Jan and I recently watched The Imitation Game, which has inspired me to finally write about the day we spent at Bletchley Park last year! As I’m sure you know, Bletchley Park was the home of the WWII code-breakers. Really, I only had the vaguest idea of what went on there – something to do with decoding the German military’s secret messages? Likewise, although I had heard of Alan Turing, I had no idea who he actually was. Yes, clearly I was very ignorant.
Located in a the grounds of a mansion in Bletchley, a small town that’s part of Milton Keynes, Bletchley Park was the home of home of the Government Code & Cypher School – now known as the Government Communications Headquarters – during the Second World War. Nobody actually knew that at the time though – the work being done at Bletchley Park was highly secret and only started to be discussed publicly in 1974. The site has been a museum since the 90’s and was restored to what it is now in 2014.
The exhibition starts in the welcome centre, where they have a short film and some information about the history of Bletchley Park. Once outside, you can enter some of the restored huts, which have partly been set up as they would have been originally and partly contain some interactive exhibits. Then the main exhibition is in Block B. There, you can read about the history of the Enigma – the machine the Germans used to write their code. Early models had been used commercially, so everybody knew they existed, but of course the military version was more complex. Block B also has an exhibition about Alan Turing, which is where I learned all about him and his sad fate for the first time. He was, of course, part of Hut 8 at Bletchley Park and instrumental in the invention of the machines that were used to crack the Enigma’s codes (although not quite to the extent depicted in the film!), but to computer scientists he is mostly known as the father of computer science and artificial intelligence.
In a way, the exhibition at Bletchley Park was the perfect combination and Jan’s and my interests – the codebreaking, Colossus machine used for breaking ciphers (considered to be an early computer), and Alan Turin stuff for computer scientist Jan, and the linguistic component for me: obviously it wasn’t enough to just decrypt the messages… somebody had to translate the German (and later Japanese) text into English as well!
The exhibition was really interesting – it’s fascinating to think of all that happening not even that long ago, certainly within our grandparents’ lifetimes. But there was so much information. We were there for about 5 hours and didn’t even manage to see everything properly. We left right before closing time and I was actually pleased they weren’t open any longer since, by then, I was all museumed out. It was definitely a good start to our holiday though and I can highly recommend it to anyone who is at all interested in history, cryptography, computer science or languages. Tickets are valid for a year, so those who live closer can go back time and again. I feel like smaller doses will make it easier to take everything in 😉
Saturday was February’s photo an hour date. I didn’t take part on Twitter because I was in France for most of the day and didn’t want to buy a data package, but I did take photos ready for uploading to a blog post. I had actually forgotten about it until Jan said “don’t forget to take a photo every hour”… at 20 past 11! By then I had missed just over two hours worth of photos! So I decided to wait 10 minutes and make it a photos at half past day, rather than on the hour. As a result, getting up and breakfast are missing and my “day” starts shortly after checking out of the hotel.
11:30 a.m. Just left our hotel in Dijon. The red phonebox (with no phone in it) is a meeting point for tour buses.
12:30 p.m. Rainy Dijon. We had just bought tickets from the Tourist Information office to climb the tower you see in this photo.
1:30 p.m. After a tea/coffee break, we’re back out walking in the rain.
2:30 p.m. Our tower tickets were for 2 p.m. At this stage we were at the bottom of the tower waiting for the guide to open the door and let us out.
3:30 p.m. At the museum of Fine Arts, formerly the Ducal Palace.
4:30 p.m. Another museum! This time The Museum of Burgundian Life.
5:30 p.m. All museumed out, we headed to a nearby bar.
6:30 p.m. Still at the bar. There were lots of these drawings on the wall.
7:30 p.m. After collecting the suitcase from the hotel, we picked up some food for the train journey home.
8:30 p.m. On the train reading Anna Karenina.
9:30 p.m. Back in Basel and on the train home – Dijon is only just under 1.5 hours away!
10:30 p.m. So happy to be all snuggly in my PJs!
That was the last photo I took – I did read for a little afterwards, but I was snuggled up with the lights out long before it would have been time to take the next photo.
As always, Photo an Hour was hosted by Louisa and Jane.
What did you get up to on Saturday?
Here we are almost at mid-March and I still haven’t posted about our New Year’s trip to Glasgow. Bad blogger! I shall at least partially rectify that now with an account of our first day there (we arrived the evening before but only went out to eat and back to our accommodation, so nothing really to tell there, especially since I did not take a photo of the food).
