“To photograph is to hold one’s breath, when all faculties converge to capture fleeting reality. It’s at that precise moment that mastering an image becomes a great physical and intellectual joy.”
~Henri Cartier-Bresson



Friday, December 21, 2012

Lost in Berlin...kind of.

Oh yes you can.
One late afternoon my sister and I decided to walk a few blocks from our hotel to the Brandenburg Gate and then to a bigger Christmas Market (Bigger that the one near our hotel.) that I had seen on the bus earlier in the day.
Yea, we decided to take a walk... in a town that we were unfamiliar with... without food or water... and without directions, on a very cold rainy evening. I have always had a really good sense of direction, (I actually brag about it.) and it has only failed me in a few situations, I rely on this sense of direction without hesitation. I inherited this ability from my father. He always said that you will never get lost if you remember landmarks and "Know your directions (north, south, east and west)."  "Look at the sky.", he would say.
 And it works... most of the time. I always seem to know what direction I'm going. But, in Berlin, this sense of direction acquired some kind of inner ear malfunction.
That evening my sister and I walked down past the Memorial to the Murdered Jews of Europe, one more block, to the Brandenburg Gate. We walked into a gatehouse, one of two corner buildings that flank each side of the gate, and marveled at the wonderful columns and style of the building and the lights that  are suspended from the ceiling. There was an abundant combination of neoclassic, Greek/roman architecture with some 1920's  accessories. Considering what this city has been through, the wars it has fought and the restoration  it has gone through every hundred years or so, it all looks pretty good. It all seems to work together beautifully.
At this point I thought that we were looking east and that the north was to our left. Wrong, wrong, wrong! I proceeded to tell my sister that we needed to walk left up the Strasse des 17, Juni which was west and I thought was north.  We walked along the edge of a beautiful park area that was shiny with rain.The sky was still kind of bright, but overcast and darkening.
The street was void of shops and buildings. This was not like I had remembered on the bus.
This was another memorial to the Russian soldiers.  I didn't remember seeing this one before. So we decided to turn around and go back toward the Brandenburg gate, where there were lights and activity.
It was getting darker and the lights were coming on everywhere. How could I have been so sure that the market was down this street, in this direction?
On our way back to the Gate we saw this plaque embedded in the sidewalk.
Does anyone remember President Reagan saying this? I do, but then I'm older than  most of you.

The Brandenburg Gate has always been something I wanted to see. It's the iconic landmark of Berlin and was the only structure that was left standing in this area in 1945, after the War was over.
This massive gate is the last of 18 original gates.
The first Brandenburg Gate was built in 1734, when a wall was constructed around the edge of the city. This wall was not for defensive purposes but for controlling the flow of people and goods to and from the city. 

The current Brandenburg Gate was constructed between 1788 and 1791 as part of a programme of building works to improve the wall and many of its gates. The Gate was designed by Carl Gotthard Langhans in the classicist style and in 1793 the Quadriga, the triumphal statue of the winged goddess of peace driving a four-horse chariot, was added on top of the gate.
In 1806 the Quadriga was stolen by Napoleon following the occupation of Berlin by the French army and it was removed to Paris. It was returned to Berlin in 1814 following Napoleon's fall from power, and the statue's olive wreath was exchanged for an Iron Cross.
I think this is the most beautiful chariot. A chariot drawn by four horses driven by Victoria, the Roman goddess of victory.
My sister is showing you how to look very confident under the Brandenburg gate, when you're cold and tired. Her older sister said "Smile for the camera."... and she did.
We continued walking south... no, I meant west... I was so sure it was south. 
Across the Pariser Platz and continued on down the wide boulevard,
and into what looked more familiar... more like a city street with shops and stores and lots of people.
One of the rules for being lost is that you should stay with the flow of people. This appears to work and although we could have retraced our steps back to our hotel, we were determined to find the Christmas Market that was here... some place.  So, we weren't completely lost. We just really had no idea where we were going. As it turned out, we walked four very long blocks in the rain and cold before we went into a store and ASKED directions. A lovely young Berliner, who didn't know very much English, finally figured out that we wanted to go to the Christmas Market. She pointed WEST down a street called Friednichstrasse (which was actually SOUTH) and so we walked four more blocks.
By this time I couldn't feel my legs anymore. We are talking LONG blocks and it was very, very cold. I was praying for a taxi sighting.
We finally saw the entrance to the Market. There were hundreds of  people out there enjoying the evening.
These folks acted like it wasn't WINTER. They were all having FUN. Children were laughing and eating all kinds of goodies. They were truly enjoying the whole Wintry, Christmas, "sausage in a bun" and hot Gluhwein scene. They did not seem to mind the COLD.
We looked around, bought a few things but really needed some food.
The market was surrounded by beautiful old buildings.

