October 8-9, the first two days put together.

Aug 27-03 Budapest
Sep 04-05 Sopron, Hungary
Sep 06-15 Vienna
Sep 16-25 Prague and Brno
Sep 26-29 Wroclaw
Sep 30-06 Dresden, Leipzig, Stadthagen, and Hanover
Oct 07-16 Berlin

My hotel is in a part of Berlin that was on the 'other' side of the wall, part of the former GDR.

I was expecting a lot of huge graphic arts in Berlin (not just the graffiti) and one block from my hotel I saw the first...

...and the second. And then not much more, so far anyway.

But there is a lot of this, apartment blocks from before.

My Underground station and giant transportation hub is Alexanderplatz. You probably can't read it on the blue sign on the right.

There was a festival going on in the plaza part of Alexanderplatz - these festivals are starting to feel permanent - and the fountain was fenced off. I had read that this fountain, the GDR Fountain of the Friendship of Peoples, was an important gathering point and site of active graffiti 'work', but not now.

There are essentially five kinds of food stands at the festivals and many versions of each kind. This is one variation of the scooping-food kind.

The other kinds include 2) doner-kabop-pizza 3) currywurst-brats-schnitzel 4) sandwiches of meat-cheese-fish 5) many types of sweets.

The plaza, Alexanderplatz, was developed in the 1970s by the GDR including commissioning this Weltzeituhr, World Clock, that moves with the hours "telling you the time in such important communist strongholds as Hanoi and Havana."

I didn't know what was here before but from a TripAdvisor correspondent we learn:

"On the open space on Unter den Linden / Karl-Liebkneckt-Straße once stood the Berliner Stadtschloss (Berlin City Palace). It sustained heavy damage during World War II and the Communist regime of East Germany demolished the building in 1950.

"In its place the East German authorities built the Palast der Republik, which served as the East German parliament building between 1976 and 1990. The Palast der Republik was dismantled between 2006 and 2008. There are plans to rebuild the Berliner Stadtschloss in the future, subject to sufficient funding."

At the Marx-Engels-Forum - Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels who in 1848 together published The Communist Manifesto. The GDR created the park in 1986.

Berlin City Hall, the Berliner Rathaus, built in 1860 with the Neptune Fountain in front.

Details from the Neptune Fountain, built in 1891.

"The fountain was removed from its original location at the Schlossplatz in 1951, when the former Berliner Stadtschloss (Berlin City Palace) there was demolished. Eventually, after being restored, the fountain was moved in 1969 to its present location between the St Mary's Church and the Rotes Rathaus."

I think this is Marienkirche, St Mary's Church, parts dating to 1270.

You can tell from these pictures how the sky changed every two minutes. Completely clouded, cold and windy; clouds gone, blue sky and bright sun; and everything in between.

THE Berliner Dom, the Protestant Berlin Cathedral, this version dating to the early 1900s with a number of reconstructions. There has been a church here since the 1500s.

The amount of construction going on around here is crazy, crazy I tell you. This is a whole other site from the one above...

...and this is down the middle of one of the most prominent boulevards now torn up for underground work making some of the grand buildings harder to enjoy.

The miles long down-the-middle-of-the-road construction is a new U-Bahn line. Along the route there are descriptive panels telling about what was there on the route before and what they found underground. They've even had to re-route the tunnel to save some of the ancient findings.

King of Prussia from 1740 to 1786, Fredrick the Great. He's here in the middle of Unter den Linden...

...in a part of the street that isn't torn up. You can see the Linden trees after which the street was named.

A new permanent exhibit had just opened in a space dedicated to historical study called "Willy Brandt - Politikerleben".

As well as the very well-done displays they had a 45 minute documentary on Willy Brandt and the story of Berlin during his lifetime. It was excellent, so moving I didn't need to understand the sound in order to appreciate the story, and it was free too.

The Brandenburg Gate, originally called the Gate of Peace and prominent in every movie and newsreel ever shot in Berlin.

There was a celebrity at the hotel on the left of this picture and these guys were waiting to do the motorcade. I left before the celebrity emerged.

