Sunday, December 4th 2016 – Berlin
By this stage we’d pretty much hit the point of not making plans though we did start the day vaguely aiming at Museum Island because our Berlin Card included it, and they are always listed as among the top sights in the city. We set off via the U2 and came up as close as we could get at the rather splendid Kloster Strasse underground station, which has some delightful tiled details as well as a model train in a mocked up tunnel near the steps leading out.
A walk past Nicolai Platz soon had us trapped in the building site that goes through the middle of Berlin along the track of the U5, which seems to be undergoing vast amounts of work right now. It was somewhat unfortunate the way the square petered out into what amounted to a massive blockage that we couldn’t find a way past.
By the time we’d battled our way round and found our way to what we thought was one of the five museums on the island we were actually at the entrance to the German Historical Museum. Again, there was a plan to slip in and do a quick look around before going on to the Pergamon. And again that wasn’t how it worked out but that shouldn’t surprise anyone by now, not even us.
If you start at the beginning with this museum you’ll get a very good – and pretty thorough – grounding in German history starting with the Carolingians and keeping going. There was no way we were getting out of here in a hurry! And so it proved. A 40 minute film in the first roon kept us happily occupied and I then lost myself in the intricacies of Charlemagne’s reign, happy to revisit what was one of my main subjects at university, and which has always intrigued me. There are some very impressive items in here, and the time just slipped away as we browsed and nosed around and exclaimed, pointing things out to each other as we went. I loved this medieval saddle with the intricate carvings:
I was also much entertained to find Napoleon’s coronation robe, complete of course with embroidered bees which was part of a very good section on what went on during that period.
There’s also a chair that dates from I think it was 1795, which is one of the most modern things imaginable.
A brief break in the cafe was needed and we scooted downstairs to get a coffee (with rum!) before we got back down to the serious business of working our way round.
It’s a brilliant museum – I can’t recommend it enough if you want to get all the context you could want to enjoy your trip and come away knowing more about German history than you did when you went in. There’s also a cautionary tale for anyone stupid enough to decide that a referendum is a good idea under any circumstances.
It was sobering in many ways. And by the time we emerged it was getting dark outside. It was time for another Christmas Market, this time the one recommended by the cycle-taxi driver. On our way we spotted a wonderful old car making its way down Unter den Linden, but then we were back underground and heading for the Kulturbrauerie.
Several people (including the cycle-taxi man) had recommended the St. Lucia Market to be fair so we felt it would have been churlish not to give it a try.
It’s a Scandinavian market so it was probably not surprising that we found a Finnish gloggi stand, as well as Swedish food, Finnish food and various crafts. It was crowded but at least once we fought our way through the many visitors, we were able to get a gloggi fortified with Koskenkorva which was very warming if somewhat likely to loosen our grip on our wallets. It was very good but one was enough and anyway Lynne wanted a currywurst so that had to be queued for too.
There have been better currywursts, and in fact I’ve eaten better currywursts, but it’s a Berlin staple so it really had to be done as we only had one day left to do it in and probably wouldn’t have enough time the following day. The market itself was very pretty, with lots of lights and some interesting stalls including a Sachsen wine producer, Schloss Wackerbarth, where they were selling sparkling wine. We’ve had it before on a trip to Dresden so investing in a couple of bottles seemed like a good plan, with intent to bury them in the middle of the suitcase, wrapped in a Wineskin, a very useful thing to own if like us you like to bring interesting wines home from your travels.
As we emerged at the end of the market we realised the weather was becoming misty and by the time we got back to the U2 station at Zoo, it was a full blown fog. That meant we’d be lucky to see much from the restaurant we’d booked for that night, Neni, which apparently overlooks the zoo.