski on behalf of the Senate of Berlin. It consists of a long concrete wall with negative imprints of human bodies. In January 27, 1998, a memorial commissioned by the German Railway Society and created by Nicolaus Hirsch, Wolfgang Lorch, and Andrea Wandel, recalls the numerous deportations to the concentration camps on metal sheets lined up on the ancient loading platforms of the freight yard.

The wall with negative imprints of human bodies – ghosts of a past we must always remember.

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The plates, which visitors walk on, are arranged chronologically, based on the good record-keeping for which the Nazis were known. The numbers deported depended on the capacity/size of the destination extermination camp, and on the date of the deportation: the later in the war, the fewer Jews were deported (generally speaking). The photos above are a mere sampling of the many, many plates paving both platforms of the entire loading area of the freight yard (and remember, the passenger boarding area was quite nearby, yet not used by the Nazis for these people).

Yet, the suburb of Grunewald today is a lovely village-like area that is quiet and beautiful and full of friendly people, interesting architecture, fun flowers and yards, and echoes of the vast fortunes that were invested in the area in the 19th century.

While we had ridden the S-Bahn to Grunewald, we decided to walk back into the Charlottenberg area of the city where Page and Ini live. As it happens, we circled through a big city park with a lake, passed near where Ini’s Garden House is, and then into the part of the city where Ini works, so we stopped by her shop for a bit.






Throughout our adventures, Page had carried with him a “Speedminton” set. This is a game Page and Lee play in the city park near the apartment. It is a variation of badminton, but the shuttlecock is heavier, the racquets more robust, and the net is optional. Page says it’s nearly always too windy in Berlin to play badminton, so speedminton is their racquet game of choice.

I volleyed with him for a while, and then Jack took over, so I could take a few pix.



We walked home and settled in for a while, as Page gathered the materials for his shrimp special dinner as our send-off. He was busily chopping and dicing and prepping by the time Ini returned from work about 7PM, and we all enjoyed the fruits of his labors, plus a bit of wine and a nightcap to acknowledge the final moments of our great trip.

A cab was reserved to arrive at our door at 4AM, and we insisted that no one get up to see us off, but of course, we were foiled as they both saw us into the cab and set us on our way.

Fare thee well, Berlin, until the next time we meet.

As for Ini and Page – okay, now it’s your turn to come west to our stomping grounds!


Berlin Catch-up Pt. 2

Friday, October 13 was a rare beautiful day in Berlin. And we packed a lot into the day, as it was to be our penultimate day with family in Berlin. Niece Lee had decamped the city for a conference in Scotland (St. Andrews) where she felt she’d learn quite a lot about her doctoral thesis subject, D’Arcy Thompson. We had said our goodbyes to her Wednesday night as Maya and Mark departed after dinner.

We began this day, as usual, thinking about what we might eat. Since we would enjoy only two more evening meals together, and Jack wanted to serve one of his specialties (if we could find all the ingredients to make it): baked scallops over pasta with spinach. A visit to the local posh grocery store yielded most (but not all) of the ingredients, so Jack made do and fixed a lovely meal for us.

But I get ahead of myself.

Speaking of food, Page and Jack had enjoyed a Pavlovian discussion of oysters on the half shell, and so we determined to head over to the most famous seafood place in the city: Rogacki. This place is a seafood warehouse of selections both cooked to eat there (or carry out) and raw to purchase by the pound. I was not interested in oysters, so while the boys stood at the counter to eat oysters and sip wine for lunch, I wandered around the place and took photos.

I really loved all the signs around, so you could easily see over the crowds (yes, crowds!) the area you should go toward to find what you were seeking.

But fish was not the only thing you could get. There were salads, sausages, meats, chicken, and of course, desserts and breads.

Someone had ridden up on his bicycle to purchase something to fix for dinner. He was waiting in the shellfish section with us.


Our walk back to the apartment.

This recumbent bike has some serious beach tires, when there’s not a beach for miles and miles around.
Lovely strains of singing and piano playing emerged from this building as we waited for Jack to use the ATM.

After our seafood adventure, we linked back up with Ini to head over to the Garden House again, since Jack had not been there yet (see this post for more about Ini’s Garden House).

As we walked back to the apartment, we stopped by a lovely cemetery and spent a good deal of time admiring the calmness and beauty of this space, trapped on all sides by urban life, but so quiet and serene inside.

At the end of the day, we enjoyed a delicious meal of scallops and all of the prepared food was consumed and enjoyed mightily by all. I was on clean-up detail, so I was pleased not to have to put any food away this night.

Berlin Catch-up Pt. 1

October 10, 11 & 12 – Due to technical difficulties, I was unable to complete the travelogue of our awesome trip overseas. So I’ll take up where I left off with some belated updates.