The US Embassy is just to the left in this picture - a bland building with plenty of guards you can be sure.

More. The light of the day certainly changes the look of the gate.

I know, Darth Vader.

Last one. There's a small room in one of the guard stations called Room of Silence where visitors can rest and contemplate World Peace, bringing back the idea of the Gate of Peace.

Denkmal fur die Ermordeten Juden Europas (Memorial to the Murdered European Jews/Holocaust Memorial)

This memorial is set on five-and-a-half acres, has 2,711 of these stones of various heights set along a rolling floor bed.

As you walk through, the stones get higher and higher until you're swallowed up in the maze. But it's not a maze really since the stones are in rows.

The venue opened in 2005 after years of controversy. "There's an underground center that includes the known names of those killed in the Holocaust along with letters from those on their way to concentration camps."

I'm choosing my Holocaust emersion in manageable chunks and took a pass on the names and the letters.

A preserved section of the wall, maybe brought to this site, and the graphics are not so great looking like they are continually defaced with gum and contemporary tagging.

This guy, for 2 euro, would give your passport a stamp from the GDR. I declined the stamp but that is my passport.

There's a section of the wall here and an exhibit called the Topography of Terror with panels of mostly photographs, newspapers, posters, and various other materials with commentary on Nazi history.

From the wall in the photo above, with a little self-portrait added in.

And here we are now, at Checkpoint Charlie. That's an American soldier, and in the lower right you can see the guardhouse...

...and close up. You can get a visa stamp here too and for another 2 euro you can have your picture taken. BTW, those guys were not Americans.

McDonalds in the background. Of course.

And leaving, that's an East German soldier.

The legendary and now sentimental Trabi, the only car available in East Berlin for decades.

Long day of walking and I'm going home to put up my feet!

October 10

It rained off and on all day and I'm too lazy to be a tourist in the rain, so I just stayed in and did up those pictures from the 8th and 9th.

These things take time .. and now I've got another couple of hundred to go through!

October 11 Since I keep crossing over the same streets I'm moving pictures around to, I hope, make some sense of it all.

The Kaiser-Wilhelm Gedachtniskirche or the Kaiser Wilhelm Memorial Church. Nearly demolished in WWII except for a few walls and the tower, the church has been kept as a memorial but now they've covered it and are doing a major reconstruction.

You can still see some of the inside and many fantastic mosaics.

Connected to the old church and built in the ruins is this new octagonal-shaped church where worship services continue.

This sculpture is called Berlin, put here before reunification and meant to symbolize the city. The tubes intertwine but never connect.

And more construction.

One view into the 412 acre Tiergarten first opened to the public in the 1700s.

You also pass by the very handsome Schloss Bellevue, the German president's home, and the Bundesprasidialamt, the German president's office surrounded by this lovely park.

Siegessaule, the Victory Column commemorating Prussian victories over France, Austria, and Denmark. Dang triumphal.

I have so many more pictures of buildings.

The Westin has its own chunk of The Wall, color coordinated.

A tasty and historic restaurant at the edge of...

...Gendarmenmarkt. One guidebook calls it 'one of the most beautiful squares in Germany and all of Europe.' A bit of hyperbole maybe, since it's basically three nice buildings, two cathedrals surrounding the Concert House.

The Concert House, home to the Berlin and the German Symphony rebuilt to its original 1821 glory with the statue of poet Friedrich Schiller in front.

That's a crowd of tourists on the left and the German Air Force on the right.

The Air Force guys didn't have any identifying insignia on their uniforms, not that I could recognize anyway, so I picked one from the edge of the group to talk to and that was fun. The guy seemed pleased with his excellent ability to chat in English.


Potsdamer Platz, 'bombed beyond recognition in WWII, this square found itself in former East Berlin. It was unused and undeveloped while the city was divided. After reunification, it was transformed into the commercial heart of the city and is filled with innovative architecture...'

Just an example of what it used to be 'by 1938, 37 out of 52 embassies and legations in Berlin, and 28 out of 29 consulates, were situated here.'

Berlin is built on a flat delta and anything that looks like a hill is going to be debris most often now from the WWII bombings.

