The drive from Dresden to Berlin was about 2.5 hours. It snowed the day before so the road was a little wet and slippery. The thermometer in the car registered -13.5 deg C at its lowest.The wind shield sprayer was frozen! I guess the antifreeze in the water was not rated for temperature this low. It was 26 km later before the sprayer would work but the liquid froze and smeared as soon as the fluid hit the windscreen. It was horrible driving with smeared view. The first gas station we stopped at had run out of wind shield fluid. We filled up at the next gas station and the drive was more comfortable with better views! Every time a vehicle flew by us, spraying and dirtying our wind screen, I worried in case the fluid might freeze on us as it was so cold outside.
We passed densely clustered conifer trees with straight trunks. It looks very dark amongst those trees, makes me think of Red Riding Hood meeting the big bad wolf. The whole landscape was white but the amount of snow was minimal compared to Tahoe. Not many four wheel drive vehicles at all but Dave said the majority of newer cars have terrific traction control. Dave was driving a C class mercedes and he kept assuring me that we did not need a 4×4 vehicle. I said “Do you have chains?” Apparently, no one carries those either.
Our first stop was the East gallery of the Berlin Wall. This year is the 20th anniversary of the fall of the wall. We walked quite a long way, snapping pictures of the art work that various artists had done. On the other side of the wall, was West Berlin and freedom. There was a little shack on the river side, selling souvenirs and would stamp your passport if you wished. Today, even though the wall is full of colors and interesting art works, I feel saddened by what it represented 20 years before. After a while, we had to run back to the car as our fingers were numbed and my feet felt like two blocks of ice!
How did one manage without a car Navi system? After the wall, it guided us to a parking garage at Alexander Platz in Berlin. By then I was desperate for the loo and I expected Dave to take me to one within the mall but oh no, instead he took me to one that he had used before when he was in Berlin. It was a dang long walk, out of the mall, through a couple of christmas markets, crossed several roads before we arrived at a City WC! It was cold to boot – minus 12 deg C.
Dave, the tour guide took me through a park where Karl Marx sat in the cold with two of his buddies. Walking and jumping to thaw my toes,we arrived at Opera Square, or Bebel Platz, where Hitler ordered the burning of books. In the middle of the square is a glass floor about 5 feet square. Through the glass I saw empty book cases, to symbolise the burning of 20 thousand books. Across the road is Humboldt university and books were all over the front yard, a symbolic book stand where one can buy books everyday.
We back tracked a bit to the Christmas market, where we had sausages and bread for lunch and where I was literally hugging the fire box while we ate. Next stall was a gluhwein stand and we each had a cup. I nearly cried when I saw that under the awnings were heater stands! My fingers felt a little warmer from the cup of gluhwein but my toes remained frozen. Spoke to a Japanese tourist in japanese, just to keep up with the lingo, you know…
Energised and bundled up again, we walked towards Check Point Charlie. On the way there, we nipped into a car show room to spend a penny – only it was 50 cents today – and to see some fancy cars like the Bugati Veyron and some Bentleys. At the check point, I can almost see folks trying to make a run towards the American side and being tackled back to East Berlin. After Check Point Charley, I saw remnants of the Berlin wall on the roads, two by two brick remains that stretched for miles.
As we left Check Point Charley, walking along Bethlehem Kirch Pl., Dave told me about a legend of a woman who used to pick up things, wrapped it in cloth and carrying it on her back and he said there is a sculpture of her belongings, and there it was right infront of us, a huge round sculpture of the woman’s belongings! We don’t know why she was a legend ..that’s all Dave knew about her.
Next stop was Potsdam Platz, where several buildings were built to represent the financial center of Berlin but nothing happened there and whoever built those buildings lost alot of money and the buildings remain empty, except for a few shops and coffee houses. We stopped to have coffee and cake at a place called Alex, and there were menus and newsprints congratulting Alex on his 20th birthday – we were guessing that the owner must have opened a restaurant somewhere on the day the wall fell. I took a picture of the menu and news just because our Alex was 20 years old earlier this year!
I also decided to check on my foot – why was i suffering so much from frozen feet? I decided that maybe the two pairs of socks was too much and there was not much wriggle room, so I decided to remove a pair … yes, right there in the restaurant …hope no one saw me fondle me toes…
Next stop was the Jewish Memorial – hundreds of rectangle blocks of concrete were erected in this one area. I stood and took a picture – it was a low concrete block, then as I looked, the floor was undulating every which way and the blocks were of varying heights too, some were twice as tall as David. I felt sad as we wandered in between the blocks. I want to read more about who designed this memorial and how the concept was put together.
The US embassy was next to this jewish memorial. Remains of the Berlin Wall could be seen on the road infront of the embassy. At this point I really wished I had some hot hand warmers – the kind the kids used to put in their gloves to keep warm when they went skiing. Dave took a picture of me infront of the Brandeburg Gate – a symbol of Germany. After that, all I was interested in was finding where we had parked the car so we can get out of the cold.
When we eventually found Alexander Platz, I decided that I could do some shopping and then find a loo before we head back to Dresden. However, there were thousands of folks with the same idea – last saturday before christmas and all that and the loo had a line of several hundred or so it seemed. So, I crossed my leg and decided to stop at a motorway rest area to spend a penny.
Despite the cold, we had a grand time. Growing up in sunny malaysia, I never thought that I would one day visit the Berlin Wall in the depths of one of the coldest winters .