There were a couple of additional pix and notes about our day trip to Erfurt that I wasn’t able to include in the last post, Erfurt 2: On the Trail of Sponge Bob. So I’ll include them here, because we met and spoke to a very interesting character, who is an artist that works in leather, primarily. But the most interesting thing was her involvement with a group called “Club zur Rettung der Handschrift” or The Organization to Save Handwriting. We all thought these two involvements were interesting and Page, especially, spent a long time in her crowded shop, chatting with her in German. This is his portrait of her, Gabriele Trillhaase.

Photo credit: Page Chichester







After our excursion to Erfurt the day before, we rested and recovered on Tuesday, the 10th. We read books and vegged until dinner time, when we went to a place in the neighborhood called La Piadina, which Ini recommended. Evidently the primary serving of the eponymous restaurant is an Italian speciality—a freshly baked flatbread folded in half and filled with delightful veggies, meats, cheeses, and sauces. They also serve delicious soups, according to Ini. We watched the fellow behind the counter grab a wad of dough, run it through a few rollers to flatten and round it, then he tossed each on a griddle. When done, the bread was passed to the next person and he or she “built” each piadina to order. Unless you ordered meat, which in some cases was warmed, the only thing heated was the bread, and the veggies and cheese wilted and melted delightfully.

Our walk home was as interesting as the food, but we headed to bed after a nightcap and got an early start on sleep. Some of the things seen in shop windows:


Wednesday, October 11 was a day we all got ready for some visitors whom Ini and Lee knew from their days in the US – Maya and Mark, plus their young daughter whose name I never quite glommed onto. Ini had been friends with Maya’s mom, while Maya and Lee were the same age, but had attended different elementary schools in Roanoke back in the mid-90s. During the time that Lee had been at Hollins for a year, she and Maya had linked back up briefly, but other than that, they had not seen one another since they were about 10 years old. Now they’re both in their early thirties—Maya and Mark live in Charlottesville, Virginia. So there was quite a lot of catching up to be done during the gathering.

While Ini was at work, Jack and I did some chores around the apartment (tidying and such) and the “word” was that they’d arrive from the US (literally off the plane) around 3PM, and come to dinner around 5.

It truly was a lovely evening and Maya and Mark were excellent guests and fun for Jack and me to meet for the first time. Mark was in the city for a conference of doctors – he’s a tech developer who creates apps and “games” so users can track their health, fitness, and “watch” issues (like diabetes), with the data being directly transferrable to their medical professionals. Mark said he was going to have to “yell” at the conference attendants about using any sort of a point system as incentives for users to actually use and send their data. Mild-mannered Mark was not looking forward to “yelling” at anyone, but he said doctors all wanted to have users accumulate points so they’d stay involved with the health apps. Mark’s goal was to show them that this did not work, but that competing with friends or family, or with strangers in a set group (or even with themselves) would offer much more in the way of incentive than accumulating points that in the end, mean nothing because they’re not able to be “cashed in” like air miles. Too bad preventative health insurance companies could not take the points and lower a person’s premiums or offer some other measurable/usable point system that would have real-life returns.

Anyway, we had a lovely evening and Ini fixed a beautiful dinner, including rice, that the baby was totally loving, but also threw on the floor and seats and table – as babies are wont to do.

Thursday, October 12 – We decided to get out of the apartment, but the weather was still overcast, and if it wasn’t actually raining, it threatened rain. Ini had to work the late shift at the antiques store, so Page, Jack and I headed off to a photography exhibit Page wanted to see, and to stretch our legs back out after walking around Erfurt. To me, the exhibit was nothing to howl about, and for Page, who had told us his expectations were rather low about its value, he said his expectations were met.

But the walk was good and we stopped by the “Monkey Bar” right outside the zoo, and made a couple of other stops, one of which was to have a quick beer.



We had walked past this crazy hotel a hundred times before, but I figured this would be the last time I’d walk by, so I’d best get a photo. I could study it for hours and always pick out something new. Note Jack Nicholson in “The Shining” at the lower right.


After Ini returned from work, we all decided to go out to the Berlin Illumination, which was a big deal (possibly associated with the reunification celebrations?) but I thought it would be merely some buildings with different colored lights shining on them, and I was sort of ho-hum about it. Indeed, there were a couple that were simple illuminations as I’d imagined, but the main event was way downtown, and mostly shining on the buildings used by Humboldt University. Wow. Most of the pix here are stills, of course—but many of the illuminations were short films and the buildings were the “screens” that played a part in the images. I was not able to capture adequately some of the films that actually (and drastically) altered the appearance and architecture of the buildings themselves! Windows would be changed to have arched tops; columns would be added where there were none; subtle brick would be changed to mortared stone; and actual roof lines were changed. It was truly awesome and lots and lots of peeps were down in Mitte to see it all.



