Berlin Journal August 2009 – Barbara Joy Cooley Home: barbarajoycooley.com
We arrived on Monday afternoon, August 3, via taxi from Tegel airport. The airport was pleasant and small for such an important city. But it was not crowded at all. The taxi ride was easy, and much shorter than we expected.
At the Hotel Otto on Knesebeckstrasse in the Charlottenburg arrondissement, we met Frau Ullrich at the reception desk. We had a package of copy-edited manuscript to send to New York, and she was very helpful in finding DHL on her computer – which, it turns out, is at all post offices. DHL is a German company, started by Deutsche Post, I think.
Tom’s publisher has accounts at FedEx, DHL and UPS. FedEx doesn’t really exist in Germany, we were told, and so it seemed to make sense to use DHL, since we were in Germany. I should have remembered that DHL is laying off workers in France.
We were tired from the travel, so we opted for a nap after checking in, rather than attempting to send the package out at the last minute before the Post Office closed and without assistance of our German friend Arnold.
We’d just send the package in the morning, we thought.
Arnold arrived around 7PM and we went to dinner at a restaurant called Sachs on Knesebeckstrasse.
Our hotel room was hot, noisy, and lit up at night by the neon of the hotel sign. The shower did not drain. We asked to be moved to a different, quieter room the next day.
When we told Arnold of our need to send the package the next day, he was reticent because he’d had the whole day planned. He said we could send it on Wednesday. We spent much time telling him that no, we needed to send it on Tuesday.
Indeed he had a full day planned on Tuesday. We took the subway (called the U bahn) to east central Berlin.
As we walked by the east end of the Tiergarten, an enormous park in the middle of Berlin, we saw the Holocaust Memorial, an emotionally staggering sight. We wondered aloud “who was the architect?” I walked over to a stanchion that had information printed on it. We read it. I was floored. The architect was Peter Eisenman, someone that we know.
At least, I know him. He is the New York architect on the faculty of Yale who at one point was famous but only for his theory. Very little of what he’d designed had been built. Then he was paired up with Dick Trott, a Columbus architect, to design a convention center for Columbus. I was on the committee that included neighborhood representatives (me) and all sorts of other expertise & representation. So, yes, Eisenman’s design would be built, but he had to deal with an entire committee with people like me on it. It worked. The convention center is a huge success.
He went from there to design the Wexner Center for the Arts on the Ohio State University campus. That project was also built. These two Columbus buildings were designed and built in the 1980s.
The Holocaust Memorial in Berlin was completed in 2004. It is haunting, and truly effective. It is not far from the Brandenburg Gate, an area that we explored next.
We went on for breakfast at the Reichstag, the first home to the German Parliament, built in 1894. It was badly burned in 1933, with the communists and socialists each blaming the other for the fire. A communist was beheaded for the crime.
The building was reconstructed after the 1990 reunification of Germany. Completed in 1999, the dome in the middle is now a modern glass structure with spiral ramps that one can climb for a great view of Berlin. A historical photo display around the base of the dome’s core gives a good background on the parliament, and on part of German history.
Near the dome is a nice restaurant where we had brunch. Tom and I just had omelettes, and Arnold put away one enormous breakfast consisting of many little things. By making a reservation for breakfast, by the way, he cleverly got us in a side entrance of the Reichstag where we did not have to wait in a very long line like everyone else did.
We dipped into a Post Office that was really a bookshop and made our first attempt to ship the package to New York via DHL. The bookshop could not accept the recipient’s account number for payment, and said it would take up to four days to arrive! They also quoted a price of 27 euros which would have been okay for overnight, but certainly not for four days!
We went into a shopping center where there was a real post office. After completing paperwork and after a long wait in line, Arnold and Tom were told that it would cost 95 euros, they still could not accept the recipient’s account number, and it would still take up to four days. They walked away, and we went on with our day.
Arnold showed us the Ka De We department store, which was very much like other fancy department stores everywhere. Just inside its entrance was an Omega watch display about the landing on the moon. Neil Armstrong, it seems, wore an Omega watch when he took his first steps on the moon. The display also featured an original copy of one of the Apollo Activities Plan notebooks. I photographed Tom and Arnold with Arnold’s activities plan for us in front of the Apollo Activities plan.
The department store’s top floor boasted a gourmet foods bonanza, and there we found a fish restaurant called Fisch Kutters. We dined. I had a superb filet of dorade which came with a delicious ratatouille. Arnold and Tom had a fish that was related to Sole. Exceptionally fresh green salads arrived in a blink of an eye. The hot dishes arrived at just the right time. Ironically, this meal that we had in a department store was probably the best of the entire week.
We still had the package to send to New York. Arnold pulled out his “handy” (cell phone) and called his friend Klaus who lives in Berlin near Wannsee. After a few calls, we had the name and address of a UPS shipper that was not too far away, but it was getting close to 5PM, closing time and UPS pick-up time.
We scurried to the address. The pack-and-ship shop had the UPS system on their computers, and they were able to accept the recipient’s account number. Tom completed the paperwork with Arnold’s help with the German. We chose a 10:30AM delivery time the next morning. The cost was to be around 75 euros. At just a couple minutes after 5, the package was sitting on a cart in the shop with an earlier package, waiting for pick up. We said our many thanks you’s and goodbye’s, looked at the package and sighed with great relief.
We found a place for dinner in the old Nicolai area of Berlin. My main course, a pork roast with red cabbage, was very disappointing. I’ve had the same dish at an Alsatian restaurant near our apartment in Paris and it was many times better. Tom and Arnold each had a beef roulade which came with an excellent, rich sauce.
Monday-Tuesday, August 3-4, 2009
Horses atop the Brandenburg Gate.
Near the Brandenburg Gate, a mime and a plastic soldier. We saw many strange sights amidst the people near the Brandenburg Gate.
Inside the dome of the Reichstag.