Day 2  

    September 3  Saturday 


    We slept over 12 hours last night.  We didn’t wake up until almost 7:30.  We had granola, yogurt, a ham and cheese croissant and a pastry in our apartment.  Our apartment kitchen was well furnished  including a dishwasher , but no coffee pot. There was an electric tea kettle and packs of instant coffee.  We asked about it at the front desk and they said they didn’t have any coffee pots.  I guess we will have to use instant coffee, at least for a starter for the next few days.


    We have anticipated for months our visit to Berlin during which we have read a lot about the tragic history of this wonderful town.   Berlin received very heavy damage during World War I, but nothing compared to the devastation of the city and the lives of its inhabitants during World War II.  It always seems unbelievable that Hitler could have caused so much destruction in the world.   One of the readings that I “enjoyed” before our trip was a series of four novels by David Downing written about an English journalist who lived in Berlin from 1936 to 1945.  The books were named after metro stations: Zoo Station, Silesian Station, Stettin Station and Potsdam Station.  He graphically describes what it was like to live in Berlin during the Nazi reign.  My wife read a series by Jonathan Rabb about life during World War I beginning with a book called “Rosa”.

    Then there was, of course, the period during the Cold War with the Berlin Wall separating East and West Berlin.  We found many symbols of reconciliation throughout Berlin, in fact, in all of the cities that we visited as they were all victims of the war and their citizens unmercifully slaughtered.  One could write many pages about the history of Berlin, but many more capable authors have done that, so I will leave more details to them.

    So, having recovered some from our flight, we start out on an exciting adventure to explore as much of Berlin that we can in a four days.

     We left our apartment about 9:00 AM, and walked about a block to the Hackescher Market S-bahn station and caught the tram to the next stop and changed for another tram that took us to the Brandenburg Gate. Berlin has a wonderful transportation system.  There is the S-bahn which are the trains/trams that run above ground and the U- bahn which are underground.  Plus there are buses and regular street trains.

    We had to walk a couple of blocks to the Brandenburg gate.  It was spectacular.  I am anxious to make my model.


    The Brandenburg Gate was begun in 1788 and finished three years later.  It was built as arch of peace.  It was modeled after the entrance to the Acropolis temple in Athens.  A sculpture of the goddess Viktoria and her chariot on the top was stolen by Napoleon in 1806 but later returned.  During the time of the Berlin Wall, it stood in No Man’s Land.  

    Not far from the gate is the Reichstag.  We came upon the right side and walked around the front to the tour office. My reservation queen wife had requested the tour  several months before.  Then they had emailed wanting other identification and finally sent the passes.  As with most things that we visit on our cathedralquest, reservations must be made well in advance of the visit. 


    The Reichstag is Germany’s parliament building.  It was built in the 1890s by Kaiser Wilhelm II, the last German emperor.  It was from this building that the German Republic was proclaimed in 1918.

    In 1933 the Reichstag nearly burned down.  While the Nazis blamed a communist plot, some believe that Hitler himself planned the fire, using it as an excuse to frame the communists and grab power.  As World War II
     drew to a close, Stalin ordered his troops to take the Reichstag from the Nazis.  On April 30, 1945  the building fell to the Russians.

    It was little used from 1933 to 1999.   In 1995 the British architect Norman Foster rebuilt  it into the new parliamentary home of the Bundestag (Germany’s lower house).

    After going through a lot of security, we were taken to a room inside and told that we had about a half hour before our tour and we could go to the dome (the glass cupola). 

    This dome rises 155 feet above the ground.  Inside are two ramps that spiral 755 feet to the top.  After getting off of the elevator from the waiting area below, everyone receives an audio guide.   As you walk up the ramp, the guide points out various locations and buildings in Berlin that can clearly be seen as you walk up.  Inside the dome is a cone consisting of 360 mirrors which reflect light into the legislative chamber below. 

    It also aids in the heating and air conditioning. I went up to the top while my wife preferred to watch me from below. Then we went down stairs and joined a small group of people from various countries for an English speaking hour. 

    The hour-long tour, with an excellent guide took us to all the important areas of the building.  In the lower floors, they had preserved the names and some graffiti that had been writing on the walls by the “liberating” Russians in 1945. 

    The tour ended with us being seated in the gallery of the central legislative chamber.  All of the seats had been covered in a lilac-blue material.  Afterwards we were allowed to go back up to the dome.   There is a restaurant on the top but we purposely had not made reservations for lunch.