Not lights exactly, but I liked the shadow and the clock documenting our time there.





Across the street from the large square formed by buildings in the first set of pix, were additional Humboldt University structures, which showed a series of children’s artwork on the facades. As we waited for our bus to go home, I tried to capture as many in the series as I could, and I show here the most colorful of them.










These short videos show the scope of the broad square, plus a couple of the “films” we saw.




It was truly an amazing night, and I’m so glad we made the effort to get down there to see Berlin’s Festival of Lights.

Erfurt 1 – On the Trail of Martin Luther

October 9 –

We traveled out of Berlin on Monday, October 9, to a highly recommended town called Erfurt. Page was especially keen to go there, because this had been his first stop into East Germany on his photo excursion Beyond the Wall back in 1989. He and his fellow photographer stayed only one night in Erfurt, and he took only one photo of the city, from a tall block hotel then called the Inter-City Hotel (now the Radisson).

Photo credit: Page Chichester

We were not in a position to reproduce Page’s photo exactly (we did not go to the Radisson), but here’s a pic of a very small part of what we saw on Monday.

Page noted about these two structures, that they appear as most everything did in the DDR when he crossed the border in 1989, shortly after the wall fell.

Simply for context (and because I find it compelling) I’ve unearthed a bit of history of the city that I’ll include here, and then I have multitudes of photos to share—thus the break into two parts. We spent over 7 hours there, during a day with changing weather—although we did not get rained on and it was what the weather forecasters would have called mostly sunny. It was a grand excursion in an amazing place that is not (yet) overrun with tourists. We don’t regret a moment of it, although I’d recommend that, if you can possibly arrange it, try to choose a day that is not a Monday, when all the museums are closed.

Erfurt (pronounced “ear-fort” or “air-fort”) is the capital and largest city in the state of Thuringia, central Germany, in the wide valley of the Gera River. It is located 100 km (62 mi) south-west of Leipzig, a two-hour ICE train ride south-west of Berlin, and about 250 miles north of Munich. Combined with neighboring cities Weimar and Jena, Erfurt forms the central metropolitan area of Thuringia (approx. 500,000 inhabitants).

The Gera River has played a significant role in Erfurt’s history, architecture, commerce, and economy for hundreds of years.

Erfurt’s old town is one of the most intact medieval cities in Germany, having survived World War II with very little damage. We visited several of the many, many churches in the city (including one that was left un-reconstructed after its destruction by bombers), and also Petersburg Citadel, one of the largest and best preserved town fortresses in Europe. Its economy is based on agriculture, horticulture and microelectronics, and its central location has allowed it to become a logistics hub for Germany and central Europe. 

This is what we could see of the intentionally un-reconstructed church, with a creepy plaque (that many have touched and made shiny in spots) so that residents and visitors will never forget.

Erfurt hosts the second-largest trade fair in eastern Germany (after Leipzig) as well as the public television children’s channel KiKa (something like our non-commercial PBS Kids channel) shortened from der KinderKanal (the children’s channel). KiKa’s mascot is the puppet character Bernd das Brot, a chronically depressed loaf of bread. (This note will become more relevant in the second half of this post: Erfurt 2: On the Trail of Sponge Bob.)

All around town were these characters from the children’s channel programming, even in the middle of the river.

The name Erfurt was first mentioned in 742, as Saint Boniface founded the diocese. At the time, the town did not belong to any of the Thuringian states politically. But it quickly became the economic centre of the region. It was part of the Electorate of Mainz during the Holy Roman Empire, and later became part of the Kingdom of Prussia in 1802. From 1949 until 1990 Erfurt was part of the German Democratic Republic (DDR or East Germany).

A notable institution in Erfurt is the University of Applied Sciences (Fachhochschule Erfurt) founded in 1379, the first university to be established within the geographic area which constitutes modern-day Germany. It closed in 1816 and was re-established in 1994, with the main modern campus on what was a former teachers’ training college. Martin Luther (1483 – 1546) was the most famous student of the institution, studying there from 1501. He either stayed or returned to teach in Erfurt, and his translation and reproduction of the Bible in the German vernacular (instead of Latin) made it more accessible to the common man. This had a tremendous impact on both the church and German culture. It fostered the development of a standard version of the German language, added several principles to the art of translation, and influenced the writing of an English translation, the Tyndale Bible. In addition, his hymns influenced the development of singing in Protestant churches.

Other famous Erfurters include the Baroque composer Johann Pachelbel (1653-1706), the sociologist Max Weber (1864-1920), and Gunda Niemann (1966- ) three-times Olympic speed skating gold-medal winner.

