The left calf still hurts when I wake up in the morning, but by the end of the day I barely notice it. I feel as though some people would say I shouldn’t walk so much given the injury, but it hurts more when I don’t use it, so I’m going with my instincts and I’m going to keep moving.
First stop this morning is the Topography of Terror exhibition at the site of the former SS headquarters. Out front is one of the few segments of the Berlin Wall that still stands at its original location. Standing at its base, looking along its length, its almost shocking to imagine the division that once rent this city.
The Topography of Terror exhibition details the horrors wrought by the Nazis in taking control of the population and their genocidal reign. They note that the Nazis were not popular in Berlin. Rather their power came from outlying Germany, and they consolidated it here, so perhaps I am being too hard on this city. Then again, considering 11 million murders, maybe not.
Since this visit to Berlin has seemed to focus on the grim and disturbing, we make one more stop on our way out of town.
The Stasi Museum. This is a museum dedicated to the State Police of the former DDR.
And this museum is awesome!!! Exhibits start on floor one, continue to the second floor, and finish on the third. So of course we start on floor number two.
I love the interiors here. Classic mid century modern.
We recently had our offices redone at work, and I would totally have chosen this desk if it had been an option. I wonder if it’s too late to change my mind.
Look at that reel-to-reel tape recorder.
Another remarkable desk. The workmanship is impeccable.
Oh! There’s a paper shredder. It has both a low and a high speed setting.
This is fascinating! Look at the listening devices planted in this door. And they used Duracell batteries.
Here are some more listening devices
Can you see the camera here?
Here’s another camera. Literally a buttonhole camera.
And a camera in a birdhouse! They even spied on the birds!!!
Laparoscopic equipment to peer into packages.
A steam generator to open envelopes.
A scent sample to give the dogs if they needed to track somebody. Downright creepy.
And training material from 1985 showing how spies should be dressed.
This museum is amazing – probably the high point of my visit to Berlin, and was much better than the DDR museum I saw yesterday. It is also disturbing, in the degree of surveillance taking place. It makes me think of our own NSA tapping our wires and collecting our emails. When the DDR fell, the citizens stormed this building to find out what they had been doing. How do we stop our own government surveilling us?
And that’s the end of Berlin. It’s just difficult to see a city during the conference (perhaps you remeber Salzburg?) so I’ll have to try and plan a trip back sometime. Next time I’ll focus on the positive, and see things like the Pergamon. That won’t reopen until 2019, so I guess it’ll be a while before I return. But I will have plenty to do when I get here.
So we were off, headed south on the Autobahn. D is in his glory behind the wheel, especially when the car says not to exceed 200 kph, and he is driving 210. Yes that translates to 130 mph, which sounds crazy fast, but when everybody else is driving just as fast, or faster, it feels pretty normal. In truth, he mostly kept the car at 180 kph (112 mph) because it felt more stable at that speed. Of course, at that speed, lots of people were passing us.
We worked our way south on the Autobahn, eventually leaving the highway and moving onto local streets. Driving down the hills into town, the city wasn’t immediately obvious. It gradually came upon us, seeming rather unremarkable at first. The biggest challenge demanding our attention was interpreting the often-confusion instructions from the German GPS unit speaking with a British accent. I was following along with my iPhone, which helped. The buildings were growing older, and then we suddenly broke through and were crossing over the river Elbe.
We had arrived in Dresden.
Dresden is a breathtaking, baroque city that sits on the banks of the Elbe. It has sometimes been called the “Florence of the North,” and was destroyed by a series of controversial allied bombing raids in 1945.
Crossing the Elbe, we mostly just kept saying things like “Oh my God,” “Oh my God, this is beautiful,” “Look at that, it’s not real,” and “where the heck are we going?” This last was followed by, “are we allowed to drive here?”
So we checked into our hotel, a very nice Swissôtel and were helped to our rooms by a very tall deep-voiced German man.
This is the view from our room.
We got a recommendation for dinner and headed out. We had somehow missed lunch and were ravenous, although it was a bit early by local standards.
Below are just a few of the photos I collected on the way there.
This place is ridiculous.
We crossed the river, going to a local brewhouse for dinner. D doesn’t drink beer, but I loved it.
I started with this roll and pork schmaltz. The pork schmaltz (you can see it there) contained little bits of crispy pork and was dangerously delicious. I had approached it with trepidation, but now I want more. I will make some when I get home. Somehow.
For dinner I had sauerbraten. This was one of Dad’s favorite things, so I couldn’t pass it up. It is beef marinated in vinegar, with red cabbage and a potato dumpling. As with most dumplings I have had in Germany and Austria, it sank like a piece of lead to the bottom of my stomach. That’s just how they make ’em.
D had pork medalliions with cooked celery and blackberries. This sounds like a strange combination but they truly worked well together, as they are both strong flavors that mated nicely. And those little round dumplings were described as being almond dumplings, but I think they also contained potatoes. They were truly unique, and well suited to the dish. And they were light, so they may not have technically been dumplings.
After dinner we crossed the bridge on our way back to the hotel.
As we walked and talked, we watched storekeepers sweeping their stoops and locking their doors. The shadows lengthened and the evening grew cool. And we were lost to the world, engrossed in the city around us.