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Berlin: Brandenburg, Bikes, Beer

I know I promised an update on our Berlin travels. Apologies it has taken me so long to get back to one of my favorite topics! Last time I posted about this trip, I described our mid-afternoon arrival and how we spent the rest of the day. In this post, I'll pick up from there and focus on our first full day exploring Berlin.

First, though, I want to give my two cents on the issue of jet lag. We departed on an early evening flight. The long part was 7-8 hours overnight. Of that, I estimate we slept maybe 3-4 hours of questionable-quality sleep on the plane. By the time we arrived at our final destination, it was mid-afternoon their time. We went about our business and went to bed at a more or less reasonable hour. But we slept until 11 a.m. the next day! Haven't done that in probably thirty years! So my theory is: 'jet lag' is a trendy phrase for 'sleep-deprived'. We had maybe 3-4 hours sleep in about 22 hours. No wonder we slept in!

German stranger on left; my late father-in-law on right. The German fellow passed away in 1962. The photo of my father-in-law was from his wedding day in 1945-ish. There is some German on his side of the family tree . . .

As I mentioned before, the weather was unseasonably warm for September in Europe, but just about right for us southerners. We started the day with an easy walk across the street for some breakfast at a Starbucks-ish place that served coffee, tea, and all kinds of delicious breakfast options including more or less healthy fare like egg white omelet wraps and such. From there we had another easy walk of a couple of blocks to the Berlin Wall Memorial. It's a fascinating area, well worth your time. They have a display of photos of everyone who died while trying to cross from East to West Berlin. One fellow so strongly favored my late father-in-law, they could've been brothers. That was some food for thought.

Berlin has a space needle/radio tower. You can see it from just about anywhere you go. This was taken from one of the bridges crossing over to Museum Island.

Next up, and another very pleasant walk, was to Museum Island. There were many museums to choose from. But on recommendation from our daughter and son-in-law who had been there previously, we chose the Pergamon, mainly because it houses the Ishtar Gate of Babylon and I'm a sucker for monuments on a massive scale. It didn't disappoint!
We had to get back to the hotel because our son-in-law had to do a sound check for his gig. But we stopped for a nosh at one of the curry wurst shops. Curry wurst is Berlin's version of fast food. There are curry wurst shops everywhere. Curry wurst is a wurst-style sausage served with a ketchup-y sauce that apparently has some curry flavoring. Ours were served in one of those rectangular paper bowls you often see at state fairs full of cheese curds or fried mushrooms, and had a side of fries just like you would find at a McDonald's drive through. It was great, definitely a good choice if you want to sample the local Berlin fare but are not exactly a food adventurer.

On the topic food, I will also add there were dozens of restaurants in the part of
town we explored on this day. All kinds of ethnic food, just about everything you might want. It was amusing to see American food presented as a type of ethnic food. We saw several American style restaurants. Most featured hamburgers. A couple promoted themselves as Texas cuisine. I also spotted one place that sold barbecue. Our stomachs weren't large enough to sample any, but it was fun seeing them. Maybe next time!

We had just enough time before Cooper's gig at 9pm to walk down to the
Brandenburg Gate, which is one of Berlin's most famous tourist spots. It is lovely, very impressive. Many vendors congregate there, like a street fair, hoping for tips and tourist money to find its way into their pockets. We saw one fellow dressed head to toe as a Native American chief. My favorite sight, however, was the bicycle beer keg contraptions. You reserve a spot on this gigantic rolling multi-seat bicycle thing that serves beer as you ride along. Totally doing that next time.

After Brandenburg we returned to our hotel, met Coop and the other musicians, and had dinner at a great Vietnamese place called Co Chu. You'll see this will be a running theme throughout our trip: eating ourselves silly.

Just after dark we headed over to Cooper's gig which was a block or two from our hotel so again an easy walk. It was in an underground jazz club called the Schlot. Very authentic brick and exposed beams decor. Jazz is jazz wherever you find it, but audience etiquette varies, or so my daughter informed us. German audiences listen respectfully. Talking during the performance is frowned upon. And don't even think
of calling out, clapping, or otherwise expressing your approval until after the song is over. We of course wanted to avoid being the obvious noobs in the crowd (and embarrassing our son-in-law in the process), so we minded our manners. We shouldn't have worried. Part way into the first set, two gentlemen arrived and sat at a table near us. One was clearly not interested in adhering to societal norms.  He yapped to his friend throughout, waved his arms along with the music, and otherwise behaved very un-German-like (although he did appear to be German from the sound of his loud discourse with his friend). The bar manager spoke to him quietly at one point, so apparently this was indeed annoying to her and presumably the other clientele.

Detail from the Ishtar Gate, Pergamon Museum

One other interesting aspect of the performance mentality in Germany: marketing/promoting is also frowned upon. You may see a sign or poster or calendar indicating dates and performance schedules. But promoting more actively such as ads in the paper or social media, is considered gauche. The logic is, if you are any good at all, word will get out and people will come. As a result, often the first night of a multi-night gig is less well attended than the following nights. So different from Americans who brag themselves up at every opportunity.

The sets went well. We adjourned to a bar across the street to celebrate their success, then retired to the hotel when we were basically dead on our feet. Our stay in Berlin was coming to a close. We were sorry to leave so soon, but very excited for our next stop: Munich! Oktoberfest!

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