Day 3 commenced in a cafe that has fast become our local one for coffee and cakes. They don’t speak much English, we don’t speak much German but we are good at pointing at things (I’m sure this talent is learnt in supermarkets when as a toddler we go shopping with our mothers). We did however manage to teach the lovely woman there what cinnamon was when Claire asked for some. At first she looked blank, then she got a shaker off the shelf behind her and gave it to Claire to smell. The nod and the smile was reflecting by the woman and I guess now whenever someone asks for cinnamon they should actually get. I dread to think what they’ve been giving people before.
This was the day of our only booked tour, a lecture tour at the Reichstag ( which we learnt isn’t in fact called the Reichstag anymore) and a trip up to the dome to look at the view of the city. The building understandably had very high security and was akin to an airport rather than a building. The parliament wasn’t in session so we got to sit in the public gallery and listen to a lecture from there. The talk was on the history of the building, the design (by the British architect, Norman Foster). The talk went for an hour and was very informative. At one point our guide asked where everyone was from, Claire mentioned she was from New Zealand, the guide looked confused and a group of Australian schoolboys in front of us sniggered.
We then took a lift up to the Dome to look at the view from the top. The dome itself is made out of many pieces of glass and features a sail cloth that moves as the sun moves during the day. The dome sits right atop the Chamber and let’s light into the room. The view was amazing over the city of Berlin and looked right across a mass parkland (tiergarten). However the structure of the Dome itself was probably the highlight rather than the view itself.
From the Reichstag we walked across the park towards the Gemaldegalerie. This holds quite a few important works of arts from Vermeer, Rembrandt, Steen, Velazquez and Holbein. However we heard the cakes were rather nice in the cafe hence our visit. The works of art were amazing though and covered many periods and historical themes with a definite lean towards religious themes.
On the way across the park to the gallery, I was carrying an empty drinks bottle and a teenage girl walked up to me and took it off me. It struck us both as a bit curious however afterwards we decided there must be a monetary reward for recycling, hence what happened. In fact we saw more people with bags stuffed full of empty bottles as our journey continued.
We’d heard the Berlin Philmonic was one of the best in the world and as we left the gallery we noticed it was across the road. We popped in, in hope of getting a ticket in the next few days, luckily they had seats available on Friday and we booked three (Claire’s friend arrives in two days) to a John Adams concert. Where supposedly he conducts himself.
We then wandered back to the Gendarmenmarkt (the area where we are staying) to get an evening drink and some food. I’ve noticed a couple of things over here, first is that everybody smokes outside which we both find a little unusual. Secondly although beer is served in big glasses (half litre or lite), it is almost impossibly to get drunk because everywhere you go it’s table service and it tends to be very slow. Dinner was a sausage mix on a bed of roast potatoes which was served in a frying pan. The kitchen must have been short on plates that night. The bill came and as usual, I refused to tip (which I do wherever I go). I was passed the credit card machine and he explained I could enter a tip, I just pressed the green button. I didn’t see the look on his face but Claire did. Supposedly he didn’t look happy.
Three days in. And enjoying as much as Berlin has to offer.