The entryway to walk the most quaint of all the streets of Erfurt.
Quirky art is tucked here and there and everywhere.
The cellar of this tavern, called the Red Horn, has been documented to have been built in 1386, but archaeologists date the roof and upper part of the structure to 1301. It was restored between 1993 and 1995.

So. There was/is plenty of history in this lovely small city, and we hit the highlights. But all four of us (Page, Ini, Jack, and I) began early by catching the S-Bahn to Berlin Hauptbahnhof to meet Lee in time to catch our ICE (high-speed inter-city) train by 8:20. At about 10:30A we stepped off the train in Erfurt, and walked toward the center of town. Our return tickets dictated that we get back to the Bahn for embarkation (with a train change heading back) by 6:30P, and our day ended (after parting with Lee at the Hauptbahnhof) with our usual walk from the S-Bahn station to the apartment at about 10:30-ish.

Without further adieu (except for comments in the captions) here are half of the scenes and sights from walking along the Trail of Martin Luther.

This fellow had bells around his ankle and so, as he walked through the streets, he jingled and jangled. He was a seller of sourdough pretzels dressed for the historic part. Page spoke to him and bought one of his delicious offerings, and was kind enough to share it with us.
Photo credit: Page Chichester

We passed a lady focused on removing the many stuck-on advertisements from lamp and sign posts in this neighborhood. With her fingernails.

I’ve no clue.

Half of a brewing tun used as a planter in a Biergarten.

By about noon, we’d wandered back to the main square—a wide, cobbled road (with many, many trolleys and sightseeing busses all going helter-skelter) with lovely houses and businesses along it. I was taken by the critters included in this architectural element below a bay window on one building.

Rounding a corner we saw this long truck packed with colorful objects, trying to turn into a fair area that completely covered up the usually open square.
In the next moment, we figured out that workers were dis-assembling the Ferris Wheel (placing the colorful cars by crane onto the semi trucks) and the carnival was breaking up. It was fascinating to watch the take-down of the enormous structure. Jack wanted to set up shop and just watch the process.
But we went to a Octoberfest-themed restaurant for lunch, and were served by a waitress in a dirndl, who ended up drinking more beers than we had. This image was on the wall behind me as we ate burgers and fries and had our beer. The fellow reminds me of my friend Jim K, who always signs his emails, “Prosit!”

After lunch, we headed uphill to a knoll where several churches reside, and Page was hard at work. The views from this hilltop were great, but not as good as those we captured from the citadel/fortress, which was our next stop, and the beginning of Erfurt 2.

Sunday Kultour

The weather offered us a significant break (actual blue skies!!) on Sunday, October 8, so we set off for a cultural tour of Ini’s sister’s neighborhood, Friedenau. The neighborhood itself was lovely, and for this organized “open house” studio tour, artists and artisans opened their doors to the public starting at 1PM. We had a grand time, and saw lots and lots of strange and beautiful things, met some strange and beautiful people, and thoroughly enjoyed our day. Reminded me so much of the Floyd Artisan Tour event, only for this folks walked or biked to each (where in Floyd, you have to drive, thus the studio/shop participants must offer some decent parking areas).

The booklet/pamphlet itself, produced in support of this two-day event, was impressive.

We didn’t cover the entire neighborhood, but each of the numbered dots is a home, shop, or studio that invited folks in off the street.
We visited both of these places, but I show it here as an example of the published coverage in this significant book, which had only one advertisement that I saw.
Scenes as we strolled around the neighborhood.

Amazing squirrels hereabouts. That soft-focus, almost “air-brushed” red behind the squirrel, which appears disconnected from it, is its long, fluffy tail.

Arch over a school’s doorway. The printed words mean, essentially, “Reap what ye sow.”
An entryway design in terra cotta tiles.

Jack spent much of the day getting all geeky about the variety of scooters parked everywhere. Matthias joined him to admire an old Vespa (I think).
Sculpture or discarded fruit?

I liked the design of this veterinarian’s “sign.”

There were several memorable stops along our way. At this art school for kids (the bottom info in the photo of the booklet page above), the walls were papered with their colorful renderings of (mostly) animals and scenes in their neighborhoods. As we arrived, a young man was having his photo taken standing near the wall where his art was hanging. He shyly responded to Ini’s inquiry that his work was the hawk that I (of course) photographed. He also had one other, but I didn’t see which he pointed to.

Practically next door was the woodworking shop of Michael Wintjen (shown in the top panel of the booklet page above), where he displayed a sampling of unfinished veneer, and the same piece finished in several different final forms. Beautiful wood, but the photos didn’t turn out so you could tell anything about the finishes. Again, Jack went all geeky on us (he’s a clamp nut and Michael had lots and lots of clamps) about matching wood grains and tools.