So, New Year’s Eve. We woke up to rain, rain rain, so the decision was made to go to a museum for the day. The forecast said that it would clear up in time for the evening’s festivities, so that was alright. After breakfast and showers, K headed into town to pick up our tickets for the street party that night and some food for the next day while Jan and I set out for a wander through Kelvingrove Park – which our accommodation was right beside.
The Stewart Fountain, Kelvingrove Park
A bridge in Kelvingrove park
On reaching our destination (the Kelvingrove Art Gallery and Museum, pictured below) we discovered that it was closed that day – although the website had claimed it was open!
Instead, we headed to the Hunterian Museum, which is located the University of Glasgow.
How pretty do these pillars look all lit up?
We entered the stairwell that leads up to the museum and discovered a robing room. My university didn’t have one of those! (It didn’t look this pretty either. *Sigh*)
The first exhibition we saw was about the Antonine Wall, which was very interesting to me. It was the more northern and less famous version of Hadrian’s Wall (which of course is located in “my” part of England). The Antonine Wall was mainly turf and was abandoned relatively quickly, so not much remains. We then saw some stuffed animals in cases, an exhibition about Lord Kelvin (he of the temperature scale) and a medical exhibition, that was fascinating and slightly creepy. Some photos of the inside of the museum (plus one looking out the window, trying to be artistic):
Hunterian Museum, Glasgow
Hunterian Museum, Glasgow
View from the Hunterian Museum, Glasgow
When the museum closed we decided to head back to the apartment for a drink and to warm up before heading out for dinner. As promised, the rain had stopped by the time we went back out (hey, the weather forecast got something right!). We ate at Mother India’s Café on K’s recommendation – and I can now officially say she was right, it was amazing! No photos though… I was too busy stuffing my face.
Curry done, it was on to the Ashton Lane Street Party.
In we go..
The food at the stands outside smelled delicious, but we didn’t sample any because we were so full of curry! We did enjoy drinks from a few of the bars though – interesting ciders on offer! Ashton Lane is a cute little street, and thanks to being ticketed it wasn’t too crowded. The Irish pub was pretty full, but for the most part you could actually get to the bars to buy your drinks, and the toilet queues weren’t too insane – no worse than an average night out. Overall, I can recommend paying the fee for the sake of a nice night away from the idiots who are just out to get drunk. However, a note to sponsor Heineken (not that anyone there will ever read this): THROWING YOUR HUGE INFLATABLE BALLS AROUND AT MIDNIGHT WAS A BLOODY STUPID IDEA!! They were actually quite heavy and they hurt! Not cool! Grrr.
The fireworks were nice though:
Ashton lane Hogmanay Street Party fireworks
Ashton lane Hogmanay Street Party fireworks
(Don’t try to take photos of fireworks though chains of lights… it does not work!).
And that was the end of day 1! Day 2 involved sun, a cemetery and lots of walking. Hopefully it won’t take me another 2.5 months to get round to posting about it…
Saturday was another photo an hour day withJaneandLouisa, and unlike August’s incredibly boring day, it turned out to be quite a busy one.
8.30 a.m. Has a photo an hour ever started so early? Tea is definitely needed this morning!
9.30 a.m. Cross stitching while waiting to see whether Jan is going to get up so we can go through with our plans for the morning…
10.30 a.m. Ready to leave at the exact time we had said we would! (Jan was in the shower at this point, despite being the one to suggest the time). Photo taken free-hand without being able to see what I was doing! The first few attempts mostly contained the mess in the background and very little hair slide 😉
11.30 a.m. Queuing for a crepe at the Spalenberg brunch (all the shops in one area had little food and drink items so people could put a “brunch” together for themselves)
12.30 p.m. We gave up on the brunch after Jan almost got guilted into buying a shirt and bought something from a baker’s instead. This is an apple, cinnamon and hazelnut “snail”
1.30 p.m. Hanging out at the park for a while until it’s time to meet some people from Jan’s choir for a tour.
2.30 p.m. Having a tour of an organ. We got to go inside and see all the pipes, etc. and how it’s tuned.
3.30 p.m. On the way back into town to go to a museum
4.30 p.m. There was a special exhibition at the Pharmazie Historisches Museum (Pharamcy Museum) for Erasmus year that we had been meaning to go and see and Saturday was the last day. The above picture is part of the ordinary exhibition.
