A German Christmas story – Berlin, Day 3 – East Side Gallery (morning)
My morning breakfast so far had consisted of a cappuccino and some kind of sandwich at Starbucks. I mixed it up a bit and went across the street to a different coffeeshop. Shocker! I had my usual cappuccino but ordered apfelstrudel instead for a sweet treat. They asked about cream, so I figured, a little whipping cream could hurt.
Well, they meant legit full cream, which was liberally poured over the heated apfelstrudel. The pastry swam in a river of it. I sort of stared at the plate for awhile, perplexed, when the very straightforward barista remarked, “So? You wanted cream on it”, as if I shouldn’t be questioning the plate of cream with a side of apfelstrudel.
Good thing I wasn’t worried about heart health on this trip.
I hopped on the S-bahn and rode it out to Warschauer Strasse, one of the access points for the East Side Gallery, the largest outdoor gallery of its kind. It was a series of murals painted after the fall of the Berlin Wall – on the Berlin Wall itself. It’s one of the largest sections of the wall still standing.
Before even arriving at the gallery, I was struck by how much street art there was in Berlin. The train plodded past houses and shops liberally decorated with some pretty amazing artwork. Then the gallery appeared along the River Spree as the S-bahn train rolled toward one of the most interesting things I had seen in Berlin – the red castle-like structure of Oberbaumbrücke – Oberbaum Bridge. An impressive sight, the bridge dominates the water like something out of a fairy tale book.
The East Side Gallery began near the river and ran for a long kilometer or so stretch. Walking the gallery was easy, studying the political statements and the cries for peace in the art. With the world as it is now, with so much turmoil and perhaps less peace than then, the murals from 1990 – and subsequent graffiti – seemed especially relevant.
Despite the cold, grey day, many people were out along the gallery, selfie-sticks abundant. There were also a few people with either a magic trick stand or some kind of gambling game set-up near the wall. It was an interesting mix of characters in this part of Berlin, and while the wall was fascinating, the people were just as fascinating as the art.
From the Warschauer Strasse stop over to the Ostbahnhof station, I walked close to an hour with a few stops. I warmed up at a Starbucks in the train station before heading toward Alexanderplatz for a mid-day Christmas market shopping trip.
Alexanderplatz was alive already with shoppers at its large Christmas market, and it was only mid-day. Being hungry, I hunted and pecked at various stalls, intending to have a try of Berlin’s most famous street food – the mighty currywurst (or, curry-verst). I had no idea why a sausage with curry sauce and crusty bread bun could be that tasty, but I was proven wrong by a middle-aged German man who sold me the first currywurst I would try on my holiday. He watched me stick a toothpick into the piece of sausage and try it as the curry sauce made a mess all over.
It’s impossible to keep clean eating a currywurst. Either that, or I’m an exceptionally messy person.
It was way too good, to be honest. The vendor was quite happy that I, as a non-Berliner, liked it – it was quite clear that I didn’t speak German by the way I had pronounced Ich möchte like “Eek mocha-tah eye-ne curry-verst” like I was ordering some kind of weird Starbucks drink – that I received another bun with which to mop up the bucketload of curry sauce. Good to the last drop?
It was at Alexanderplatz that I spent way too much money on glass Christmas ornaments for family and friends, including the ubiquitous Christmas pickle ornament. The sparkling glass ornaments, liberally dazzled with glitter, seemed to go on for ages, and there in every shape or themes imaginable. It’s easy to drop a load of Euros in here.
I picked up a pickle ornament for each of my family members. This ornament was traditionally hidden within the Christmas tree, and whoever found it first on Christmas day, got an extra gift. That’s a great way to keep kids occupied for awhile!
I roamed around the plaza for a bit, trying out various snacks and planning out the rest of my day – which would include a visit to the Topography of Terror Documentation Center and a wander through the Potsdamer Platz Christmas market in the evening.
And yet, at the time, I had no idea the outcome of the day until later that evening, when the news first broke the story that would affect everyone visiting Europe for the festive Christmas markets.