Today I took a person day to wander around Berlin. With the doors open now to the public at IFA and it being the weekend, the place is a useless madhouse for trying to get any real work done. (At least that was the case last year – and, I’m told, every year…)
I walked to Tiergarten, which is a huge public park, not terribly far from where I’m staying. Maybe a mile, maybe more. It’s quite lush with a lot of walking path – and bike paths. Biking is huge in Berlin; they even have separately-paved areas for bicycles on sidewalks throughout the city. Woe be the person (usually a tourist – he says from experience) who doesn’t realize this, or forgets it, and the speeding bicyclist come bearing down and frantically ringing his bell, and perhaps shouting if you…er, if the person doesn’t realize who it’s directed at.
The park used to be a royal hunting grounds, until one of the many Kaiser folks decided it should be turned into a public park. Quite a few statues are laced throughout, some of which just sort of pop up out of nowhere, along with an occasional water basin. Among the nicer statues was one dedicated to Haydn, Mozart and Beethoven. As I said, the park huge, and major streets divide it in places. At the edge of one such split, there’s a fascinating monument on Strasse des 17, Juni, one of the major east-west roads in Berlin. It’s set back from the street, but looms large, and there’s a soldier, tanks and canons pointed out, and from afar you sort of start to scratch your head a bit – but the reality is not only far more palatable, but almost as strange. It’s a memorial that the Soviets had built in 1945 honoring their war dead. Considering that they were part of the victors, it’s a surprising structure to see in the middle of the city.
The River Spree attractively flows the length of Berlin, adding some charm to areas that aren’t inherently all that charming, but part of its route is through Tiergarten and it’s a lovely match. Also in the middle of the park is the Schloss Bellevue – which is the presidential palace. Not a bad place to live if you’ve got to have the job.
Heading back, I had my soft pretzel und apple for lunch. Got a little disoriented around the Grosser Stern “square” (it’s really a roundabout) in the center of the park, with its towering Siegessäule column that commemorates some Prussian-Danish victory in 1864. It had stood in front of the Reichstag when they moved it here in 1938, probably hoping for it to bring good luck in other victories. (Tough break on that, fellas.) Apparently it’s only good for after-the-fact honors and during a better time.
I took a detour route along a canal. It’s not the River Spree – much smaller – though it was nice to see a rowing club pass by.
After about four hours of walking in the warm sun, and as I neared the hotel, I was in no rush to get back, and it seemed like a brief rest would be nice, so I plopped down on a low ledge, just past the Berlin Philharmonic. As I sat there, not a typical resting place, I guess, and looking somewhat beat (I guess), a very nice Berliner saw me, and came over, “Allo. Everything okay??” I almost laughed, but he was so thoughtful I didn’t want him to take it the wrong way. I just smiled warmly and said I was fine, just relaxing. “Ah, good,” he smiled back without breaking stride and headed on. A pleasant way to end the walk.
But one last thing is worth noting. I don’t know what this building is. It could have been a modern art museum, however I think it’s an architectural firm. And it just goes to show how cultures and their languages are oh-so different.
And then I officially rested.
Robert J. Elisberg is a political commentator, screenwriter, novelist, tech writer and also some other things that I just tend to keep forgetting.
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