Friday, August 30, 2013

Ich Bin Ein Berliner

FRIDAY, 8/31:

Which translates loosely (and with apologies to John F. Kennedy), to “look—we made it to Berlin.  And it only took 21 hours!”

Actually, the three flights over here were no problem at all.  For the first time ever, we left at our scheduled time and arrived early for each of the three flights, we means we got to cram a lot of stuff into our first day in Germany, which today meant visiting oodles of historic places.

First stop?  The Olympic Stadium--

Which is where the great Jesse Owens put a megalomaniacal dictator to shame, at least for a few days in 1936.  You can tell the Germans still have a fondness for the four-time gold medal winner, as evidenced by the first names you see on the list of winners from the ’36 games—

And the fact that one of the streets outside the stadium is named “Jesse Owens Allee” in his honor.  They still use the stadium for many different things, including the home matches of Berlin’s professional soccer team.  They also let tourists climb a big bell tower, an act that enables you to see most of the city, including some very impressive examples of Soviet-era architecture—

That’s one of the interesting things about Berlin, I think.  Since the wall fell in 1989, it’s a city that’s reinvented itself.  In fact, it’s still in the process of reinvention, as evidenced by the construction cranes that populate the city.  However, they still remember their past—

See that cobblestone line in the street?  That follows the line where the Berlin Wall ran during those dark days of a divided city.  In fact, one of the things we’re doing tomorrow is going to see one of the two remaining sections of the Berlin Wall, one that’s been turned into an art museum.

I’m thinking that should be interesting, right?

By the way, before I forget, one more thing about Olympic Stadium.  I have to show you one of the other uses for its massive parking lot—

They offer truck driving lessons there.  I guess it really IS an all-purpose stadium, isn’t it?

Another stop today was Germany’s Reichstag building--

The Reichstag is German equivalent to the U.S. Capitol building, with one very important exception.  I don’t think the U.S. Capitol has topless sunbathers on its front lawn, like the Reichstag does.  Now, I could be wrong, but I don’t think I am.  At least not on this occasion.

Finally, to help us say “good night” for tonight, here’s our special guest star, Berlin Bear—

This is an individual who wears a bear costume (much like the Farmer Q’s apple) by the Brandenburg gate all day every day.  And I feel sorry for the woman or man inside of it—it was pushing 80 today, and I’m thinking that suit doesn’t have an awful lot of air conditioning in it.

That’s it for today; we need to get some sleep for the first time since Wednesday night.  More from Berlin tomorrow, including a visit to the world’s largest department store and the world’s only store devoted to Ritter Sport chocolates.    Yup; it should be a very yummy day.

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