Sunday and Monday
30.07.2012 - 31.07.2012 28 °C
Time to stretch the legs for a reasonably long walk to find the gallery devoted to Surrealist art, right across the road from Queen Charlotte's palace. We strolled down the bridle path used by the royals to duck between palaces back in the day. Couples strolled arm in arm around us, couples of all persuasions possible, all seemingly very intent on having a pleasant day.
The surrealist gallery boasted an array of arresting images guaranteed to increase the bizareness level of dreaming travellers. Dali was just about the straight guy in the party. Bonus was an enormous Egyptian temple entrance that was 'gifted' by that country before its site was flooded for the Aswan Dam.
Having exhausted our heads, we headed to a bright cluster of gaudy tents set up in front of the palace. We had stumbled upon what we discovered was the Duckstein Beer Festival. Simply, a promotional occasion for marketing certain beers, wines, and the inevitable profusion of bratwurst, currywurst, and many other meaty munchies beloved by the populace.
Our genial hotelier suggested we could use public transport tickets (only 6.8 Euros for an all day Carte) to check out some of the greenery a little further out. Armed with my old but trusty analog compass (no GPS as no local SIM card in hand yet), we ventured out via the M29 bus. We were assisted by a lady who kindly took us in hand and walked us to the right bus stop and told us which bus to get. A number of times, while we stood around looking puzzled in a range of circumstances, Berliners volunteered their advice without being asked, which was very helpful and appreciated.
On the south western fringe of Berlin, the Grunewald is a forested area that extends for a number of kilometres, with paths frequented by cyclists and serious walkers with walking sticks in both hands. After fortifying ourselves with a tuna pizza (never seen those in Melbourne!) and the fluffy, long glasses of coffee that are called Latte Machiatos here, we strolled along a path starting from the Grunwald Railway station, behind a tennis teaching area marked on the map as the Steffi Graf Stadium where kids were earnestly swinging their rackets in the sunshine. Soon we were trailing the edge of a pleasant lake, with luxurious houses on the far side including some intriguing metallic sculptures, one like DNA and one angular and rotating in the breeze.
The trees were plentiful yet predominantly slender. The reason, we found out, was that after the war the starving population was kept alive partially by clearing this area and growing potatoes. Now nature proceeds to reclaim and sweeten the land with the scent of fir and pine. That was also the case with the Tiergarten, the mix of casual forest and formal areas in the heart of Berlin.
Cracking the whip again, I suggested we continue on to Potsdam to check out the home of Frederick the Great. Why not, there's every chance my great grandfather Freidrich was named after him, just like the English have their Georges and Harrys. Potsdam has kept a lot of its medieval feel, as you jump off the bus having glimped the signpost to Sans Souci, the king's palace.
With sausages to the left of us and gelatis to the right we slowly progressed through the gauntlet of shops and vendors till reaching the beginnings of Freddy's park. The park has, oh, about seven or so castles in it, but we only wanted to check our the main event. Sans Souci,literally No Worries, was supposed to be somewhere to live without a care in the world.
Given that Freddy's Dad was known to beat him publicly and insist on Fred kissing his boots in front of the servants and all, it comes as no surprise that he was keen to just chill out a little with his close boon companions.
The building is monolithic and bursting with rococo splendour, but the grapevines trellised in front of the house, rising up the slope across the whole breadth of the building, are equally impressive.
The building itself was closed (a Monday thing) but if you imagine Franco Cozzo style furnishings only with taste and dripping with real gold leaf you get the picture.
On the way to Sans Souci the bus drives past a bland building where in 1942 Heydrich, Eichmann and others presented to Himmler their recommendations on how to bring the Jewish question to a final solution. It seems a number of those present, who were supposed to destroy their notes of the meeting, failed to do so, enabling many convictions at Nuremburg. Berlin is like this: in the midst of ordinariness, you suddenly get hit in the guts with the horror of the events of not so long ago. We bring our suitcases: Berlin keeps its baggage.