And overseeing the whole Gendarmenmarkt was a guardian. A winged lion that represented, to me, the toughness of these German people.
 That lion sure didn't represent this "California girl.". I was so tired that I couldn't enjoy the shopping. That's a first.
 Then we found a small cafe that was INSIDE ... and warm. It was kind of a tent but there were solid walls and the warmth must have been from all the people that were in there.  No one spoke English but somehow we conveyed, to the young waiter, that we would like some soup and a bottle of water. It was a miracle. He came back with good hot soup, bread and our bottled water.  I was never so grateful for hot food in my life.

We had no idea how to get back to the hotel without  retracing our steps and that was not going to happen.
They would have found me lying on the steps of a store front the next morning. The headline would have read.
Stupid American found dead a few blocks from her hotel. Cause of death: Inability to withstand mild winter conditions on streets of Berlin.
As it turned out, the fates were with us. We walked out of the Market and crossed the street. There before us, pulled over and waiting for someone, was a TAXI. I ran over and knocked on his window and said, "Are you working? Can you give us a ride? Please!"
Can you believe I said that? Isn't that what he does for a living?
Sis and I jumped into the cab and we went through this "nobody knows what anyone is talking about" conversation about where we were staying and he said, "Yes, The Berlin Marriott, OK." He never said another word to us, nor we to him, until we arrived at the hotel. It was worth every euro we had to pay... and the tip.
The next day we left for Dresden.
In retrospect, it was a grand adventure. In reality it was beyond what a 67 year old with bad feet should have been doing on a rainy, cold, early winter night in Berlin, when she had been walking and touring all day long... and this walk had been my idea. But I got to see the Brandenburg Gate, at night, with its beautiful Chariot driven by a Roman goddess. Now, I'm glad we did it.
Our warm hotel room never looked so good.


9 comments:

Brian Miller said...

haha that is one of those adventures you are more happy for in retrospect...when you are resting your barking dogs....and relaxing...very cool though what you find when you get a little lost...

Charming Baglady said...

"Does anyone remember President Reagan saying this? I do, but then I'm older than most of you."
Yes, I do. And you're right, you're even older than I!! HA!

"It was worth every euro we had to pay... and the tip."
I wish you would tell us some of these costs so we non-world travelers can get an idea of how prices compare. What did your bowl of soup, bread and water cost?

farmlady said...

Not by much my "Charming" friend. Age is all relative anyway... except for old feet.
Most everything was very reasonable.
One Euro is equal to about $1.3o in our money. I never felt like anything was over priced and the quality was very good.

Anonymous said...

LOL, I have NO sense of direction and would become a frozen statue had I been there.

Madeline's Album said...

Connie I loved this post your photos are great and your lost adventure was something. At least you got to see all those beautiful things. Thank you for your visit to my blog. I hope you and your family have a very Merry Christmas and Happy New Year. Have a blessed day. Madeline

Sharon Lovejoy said...

This was fascinating. Jeff lived in Berlin and is getting a big kick out of the photos.

Your sense of direction??? Ha, we laughed at that. My son Noah once told me that "I don't never ever want to hear you say, we're getting closer–I can feel it in my bones." I have a bad habit of getting lost.

Fill those pinecones with goodies for your birds.

Joy and love to you,

Sharon

Jeff Prostovich said...

Sharon told me about your blog postings about Berlin. I was stationed there for 28 months between 1969 and 1971. You brought back memories, but real cold was when the temp dropped to 40 below. Ones nose hairs would freeze, and it would hurt to breathe, but those were exceptionally hard winters. Checkpoint Charlie was in full operation and the museum wasn't crowded or hot. When I came back to the states, I was stationed in Charlottesville, VA, and I forgot what it felt like to sweat. Haven't been back to the Friendly Four Power City, as it was called back then. Much to see in the city, but I'd go in the spring or fall. It's a great city for walking, when you aren't freezing yourself to death. Bus system was good then too. Get a double decker bus on a nice day and take a ride thru town with a "transfer" pass.

Paxie said...

Oh, this had me laughing and smiling! I'm so glad you weren't found in front of some store LOL LOL

It's all even more beautiful through your eyes!!

Wonderful photos...I'm so enjoying your trip :)

Paxie said...

And I want to wish you and your family a very Merry Christmas!! ♥