The next morning, we woke up to an overcast day that sometimes just dampens your spirit enough to make you want to crawl back into bed. I think you know the feeling. But we are on holiday and that is the very last thing we want to do. Besides, we did expect much, much worse for a Berlin winter! We were in fact lucky it was not freezing below zero and snowing.
So, jumping onto our new favourite mode of transport, the U-bahn, we headed to Alexanderplatz. By now, we were getting quite comfortable riding the trains in Berlin. They are really a breeze. Between the U-bahn (underground trains) and the S-bahn (suburban trains), we pretty much got around everywhere. The 2 hour tickets which are 2,70 euros each for zones AB suited us just fine. We figured we would spend most of the time walking anyway between sights which we did. Occasionally, wife made sure I kept up the pace just in case we wanted to catch the train somewhere else before the 2 hours are up.
One of the few sights that will be almost impossible to miss in Berlin is the Berlin TV tower. Being the tallest building in the entire city, you can spot it from numerous vantage points everywhere you go. Some say it is futuristic looking but with all the other stunning modern architecture around, it does begin to look dated ala sputnik. But then it really is. Built in 1969 by the GDR, it was meant to be a symbol of Berlin in those dark days. Myth has it, the height was deliberately set at 365m by then leader Walter Ulbricht so that every child would remember it easily (being the number of days in a year). But alas, modern technology put an end to that when the old antenna was replaced by a new one that was 3m higher, making it 368m tall today!
Then the second more colorful story around it was that when it was finally finished, the steel ball at the top casts a giant shadow of a cross over the landscape. The irony of that was not lost on anyone. Which is despite the regime cracking down on churches and removing their crucifixes, they ended up building one themselves. And hence it was also known popularly as the “Pope’s Revenge!”
The views are said to be spectacular but we decided to give it a miss when we arrived at Alexanderplatz. With the weather beginning to look dicey we had decided to catch a river cruise earlier. Like our visit to the Reichstag on the weekend, we were pressed for time once again. So we walked right past the Berlin TV tower and turned towards the river spree.
Almost immediately, we caught sight of a church. It seemed a bit out of place next to the tower. But as it is said that the Berlin TV tower was plonked right in the middle of the old city perhaps we should not have been surprised. This is Marienkirche or St Mary’s Church. In the entrance hall, there is a large fresco called “The Dance of Death”. Believed to be painted when the plague epidemics beset the city in the dark ages, it is supposed to show people dancing with death. Interestingly, it was lost for centuries and only discovered in 1860 under other layers of paint. It is currently being restored with funds raised by the church and other visitors. (for €2.50, visitors can add a colored mosaic tile to a replica of the fresco.) Again, we did not stop.
Our haste did indeed reward us in the end as we took a wrong turn and ended up not where we thought we would be. But because we had hurried so much, we found we had time to correct our mistake and found our boat parked right next to the Marx-Engles-Forum.
Here we noticed two grandfatherly looking statues. You probably know who they are but I certainly did not. Or rather I could have guessed one of them simply because they were pretty popular with the tourists. They are the statues of Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels. I said popular because you can see that certain parts of the statues (hands, knees and feet) are lighter in colour. Apparently, everyone likes to sit on Karl Marx’s knees like he is Santa. If I had known, I think I would have done the same. But being the conservative Asians we are, we were probably worried we would break some rule and be dragged off to the local police station for questioning. Or worse, break a bone by slipping and falling of Mr Marx. So, we happily let Ampelmann do the posing instead.