This was just one of two entire walls filled with clamps. The craftsman was working on a repair of a small box (maybe the housing of a clock?) that was porcupined with clamps. I’ve never seen so many clamps on one collection of wood pieces before.
The woodworker’s wife or partner is a painter in black and white and gray.

We spent the most time in a violin-maker’s shop. The two women there were quite happy to talk about their craft, and we listened and Jack asked a lot of questions while we admired their work.

The artist showed and explained the differences between a Baroque violin and a Classic violin. Much was in German, so I missed most of the gist. Beautiful work, though.

Selfie with Matthias and framed violin.

The Berlin Blow

October 5 – 7 –

Thursday, October 5 we set out to visit my niece, Lee, in her east-city neighborhood and to have a quick look in her new apartment (new to us, anyway — I think she’s been there for 5 or so years).

Ini had to work that afternoon into the evening, and was not expected to get back until around 7P. When we set out, we were sure there would be plenty of time upon our return to fix up some grub and I could do some catching up on blog posts before Ini got home from work. Ini checked the weather forecast before we departed (well-armed with umbrellas and rain gear) and there were some very high winds expected to hit the country including Berlin later that evening and night. But how bad could it be? We were in a big city, after all — not a seaside resort or anything.

Many of the S-Bahn (surface trains within the city) cars have special places for commuters with bicycles to sit.

Best laid plans, and all that . . .

After quickly seeing Lee’s very comfortable and interesting apartment (she has some furniture from her German grandparents, from Ini’s early years, from my mother, and other inventive and attractive space-saving items) we went to a local African-Italian fusion restaurant, decorated with beautiful textiles and bright colors, to have a very enjoyable lunch. Apparently, the proprietors are a couple of which one is African and one Italian, and the meld of those traditions delivered very interesting food combinations. 

Outside of our lunch-spot was this bird house. Just like our Roomba, including the rounded door and circular window! Jack posted the pic to our trailer group’s FB page noting what a great “boondocking” spot we found in Berlin, but that you have to watch that first step in the morning.

Next, we had a very nice (although off-and-on wet) stroll through Lee’s neighborhood, which is artsy and young, full of baby strollers and young creatives, but as with most previously run-down and “re-discovered” neighborhoods in many cities, was becoming “gentrified.” There was one building, however, that remained as-was during the DDR years—full of squatters and anti-capitalists—so we could see what the area was like before the artists moved in and began making the area popular.


This was a former-East water tower that’s been converted into living and commercial spaces, with a hollow core where the water used to be.

Sign outside a “natural food” store for dogs. Barf? Srsly? I know. Right?
We enjoyed a quick exterior tour of an enormous ex-brewery repurposed as a multi-cultural space, with dance, theater, art, sculpture, museum, and more taking up the many aspects of the brewery.

I believe Lee translated this for us as the Bottled Beer Department.
Not sure what these creepy sculptures represented, flanking a garage area — possibly the original cask house of the brewery?

This was the stableyard of the brewery. “Heuboden” = hayloft. And Lagerhaus speaks for itself.
Above the actual stables where the beer delivery wagon draft horses lived, was a “wash & changing room” for the brewery workers.

The weather seriously deteriorated after we left the brewery and began our trek to “Mitte” or central city. The wind definitely picked up and the rain returned.

These were the final photos I was able to take along our walk, due to the ever-worsening weather. By the time I took the final photo below, it was in the 3 to 4:30 range.

These chairs are made of strips and pieces from recycled tires.

I hope the construction workers got off their scaffolding safely, because by this time the wind was gusting and swirling and knocking things asunder to a truly frightening degree.

The hurricane-force winds and horizontal rains descended and were intensified through the urban “canyons.” At one narrow spot along the sidewalk, there was a panel truck parked on one side of us and a wall on the other, and Little Lee, who is tall and thin, was nearly upended on the ground due to a gust. Luckily, Page and Jack were flanking her and caught her before she left her feet.

It was so bad, that umbrellas would not work, so we had to just hang onto our hats and plow forward, keeping our faces averted as much as possible from the pelting rain and leaf shreds, pieces of paper, sand, construction bits, and such, that were airborne and flying into our faces. At one moment, you were leaning into the wind, and the next, it whipped around to your backside and you nearly fell flat on your face before you could shift your weight to lean backwards.

Chairs, signs, large branches, and city detritus began flying everywhere. Outside cafes are popular, but their tables, chairs, umbrellas were all moving with gusts that scooted everything around if it didn’t turn it over. We saw several of these temporary parking signs along construction zones (with heavy weights on their bottoms) just toppled over and crashed on the vehicles parked nearby.

