Berlin is Germany’s capital city, and also its largest, with a population exceeding 3 million. It’s
located in the far eastern part of the country, and is 37 miles away from being in Poland. It’s situated
on the River Spree (shpray), which empties into the River Havel, which empties into the River Elbe,
which empties into the North Sea, northwest of Hamburg. Most Americans who think of Berlin probably think
of it in the context of one of its notorious 20th Century roles – as the headquarters of Hitler’s Third
Reich, or as a divided city and symbol of Soviet oppression. But before all of that, it was the capital
city of the Kingdom of Prussia from 1701 to 1871, and of the united country of Germany thereafter. While
the country was divided into East and West Germanies, Berlin was the capital of East Germany, the so-called
Deutsche Demokratische Republik. During this time the capital of West Germany (Bundesrepublik
Deutschland) was located in the city of Bonn, but after reunification the country’s capital returned to
its traditional location in Berlin. Berlin is now a center of technology, art and education, and with
freedom of travel restored, is a popular destination for tourists.
Including us. But the options for getting there from Copenhagen were limited. The two cities are not that
far apart, and a train ride directly from one to the other would not be unduly taxing. Except, as you can
see from the map, the Baltic Sea is in the way, so there really isn’t such a thing as a direct train
ride. One would have to take a boat for a good part of the trip, or take a far more circuitous route
involving Jutland, islands and bridges. Fortunately passenger aircraft were available at Copenhagen’s
Kastrup Airport, and we had tickets for an SAS flight to Berlin of less than an hour.
An SAS Hub
From Berlin’s Tegel Airport there were a few ways to get to our chosen hotel, called the
Hotel Otto. We chose to ride the bus, an
inexpensive option that dropped us off at Ernst-Reuter-Platz, a confluence of roads that was a
short walk from the hotel. A short walk that took us more than a half hour, as it turned
out. Within 100 feet of getting off the bus we started to notice a few raindrops. Within another
hundred feet the raindrops had multiplied exponentially, and we (and our luggage) hastily took
refuge under an awning in front of a stationery store. It rained cats and dogs for the next 20-30
minutes, and every time we considered making a run for the hotel, a little more of the sky would
open up to discourage us.
Bob Checks the Doppler Radar
Nella Makes Herself at Home
While we certainly enjoyed perusing the stationery store’s merchandise through the window
(and they were no doubt tickled to play host to us and our pile of luggage), eventually we
imagined that the rain had let up somewhat, and Connie and I did make our break for the
hotel. We arrived in a dampened state and began the check-in process. A few minutes into
it, Nella arrived, dry as the Sahara and making remarks about the impatience of youth.
Our room turned out to be quite nice, large in size and decorated in a spare but modern
style. There were complimentary bottles of drinking water, and a small complimentary bag of
mixed nuts. We found a large fan in the closet, provided in case of warm weather, as the
room was not air conditioned.
Connie and Nella and Accommodations
After a rest, we went out in search of adventure, and (eventually) food. We headed a little south and
a lot east and found both at a gigantic store (the second largest in Europe, after London’s Harrods)
called Kaufhaus des Westens
("Department Store of the West"), or KaDeWe (kah-day-vay) for short.
Distinctive Berlin "Walk" Signal
The store dates back to 1905, but was largely destroyed by Allied bombing during World War
II (an American bomber actually crashed into it). Two floors reopened in 1950, and the rest
reopened in 1956. We entered the store and mainly found typical upscale department store stuff.
But one floor captured our imaginations, being entirely devoted to gourmet food. One section
of this floor was set aside as a large Lenôtre pastry shop. We spent some time in this area,
becoming rather hungry in the process.
More Lenôtre Pastry
But we knew the pastry, while delicious, would not work very well as a main course for dinner,
so we left the store and searched for a restaurant.
We were looking for something that was authentically German (which Lenôtre certainly wasn’t),
and on the way back toward the hotel, we found a place with a very German-looking menu posted
in front. As we made our way to a booth, we found the place to be dimly lit but not unattractive,
with wood everywhere. Connie ordered a chicken thing with Spätzle, and Nella got bratwurst with
sauerkraut. I saw something on the menu with an English translation of "meat loaf with fried egg
and potato salad". I like all of those things, so I ordered it. What arrived wasn’t what I
expected. Instead of the American mound of ground beef, the meat loaf resembled and tasted like
a slice from a large sausage that happened to be shaped like a loaf of bread. It actually wasn’t
bad, though rather on the salty side for my taste.
Connie's Chicken and Spätzle
Nella's Bratwurst and Sauerkraut
Nella Attacks the Bratwurst
Fried Egg and Potato Salad and ... Meat Loaf?
From the restaurant we returned the rest of the way to the hotel and retired to our beds. We
were going to need our energy for the next day, which we planned to start off by visiting the