Thursday, August 25, 2016

Boat, Bus and S-Bahn

The very size of Berlin is overwhelming.  After the intimate alleys and frequent trams in Prague it has taken a whole day to get our bearings. Fortunately we are staying in a central location. That is always my first priority in choosing a lodging. But trying to figure out transportation has been challenging. 

For the first time I decided to pick one of those hop on hop off bus tours. I now remember why I don't purchase audio guides. Listening to a cheery voice point out unidentifiable spots and list factoids that you can't put into context is exhausting, especially when the day is hot and the sun beats down. 

We started well.  We decided that the Berlin Welcome Card was worth the price since it allows us access to ALL public transportation for our stay. But when we descended into the SBahn station with a map in 6pt unreadable color fonts, we began to lose our cool. However, we have mastered Paris, London, New York, Boston. Berlin cannot beat us. It took us several rides before we were feeling ok. Perhaps by the time we leave we will feel confident. 

We started the bus tour with the boat ride included in the ticket. We took a loop around the Spree where we got a look at much of the new construction in the eastern city.

Time and again the destruction of the Nazis, the wartime bombings, and the Communist government were the prelude to massive new buildings by prominent architects from around the world. Their names are some of the factoids I've forgotten with the exception of Sir Norman Foster who did such a fine building at the MFA addition in Boston.
We had bought sandwiches which we ate on the boat, so when we disembarked, we headed to the bus stop to ride the double decker yellow bus again.

The sun beat down and the elevator music between stops was especially irritating. By the time we got to the Tiergarten Peter tore off the bus with me barely keeping up. 

There we found shade and trees and a lovely cool path leading to the English Garden and a Teehaus. That was exactly what we needed. We found a shady terrace to rest and order drinks. I had my second Berliner Weisse which was so refreshing, and Peter had a passion fruit drink. We reassessed and discovered that we had learned a lot. 

Contrary to my previous visit forty years ago Berlin is huge. Back then it was hard to walk more than 20 minutes in any direction without encountering the Wall. Today Berlin is spread far and wide, and getting around it requires two kinds of subway, trams and busses. We were glad we had purchased those travel passes.  Not so sure about the hop on bus. 

We returned to our apartment and relaxed. We called Mom using Skype, checked email, and I took another shower. We were meeting my brother and Alex at Clarchen's Balhaus. Our transit was smooth. I must give a shout out to google which gives transit directions including the right SBahn to take, the stop and the walking directions afterwards. Robert and Alex were waiting as we arrived on the dot of 7:30. 

I should have taken photos of this restaurant, but I was so taken up with the experience that I didn't even think of it. The restaurant is a throw back to prewar Berlin. People sit at casual wooden tables in two garden areas. Inside is a dance room. Dancing begins at 9 but when we arrived at 7:30, about 10 couples were taking a dancing class. As we left the dancing was in full swing, and everyone was having an awesome time.  The food was excellent and we had a wonderful evening with Robert and Alex.  We made it home using the S Bahn without a hitch.  It had cooled by the time we got home and sleep was deep and renewing. 

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