    The whole experience was very interesting.  I would strongly suggest that the Reichstag is a must for those visiting Berlin for the first time.  Remember to request your tour via email and get your tickets MONTHS in advance.

    We walked around the outside of the Reichstag and took a lot of photos.  I am anxious to match the real details with my model.  We walked several blocks before we got back to the Unter den Linden – the main street that leads to the Brandenburg Gate.  We decided to have lunch in the outdoor café of the Aldon Hotel.  I had read a lot about the Aldon Hotel in the David Downs WWII series. It was where the journalists hung out. The Adlon, built in 1907, was one of the most famous hotels in Europe between the two World Wars and hosted many celebrities. The hotel survived the war without any major damage, having avoided the bombs and shelling that had leveled the city. However, on the night of  May 2,1945 a fire started in the hotel's wine cellar by intoxicated Soviet soldiers that left the main building in ruins.  It was finally demolished in 1984 and rebuilt in 1997.

    The lobby is very attractive as is the dining room.  We choose to sit in the outdoor café which was right on the side walk of the Unter den Linden.  We had a wonderful view of the Brandenburg Gate.  I had delicious calves liver and mashed potatoes and my wife had Char fish.  It was interesting to watch all the crowds go by.  You would have thought you were in D.C.  People looked no different.  Teenagers with their torn blue jeans, back packs and cell phones.

    Next we went to the memorial for the murdered Jews of Europe.  It is located on the street behind the Aldon Hotel.  It was very most moving.


    The Memorial to the Murdered Jews is the Holocaust memorial for Germany.  It has its origins in citizens’ initiative that was facilitated by journalists Lea Rosh and historian Eberhard Jackel at the end of the 1980’s.   On June 25, 1999, the German Federal Parliament made the decision to build the memorial according to a design by Jewish American Peter Eiseman.  Construction began on April 1, 2003 and was completed on May 12, 2005.

    The memorial consists of a Field of Stalae (upright blocks) covering almost 1 ½ acres and containing 2,711 blocks plus an information c
    enter.   The Stalae were of various heights.  The purpose was to walk through all of these stones on paths that were slanted or hilly.  Often the blocks were so high that you had a sense of being captured by them.  It was like being in a maze. It was a very emotional experience, almost to the point of  being disorientated.

    On one side was an entrance to the underground area which consisted of a long wall which was an overview of the national-socialist terror policy between 1933 and 1945.  The graphic photographs dealt with the persecution and murder of European Jews.  It too was very moving.  We were impressed by the large number of young people moving along this display.  The next room, called the Room of Dimensions, featured diary entries, letters and last notes written by victims of the Holocaust. 

    Next we entered the Room of Families where the lifestyles of 15 families, before and during the Holocaust, were shown.  The final room was the Room of Names where the names of all the victims were being read.  It was said that it would take six years, seven months and 27 days to read the names of all of the victims.

    We would encourage all of you who visit Berlin to visit this memorial to this terrible and needless tragedy.

     We walked back toward the Aldon hotel and went across the street where I had a Hagan Das  ice
    cream, and my wife found a Starbucks.   We start walking in the opposite direction of the Brandenburg Gate on Unter den Linden which contained some shops and the German History Museum, which we planned to visit later but never made it.

    We passed the German State Opera on the other side of the street.  It was undergoing some major restoration, and we could not see the complete façade.  Near the Humboldt University was a Greek temple like building known as NEUE WACHE (the emperor’s “New Guardhouse”, from 1816).  When the Berlin Wall fell, this memorial to the victims of fascism was transformed into a new national memorial.  Inside there is a large empty room with a replica of the Kathe Kollwitz statue, Mother with Her Dead Son.  This marks the tombs of Germany’s unknown soldier and the unknown concentration camp victim.

     We walked a little further until we came to the Berlinerdom.  It is located next to the Museum Island, which we will visit another day and the Spree River.  Having spent many hours making the model, it was breathtaking seeing it in person.  I took many photos of the parts that I had spent so much time on.


    The Berlinerdom, which is Berlin’s Protestant cathedral, was the fourth Berlin cathedral built on this spot.  Kaiser Wilhelm II laid the foundation of the present church in 1894.  It was consecrated in 1905.  The Berlinerdom was damaged as far down as the crypt in an air-raid on May 24, 1944.  A bomb set fire to the dome which falls into the main part of the church and through the floor to the crypt below. Apart from some makeshift repairs, the ruin was left to its fate until 1975 when an extensive rebuilding program began.

