Our Berlin Shanghai reunion started with the Meet-and-Greet the first evening at the hotel. We all talked, laughed, and then everyone split up to enjoy nearby restaurants for typical German meals. We had about 44 attendees this year. We also had some first timers attend and hope we didn’t scare them off so they will continue coming! Our hotel was in the Gendarmenmarckt area which was across the street from the Koncerthaus and not too far from the Brandenburg Gate – all within walking distance. Also nearby was the Unter den Linden street which is a major Berlin avenue leading into Brandenburg Gate. We were also within walking distance of “Museum Island” where many museums are located. Several of us went through the Pergamon Museum which contained artifacts of the Arabic culture from years ago. Angela Merkel’s home (very nice, but not a Palace) was across the street from the Pergamon.
On Friday, we all loaded up on buses to see some of the Berlin sites. Volker and Annie had arranged very good guides to explain Berlin’s history & details. We drove by the Holocaust Memorial which was quite a sight. It looked like tombs everywhere, all on top of the ground. We also saw a monument to the Berlin Airlift which featured an old C-97 (I think). We went past "Check-Point Charlie" which was located right in the middle of a street near Brandenburg gate. We also drove through Tiergarten park.
Next, we stopped at Bedenkstatte Berliner Mauer - which was THE WALL. It was very different than what I thought it was going to look like. Most of it has been torn down but they have kept a good portion to remind everyone of the past! We walked around the area and saw "No Mans Land" that separated East & West. They have allowed people to paint graffiti on the wall – as long as it is tasteful. There were a couple of guard towers left to also put it all into perspective. They had a wall of pictures in a park of people that were killed trying to escape to get to the West. I think everyone felt a bit upset while looking at it all. We also passed the Berlin Victory Column.
On Saturday, we visited the Charlottenburg Palace which was just beautiful. Surprisingly, they had a lot of Chinese artifacts through-out! I don't think any of us brought home quite that much blue and white china!! Most of us toured the gardens except for a few slackers who sat out that portion (*a Canadian and a Texan* even went for a beer!!) That afternoon we took a boat trip up the River Spree which was a leisurely trip back into the city. They served drinks and HUGE desserts on the boat …. some of us had both – you know who you are (Breitbachs)!!! We could see how many of the Berliners live today – free and carefree (on the weekends only). Some were sunning themselves along the river or having a picnic. While looking for a suitable dock with ramp, a few of us even had an extra river tour ending up in a different part of the city.
On our tour on Sunday, we took a nice bus trip to the Potsdam area. On the way we passed by the Reichstag building and the Kaiser Wilhelm Memorial church, which was bombed during WWII. They left the ruins as a reminder and still hold services there. Our Potsdam tour included the Wannsee (lake), and Schloss Cecilienhof (where the Potsdam Conference was held in the ‘40s.) In the Potsdam area there were a lot of the very nice homes of Ambassadors and government officials. We stopped in a lovely little village with shops and outdoor dinning where some us enjoyed a Thai lunch while others had something German or French.
All in all it was a lot of fun and a LOT TO SEE! We always enjoy getting together with our Shanghai friends and hope to see everyone next year in Kalamazoo, MI where Carla and Tom Obringer are already busy making plans for our arrival to their city.
Auf Wiedersehen Berlin 2018 and Hello Kalamazoo 2019!