5.30 p.m. Enjoying the early evening sun down by the river… hanging out with the ducks.
6.30 p.m Time for some food! Yes, I know that’s beer. Food was ordered but hadn’t yet arrived.
7.30 p.m. Off to the cinema! We watched a series of short films focussing on disability as part of a film festival.
No photos for 8.30 and 9.30 since I was in the cinema!
10.30 p.m. A quick beer before heading home.
11.30 p.m. Home! These are my keys in the bowl where they live.
After that I went to bed. No more photos would have been possible anyway… the symmetry must be maintained 😉
The Swiss sculptor Jean Tinguely was born in Fribourg but grew up in the Gundeldingen area of Basel (before moving to France in 1952), so obviously the people of Basel like him a lot. He has his very own fountain on Theaterplatz (Theatre Square) and also has a museum in Basel. As we had a friend visiting this weekend and yesterday was supposed to be rainy (which ended up being a lie!) we decided to go to the Tinguely museum. Jean Tinguely is best known for his mechanical, moving sculptures, known officially as metamechanics. I would show you a video of a fountain that was outside the museum (you were allowed to take photos inside the museum without a flash, but not videos – although it didn’t say no filming anywhere so I did make one video before being told off my a member of staff. Oops!), but it’s in a format that WordPress doesn’t accept so… sorry! Here are some photos:
You get the idea, right?
Some of Tinguely’s works are really cool… others are weird or slightly disturbing. A few examples:
If you’re thinking all of those look cool it’s because I didn’t take photos of the really weird ones 😉
The machines in the following galleries are all drawing machines. There was one in the gift shop which you could purchase a token and a piece of paper for and then have it draw you your very own picture. I didn’t do one but we did see that machine in use while browsing in the shop.
Currently the museum is also exhibiting works by the Swiss artist Eva Aeppli in one of its rooms. Aeppli was married to Tinguely from 1951 to 1961 and died on 4 May 2015. I only took a photo of one of her sculptures… how creepy is this?
It’s called The Five Widows.
My favourite thing in the whole museum was this sculpture that you were allowed to climb on. Parts of it also moved.
I was disappointed that the spiral staircase was off-limits!
Tinguely’s sculptures are not exactly what you’d call “classical” art, and neither are they particularly, pretty/decorative, but they’re definitely interesting! The museum is a great place to spend an afternoon, and I imagine children would like the moving sculptures as well (even though you’re not allowed to touch!). I really enjoyed our visit to the museum and will definitely take future visitors there.
On Wednesday, 27 August 2014, we left Taipei and set off down the West coast of Taiwan. It’s not a very interesting drive by the way – the motorway goes nowhere near the water and all the towns are industrial with very little to see – which is why every single guide book tells you to drive along the East coast (don’t worry, we did that on the way back… and it was spectacular!). Our destination was Sun-Moon Lake, but on the way we decided to stop at the 921 Earthquake Museum of Taiwan (formerly called the Earthquake Memorial Museum). The museum is a memorial to an earthquake measuring 7.3 on the Richter scale that hit central Taiwan on 21 September 1999 and is located at the site of the former Guangfu Junior High School (some sources say elementary school), which was destroyed in the earthquake. The buildings have all basically been left as they were (with some propping up for safety!) so visitors can see the entire extent of the destruction. After paying for your entrance ticket, the first area of the museum you enter is the Chelungpu Fault Gallery, which crosses the actual fault line along which the earthquake struck. In there, you can see various photos of the aftermath of the earthquake – fallen bridges, destroyed railway tracks, collapsed buildings and people in emergency accommodation. After the gallery, the route takes you outside where you can see the school buildings. Luckily the earthquake struck at about 1 a.m. so nobody was in school at the time! Here are some of the photos I took:
A board in one of the destroyed classrooms – the photos show how the classroom looked before the earthquake
Collapsed staircases of the main school building
Looking down onto the main building
Information board showing how to build earthquake-proof buildings
This used to be two storeys… the top one has collapsed so far that a mouse could barely fit between them at the very back!
