Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Berlin - the lost day

There was lots of noise from the street below our dining room window last night - and waves of intermittent cheering. Looking out we saw this huge crowd gathered around a television set up in a bar facing Kastinienallee. The crowd was so thick it had spilled out on to the road way - very close to the trams making their way back and forth along the street - nobody seemed to be too concerned.

It was obviously a big soccer game! 

I would say the crowd favourite didn't win as there was no wild celebrating at the end of the game - the crowd just slowly melted away - all very well behaved.

Today was a sort of lost day. We don't normally go serious shopping while we're travelling; it takes up too much time! However we're only a bit over a week away from a big wedding - and there is some outfit finalising still to be done.......and whatever we can tick off in Berlin is time saved in London.  

So we took ourselves off to Zoologischer Garten U-bahn this morning, walked through Breitscheidplatz and were unlucky enough to be here at a time when the Gedachtniskirche Memorial Church has been completely hidden by the scaffolding and screening that is part of a major restoration effort that won't be completed until mid 2013.

The church was almost destroyed in a bombing raid in November 1943, with only the badly damaged spire and entrance hall left standing. The present church which is very modern in appearance was constructed around the ruins of the old church. We remember seeing the damaged church spire when we were here in 1975. Its another potent and poignant symbol of the layers of Berlin's history - especially seen here (though not today) amongst the modern gloss of Berlin's high street shops.

We turn left down Tauentzienstrasse where I started my day's hunt for SHOES.  First stop was Leiser where I found it a thrill to find shoe brands like Josef Seibel, Think! and Arche, a lot cheaper than I'm used to.

Then we find the legendary Ka De We (Kaufhaus des Westens), the second largest department store in Europe (after Harrods).  I found the perfect shoes here but couldn't come at spending 495 euros on them!

Apart from this I didn't think Ka De We was quite as glossy as Harrods - I think it's about on a par with David Jones in Sydney's CBD (hope this doesn't make me sound too parochial).

We had a light lunch on the 6th floor in Ka De We's beautiful food hall. We were served by a very abrupt and unwelcoming person (our first on this trip) but we didn't let that spoil our fun.

We walked up to Berlin's legendary Kurfurstendamm. During the twenties this wide boulevard was the scene of Berlin's wealthy cafe society and cabaret scene......which came to an end with the Great Depression and the rise of Hitler's Nazi Party.  Apparently Ku'damm has suffered from greater competition from more central shopping areas in the old East Berlin (like Alexanderplatz and Friedrichstrass) which were redeveloped after reunification.

We've heard that when the wall first came down Ku'damm was a popular first stop for many East Berliners who'd been living a very grey and frugal existence for so many years in the time of the GDR . Apparently many of them became physically ill after being confronted for the first time with the overwhelming noise, lights, colour and glitz that is part of the modern department store experience. (Rob can relate to that.)

Although we looked for remnant signs of its golden age...... Ku'damm is looking like just another high street to us, even with the parked Lamborghinis, Porsches and the scattering of high end French designer shops. BTW I did find a pair of shoes eventually and enjoyed finding yet another pair of baggy black trousers at Cos and at Krines.

Rob was awarded sainthood by the end of the day - and a beer and a krakauwurst (with mustard) at the Prater Garten.

It'll be his turn next - shoes and a jacket - he'll be dreading it. I wish I knew where the "right" shops were, it would make the job so much quicker.  Prenzlauer Berg and Mitte would be brilliant for shopping - IF you knew where to find things. There are so many independent boutiques and designers, but you'd have to walk all the streets and alleyways for hours just to find them.

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