This I think is debris from The Wall and I wonder why one side is mowed and the other is rough.

Buildings buildings buildings. Maybe later I'll put in more if there's 'room'.

The story of the lights: these characters, the walking man and the standing man are called the Ampelmännchen and were the East German signal system.

After reunification Berlin tried to replace them with a more modern system but everyone went nuts to keep the Ampelmännchen and now they have spread to the government zones in the former West as well.

And no one crosses on red. No one except tourist who get yelled at, 'child killer!'. The idea is that in public you shouldn't teach the children to disobey the law. Or so I heard.

The GrillWalker man. He's got a gas tank on his back that fires the grill that cooks the brats. Yum, and a good cheap dinner right there in my own Platz.

October 12

'The Real Berlin Experience' from alternativeberlin.com. Best City Tour Group Ever. It would have taken me a week to find these places on my own and this group was totally into it as was the guide.

I was wearing my sandals with cool-looking wool high-top socks, long pants, a t-shirt, a flannel, a shell, and a wrap-around long scarf. Toasty!

We hopped the trains a few times and walked and walked for about five hours and the guide was so efficient in getting us around town.

I was immediately attracted to the artist El Bucho because one of his recurring images is of a cute young girl named Little Lucy who hates her cat upon whom various evil falls. This one says 'stupid kitti'.

The guide, who walks around here all the time and does work himself is well acquainted with 'the scene' and it was fun to hear the stories of how these walls evolve.

The first thing I felt about it (after wanting to find more about kitti...) was that these works are a conversation between the artists.

One artist puts up something, another person makes a statement in response, and so on until at some point they paint over the wall and start again.

Important to note: virtually none of this is gang tagging which takes away the scary part. Mostly it's legal and often invited. But not everywhere of course. Don't go be trying to kill your kitti at the Brandenburg Gate.

Here's Little Lucy again.

This is the same artist who does Little Lucy, El Bucho, and he's selling in galleries now and the guide thinks another artists wrote that comment coming out of her mouth as a response to El Bucho selling out to the man.

We heard about the technique of creating this type of image, about the man in the beard, about the number 6, and more.

There's a bike in the foreground so you can get some scale.

There's an Anne Frank exhibit happening here. Exactly next to this alley is another alley with a Gucci store and other high-end shopping opportunities where you find not a lick of graffiti.

The artist painted this bird with sponges.

Your eyes end up spinning around in their fuzzy pulsing sockets.

Called the Stolperstein or stumbling stone, it is "a monument created by Gunter Demnig which commemorates a victim of the Holocaust. .. They commemorate individuals – both those who died and survivors – who were persecuted by the Nazis.

"While the vast majority of stolpersteine commemorate Jewish victims of the Holocaust, others have been placed for Sinti and Romani people, homosexuals, Jehovah's Witnesses, black people, Christians (both Protestants and Catholics) opposed to the Nazis, members of the Communist Party and the Resistance, military deserters, and the physically and mentally disabled."

They are already placed in several countries and hundreds of cities and towns.

This is a large section of the Berlin Wall along the river that has been rebuilt. 'They' contacted as many of the original artists who would have painted on the wall and asked them to recreate their work.

A few did it, a few refused, and many could not be found. There was enough documentation on the original paintings that the group who is funding this project simply had them redone.

Oh look, here's my kitty girl again.

We are in a place that has been turned into a Beach Party venue. The guide says Berliners are nuts for the beach (the nearest is 400 km away), so there are any number of bars and dance clubs...

...made up with sands and plastic palm trees.

The artist who made that large face did it by first digging into the plaster of then putting gun powder into the ridge, then plastering over the wall again, then setting off the gun powder.

"The popularization of graffiti through street art has been picked up by commercial brands as a subversive marketing tool. In Berlin this has materialized in the form of Levi’s collaboration with Portuguese street artist Alexandre Farto, aka Vhils as part of the company’s ‘Go Forth’ Campaign.

