I rented this City Bike to get around Berlin. I am thrilled that Vancouver is about to get a public bike rental system.
I had a difficult time sleeping on my first night in Berlin, in spite of being exhausted with jet lag. I woke up at 2 a.m. and just stayed up, surfed the web to read about Berlin, did yesterday’s blog post, and got a few more things sorted out. I also started cleaning the the kitchen since it was a bit grimy. If I was here for just a few days, I wouldn’t bother, but I will be here for 3 months.
I also did a bit of work and talked to Jeff before he went to bed, so by the time I was dressed and ready to hit the town, it was 1:30 pm. Without any trouble, I was able to borrow one of the City Bikes. Their iPhone app tells you where the bikes are and whether there is one available, and lets you reserve a bike before even heading out the door. But that wasn’t necessary, it is late November and below freezing in Berlin. But then again, the streets are full of people. Even the outdoor eating places, like sausage booths and beer gardens, are teeming with people having a bite or a drink. Some places have open fire pits which helps.
I rode 15 minutes to get to Alexanderplatz with its famous TV tower in the city centre and returned the bike to a drop-off point. I walked around a bit, then booked one of those hop on/hop off double decker bus tours because it was cold and I was jetlagged. The tour gave me an overview over some of Berlin’s tourist sights, I took notes and photos and plan to go back to some of these places I saw to explore them in more detail.
The following photos tell a bit about my first full day in Berlin as a tourist.
As I rode my bike towards the centre of Berlin (Berlin-Mitte), I was struck by how just the very top of the famous TV Tower (Fernsehturm) on Alexanderplatz was disappearing in the fog. It’s almost as though someone had applied a Photoshop “fade to none” filter there. Life does not imitate art anymore, instead life imitates Photoshop.
Berliners are a hardy bunch. It’s below freezing, but outdoor food vendors are looking busy anyway. I love that there’s baked goods, beer and sausages available in little bistros on many subway platforms.
My first close up of the Fernsehturm / TV Tower of Berlin. The fog makes the picture.
Interesting typographic depiction on a Berlin tour bus.
The Holocaust Memorial by Peter Eisenman. The grey stone slabs seem fitting for a grey foggy day in Berlin. It commemorates such horrors, yet I am still intrigued and excited by the anticipation of going back there and chasing after the light on this sculpture with my camera or sketchbook.
Brandenburg Gate, Berlin, the symbol of the city and its history. The wall was right here. It’s a terrible picture of the gate from the bus, but this is the one tourist-style photo I feel I need to show from today.
Temporary sheds for construction crews, Berlin. I bet these get photographed a lot less than the official sights, yet this is the kind of image I love to photograph. If you’re an urbanite like me, you will understand.
I don’t remember the street name, but I like the plain, rational architecture combined with cheerful colours. Because Berlin is not an old city, the streets aren’t narrow cobblestone wonders, but grand avenues with medians, which are often used for parking.
In some areas of Berlin, but not many, sections of the Wall have been preserved. There is even an app for the iPhone called “The Berlin Wall” which guides you around the city and shows you where the wall was. I had somehow expected Berlin to have a giant yellow dotted line through the city marking the former wall, but that is not the case.
Berlin is quite grey, and so is the weather right now, but at the same time, colour and energy permeate the city. Innovative building decor such as the different coloured lights in this building’s windows illustrate the urban energy of Berlin. I had fun creating a photoshopped collage from two photos of this building, one from each direction.
An architectural detail of the Jewish Museum Berlin.
Checkpoint Charlie looks so forlorn now surrounded by a vibrant city. I was here 20 years ago with my friends Susan and Marty. This neighbourhood was a crumbling mess of rundown buildings.
Another vibrant area of Berlin near Checkpoint Charlie and Gendarmenmarkt. There is a huge amount of energy in this city, it is literally lit up like Christmas tree with energy.
The Eastside Gallery of Berlin, a 1.3 km section of the Berlin Wall which was decorated by over 100 artists. Click on the photo to read some recent political graffiti “Free Pussy Riot”. A reminder that human rights infringements are ongoing in this world. Mental note: must come back here and walk around. All these photos were shot from the tour bus.
One of many Christmas markets, a typically German tradition, is being set up on Berlin Alexanderplatz. The giant nativity pyramid looked a bit creepy as it waits to be set up and lit. I will have to write more about the Christmas markets in Berlin. I had no idea it was such a huge thing here: apparently there are almost 50 of them and they start in late November and continue until right after Christmas.
And the last photo of the day: One more of the TV Tower at Berlin Alexanderplatz. All that industrial fencing is due to the construction of what may be the one of the largest Christmas markets in Germany.