When Lee was nearly blown off her feet we headed for the S-bahn. We’d just boarded our train when the announcement was made that all public train transport was stopping because of the winds and downed trees. Lee’s situation was similar, although she was nearer home. We shared our goodbyes and good-lucks and headed different directions.

Jack, Page, and I tried to find a taxi. We headed to a bus stop near the Bundestag. Waiting there (with trees swaying alarmingly and the flags over the parliament building shredding before our eyes) for 25 or so minutes, we became aware that the far lane of traffic was backed up as far as we could see, and we realized that the near lane was empty. So there was an accident or downed tree or such somewhere along the route, the near lane, that the bus would have to take to pick us up. Meanwhile, the tours of the Bundestag dome were shut down, and the bus shelter was crammed with people.

Finally saw a bus that stopped at the shelter before ours, but everyone got off and no one got on. The bus did not move. A person from that bus informed us that all busses were stopping because it was unsafe. Our final options were to find a free taxi, head to the underground trains, which (our informant reported) were still running, or walk across Berlin to get home. At this point, it was 5:30 or 6PM. 

We headed to the U-station and got to sit down for two brief stops to the end of the line, at the The Hauptbahnhof, hoping for a taxi, but the lines for taxis were enormous. Somewhere along this time, we understood that the majority of the tracks above ground were blocked, but the U-trains were still running, at least to the extent that they could stay underground (some pop up for parts of their routes).

Page thought that if we could get ourselves to the huge intersection surrounding the Winged Victory monument near the Tiergarten, we might be able to find a taxi (this was the opposite direction we’d just ridden, but we walked this time). Another 20 or so minutes hike got us there, and as we arrived, the sun peeked below the clouds, low on the horizon, and lit up the Winged Victory statue. We took this as a hopeful sign, but alas. No taxis.

Page stood at the side of the road facing backward, trying to even see a taxi to hale. No dice. We walked along that road in the direction of home for a very long time, with Page watching behind. Limbs and debris impeded our walk. Everyone, it seemed was walking somewhere.

In the end, we walked the 8-ish miles home—most of it seemingly into the 120kph winds and rain. It was well after dark as we trudged the last few blocks to Heilbronner Str. After our 2-3 miles of fun strolling earlier that day, we totaled about 10 or 11 miles of walking nearly the length of the city during The Berlin Blow. We were some tired and miserable folk when we dragged into the apartment around 7:30/8:00. Ini, luckily, had gotten a ride home from work from her boss.

The next day, the trains were still only spottily mobile. I’ve found that one cannot do much of anything but local shopping without the Bahns. We heard on the radio that 4 people had been killed, mostly from trees falling on cars. The great heartbreak was that one of those 4 was a young journalist that Ini said was one of Berlin’s best political reporters. Page remarked that the day reminded him of when snow falls in the deep southern US — everything shuts down and no one can get anywhere.

Jack and I (and Page) were still exhausted on Friday the 6, although we did get outside to stretch our legs a bit, to get whatever ingredients we could find for me to make a Petie casserole (family comfort food) from memory, for us to share Friday night. Many limbs in a nearby park, plus a nearly-uprooted tree, caused the city to cordon-off the area until they could get in and clear up the threatening mess (they had to cut down the leaning tree). 

Happily, it was a quiet, restful day, recuperating from our exertions of The Blow.

On Saturday, we all felt we needed another walk-about to limber our sore muscles and joints, and the weather was at least marginal, so we all four headed to the Turkish market to wander and see what we could see. It was crowded, and after one full recon of the offered wares, we decided to grab lunch at the falafel stand in the market. Jack and I fell back, looking at some nuts we thought we might get for snacking (but didn’t) and we lost Ini and Page in the crush. A quick cell call later, we were reunited and had a very nice falafel pita with good veggies and sauce.

Ini and Page (and niece Lee) were expected over at Ini’s sister’s apartment to see Celina (Ini’s niece, Maria’s daughter, Lee’s cousin) who has a not-quite-two-year-old, and is expecting another baby in the very near future. Jack and I, in consideration of his cold, stayed back so as not to give the extended family any unwanted germs. We re-heated the Petie casserole and hit the hay early. 

Ini’s Garden House

In Berlin (and possibly other cities) the Deutsche Bahn offers parcels in their easements to folks who would like to maintain a garden. This is a highly-contested opportunity that is mostly handed down within families for decades, however, it is expensive. DB continues to own the land, but the user must purchase (and maintain) a small shelter on the property. Water is provided to the property during the summer, but all must agree to help DB turn it off for the winter. One’s garden house can have a sleeping place, bathroom and kitchen, but the owner is not allowed to rent the space nor stay in the space in any permanent style.

