April 7, 2010 (Wednesday)

Germany. We wake up in our train’s “deluxe” cabin, and we’re in Germany! We figured out how to change my bunk bed into a sofa, and the porter brought our breakfast of cold cuts and bread.

Berlin. We pull into Berlin, and an announcement is made that the train will make three stops, and the second stop is the main station. So, the train stops once, and, at the second stop, we (along with a nice couple from Australia who heard and understood the intercom announcement like we did) get off—but it’s not the main station! The train attendant sees us having exited the train and gets very strident about us getting off at the wrong stop. We do not know what we heard wrong, but two couples seemed to have heard the same thing. We get back on, and while waiting for the next stop, chat with the couple from Australia. They also are traveling on a grant, because the lady is an art professor and is in Germany for one week to view certain pieces of art. They appear to be about our age, and we laugh about how you finally get grants toward the end of your teaching career. Finally, we’re off at the “main station,” which was the third stop, not the second, and soon are in a taxi to our hotel.

Askanischer Hof. The Askanischer Hof is a small boutique hotel, but our room (#16) is huge. We are on the second floor with a great view of the avenue outside. Guess this huge room makes up for the itty bitty rooms in London, Paris, and the train! The hotel is along the main downtown avenue that is a premier business and marketing district. We learn later the next morning that the hotel used to be the home of a prominent Berlin family that had significant history in Berlin leading into WWII.

Pergamon Museum. We get directions to take bus 100 to Museum Island. We finally find it and get to the museum area. The bus ride takes us through some pretty parks. The stop “near” the museum isn’t really that near at all, and we walk a good ways on to the museum island. Finding the Pergamon Museum was confusing. We get in a ticket line of some kind, but I just don’t think it’s right, so I go up to the front to ask, and learn that there’s a different line for the Pergamon Museum. So off we go to the next long line. This line is really long, and that does not make my “boy scout” happy. When we finally get to the ticket counter, we see why the line was moving so slowly. Only one person is selling tickets for hundreds of people!! These Europeans!! And, aren’t Germans supposed to be the epitomy of “efficiency”? We finally get in, and I have to put my backpack in a locker.

The wait was worth it. The museum is stunning! Besides the reconstructed great Altar of Zeus (taken from Pergamum, Turkey) and the Ishtar Gate (great processional gate entrance of Babylon), the museum also has items from Miletus (the Miletus market gate) and other wonders. This museum, literally packed with famous archeological artifacts, has so much to see. We even have an extra temporary exhibit to view called “Return of the Gods,” which is an exhibit about the Greek gods. Also, a magnificent coin collection, about which we had no idea, has one of the most comprehensive and magnificently preserved coin exhibits in the world. Jerry is just floored at all the illustrations for his classes, especially his Exploring the New Testament class. We spent five hours in the museum and 1 hour in line for a total of 6 hours! [That will become the record for time spent in any museum of our entire trip.—Jerry]

A beautiful old church at the front of Museum Island catches my photographer’s attention, and Jerry takes some pictures. I need to research the church to find out the name and how old it is. We think possibly the church survived the bombing of Berlin in WWII. [Jean later found out the following history: The church is called the “Berliner Dom,” or Berlin Cathedral. This Evangelical Church was built between 1895 and 1905. At the time the church was built, the edifice was considered a Protestant counterweight to St. Peter’s Basilica in Vatican City. Bombed heavily in WWII, reconstruction of the church structure did not begin until 1975. Restoration of the interior began in 1984, and in 1993 the church finally was reopened.—Jerry]

Mondial Hotel Café. We walk down the boulevard until we finally can catch a taxi back to the hotel. We freshen up in our huge room and are off to find supper. We end up at the Mondial Hotel Café just up the street. What a find. Wish we had stayed here, because the staff falls over themselves helping us, even though we are not even staying there. For example, I asked about WiFi, and they gave us their code to use FREE. We called Jerry’s sister, Cindy, to check on the Stevens/Hyde clan, our house-sitter, Angela, and my Mother. Checking in with everyone was nice. We asked if a computer was available, and, wouldn’t you know, the hotel manager brought a laptop to the table, hooked it up, and let us use it for FREE. We checked email, etc. So, the folks at the Mondial Hotel, where we were not even staying, were very helpful, and, to top off everything, the food was delicious!

We went the short distance back down the street to our hotel, where I use the front desk computer to print our boarding passes for tomorrow’s flight from Berlin to Turkey. Also, I arrange for a taxi at 9 am tomorrow. Overall, a great day. Off to bed.

For a video of the Berlin action today:

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