|As you look at these photos, you can draw one of two conclusions: Either the color
resolution on my camera isn't very good, or Berlin is kind of a sad, gray place. In the city's
defense, I will say that I was there in January. I saw the sun once--for about thirty seconds
during the week I was there.
I had a lovely room overlooking the Spree (left). Although I've always prided as being
someone who doesn't care much about the hotels where I stay on trips because I claim that
I don't go on vacations to stay in hotels, I was very happy to return to the Abion every night
after a long day of walking--sometimes in snow and sleet--have a nice long sauna and hit
the nice comfy bed.
| of it, one the bleakest things I saw in the city was
the recently restored Reichstag, where the German parliament, or Bundestag, meets.
Like everything else, the original Neo-Classical building (center) was pounded by bombs in WW2 and left to
rot until Germany was reunified in 1989. When was restored as the capital, the old building was given a
billion dollar makeover, which included a hideous open-air glass dome (photo left). The giant metal shaft
(photo right) could probably symbolize a lot of things, but the one they're going with is that allows natural
light in to the Bundestag's chamber.
Because Germans are a hardy lot, the dome was packed with bundled-up schoolchildren when I visited.
Less crowded was the surprisingly good restaurant on the roof of the building. Like all the non-traditional
German restaurants where I ate on the trip, the menu was much too eclectic--and downright off-putting.
(Would it kill them to serve a bratwurst at the Bundestag? I know for certain that you can get a hamburger at
the U. S. Capitol!)
|Which is not to say that I was deprived of bratwurst on the trip.
My visit wasn't nearly as bleak as it's starting to sound. It happened to coincide with Berlin's annual Green Fair. It's
a combination Garden Show and exposition of food, wine and beer from all over the globe. Every region of every
country in Europe is represented as well as lots of more exotic and far-flung locales. For instance, the Foster's beer
booth was serving kangaroo bratwurst with its beer (left). I opted for the traditional German fare (center), and the
truly adventurous could look into what the Americans were selling (right).
|Nor did the wonderful food end there.
While the three "world class" tourist restaurants I visited were uniformly disappointing, I ate well. Each day
began and ended with a fresh pretzel from the kiosk by the U-Bahn station I passed going and coming every
time I left the hotel. They were wonderful.
Also, in the process of walking around the city, I found the famous Fassbender and Rauch Chocolatiers. They
claim to be the "largest chocolate in the world." I don't know what that means, but I'm guessing that scale model
chocolate replicas of the HMS Titanic and the Brandenberger Tor have something to do with it.
|Until this trip to Berlin, my only
contact with the Holocaust had
been listening to an elderly woman
talk about her experiences during a
family vacation to Galveston in
1968 and a visit to Dachau in 1991.
Naturally, I'd read a lot about it and
thought I knew a few things, but
nothing could really prepare me for
a visit to the nightmare that is
It's just a short ride out a commuter
train from the center of Berlin, and
when you get to the town of
hundreds of thousands of
prisoners--who were transported
here by train--walk through the
middle of the town to the camp.
It's such a pretty little town--you just
wanted to strangle everybody who
lived there during the war who
looked out their windows every day
to see prisoners marching toward
|Sachsenhausen is in what used to
be East Germany, so when the
Communists got around to erecting a
memorial to the victims of the camp,
they acknowledged the Communists
--who were compelled by the Nazis to
wear red triangles on their clothing.
|Three men or women to a narrow
bunk--stacked three and four high.
Can you imagine?
|One of the few structures in Berlin
to survive the war was the Olympic
Stadium (as it appeared in 1936
above) where Jesse Owens ran to
fame in front of Hitler and his
It's a beautiful stadium, and like
everything else in Berlin, it's just
undergone a billion dollar
|I didn't do this, but one of the more
unique ways to see Berlin is by
Trabi, the awful--but curiously
cute--car that the East Germans
built out of Play-Doh and
cardboard. Now you can rent them
and drive them around town.
Every day, I saw a little Trabi safari
tooling down the street. The
drivers looked like they were
having a blast.
|Of course, seeing the place on a
cold, bleak, snowy day--the kind of
weather that would have killed
hundreds of people in the camp in
their unheated bunkhouses--made
the experience even more