    Unlike cathedrals in other cities where the surrounding buildings made it impossible to take a photograph of the entire building,  the Berlinerdom has a large grassy area in front.  People enjoyed these grounds and the lovely fountain in the middle. 

    The backside of the Dom sits on the bank of the river which offers a number of views both from across the bridge and from a river cruise, which we took later.

    The Berlinerdom does not have the appearance of any other cathedral that we have ever visited.  In fact, if one didn’t know it was a church, at first glance it would not appear to be so.   There is a similar architectural similarity between the Reichstag and the Berlinerdom.  The style is Baroque or some call it Neo-Renaissance.   It is almost square in design except for a small apse that extends on the river side. One of the first parts that one notices is the dome.  It is 377 feet high. On each corner of the building are towers with domes.  The front two are larger than those on the back.

    To enter the church, there are a number of steps to climb.  Sections of the steps are now being replaced.  The center section has a large rounded arch, with a fresco on the upper side.  Over the door is a large mosaic.  It was designed by Arthur Kampf in the 1920’s.  The words under it say: “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.”  The figures represent the blind, sick, lame, and man wearing a steel helmet from WWI.  

    There are two openings on either side of the main arch.   Between the exterior and the front wall of the church runs an arcade the entire width of the cathedral.

    We had to pay to go inside and were told that we only had a short time before it closed.  Photos without flash were allowed.  The organist for practicing for the Sunday service. 

    In keeping with the outside dimensions the interior was square with an open dome in the center.  The entire interior was very Baroque with a rounded arches , fluted columns with decorated capitols.  Eight life size statues of Protestant Reformers stood on top of each column.  These included Martin Luther, John Calvin and Ulrich Zwingli.

    The sanctuary area in the apse was decorated with rich brown marble walls and gold accents.  Three large stained glass windows were behind the altar.  These were replacement windows as the original had been destroyed during the bombing.  These windows were not like the stained glass found in most churches.  The figures was painted  so the sunlight could
    shine through, rather than small pieces of glass.  It was around 5:00 PM when we were there and the windows were hard to see.

    On the left wall was a tremendous organ. 


    The dome was in mos
    aics with the eight panels depicting the Beatitudes.

    The attendant at the door appeared to be anxious to lock the doors and we wanted to go to the crypt and bookstore.   We planned on returning tomorrow for the Sunday service.

     We went down to the crypt which held a number of elaborate tombs of noted persons of history including several kings and queens.   We didn’t have much time to really study them.

    The bookstore was large and had a lot of resources.  I bought a book about the Dom plus a refrigerator magnet.  The door from the crypt to the bookstore locked from the outside, so we waited until someone came out and we went back in. We went back upstairs where we were told it was time to leave.

    We realized as we were walking towards the Berlinerdom that we weren’t too far from our apartment.  We stopped at the Radisson Hotel and had a drink.  The center of the hotel contained a fish tank that was 10 stories high.  It was round and from another building people came down inside of the tank in an elevator device.  The bar surrounded about ¾ of the tank.   It would make someone think that they had had too much to drink when they saw people in the fish tank with fish swimming around them.

    Our feet were getting tired so we went back to the apartment for a short rest before hitting the apartment bar.  After a few refreshing drinks in their outdoor café, we walked back toward the Dom where we had seen a number of restaurants.  Half way between the river and our apartment there was a glass covered street running  off  Unter de Linden which contained a number of eateries, all with outdoor cafes. We decided on the Piazza Monaco wh
    ich seemed to be the most popular .  We shared a pizza and a salad and wine.   

    We walked another block to see the Berlinerdom lit at night. It was beautiful.

    Back home after a very good day.

    Next Day

    Day 1 - Berlin

    Day 2 - Berlin

    Day 3 - Berlin

    Day 4 - Berlin

    Day 5 - Berlin - Potsdam

    Day 6 - Dresden

    Day 7 - Dresden

    Day 8 - Prague

    Day 9 - Prague - Kutna Hora

    Day 10 - Prague

    Day 11 - Brno

    Day 12 - Budapest

    Day 13 - Budapest

    Day 14 - Budapest

    Day 15 - Vienna

    Day 16 - Vienna

    Day 17 - Vienna - Melk Abbey

    Day 18 - Vienna

    Day 19 - Salzburg

    Day 20 - Salzburg

    Day 21 - Salzburg