Maybe that needs some clarifying. We drove in a car, took the train, watched the runners, walked, road over 200 meters up in a lift in 40 seconds, ate, road back down, walked some more, visited some churches, climbed to the highest accessible area of a huge domed church, walked some more, ate some more, and got to the finish line at the Brandenburg Gate. Does that count as running the Berlin Marathon?
The last 24 hours here in Berlin have been such a joy. Martha and Franzi are just as I remember them from the Milford Track in New Zealand, kind, thoughtful and very tall!
They both had to duck when a low ceiling emerged in front of us in the spiral stairway up in the Berliner Dom while I stood tall on the stairs and never touched it.
Last evening when I arrived at the hotel, there was an envelope waiting for me at the desk
when I registered. It was a note from Franzi and Martha welcoming me, confirming when they would be picking me up for supper that evening, and providing a small package of traditional sweets (Haribo Goldbaren – Gummy Bears). Having just arrived on the train, realizing how difficult it is not to know the common language, and having a harrowing ride in a cab to the hotel, the personal touch of the note was really reassuring.
I cleaned up a bit and changed from the hiking clothes in which I have been spending most of my days to some better looking clothes (hopefully). I was just enjoying the prospect of seeing them and wanted to look my 68 year old best (nicht so gut). We drove, parked and then walked to a restaurant with a traditional German menu that included foods specific to Berlin. The streets and plazas were filled with people. As always, there were many
At the restaurant, Martha ordered a couple of beer drinks called Berliner Weisse. I chose the one with a shot of Woodruff flavoring in it. Franzi ordered a very unusual appetizer, a plate of Kartoffelsalat (potato salad) for the three of us to share. It was another traditional
Berlin food she wanted me to taste. The flavor reminded me very much of my Mother’s potato salad made with dill pickles. For the meal, there was something called Berliner Eisbein. It was a large boiled ham hock accompanied by smashed peas, boiled potatoes and sauerkraut. I was literally in Hog Heaven.
After finishing dinner and catching up on what we had done after saying goodbye in Te Anau at Rosie’s Backpack Homestay, we walked some more, eventually going back through
the plaza’s and streets we had traveled earlier. They warned me on the trip to the restaurant that it would be so when we returned. There were Ladies of the Night stationed at various places along the way. They were not aggressive, and they dressed in a way that made them obvious without being offensive. It was legal for them to be there and they
were an accepted part of the setting. With that said, I was glad to have Martha and Franzi on either side of me as we walked.
Today was a full day. The hotel provided a lavish buffet breakfast with multiple serving areas of foods of exceptional quality and variety. Martha and Franzi picked me up at halb zehn (9:30, one of the few things I can say in German). We began by driving to a parking lot so that we could take the train to the area where the Berlin Marathon was being run. Lots of the streets were closed off for the run. There were many thousands participating in the run. Martha had a close friend in the run, so we went to a pre-arranged spot in hopes of catching sight of her and waving. It was fascinating to watch the wide river of runners speeding by, some with costumes, some my age or older, most in good running shape, some who caused us to wonder about the wisdom of trying to run a marathon. Martha’s friend Anna did appear and proper greetings were exchanged as she went by.
After that we walked to the Berlin TV Tower and rode the elevator 203 meters to the main
viewing area. While the lift is traveling at 7 meters per second, there was little awareness of the speed other than ears popping along the way. After getting off the elevator, we went up one more floor via a stairway so that we could have coffee and a sweet in the revolving restaurant. It moves at a surprisingly rapid rate of speed, making a full 360 degree circuit in half an hour. They explained what we were seeing as we made the circuit. I took lots of pictures of the impressive views. By the way, I ordered what seemed most appropriate since it was called Herren Torte (Man’s torte) and the description included the word chocolate.
Today’s list of things to see included the Berliner Dom. What an impressive place. This domed church is enormous. The churches here are not the same Rococo style of those in Bavaria, but they are still very ornate and elegant. Of course there was an organ I would have loved to hear played. It is a Lutheran Church, the brand into which I was Ordained in
1969. While I celebrate the variety of traditions, I did feel more at home when I realized where I was.
There was a moment of profound sadness when I asked if the building had survived the
war. Martha and Franzi said that pretty much nothing in Berlin survived the war. (Their Grandparents remember the war all too clearly.) The building had to be rebuilt after the war. I wondered how conflicted people must be realizing that our country provided much of the destruction. The evil that needed to be defeated was clear, but the destruction the war (and every war) caused is hard to accept.
We walked up what must have been a few hundred steps to get to a lower (inside) and then
upper (outside) walkway around the dome. There were more beautiful views of the city to be experience from that vantage point. We went down to the crypt and I saw names that I remembered mentioned in church history classes at the Seminary.
At one point in our wanderings, we returned to the Marathon to watch some of the runners entering the home stretch. Martha saw her friend Anna again. We jostled through the crowd and made it all the way to and past the Brandenburg Gate where the
finish line was located. The faces of the runners looked much different from the faces we had seen earlier in the day after only ten of the 42.5 kilometers had been run. I celebrated seeing the older runners, some at least as old as am I, managing to cross the finish line. On the way between the two last views of the Marathon, we stopped at a street vendor’s booth and got Currywurst mit Pommes. The sausage was cut into bite sized pieces and covered with a dark red sauce sprinkle with a mixture of spices. The potatoes (French Fries) had a mayo sauce on them. A nice dark beer complemented that authentic Berlin experience.
There was one more very moving sight to see. We walked along the remnant of the Berlin Wall memorializing that part of Berlin’s history. Franzi and Martha’s parents
remembered that time well. I noticed that the year the wall was built was the year I graduated from high school. They talked about the razor wire and the armed military, the many limits on the freedom of choice. Outside the city, the wall sometimes had a
sort of sand filled moat with mines set in it. This remnant of the wall is now a
memorial covered with murals depicting the horrors and much hope for peace
The day included one more very nice Berlin food, a Pfannenkuchen. There was a very complicated description about what it is called outside of Berlin and what Berliners call its
counterpart elsewhere in Germany. I suppose the best description I can give of it is a frosted Bismarck roll filled with fruit preserves. I am glad the airlines do not have weight limits for passengers as well as the luggage.
Martha and Franzi returned me to the hotel where I asked one of the staff to take a
picture of the three of us. I have concluded that I simply don’t like saying good-bye to these two. I didn’t like it when we did it at Rosie’s in Te Anau, New Zealand and I didn’t like it this evening here in Berlin. It seems as if I am getting sentimental in my
old age. (If you read this post, Franzi, I have tried to email the pictures from the hotel, but your email account is not accepting any emails at the moment. Send me an email and I may be able to attach them to a reply.)
It was another wonderful day with lots of new experiences. Tomorrow’s plans are in the works but still unclear. Two days remain for whatever may come.