"Using the unconventional tools of drills and explosives, the portraits of four local figures were etched into selected walls throughout the city over the summer. Selected for their varied contributions to the community were Joe Hatchiban, host of Mauerpark’s famous outdoor karaoke shows, photographer and Berghain doorman Sven Marquardt, socio-political art duo Various & Gould and immigrant youth worker Fadi Saad."

A maker of where the wall stood.

"By Victor Ash, a French artist, who participated to the Backjumps exhibition in Berlin where he realized the work called astronaut/cosmonaut on a wall of a typical Kreuzberg building in the center of Berlin."

We stopped at the Turkish Market to be amazed at all the goods and to pick-up some lunch.

I could not be amazed because I could not be in there. I couldn't see, I couldn't walk, I couldn't breath, so I stepped out to stroll down the back.

I did find some food though, dolmas and hummus. I liked it.

On the same street with the Turkish Market.

The artist ROA did this one (I couldn't find his real name). You can run google images to see some of his other work. The guide was particularly impressed that the artist was able to paint this entire work in four days.

Blu (an Italian artist who keeps his identity secret) worked in Germany on many occasions between 2006 and 2009, mostly in Berlin. This is one of his many well-know pieces.

"Local businesses and even local authorities hired artists to paint murals on the fronts of their buildings. Most famously, on a wall in Kreuzberg, the artist Blu painted two men trying to rip each other’s masks off — symbolizing, he claims, Berlin’s struggles during its first few years of reunification."

Notice that one guy's fingers make an E while the other makes a W for east and west.

The figure with the chains and the expensive watches is a commentary on modern life by a different artist I think. I didn't find anything more about him yet.

Behind those trees there is a huge complex of buildings originally used to repair train cars but now abandoned from that purpose and taken over by various bands of artists.

There's a long story on the political/social/legal situation that, the upshot is, the artists will be able to stay well into the 2018s.

There are living spaces, studios, clubs, bars, restaurants, and even some retail sales going on here.

I walked by up closer to this building and was taken with the bugs and then as I moved further and further back I keep adding 'oh Look' moments to the experience.

Our guide did the angry animal on the left. He said he has several angry animals around town.

Why are your animals angry, I asked. They are angry, he said, as part of his constant exploration of stress and anxiety. I suggested he just add a mindfulness bell to his smartphone.

I made them do it but then everyone wanted one too...

The dynamite/Levis commercial guy from before.

I can't find anything on this one yet.

We ended the tour here and the guide walked us back to the train during which time he discussed with a couple of the guys about the hundreds of kinky gay bars around and where they would meet that night.

Coming home into Alexanderplatz here's the kick-off to the nightly dance band and beer drinking extravaganza.

The view from my window is really pretty good.

I'm on the 7th floor and there's an enormous street down there with 8 lanes of cars, a bus lane, a left turn lane, two tracks for the trams and tram waiting areas. You can't even cross the street in one go because of how they've staggered the lights. With the window closed I hardly hear it and with the window open the room cools off nicely. It's pretty good.

October 13

From my hotel, I walk 30 minutes round-trip to the transportation hub at Alexanderplatz.

At the beginning of a long trip I usually take a break every 5 or 6 days, and then as the weeks roll on I find myself taking a break every 4 or 5 days, and today I took another break even though I had also taken a break on the 10th but yike-y I walked non-stop for 7 hours on both the 11th and 12th and I'm tired!

And then the longer I'm out the more pictures I've got and the more things there are to tell about.

October 14

Taking a stroll from the S-Bahn stop through a lovely residential area to a museum that is the life work of a single collector.

Here in Berlin we have the U-Bahn for the underground trains, S-Bahn for the above ground trains, and M-Bahn for the trams that crisscross the city and another letter that I forget right now for the oh-so-many buses. It's one of those things that once you get used to it, it's easy.

I came out here to see this museum but, no, not for me. Nearby is this...

...Schloss Charlotteburg, built by King Friedrich I in the late 1600s (of course mostly a reconstruction now) for his wife Sophie Charlotte as a summer residence.

King Friedrich himself.

A pair of these guys guard the gates.

There's a nice park here too, and an especially nice residential area called Charlotteburg.