Part of the main building
(Click on the photos to see larger versions and read my captions)
There was also an Earthquake Engineering Hall in one of the former school buildings. In the hall, there was lots of information about how to build earthquake-proof buildings and secure items within your home against earthquakes. There were also various “hands-on” exhibits, where you could, for example, build various types of houses then simulate an earthquake and see which one collapsed first. The information board in the photos above is from the Earthquake Engineering Hall. Next, we headed into a newer building where there was a 3D film showing a story about the earthquake. The film was obviously aimed at children, but there were a few interesting bits. Then we moved on to another room. There, we were told to choose a cushion to sit on and not to move once the show had started. On one side of the room were objects that were just randomly placed on shelves, while on the other there were items that had been properly secured. First we were shown images of an ordinary school day (supposedly the day before the earthquake), then came a simulation of the 1999 earthquake. The lights went out – because it happened at 1 a.m. when it was dark – and the room shook. There was a brief pause, then came the aftershock. Once the quake was over, the screen continued to show images from the actual rescue effort that followed the earthquake. Then the lights came back on and we could see which how well the objects on each side of the room had survived the earthquake. All in all, the museum was a real eye-opener, especially coming from a country where an earthquake means a tiny tremor that may or may not even be noticeable. Seeing the devastation that the quake caused was sobering and certainly made you think about the power of nature! There is also a geological museum at the site which looked to have a lot of information, but unfortunately we were in a bit of a hurry by that point. Entrance to the earthquake museum is inexpensive and I would certainly recommend it! It’s a bit out of the way and I’m not sure how you’d get to it without a car, but I imagine there’d be bus trips from somewhere in the area.
Once we left the museum, we headed straight for our hotel beside Sun-Moon Lake. By the time we got there, it was clouding over and a few drops of rain had started to fall. Here’s the view from our hotel room window just before the heavens properly opened:
Hotel room view
Hotel room view
We had a “lake view” room, but mostly we saw the ticket office for the boats 😉 After dropping off our suitcases, we decided to head out despite the fact that it was now raining quite heavily. Food was needed as all we’d had all day was breakfast and a bag of M&Ms from a service station we stopped at on the road! First we headed down to the lake, of course.
Owls are literally everywhere in Taiwan! Even more so than elsewhere.
Unfortunately it doesn’t quite unfold it’s true beaty in torrential rain 😉 Also, I’ve no idea what happened with the last photo… I’ve only just seen how blurry it is! After looking at the lake we went into a little souvenir shop where I bought postcards and we sampled then bought some rice wine. After wandering around for a bit and getting very wet, we finally decided where to go for food. It was a little road-side stand, but behind it was what looked like a converted garage with a few tables and chairs in! We chose one of each of the things in offer, all deep fried parcels. In the left-hand photo below you can see at the back a long, thin parcel which contained pork, cheese and onions, on the right a round one filled with cabbage and mushrooms and on the left a sort of flatish one that was filled with seaweed. We both loved the pork and cheese one so much that we ordered a second (that would be the terrible photo on the right 😉 ).
Pork, cheese and onion thing
I wasn’t overly keen on the cabbage/mushroom one (I’m not a massive fan of cabbage and hate mushrooms!), but thought the seaweed one was tasty enough. I’ve already told you what we thought of the other one 😉 To go with our food, we were given a large cup of sweet iced tea. All Taiwanese cold drinks are sweet! Even the bottles of fruit juice had added sugar.
By the time we’d eaten, it was dark and late, so back to the hotel we went for a good night’s sleep before a full day of driving over mountains the following day! Before bed, I attempted to take a photo of the lake in the dark…
Yeah, the less said about it the better 😉 In my next post, you can look forward to some better photos of Sun-Moon Lake. I can promise you it is stunningly beautiful! Until next time, folks.
I’d been wanting to go and see the “40 Jahre Playmobil” exhibition in Speyer ever since I saw a poster advertising it back in December (yes, I am 30 going on about 7…), so when Jan asked whether I wanted to do anything on 1st May (a holiday in Germany) and the weather forecast said that anything outdoors was definitely not a good idea, I decided it was the perfect opportunity. Jan didn’t seem tooo enthusiastic, but he had asked what I wanted to do, so he agreed to go along with it.
