We’ve walked our feet off here in Berlin, making great progress in our long list of museum visits. We’ve had very nice weather, usually a bit cool, excellent for walking. The public transportation here, like in Paris, is excellent, and although the city is enormous, it is very easy to get to anywhere, even if it is 15 kilometers from the city center. To see “German” architecture one must go to the parts of the city that are a bit further away from the center, which were not so badly damaged by the air raids of WWII. In these areas the buildings still retain their 19th century character and charm. In the center, everything is new and rather massive, more like La Defense in Paris.
The contrast between east and west is still visible. In the eastern zone, most buildings have been renovated and decorative bits of color have been added to remove the severity and plainness of Soviet-style architecture. But what I have noticed, even 23 years after the collapse of the Berlin wall, is the difference in the number of shops on the ground floors. In the west, the atmosphere is quite festive – trees, sidewalk cafes, restaurants, boutiques, signs, color, etc. On the east side, you can go for blocks on the bus without seeing anything except the front doors of 5-storey cement block buildings. It is still obvious on the east side that there was a real dearth of consumer goods and a strong disincentive to the establishment of small businesses.
We’ve also been eating typical German food and drinking German beer, although so far, Gary has been a bit disappointed by the beer, and I have as well! I have eaten roasted pig knuckle, which is sold in France as “jarret” and is a Berlin specialty. Some restaurants boil it, others roast it. The one I had was roasted in the oven, and was delicious. The size is a bit intimidating when it arrives in front of you in the restaurant, but after you dig into it, you see that although there is plenty of meat, much of the dish is bone and gristle, which one does not have to eat! I adore German-style red cabbage, and am finding many opportunities to eat that as well.