Just outside the palace huge crowds were gathering for an annual 10k running race.

There seem to be teams involved.

Moving on to another neighborhood, I certainly got good use out of the full-day transportation pass I bought this morning.

Nice building work that looks like advertising.

There's a big park here with many buskers about...

...an extensive flea market...

...and graffiti of course.

This is the view from the wall of graffiti looking down on the park and the flea market.

Moving on to another neighborhood I had some walking to do after the S-Bahn ride.

More .. on the way to...

...Museum Island.

Berlin is built along the river Spree. At several points the river splits off and then rejoins itself, hence Museum Island.

This is the most well-known museum, Pergamon.

And what is that water tower doing in the middle of the plaza? "The monumental panoramic view of the city of Pergamon takes you back to the year 129 AD." Imagine the entire interior surface of the drum painted with a scene from ancient Pergamon.

It is pretty cool but I could only enjoy half of it, the half from the ground looking up. There's a platform several flights of stairs up but it was so crowded I couldn't see a thing.

The most well-known pieces include The Pergamon Altar, the Market Gate of Miletus, The Ishtar Gate and the Processional Way of Babylon, all monumental constructions.

The front part of the Ishtar Gate...

...and some detail of the Processional Way. And then I took my own Processional Way home.

October 15

Cold wet day today but I went out anyway because I had my reservation for the Reichstag. This would be a nice hangout on a nice day.

Another view of the Cathedral.

Catching some fall...

...and another view of the Brandenburg Gate.

Lights, camera, action!

From the balcony of the Reichstag...

...and looking down from the top of...

...the dome! You can see where the congress meets looking down in the picture above, and here looking into the main meeting hall below.

And here's the front. I'll try to get a shot of the whole building because it's very interesting.

October 16

It's my last day in Berlin and I wanted to kick off the day with a nice collage of Little Lucy and her Kitti (I wrote about them on the 12th). I actually saw all of these at some point, but I got the photos off the internet.

I think he must do the same image in more than one place.

These pink cylinders are up and down the boulevard with historical displays inside marking the 775th year since the founding of Berlin.

The Fernsehturm, the television tower is the tallest structure in Germany. You've seen it in many pictures because you can basically see it from everywhere including out my room's window.

Today I was planning to do the boat tour along the river and visit the tower's viewing station. Due to a series of unfortunate circumstances (including a closed down boat operator and a four hour wait for the tower that was supposed to be 'only' two) I didn't make it to the boat...

...but it was cool to get the view from the tower.

The arrow is pointing to the Reichstag. My main hope was to get a good picture of it but because of that silly building in front, and because of the long wait at the tower meaning by the time I got up there the sun flushed out the view, the picture is pretty bad but...

...I wanted to talk about the bears anyway and in the background of this picture you can get a little idea of how the Reichstag looks.

The bear in the graphic with the crown is The Berlin Bear and the models in the other picture are all over Berlin, called Berlin Buddies. You've seen these mascots around in other cities too - buffalo in Salt Lake City, angels in LA, moose in Montreal, many cities and I just can't find the real story yet, but I'll keep looking for a while.

The arrow is pointing to my hotel and Alexanderplatz (a massive transportation hub) is the big plaza with the fountain in the middle and as you can see the festival of food stalls is gone. They just trucked those babies all up a day or so ago and that's it except now...

...there was a fun music and dancing event which was entertaining for a few minutes until I realized they were a God squad and a young woman singled me out to evangelize.

I made all my usual and oft-proven friendly and courteous gestures that always, always work to deflect the solicitations of street folk, but this chick Would Not Stop and when instead of just walking away like I Should have I hardened my voice and said 'STOP, Please!'. Poor little thing, her eyes filled with tears and I felt reeeeally bad.

The odd thing to me is that in the end I found it a strangely soothing experience. The world over evangelists are all the same and I never learn.

The Cathedral...

...and a great view of the river Spree.

Fond farewells Berlin and tomorrow it's Home-Sweet-Home for me. And that's going to be great too.

HomeEurope • Germany • '12 Oct: Berlin, Germany

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