The exhibition was taking place at the Historisches Museum der Pfalz (History Museum of the Pfalz), Pfalz or the Palatinate being the region that Speyer is located in. We arrived in Speyer at around noon and joined the queue of small people with their parents… apparantly I’m the only childless person in Germany who wants to see toys 😉 Once inside, we purchased our tickets, which included both the special exhibition (Playmobil!) and the permanent exhibits. We decided to check out the Playmobil first, just in case the queue got even longer later! I never really played with Playmobil as a child (I remember briefly having one set, with swings and a roundabout) and I still prefer Lego, partly because it encourages children to be creative in a way that Playmobil doesn’t (there’s no building your own things with Playmobil!), but also because you can do so much with a basic set of Lego. With Playmobil, you have to buy a separate kit for everything you might want to do – a castle, a pirate ship, a circus… with Lego, you could theoretically build anything you wanted to yourself (if you’re more creative than me!). Nevertheless, I was fascinated by just how many different Playmobil kits there are! And the look back at Playmobile through the ages was pretty interesting, too – as you may have gathered from the title, the point of the exhibition was to celebrate 40 years of Playmobil. Here are some of the photos I managed to get (actually quite a difficult task with all the children buzzing around!).
A giant Playmobil figurine
A Playmobil circus
I loved the cute little squirrels and hedgehogs
A Playmobil doll’s house… I love the ghost in the attic!
A Playmobil fir engine from the 70s
One of the larger exhibits… this sea world model was fascinating!
They also had some Playmobil inspired art, including this painting that I really liked!
Playmobil done, it was time for something more grown up… wine! The Wine Museum area included some interesting wine barrels, including this one that can hold five different types of wine at once. Clever!
The museum also has what’s thought to the oldest still (semi-)liquid wine in the world, from Roman times… around 300 AD to be precise. I can’t say it looked particularly appertising any more!
Once we’d had a look at the wine museum, we had a quick snack stop at the cafe. We both went for Currywurst, opting for the “Scharf” (spicy) variety. I dread to think what their normal Currywurst was like… sausages in plain old ketchup? The Scharf certainly wasn’t very spicy! Never mind. Having finished our snacks, we had a quick look at the rest of the museum. There was a fascinating Roman street map that we spent quite a while looking at, before heading upstairs to check out some random finds from the local area. There were some hideous china ornaments! (No photos, I’m afraid).
When we left the museum, we found that the rain had briefly stopped so I was able to grab a few photos before the heavens opened again. Here’s the Speyer Cathedral:
It soon started pouring down again, at which point we actually had to leave anyway because we only had the car until six. But before getting on our way, we stopped to buy some fresh strawberries from a little stand in the carpark, which is what we ate for desert once we got home. All in all, it was the perfect way to spend a horrid, rainy day!
So, time to get back to Berlin. WARNING – long post ahead!
We arrived fairly late in the afternoon on Thursday (4 April), so we couldn’t really do much then. Our apartment was about 15 minutes walk from the train station and turned out to be literally opposite the Naturkundemuseum (Natural History Museum):
That’s the view from our window. As you can see, there was also a construction site right outside, which we thought might be a bit annoying, but it turned out we couldn’t hear a thing – the windows were obviously excellent!
Our first act after dropping off our stuff was to go in search of a supermarket. There turned out to be a REWE just around the corner – perfect! After taking the shopping home, it was time to head out for a look at Berlin before it got dark. Here are some photos:
The River Spree
The Reichstag building
As you can see, the weather wasn’t brilliant (although it wasn’t raining or snowing), and after all that walking around we were freezing, so we headed to Hopfinger Bräu for some food. The one we went to was Am Palais and it was quite expensive (although the beer was good). There’s another one in the train station that I think might be a little better.
By the time we had eaten, it was dark, so Jan suggested heading back to the Brandenburg Gate to get some night shots.
And that was the end of Thursday. It had been a long journey up to Berlin and we were tired, so after taking the above photo I suggested we head back to the apartment and get some sleep.
On Friday, we woke up bright and early to eat a breakfast consisting of things we had bought from the supermarket the day before. Then we went in search of a tram that would take us to Hohenschönhausen.
Hohenschönhausen is a former Stasi prison in East Berlin that has now been opened up to the public after some extensive work to make it comply with health and safety (as the website points out, there tended not to be too many fire escapes in prisons!).
On the sign above you can see how the street looked back in the days when the prison was in use. The area that the prison is situated was claimed to be a military exclusion zone. Some people suspected that there might be a prison there but nobody knew for sure.
Most of the people who were held in the prison were people who had tried to leave East Berlin after the building of the wall, although there were political prisoners as well. Many of the prison were placed in there merely because of a suspicion that they might be against the regime, not necessarily because there was any evidence that they had done anything. As well as prison cells, the prison had interrogation rooms where prisoners could be taken for the purpose of forcing a confession out of them.
