Saturday, August 31, 2013

Arts & Culture (or, "What's Opera, Doc?")


Have you ever found yourself driving down a street in Berlin, your tour guide’s rental car radio tuned to a classical station, when all of a sudden Wagner’s “Ride of the Valkyries” comes blasting out of the speakers?

Nah, me neither.  At least until this afternoon, when the most iconic work of one of Germany’s most iconic composers kicked off a very surreal few minutes that ended when we sighted this—

Okay; enough Wagner jokes for one day (or one lifetime).  We started our Saturday the way we start most Saturdays, by getting a little cardio work in, namely by climbing Berlin’s Victory Column!

Before you start to think we hauled out the bungee cords and climbing gear, rest assured that we climbed to the top of the 220 foot tower on the inside (285 steps, to be exact), where we were afforded amazing views of a large chunk of the city, including one of the car Tony rented (you know, the one that played Wagner)—

No, we’re not the Smart car.  I don’t think three people and three pieces of luggage could fit in a Smart car.  Heck, I’m not even sure if three people and three pieces of luggage could fit into THREE Smart cars.  Ours is the car in front of it, a Skoda made in the Czech Republic.  The car got us around to all kinds of places throughout the day, even a few that had nothing to do with Richard Wagner or his music.

Oops.  I forgot I wasn’t going to make any more Wagner jokes.

We went to a bunch of places today that dealt with both World War II (a “terror” museum build on the grounds of the old Gestapo building) and the Cold War (Checkpoint Charlie).  Another Cold War relic we visited was one of the last remaining pieces of the Berlin War, which has now been turned into an art museum called The East Side Gallery—

When the Wall was crumbling down people painted all over parts of it, which is why they saved it from destruction.  Unfortunately, the act of painting on buildings and structures seems to have continued unabated since then—

There seems to be graffiti everywhere in Berlin, a problem Tony says the city government has tried to deal with in the past, but as soon as they clean it up something new appears.  Think of our recent “Gerko” problem in Marquette, multiply it by a thousand, and you kind of get an idea of what authorities here are trying to do.

On another subject altogether, you know what we bought today?  Kudos if you said chocolate!

That’s part of one mere wall of the Berlin Ritter Sport store, an entire store devoted one of Germany’s most popular chocolate bars (a few types of which are available in the U.S.)  The thought of an entire store devoted to Ritter Sport even tempted Tony, an avowed non-chocoholic, to explore it, and then walk out with five bars, which he promptly left in the car so he wouldn’t be tempted to eat them in his room tonight.

As you can tell, we haven’t totally corrupted him.  At least not yet.

 A few more random pictures to wrap up the day, the first an example of how they deliver mail here in Berlin—

and no more than five steps from the Deutsche Post bike was this—

That’s right—it’s a Euro Store, the equivalent to our Dollar stores, and yes, we did shop there, if only because they have German Dr. Pepper here, Dr. Pepper that tastes like Dr. Pepper used to in the U.S. before they both changed the formula and started adding high fructose corn syrup to it.


Tomorrow we head from Berlin to Leipzig the long way—with two stops in Poland.  Have a great night!

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