Ini has, within the past year, taken the leap to get a garden house. It’s a significant risk to those who take the plunge, because DB can change their track locations and easements, and other city construction can cramp a location that was once open but private. Also, security is often a risk, although the areas are always keyed. 

Ini’s spot has been maintained for about 40 years prior to her “adoption” of it, and while the structure and most of the plantings and landscaping remain as-was, she has totally renovated the interior of the garden house to make it more amenable for family use. She and her daughter, Lee, have also changed the annual planting areas with raised beds for vegetable gardening. Lee has been mostly involved with the growing of veggies, a passion she’s had since she was a very young girl. 

Ini and Lee, with the help of Lee’s friend, Matthias (who has discovered a new outlet from his professorial vocation in weeding and learning the difference between intended plants and unintended plants) have created a truly lovely spot, and it’s obvious from not only the small touches and artistic additions, but also how lovingly it is used and appreciated, that it is an essential aspect of urban life to them now. They go over somewhat regularly to grill and share dinners, some of which was grown on site. Matthias has been learning, “hands-on” style, how to be the grill-meister for their gathered meals.

I had not downloaded the photos of our visit to Ini’s Garden House from my camera when I uploaded the October 4 blog — indeed, Jack stayed at the apartment and slept some of his cold away. But I had forgotten that Page, Ini, and I walked over to the garden house and checked things out, Page and I seeing it for the first time.

Ini’s Number 8, from the front “yard.”
Standing at the front door, the main room, with a bed that pulls out to be able to sleep 2 on the right. The kitchen door is on the left.
In the kitchen, on the left is the cooking/cleaning space. A small fridge is under the counter in the foreground.
Kitchen right is the counter space and storage. The window opens to a narrow covered “patio” where the small grill sits.
To the left of this little table is the bathroom with toilet and small shower.
Another little “breakfast table” sits under the front window. Behind the main entry door is a wall full of storage cabinets with doors for all the accoutrements of living, eating, and cleaning.
Stairs carry us to the tiered back, where there are sunken and raised beds for a huge variety of perennials and annuals.
‘Tis the season for dahlias. Ini cut a few of the lovely blossoms to bring with us back to the apartment.
This rosemary bush was inherited and it’s a monster, although the photos does not show it. Standing on its level, it rises about 3 feet.
This mobile, made by a Meadows of Dan friend and hung in my mother’s art studio for many years before she moved last year, now has a new home in Ini’s fruit tree, high in the last tier of the back garden.

This garden shed, near the fruit tree, is one of two exterior storage areas on the property. Nearby on the highest tier are a water reclamation tub and a compost area.
The neighbor also has many dahlias and beautiful flowering plants.
The front yard from the door. The trains are not horribly close, and raised over the lower easement areas, so they’re not terribly loud. The front has a lovely patio that get southern exposure and Ini reports is always quite warm, so she’s set up a nice seating/dining/lounging area, with a pull-out awning if required. On the day we visited, it was just a scosch too chilly and cloudy to be completely comfortable sitting outside.
These pretty little succulents were growing in some small stone crevices on the front patio.
You cannot tell from this photo, but these little guys were about as big as the end of my thumb.
During our 15-minute walk back to Heilbronner Strausse, we passed through a lovely neighborhood, some very strange art, and some other garden house/easements (not nearly as well-kept as Ini’s group of units) that were frighteningly close to the RR tracks.

Berlin Part Two

October 3 & 4 – 

We enjoyed a lovely day at the International Garden Exhibition in the community of Marzahn on October 3. They were exhibiting special displays of organic and sustainable living choices—not to mention the acres and acres of plantings and landscaping that are there year-round. The area had really imaginative play areas for children, a display of a water reclamation and cleaning project that used African catfish (which have a lung!!) to get munge out of water, leaving it good for human consumption.

The best display, however, was one all about the use of bamboo—a fast-growing, renewable, and versatile plant—for construction projects, especially in third world countries, but not exclusively there. It was quite fascinating.

Another display showed how trash, especially plastic trash, can be re-used as a building material, especially on rooftops for waterproofing. 

In addition there were garden styles (Japanese, Chinese, English, etc.) and plant-focused gardens (rhododendron, mushroom, rose, herb, etc.). We wandered a long time, and even had to take refuge in a display when the rain came down with serious force for a little while. But generally, the day was bright and lovely in between showers, and it was a marvelous walk-about.

Page on the Bridge One (hint: he’s the one with the camera on his face).
Page on the Bridge Two

Near the exit was an enormous greenhouse with tropical plants from all over the Southern Hemisphere growing lushly in pots and in the ground. The orchids were legion.

