Originally published 23 December, 2016
Paying our respects at the Kaiser Wilhelm Christmas market
Laurie had a museum that she really wanted to see the last time we were in Berlin, but wasn't able to. Our first stop was the Kathe Kollwitz museum, a German artist from the early 20th century. While not my thing, I agreed to tag along to be a good husband. Laurie thoroughly enjoyed the museum and it was one of her "must see" items.
With that down, we wandered across the street and looked in the window of the Leica store. While a lifelong photographer, Leica remains just a dream. Cameras in the window ranged from 2500 euros to 9000 euros. I plan on sticking with my Canon....although they were REALLY nice. After this, we headed towards the Kaiser Wilhelm Church Christmas market.....although we would get delayed briefly.
We rounded the corner and an old guy was on a 3 wheeled bicycle, which had a cage on the back with some type of pet rodents in it. He had stopped and Laurie was taking a picture of his bike because it was quite fun looking. I was watching the guy, and he seemed to be having trouble. I noticed a "dead soldier" of some type of cheap liquor in the basket on the handlebars......and I asked him (in english....duh) if he was okay. As Laurie snapped a pic and I was talking to him, he gently went down to the ground and laid down.
I looked at her and said "I think he's had a bit much to drink!" We went to help the old guy up, chuckling about his early Christmas cheer. We grabbed his hands and set him up, but he wanted to lay back down. Laurie said "I think there's a bit more going on than just drinking". Laurie said the right side of his face was sagging slightly and his eye seemed to be sagging. She thought he was having a stroke.
Having a rough day
A few of the locals stopped and I asked them to call 112 (911 for Germany) and get a "krankenwagen" (my German is spotty so please forgive me if it is wrong) for him. A young German woman spoke english and was talking with him and she called an ambulance. There wasn't much we could do as he was breathing and alert (well.....kinda alert. He had a lot to drink.) so we waited for the ambulance.
The young German lady chatted with us a few minutes and told us we were on vacation and she would wait with him until the ambulance arrived. I told her we didn't mind and would stay, but she insisted all would be taken care of, so we bid her adieu and headed on towards our next stop. We hope the old guy is okay.
We walked a few blocks further to the Kaiser Wilhelm Church Christmas market, the site of the terrorist attack earlier in the week. Personally, I feel a duty to go to places like this, to show we are not afraid and to show support for the people who were involved and victims. Upon arriving at the market, we began to wander through, and immediately came upon a large memorial to the victims.
A man approached me in English and said he was from a TV network in Brazil, and would like to interview me for my thoughts on the matter. The market was bristling with TV news crews from around the world. I agreed and basically I'm on TV in Brazil tonight.
He asked if we were happy the terrorist was shot dead in Milan and I told them I personally was quite happy about that! He asked if we were worried or afraid to be there and I told him we were vigilant, but NOT afraid. We chatted briefly and parted.....and now I'm famous in Brazil. I placed a Tennessee flag pin at the memorial (I carry these to give them to people we meet) to mark that we were there to bear witness....and moved on.
Hanging out with one of Berlin's more attractive (and quite well armed) officers
We patronized the vendors in the market in intentional defiance to what had happened, eating all sorts of fun German holiday food, drinking Gluhwein (spiced hot holiday wine), and buying small trinkets and souvenirs. Laurie lit a candle in the cathedral, we left a small offering and after shooting our recent diets into small pieces, we moved on.
From here, we ventured on to the Christmas markets at the Charlottenburg Palace via city bus. We travel by bus, tram, Ubahn (subway), and Sbahn (surface train). We bought a ticket good for the length of our stay at the airport. You validate it and carry it with you when you travel. Everything is on the honor system, but the fare police can (yes a real thing) ask for your ticket at any time, and if you can't produce one, it's a 65 euro fine. Right then. Cash or credit card accepted.
