Tuesday, October 10, 2006

Travel Bit: Berlin

In Berlin, JK and I stayed at the Hyatt at Potsdamer Platz. That was hugely convenient - getting to the race start was a 15 minute walk.

Checking in at the hotel was interesting. Along with having over six million frequent flyer miles, JK is also a "Diamond Club lifetime member" with Hyatt. In Hyatt-land, this seems the rough equivalent of being minor nobility possessed of a small fortune. Good thing we didn't stay long enough for me to get used to such treatment!

Over Friday and Saturday we did some minor wandering around in central Berlin, in the midst of fabulous weather - sunny and close to room temperature. JK played tour guide, as during some of his time (early 1980s) in the U.S. Air Force he'd been stationed as an intelligence officer in West Berlin. When we'd passed Checkpoint Charlie on the taxi ride in from the airport I think it had really struck home to him how much had changed.

The core of the city is something special. First, there are the historic buildings. Second, there's the West Berlin showcase effect (West Berlin received substantial subsidies from West Germany). Third, there are the effects of reunification - re-establishing Berlin as a capital city and a major population centre. It's a locus for the arts and education, and is a major tourist and convention destination.

Potsdamer Platz made a great starting point. It's new and shiny, and a bright focus of nightlife, having been built up from literally nothing after re-unification. There was a lot of bustle and commerce, as well as a lot of outdoor seating with leisurely dining or drinking.

There is a small section of the Berlin Wall still standing at Potsdamer Platz. There's not much else of it remaining; some people wonder whether more should have been preserved.

We did walk around (OK, circumambulate for those who want 5-euro words) the Reichstag, so I had a view of the mix of old and modern architecture clustered around that focal point.

Collecting race kits required a taxi ride to the Internationales Congress Centrum (ICC), the largest convention centre in Europe. Landmarks along the way ranged from churches to an erotic museum.

The most fun thing about the taxi ride was being out-muscled by a one-seater topless roadster that sounded like a large angry sewing machine. We asked the driver about it at a stoplight (topless cars make for easy inquiries). It was a 50 year old Messerschmitt! Subsequently, I've identified it as a TG500 "Tiger", with the softtop roof detached.

It was too brief a stay and my focus was on the marathon, not being a tourist. At least I've been there!


Blogger Wendy said...

There is enormity and history to many of the sights ... but that sure is one very cool little car!!!

10/12/2006 12:09:00 pm  
Blogger Wendy said...

Woo hoo!!!! You got a fancy countdown clock!!!!

10/13/2006 04:13:00 pm  

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