Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Berlin -- Day 1

Today was our first day in Berlin. We arrived at Tegel airport, which is in the process of being replaced by the much nicer Brandenburg Airport. After getting a few Berlin Welcome! Tickets which give us 2 full days of all-you-can-ride rail and bus access, we grabbed a shuttle to Hauptbahnhof, the central train station, and from there took the rail line to Alexanderplatz, named in honor of the Russian Emperor Alexander's visit to the city. Alexanderplatz is in East Berlin and is loomed over by the Berlin Television Tower, which is a sort of bulb shooting into the sky above the once Soviet-controlled East Berlin. Having just spent 9 hours on a plane and 5 hours before that in an airport...and 2 hours before that on another plane...and 2 hours before that waiting for our first flight, we were understandably jet-lagged and travel-weary. Still, it was only 8:00 Berlin time, and even though we could have used a rest, our room wasn't available until 3pm that afternoon. So, we dropped our bags off at the front desk and did what any sensible people would do after sitting for 9 hours -- we took a bus tour of Berlin.
Berlin really is a city of contrasts. More than 70% of the city was leveled during 1945. That coupled with the Soviet division of the city, which only ended in 1990, means that Berlin is a city still in the midst of being rebuilt. Big time. There is construction absolutely everywhere, and the architecture a curious mixture of Rococo, Neo-classical, Soviet and modern. It's less a great city and more a monument to a great city that once stood there, coupled with history's various attempts at erasing its memory.

Naturally the first thing I decided to try as far as food was the ubiquitous currywurst -- Berliner street food extraordinaire.

 Most Berlin street food is "soak up all the alcohol in your system" food, and currywurst is no exception. It's veal and bacon sausage, devoid of its casing, and deep fried with a pile of pommes, then cut into slices and topped with tomato ketchup and sprinkled with curry powder. Real rib-sticking food. It was a little sweet for my taste with all that ketchup, but the sausage itself was awesome and the curry, which was a mild style, added a really interesting flavor.

With that and a Berlin Pilsner in our bellies, and 3 o'clock nearing, we tried our luck with the hotel room. Alas, at 2:30, the room was still not ready, so we sat in a stupor in the lobby for 30 minutes, then finally got into the room. The room itself is small, very nice and new, with laminate flooring, two single-beds side-by-side, a bathroom and a flat-screen tv, small table and 300 megs of free-wifi. Oh and a kettle. Pretty much everything I need.
The beds have feather pillow tops, so before I could even contemplate a shower or a blog entry, I had to sleep off some jet-lag, and so did my father. I learned very quickly that the 33 decibel earplugs I bought for the trip were going to be very much needed; my father's snores are the sort of noises I can only imagine rutting rhinocerii (rhinoceruses? rhinocopodes?) make.We slept until about 6:30pm. I try to accept that the first day of a trip is always sort of mucked up with jet-lag issues. Afterward we headed out under threat of rain to the Mitte district, a short walk northeast from Alexanderplatz, to find some more food.
We found a charming 6 table pub with several locals milling about, so we gave that a go.
The pub featured several beers from a local brewery and we both decided on a dunkel pilsner. I chose to go the traditional route of veal schnitzel with fried potatoes and a little cabbage salad, along with a huge portion of great chantrelle mushrooms, which is also apparently one of the pub's specialities. It was prosaic. The potatoes, slightly salty from the bacon it was fried in...the cantrelles were meaty and flavorful, and of course the schnitzel itself was...well certainly better than any I'd ever had in the states

Dad had a  "Berliner" Schnitzel, which up researching could either hhave been chicken  or cow's udder, depending on who you ask. It wwas an adventure anyway, and quite delicious, service with a warm potato salad with dilll. We were going to try the flamm-kuchen  apple dessert, but after the beers and the schnitzel and the rain and the chaos of the day, we decided  to take a small walk back through the Alexanderplatz and then start winding down.

Tomorrow we're headed to a few places. We can't seem t be able to book a train on Thursday to Munich on the internet, so we;re going to have to book it at the actual station tomorrow to make sure we get a spot. Then we're off to the Jewish Museum and the Tiersgarden. Lunch somewhere, then explore some art galleries on the aptly named "Museum Island". I also broke my sunglasses on day one, so I might try to drag my father into the shopping district to get a new pair.

By the way, you'll notice that most of the in-article posts are going to be of food. that's because I usually take those from my iphone, and those images are easily accesible when writing this blog. Any pictures I'm taking with my nice camera are large and will need post processing and all that mess, so you probably won't see too many of those before I get back. Anyway, I'm going to try to read myself to sleep now. Until tomorrow, avid readers!

1 comment:

  1. Looks like you guys squeezed a lot into your first day! Glad you got to enjoy some of the local "delicacies".