Up until Stalin died, prisoners could be tortured. After that, they started to use more subtle methods.
Hohenschönhausen Prison is not the most cheerful place to visit, but it is most definitely worth it. Members of the public are only allowed in as part of a tour, and most of the guides are people who were actually imprisoned there. We took a tour in German, but on the way round I heard one of the other guides speaking English so tours in other languages are available. The times of tours are listed on their website, and if you are at all interested in history I would certainly recommend a visit.
After Hohenschönhausen, it was time to go back in to town and get something to find something to eat. On the way to the tram stop, I took some photos of blocks of flats that Jan told me were typical for East Germany.
After we’d eaten it was still fairly early so we decided to go to the Naturkunde Museum since it was close to the apartment (where we still needed to go back to pick up our tickets for that night).. It mostly contains a lot of dinosaur bones and some stuffed animals. There was also an exhibition on how the dead animals are prepared and stuffed, ready to go on display. A little gory but strangely fascinating. Unfortunately, they closed before we had a chance to head to the second floor, so I’ve no idea what would have been up there. But I didn’t mind because by it was time for us to go and see Eddie Izzard! I’ve already talked about how amazing he was, so I won’t go into detail here. Those who missed that post can go back and read it now.
For Saturday morning, we had an appointment to go inside the dome of the Reichstag building. It’s free to go up there, but you have to prebook so not too many people go up at once. Once up in the dome, you get great views of Berlin and the free audio guide does an excellent job of telling you exactly what you’re looking at, as well as giving some information about the Reichstag building itself. Here are a few photos of Berlin from above:
We had actually got out of the apartment earlier than we needed to, so before the Reichstag we went to look at the holocaust memorial (officially named the Memorial to the Murdered Jews of Europe):
The concrete blocks gradually get bigger and bigger, with the highest being 15 feet 9 inches tall.
The grey sky and traces of snow on the ground gave the whole thing a bleak and gloomy atmosphere perfectly matched the seriousness of the topic it represents.
Underneath the memorial, there is an information centre/museum, which contains the names of all know Jewish Holocaust victims. Entrance to the information centre is free and it is well worth taking a look at.
Between the Reichstag building and the Brandenburg Gate is a memorial to the Roma Sinti who lost their lives during the Holocaust. We had passed it on the way to the Reichstag, so after our visit to the dome, we went back to look at the memorial. It consists of a pool in a small garden with the poem Auschwitz by Italian poet Santino Spinelli engraved around the rim of the pool, in German and in English.
Our next stop was the Currywurst Museum – I needed a bit of light relief after all the politics and memorials!
I discovered where hotdogs got their name, so it was educational as well as fun 😉
The Currywurst Museum is just around the corner from Checkpoint Charlie, so after the silliness of sausages, it was back to the serious stuff. A quick photo of the checkpoint then in to the associated museum.
The museum gives some information about the division of Germany and the building of the wall then goes on to tell the stories of all the people who attempted to escape from East Berlin while it was part of the GDR. There is some excellent content and fascinating stories, but soooo much to read. They do have a few cool exhibits, including cars that were converted to allow people to hide in them and is is definitely worth a visit – especially if you’re interested in Cold War history – but be warned that the organisation is not the greatest and the museum can be a bit confusing. It was also incredibly full when we were there, which didn’t help, but there is certainly enough information to make it worth the visit (although at €12 per person it’s not the cheapest!).
By this time, I was all museumed out, so we set off for a walk, following the course of where the Berlin Wall used to be. In some places, there is a line of bricks set in to the pavement to show where the wall once stood.
Our walk took us to Potsdamer Platz. Not all that long ago, this square was basically a big empty space. The Berlin Wall went right through the middle of it so for many years it was pretty much desolate. Once construction started, Potsdamer Platz became the biggest building site in Europe! Now, it looks like this:.
And that was basically the end of Saturday. We had decided to eat in on Sunday night, so as we were passing the train station we stopped at the supermarket there and bought the required ingredients. Then, after dropping the groceries off at home, we headed to Kreuzberg to attempt to play minigolf – we had tried to book early in the day but only got an answering machine. On arrival (after initially walking down Görlitzer Straße in the wrong direction then ending up wandering around the creepy park for a while!) we discovered that they had no room for us, so we made a reservation for Monday instead. Heading towards the Görlitzer Bahnhof, we walked past a restaurant with a man playing guitar inside so we decide to check it out. The restaurant, called Camba La Che, turned out to be Argentinian while the musician was Brazilian. One table was filled with a large group of what seemed to be the owner’s family, and the owner himself (at least I guess that’s who he was) looked old enough to already be retired! The service was a little slow, but the food was ridiculously cheap AND turned out to be delicious so we didn’t mind. It’s not like we had anywhere to be.
