Monday, August 22, 2011


Germany depends on nuclear plants for about 25% of its power, but according to our guide, the Fukishima Japan nuclear meltdown jolted Germany into action, and they have announced plans to shutdown all seventeen of their nuclear power plants in the next eleven years.  Eight are already closed. That's amazingly fast action!
A nuclear plant on our drive into Berlin
I can't imagine just eliminating that much nuclear energy that quickly in the United States, but Europe can get by on a lot less energy than we can for many reasons.  For one thing, they put us to shame in the areas of efficient public transportation, innovations in the automobile industry, and bike riding.

I particularly admired these bike stands we saw in Berlin and in many other cities we visited.  For 8 to 10 euro and a credit card deposit, anyone can grab one of these bikes for a day, see the city, then return it at any of the numerous bike stands all over the city. Impressive!

It would be fun to ride a bike around this Victory Column, erected in the 1870s to commemorate several recent Prussian victories:
. . . or the Furnsehturm (television tower), which, at 368 meters (just over 1200 feet), is the tallest structure in all of Germany by over 100 meters. (Shocking, isn't it?  No colossal skyscrapers there?) It was built by the East German government in the 1960s and is still in use today:

. . . or perhaps through the alleys of  the Berlin Holocaust Memorial, located just a couple of blocks from the Brandenburg Gate. Completed in 2005, sixty years after Germany surrendered in World War II, it covers 4.7 acres with 2,711 unmarked, crypt-like concrete boxes laid out in rows.  While uniform in color, length, and width, each box varies in height according to no apparent pattern, and the ground has swells and valleys as well (and even a few staircases), giving a sense of undulating instability, almost like a ship being tossed on the sea. There was an macabre feeling to it all, and the visual imagery presented a marked contrast to groups of happy, picture-taking tourists and lunching Germans.

It would be fun to pretend to be an escaping East Berliner and ride a bike through Checkpoint Charlie. During the Cold War it was the only crossing point between East and West Berlin that could be used by foreigners. Now it is a kitschy tourist trap, complete with a reproduction of the original hut and "soldiers" who will gladly pose with any tourist who has a few dollars to spare.
All that riding would definitely make me hungry, so I would want to stop at this doner kebab place.  Again, we followed Andrew's food recommendations and had a pretty wonderful meal here:

However, the art, a very poor Salvador Dali wannabe, left a lot to be desired:
On the other hand, I liked this mural on another wall of the kebab place.  That's a great photo of the Soviet flags in front of the Brandenburg Gate and the graffiti-covered Wall as seen from the West Berlin side.

One must replenish one's spent calories. No bike ride would be complete without a stop at this yummy creperie, and at only 1 euro, probably the best deal in town. (Just looking at these pictures makes me drool.)

Of course, I would have to work off those extra calories.  Maybe I could ride my bike around the cobblestone yard of the Charlottenburg Palace, a baroque and rococo castle built in the 1690s and redesigned and expanded several times over the next century.  Unfortunately, we were not able to go inside as we had used up all of our time and had to head back to our ship.  In any case, I didn't see any bike racks there where I would have been able to return my rental.
For some reason, my mother was not very fond of this city.  Perhaps it was because she was a Southerner, and the Northern Germans look down their noses at the Bavarians.  It definitely feels different in Berlin than in the Black Forest.  I think I'll have to disagree with her this time.  There was so much to see in Berlin, and I hope some day to return.

Next Up: From the Sublime to the Ridiculous: Lunch at Peggy Sue's Diner in Southern California


  1. I am not sure I would want to imagine myself an escapee of East Berlin (sounds kind of hazardous to my health), but your blog entry makes me want to go buy a crepe tomorrow.

  2. That Holocaust memorial has never been one of my favorites...Perhaps it is more impressive and meaningful in person? Yeah, I could learn to love Berlin just for those crepes.

  3. That Holocaust memorial has been fairly controversial, both for its appearance and for the fact that it references only Jews. However, I think what made it more than a concrete graveyard for me was that variation in height and the undulating ground. You can walk into it and, staying erect, completely disappear. When you are in one of the low points and the tops of the concrete blocks are high overhead, it feels as if you are almost encased in concrete. I thought it was very effective.

  4. This is quite the tour, bicycle or not. The holocaust memorial is stunning, reminding me of sculptures done by Anthony Gormley which I saw in Lyon. However he did try to make his sort of representative of the human idea, in his own way. It was an amazing exhibit that really made me think about people in a different way.

    Love the food pictures!