We get off the bus at the palace and venture into our second market. It's a bit more upscale than the previous one, but both were great fun. We ate more things that were WAY off our diet, chatted with the vendors, watched little children ride the carnival rides, and listened to oompah bands play Christmas carols......it was quite fun!
And then it was DARK! At 4:30 pm! Not dusk....dark! We walked a few blocks in the dark and Berlin cold to get to the next Ubahn station. It is damp here and in the 30's and 40's. The cold here is a damp cold....and it sticks to you. It's a chilly place.
We catch the Ubahn to Potzdamer Platz where there is another Christmas market. We wander through rather quickly as it is smaller and we've seen a lot of the stuff already. At the back of the market is Spielbank Berlin, a casino right in the middle of Berlin.
I had told Laurie that at some point I would love to play poker in Berlin, even if just for a short time, just so I could say that I had and to pick up a chip for my collection. She agreed to let me play for an hour while she went shopping across the street. I guess this is my payback for going to the art museum. She's a good wife and I love her.
My wonderful wife with "Ampelman". He's a holdover from the DDR
I went through all of the details (they copy your ID and check your age), and pay 2.5 euros for admission. I've never done that in the states....but when in Rome. I go to the poker desk and they send me to a table and tell me to get chips at the cage. I buy in light for 200 euros since this is only for fun and just so I can say I've done it.
A guy is sitting across from me and he's playing aggressive and loose (poker terminology meaning taking a lot of chances) and I watched him lose 300 euros to one guy, buy back in, and lose 300 more in basically a half hour. I wanted my chance so I sat and waited.
Laurie was going to meet in front at the end of my hour. I was up and down a little and with 6 minutes to go before I had to meet Laurie, I was down 30 euros....not a big deal at all and I had enjoyed it. I figured I would catch a couple more hands and head up front to meet her like I had promised. The dealer throws the cards out and I peel mine up to find rockets...or two aces.
I'm in early position so I just call 2 euros, and it comes around to the guy that has already lost 600...and he raises to 20. I reraise to 50 and he calls. The flop comes out junk, and I bet 20, he raises to 50, and I push all in. He rolls over pocket tens, and the turn and river didn't help. I pocketed my 200 euros, as well as HIS 200 euros, and met Laurie up front. Anytime you make a couple hundred in less than an hour, it's been a pretty good day!
I meet Laurie, we make our way back to the area we are staying, we have a wonderful Vietnamese dinner, and head on back to the hotel. We have covered a bunch of ground today! Laurie wanted to comment about her observations today...which will be below. Tomorrow.....there will be more and I look forward to doing it with Laurie! I love to travel with her!
Hi from Laurie....
Just wanted to add a bit about my day. Kathe Kollwitz is an artist I have admired for many years. It was an honor to be able to see her work and read more about her life. She was a tireless advocate for the poor and suffering. She even did a series about a peasant revolt in the 1500's. She was also passionately opposed to war, having lost her son to WWI and grandson to WWII.
At the end of her life, she was not able to exhibit her drawings and prints and turned to sculpture. All of her work is very powerful, Her figures are mournful and passionate, often executed with only a few lines or strokes. She depicted the suffering of the poor in the depression before WWII in a way that makes it quite understandable how Hitler sold himself as the savior of the working class.
The view from the museum window, on the work of another artist (street artist)
From there we went to the site of the latest terrorist attack. Not a purposeful sequence but interesting. The church was mostly destroyed in the war and has only been partially restored. It was always a place of meeting for peaceful protests and is now a memorial to peace.
I don't know if the terrorist chose that church because of that, or because it was easy access. The memorials were moving with the messages of confusion and grief and sympathy. So much senseless destruction.
The Christmas markets are fun and lots of food we shouldn't eat. The 'bad' food isn't nearly as bad as the food we would have here. And although there aren't a lot of hand made items for sale, and the same items are for sale at each market, they are not the tacky made in China things we would find here.
Day two Berlin slide show
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