Berlin in a day!

What would you do if you had 24 hours in one of the most famous cities in the world?  Well, I gave it a go. (NOTE:  I actually have tomorrow as well, but I am planning to go to Lutherstadt Wittenberg).

I should start by saying I DO still have another blog post about Bratislava and the Bethany connection to the Evangeliche Lyceum.  But, I am going to wait on that for a bit so I can really do it right.

So, the day began with breakfast at the hotel, the Meininger Alexanderplatz.  It is really more of a hostel than a hotel, and actually staying here has been important in that I will ask our tour company to not use them.  They’re not terrible, but if we are going to pay good money there are other chains that our students would prefer.  I would not have known this without being here.

My first appointment was at the Reichstag Building:

Although I should know the entire history of this building I will not venture to give the lesson here.  Needless to say, it is an iconic structure that the Russians captured during WWII and is now home to the German Parliament.  In order to enter the Reichstag Building you must arrange for a tour months in advance.  I made arrangements early in the morning on December 4, while waiting for my turn to buy a ticket to the Berlin Philharmonic.

The tour lasted about 90 minutes and was extremely informative and interesting.  Short version. . . there are 4 major parties and in order to have a majority at least 2 parties have to join together.  One of those is the Christian Democrats, lead by Angela Merkel.  There are over 600 seats in Parliament and they are arranged by part from left to right.

We were able to sit in the gallery during the tour, something most are not allowed to do.

We then went to the various rooms where the four parties meet when not in plenary session.  When we went to the Christian Democrat committee meeting room our guide, Andre, told us all to take a seat on the platform.  So I did.  In Angela Merkel’s seat!

The view from the Chancellor of Germany’s seat

After this we went to the dome.  This is a part of the building that was added during the remodel 20 years ago.  It is extremely cool and I am afraid I did not do it justice when taking pictures.  I guess you will all just have to come on tour with the Bethany Choir and Handbells in 2018 to see it in person!

Then, it was time for lunch and relaxation across the street.  Plus, I need to post a picture of food at least once during each entry, right?

Bratwurst with potatoes and sauerkraut

After lunch I walked to some other nearby sights.  First was the famous Brandenburg Gate:

And then I visited “Checkpoint Charlie,” a holdover from the Cold War. But on the way, I stopped at the Führerbunker, the place to which Adolf Hitler retreated during the bombing of Berlin and where he and his wife, Eva Braun, committed suicide.  Now, it is literally a parking lot for some apartments.

Checkpoint Charlie was one of the places where people transferred between East and West Berlin, but only with correct paperwork.  Those in East Berlin were especially not allowed out.

Now, it’s most a tourist place.  But, I had fun with it.

Here is the “guard” stamping my passport. It was 5 Euros for stamps and it really was my actual passport.

To take this picture cost me only 3 euros. Capitalism. Ironic.

A piece of the Berlin Wall

I had already had a long day, so I took the U-Bahn back to the hotel.  On the way I stopped at the Galleria Kaufhof.  Okay, so this is where I have to make an admission.  I play games on my phone.  Yes, I have fun playing something extremely mindless.  My favorite game right now is Clash Royale.  In that game you join a “clan” of people from anywhere in the world and play the game against other “clans.”  I joined a clan from Berlin and used the chat feature the converse with Berliners in preparation for my trip.  It just so happened that one of the members of my “clan” works as a sommelier at a place 5 minutes from where I am staying.  So, we met!  It was only for 5 minutes, but I thought that was pretty cool.

This is Tino. We play silly games together online from halfway across the world.

Oh, by the way, the famous TV tower of Berlin is also right there where Tino works and I am staying.  Immediately to the right in this picture is the place where Tino works.

It would have been okay to call it a day at this point.  But I am in Berlin! AND I had a ticket to hear the Verdi Requiem as performed by the Berlin Philharmonic, with the Rundfunkchor Berlin.  I could write a book about this performance.  At the same time, it would be difficult to describe.  It was perfection.  There simply were no incorrect notes.  Every player and singer was together exactly, AND there was a sense of musicality that was incomparable.  

Philharmonie Hall

Pictures were not allowed during the performance, but I managed to turn my phone on and get a snap from my seat after the performance.

After the performance I ventured closed to the stage.

It may be difficult to understand.  Or, perhaps you can relate in your own area of expertise.  But, an experience like this does something to a person who makes music for a living.  We all get in our own daily grind. It is easy to get caught up in that.  Experiencing this fills my “tank” for a good while and helps me become a better conductor and musician.

I got greedy after the performance and decided to forego public transportation (my first time on this trip) and instead take a taxi to the Brandenburg Gate.  I wanted to see it lit up.

It was the perfect end to a wonderful day. I simply cannot wait to bring the Bethany Choir, Handbells, Alumni, and Friends here in spring of 2018.

Tomorrow. . . Lutherstadt Wittenberg and the 95 Theses.


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