Its hard to get a real idea of the scale of these prehistoric beasts from mere description – or even movies. But the visit I made on a rainy day with my son and his two kids to Berlin’s Museum of Natural History, has certainly imprinted on my mind just how big dinosaurs actually were. The humans in the background of the photos really do look that small compared.
A family of hippos …
A panda providing intimations of my (then) impending trip to China … since achieved (but I’m jumping the gun – more about China later).
My granddaughter stands looking at Knut the polar bear …
Whereas my grandson preferred the prehistoric horse and actually asked to return to the horse later when freaked out by the darkly-displayed Tyrannosaurus rex …
Perhaps grandson prefers a drink of water from a water bottle held by Papa while playing in the sandpit in the backyard (Hinterhof) of the apartment building where they live, far from the terrors a nearly-two year old imagination can conjure in an unfamiliar environment.
Chris adjusts A’s shoe, while K. navigates a climbing frame. Just one of the many sandy Berlin playgrounds. Has to be said, after travelling overseas, I’ve developed a new appreciation for New Zealand’s grassy public spaces.I got Chris to take a photo of me in front of some typical playground graffiti. Berlin has to be the capital city of graffiti – graffiti that is not always that original or attractive … more like annoying and unsightly. On the day this photo was taken, the sprawling ugly letters and colours somehow just added to the day’s damp, autumn coldness.This is what I’d term wall art, somehow enhancing the natural beauty of a tree, as opposed to the more prolific and grotesque, fat lettered, unimaginative graffiti …… and I couldn’t resist taking a photo of this crafty crow, as a reminder of Berlin …On a warmer autumn day, Jenny, the kids and I walked to Zion church (Zionskirche). Jenny said that a typical Berlin afternoon stroll would not be complete without stopping at a cafe for coffee and cake; so we did.
Zionskirche played a part in the events prior to the Berlin Wall coming down. ‘In the 1980’s, opposition groups, such as the ‘Zion’s Church Peace and Environmental Circle’ began meeting in the basement of the church’ (quote from a Zionskirche website).Inside we listened to an organist practicing. My granddaughter was keen to also play a few notes, which the young organist kindly allowed. Before we left, we lit some candles to dear departed ones we wanted to remember. On the way to the church, Jenny showed me the courtyard of a communal apartment block that still exists as one of the few remaining vestiges of the original, artistic East Berlin. This is the Berlin that was created straight after Germany’s reunification, when artists and squatters attracted by low (or no) rents, moved into these crumbling, poorer parts. So far a few places such as the one above, are managing to escape the recent gentrification that has changed forever these once creative, funky and artistic low-rent enclaves. The one we saw obviously had a thing for planter watering cans!I’ve visited this Memorial to the Murdered Jews on other visits to Berlin. This time I was with my brother and sister in law and their daughter and her partner. Its brutal title is enough to introduce a sober tone, and the grey imposing concrete blocks of alternating heights and levels, add to the tone of restriction and constriction. There is no freedom to be found here.My son Chris (an official Berlin guide) and kids, joined us for a farther explore. We benefitted from his extensive knowledge such as tales of the bravery, escapades and endeavour of Berlin families sadly separated by the Wall. Above, our happy group in these happier times (lest we forget) doing the tourist bit outside an old part of the wall.That night we all (including Jenny who joined us after her work) had dinner at an old Dance Hall in Spandauer. Berliners still gather there for dance lessons. These are carried out as diners eat and watch, creating a lively and fun atmosphere. We enjoyed some good German tucker. Great meat dishes and all of us eager to sample some apple strudel to finish off.And the next day after a beer in Berlin’s oldest beer garden; typically set on gravel and as tradition decrees under chestnut trees, its slightly downbeat. unpretentious, dog-eared setting, very Berlin; we set off for a street photo booth – when in Berlin, a photo booth visit is a must.Some quick-change darting in and out to form different groups for photos – all adding to the fun. This was good-bye for now (aufweidersehen) to my brother and crew who were continuing on their epic tour of Europe.
After dropping off A. at kindy one morning, Chris and I wandered over to Kollwitzplatz, named after famous sculptor, Kathe Kollwitz. (I wanted to get a photo for granddaughter B. back in Dunedin). On the way Chris pointed out the original pre-war German buildings that had survived British bombing raids. The ornate signpost matches the era.Seemingly even famous statues don’t escape the graffiti scrawl. Graffiti near to Kollwotzplatz – street art rather than nothing more than the tomcat spraying of vandals.It was getting closer to my departure day; soon there would be no more reading books, bath-time supervision or sandpit-play (at least in Berlin) for Grandma.
However, before that day arrived, there would be one more train trip to visit Jenny’s grandparents and some of her extended family, in a village called Stolzenburg, north of Berlin.As always, a beautiful visit full of charm, amazing food and kind and generous hospitality.Then. All too soon. Time to say Goodbye to my Berlin family and be on my way for the next stage of my overseas trip.