Sunday lived up to its name and presented us with beautiful blue skies. We had queue jumper tickets for the Neues Museum (New Museum) because I wanted to see the Egyptian exhibition, so the Museumsinsel (Museum Island) is where we headed first.
It was interesting, but I was pleased the third floor was closed for renovation. There’s only so much museum I can take!
The next place we wanted to go was near Häckescher Markt, so we decided to eat in that area too. From the book my dad had given Jan, we chose Lemke’s, where I finally had Currywurst. But you can read all about our food and drink experiences here.
The Brauhaus Lemke on Häckescher Markt (there’s another one somewhere as well) is located under some old railway arches, as you can just about tell from the above picture.
We ended up having to finish our beers in a bit of a rush because the public tour at the place we wanted to go next was starting soon. Next stop was the Otto Weidt Blindenwerkstatt (Otto Weidt’s Workshop for the Blind), now a museum. In the 1930s and 40s Otto Weidt’s workshop for blind people produced brushes and brooms. He employed mostly Jewish people (many were sent there to do forced work) and when they started being rounded up and sent to concentration camps, he did his best to help them, even hiding one family in a room at the back of the workshop. The museum is in the original premises of the factory and you can actually go into the room that served as a hiding place. Entry is free of charge and the stories the museum tells are incredibly moving.
Leaving the workshop, we bumped into a guy from Chile who asked us what was in there then proceeded to strike up a conversation with us about whether or not Germans talk about politics. He was chatting to us for so long that Jan eventually suggest he walk with us to our next destination, which he duly did. The conversation ended up ranging from what we think should be done if it was discovered that the Holocaust 100% did not happen (reveal the truth or let people carry on believing in it) to why communism is a nice idea in theory but could never work in practice and even whether or not the upper classes believe they are superior to everyone else. Interesting but exhausting!
We finally made it to where we wanted to go… Bernauer Straße.
When Berlin was a divided city, the Wall ran right down this street. Many people fled to the West be jumping out of the windows of their apartments, until the authorities had them sealed up. Part of the wall here has been left as it was, and from a viewing platform you can see what it looked like.
As you can see on the photo, the Berlin Wall was actually two walls, divided by a strip of dirt. Inside that strip, dogs and armed guards patrolled the path, and in the areas surrounding the path there were mines. Anyone trying to cross to the West had to scale one wall, avoid guards, mines and dogs then somehow get over the second wall. It’s amazing that anybody ever managed it!
We finally managed to get rid of the Chilean when we headed back to our apartment for food (as interesting as the conversation was, 3 hours of it was enough!). After dinner, I decided to take advantage of the fact that the apartment had a bath tub. I’m not usually the type to soak in the bath for ages, but this time I did… and even took my glass of wine in with me. Bliss!
On Monday, we went to look at the East Side Gallery, a 1.3 km long section of the Berlin Wall covered with works by artists from all over the world, painted in 1990 on the East side of the wall following the opening of the border. I’m going to put the photos from that in a separate post, I think. We then headed to Kurfürstendamm, known locally as the Ku‘damm, which is one of Germany’s most famous avenues. It’s basically a huge shopping street in West Berlin, and we only went there so we could say we’d been properly into the West. Ku’damm is the epitome of everything I hate about big cities – large, ugly buildings, crowds and lots of cars. Brrr.
That evening, we finally managed to play blacklight minigolf, which you can read about here.
We had to be out of our apartment by 10 am on Tuesday so, as the train home wasn’t until around 1, we went to the Museum of Communication. No photos unfortunately because you weren’t allowed to take any, but there were some interactive things and LOADS of old communication equipment and information about different means of communication, such as Morse code. There was far too much for us to look at everything before we had to leave!
And that concludes our trip to Berlin. To end this post, here’s a photo of a Buddy Bear. There are lots of them standing all around Berlin, but unfortunately I barely managed to get any photos because almost every time I saw one either it was already dark or we were rushing to get somewhere. Boooo!