On Wednesday, October 4, we didn’t do much of anything except read, catch up with correspondence, plan our week, and rest. During our walk at the gardens, Jack’s cold seemed to either relapse or he caught another one, so giving him a rest day was much appreciated and we all enjoyed the downtime.

Berlin Part One

Sep. 30 – Oct. 2 –

While the cycling group had a free day in Dresden on the last day of September, Jack and I mostly stayed in and packed for our Berlin adventure. We caught a few pix from the fire-bombed city’s rebirth as a tourist destination, but just didn’t get inspired to click the shutter much.

I wonder what Allen might have said if any of us had decorated our bikes like this fellow’s.
In the city, there were a few of these excavations fenced off from the public. If you stood far enough away, the fence material showed what used to stand there, before the firebombing. We never discovered what the excavations were all about: archaeological, clearing way for construction, or exactly what.

Our travel day to Berlin began with our last breakfast with the group, where we said farewell to those not headed to Berlin for the optional part of the tour. We taxied over to the train station with Laura, Craig, and Michael and caught the train from Dresden to Berlin’s central station, the Hauptbahnhof. Actually Michael got off one stop earlier to meet a friend.

We didn’t see Craig and Laura because we ran to catch the S-bhan over to Charlottenburg, and Craig and Laura were taking a taxi to the hotel near Checkpoint Charlie where the group was staying for the Berlin option. 

Then the rain began.

In just five stops, we exited again, but lost our bearings and left the station platforms at the wrong end. While we were sorting ourselves out, Page, Ini, and Lee wee awaiting our arrival at the correct exit . . . But we missed each other. Finally getting ourselves righted, we headed to 11 Heilbronner Strasse and rang the bell. Nothing. The rain came harder.

Another resident exited, so we didn’t have to wait in the rain too long, and once inside Jack phoned Page on his cell number, and we discovered our missed connection. It is not a long walk from the Bahn, however, and they came along shortly.

Had a lovely lunch of hot soup and all the fixins, and caught up with happenings, and then rested a while. My niece, Lee had to leave to get some work done back home, and Ini had an evening out with friends, so Page, Jack and I had a reprise of the lovely lentil soup from earlier.

The next day early, Jack and I set off to join the remains of the group for the tour of the Bundestag dome. We tried to get from the Hauptbahnhof to the Bundestag, but were unlucky with the U-55 (subway train) as the platform was closed off. So we walked over and joined up with the group for our appointment to enter, first the security checkpoint, and then the dome itself.

The dome of the German parliament building serves many functions, and combined with solar panels on the flat roofs of adjacent buildings, makes the structure nearly (but not quite) “off grid.” The dome itself vents warmer air from below, it captures rainwater and extracts both cool and warm from it to assist with climate control, and it focuses and concentrates (and shades when necessary) natural light so the primary meeting area is most lit naturally. Visitors circle along a ramp with an audio guide and see lots of the scenery around the structure and then circle back down, exit the dome and can walk around the flat rooftop to take pictures of the area.
This cone of mirrors plus the “shade” you can see some at the upper left (and rotates around to follow the sun when necessary), are the light-handling system.
Brandenburg Gate from The Bundestag.
The crazy roof of the Pottsdammerplatz, an enormous shopping area.
The Teirgarten with Winged Victory statue above the trees (and at the intersection of a million roads where traffic is insane).
Selfie with mirrors at The Bundestag.

Afterward, I took a photo of an interesting memorial to the 96 elected officials serving in the Reichstag (Parliment) during the Weimar Republic, who were murdered by National Socialists. The memorial is right outside the security checkpoint for the Bundestag.

After that, the group walked around “Mitte” or Central Berlin, and saw some sights that Jack and I had seen before, but it was fun hanging out with the group. We stopped for a coffee/tea/chocolate milk because it was damp and chill. When it began raining in earnest, Jack and I split off from the crowd and said our goodbyes to our cycling adventure “family” for this trip, anyway. We hope we’ll have the opportunity to ride with many of them again.

The statue above the Brandenburg Gate has been stolen and removed a few times throughout its history (notably by Napoleon) because it’s been seen as a symbol of might and strength. Actually, it is a symbol of peace, something we can all pray for in this day and age.
Rooftop gardens and gathering places abound in Berlin.

This cross-stone (“Khachkar” in Armenian) was erected in memory of the innocent victims of the Armenian genocide during World War I in the Ottoman Empire. It was here, in St. Hedwig’s Cathedral, that the first Commemoration Service in Germany to honor the victims was held, at the request of the German-Armenian Society on May 14, 1919.

That night, Page and Jack donned aprons and fixed our dinner of chicken Marsala (after heading to the grocery store to get the ingredients). Silliness (and as usual, excellent food) reigned.