After I got to the hotel today, I learned that I had about seven hours until the tour officially started with a group dinner. Seven hours to discover Berlin within walking distance of the hotel! So, after a much-needed shower, change of clothes and tooth-brushing, I set off.
Now, I will admit that I knew ahead of time that I would probably have time on my own today, so I had done a little internet research on the area around my hotel. The only thing I wanted to do was walk to the nearest Aldi Nord to see if they had any Sprengel Chocolate, and they did!
After purchasing the only three kinds of chocolate of my forefathers, the rest of the day was unscheduled and open to exploration. It was around noon, so the obvious choice was to get a little Mittagessen (lunch). Now, apparently almost every city we are going to visit has a type of sausage (wurst - the "w" has a "v" sound) that is indigenous to that locale, and in Berlin, it is currywurst.
I found a small stand along a sidewalk next to a park, so I indulged in currywurst, pomme frites and orange Fanta. Currywurst is similar to a hotdog, but not quite, cut into bite-sized pieces, and covered in curry powder, another spice (not sure) and ketchup (or curry ketchup). It was delicious.
I had read about a Berlin artist named Kathe Kollwitz, and a museum dedicated to her work was only a five-ish minute walk from the hotel, so that was the next part of my adventure. She worked in a variety of media, including charcoal, woodcut printmaking, etching, lithography, and bronze sculpture. Her work is hauntingly beautiful. The museum is located in her house, pictured.
After visiting the museum, I set off to explore Kurfurstendamm, which is a grand boulevard with high-end shops, restaurants, businesses, and a few not-so-high-end shops. I did not have any specific plans to purchase anything. I just wanted to walk along this boulevard and eventually end up at KaDeWe (short for Kaufhaus de Westins), a world-famous department store with an entire floor dedicated to every type of German food imaginable. Along the way, I encountered a talented young woman drawing a portrait of a German Fussball player with chalk.
I also wandered into the Berlin LEGO Store, where I found, for my nephew, a mini figure that is only available in that store and another mini figure that can only be found in Germany. I also stopped at the Hard Rock Cafe to buy a Berlin guitar pin to go with the one from Barcelona I bought last summer. On the way back to my hotel, I stopped for another Berlin specialty at Ult-Berliner-Biersalon, a crowded sidewalk pub, where most people seemed to be locals, since I heard mostly German from the tables around me. The Berlin specialty beverage is called, appropriately, Berliner Weiss. It is a fizzy local beer with a shot of syrup that makes it extremely sweet. I'm glad I tried it, but I do not plan to have it again.
Thus ends my seven-hour adventure in West Berlin.