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Freshened up to kick start our day and decided to go through past of Germany. Took metro and got off at Potsdamer platz. Had coffee at Starbucks just outside the metro exit as it was too cold.
From here we walked to Checkpoint Charlie - a crossing point between East and West Germany during the Cold War and Berlin Wall Memorial. The scenes blur as present dissolves into the past. Images flash through our mind of 1989 when news flashed with headlines of demolition of Berlin wall. The wall no longer divides east and west instead the city straddles past and future.
As this is close to Friedrichstrasse known for upmarket shopping area like Lafayette; strolled there on our return towards metro station of postdamer platz we visited Helmut john’s Sony centre - skyline is a mixture of buildings marked by WWII shrapnel and glass-steel giants - a symbol of new Berlin office-cum–shopping centre.
In Berlin, the past is everywhere like Gendarmenmarkt - a classical square in Berlin whose name dates back when city was occupied by Napoleon. This square is bordered by two cathedrals - the French Cathedral and German Cathedral with Konzerthaus (Concert Hall) - home of the Berlin Symphony Orchestra between the two cathedrals.
Then we visited darling of berlin - bust of Nefertiti which was adorned at the Exhibition Hall of Kulturforum (culture forum - This museum often houses temporary exhibitions during which the permanent collection is usually not on display) near to Potsdamer Platz as Egyptian museum was closed.
On way to Brandenburg we went to see Siegessäule (Victory Column) close to Tiergarten which stands in centre where five roads meet.
After having late light meal, we once again set off to see the past which expresses the euphoria and great hopes for a better future for all people of the world. This city’s divider was also the world’s longest canvas that stretched for miles covered with graffiti painted on east side - open air Gallery close to station Ostbahnhof.
Came back to Zoologischer Garten took some night mode shots of Kaiser Wilhelm church and after all sight seeing it was time to eat; had awesome Portuguese dinner at one small restaurant nearby and then headed towards our hotel.
Today while leafing through the pages of our album found yet another trip waiting to be jotted down before it gets erased from our memory. A trip to Berlin where present and past are in sync once again.
We went there for 3days- 2 nights stay by train on Easter weekend when sky was gloomy and mercury dropped to almost freezing point but didn’t deter our enthu to explore city as much possible. We took overnight train from Paris which reached at very early hours. We bought metro (u – Bahn) day pass tickets before going to our pre-booked Novotel hotel.
After taking our room key we left to meet Berliners, no longer East or West Berliners but just Berliners. Had a takeaway breakfast on a way from one of the bakery shop at metro station and got off at Zoologischer Garten Bahnhof to visit Kudamm. It is here that the KaDeWe the largest departmental store in all of continental Europe stands. If you don't have a lot of time to browse the whole store at least pay a visit to the top floor which is Mecca for foodies. We also checked both BMW and Mercedes showrooms where you find designer items other than car designed by those famous engineering and designer with perfections.
We walked to Berlin’s famous landmark Kaiser Wilhelm Gedächtniskirche rebuild itself but not at the cost of wiping its past. The ruins of Kaiser Wilhelm memorial church stand as reminder of the suffering of the war, right next to its hexagonal bell tower very much building of the present. The church is a reinforced concrete structure with blue-colored glass bricks while Memorial hall has still some of the mosaic decoration that survived the bombing.
From here we hopped onto double-decker bus line no 100 famous among tourists as it crosses most of historic Berlin.
Tip: Sit at top as it's easier to get a view of most top sights like Reichstag, as well as the many other historic buildings on Unter den Linden.
Got down at Alexanderplatz to see Berlin’s 365 metre high TV tower. Next to the TV tower is located the gothic Marienkirche, the second oldest church (built in late 13th century) of the historical centre of Berlin. It is close to river spree and surrounded by few notable buildings with red-brick roof and right across the street was Starbucks – had coffee there. I do not drink coffee but those chilly winds outside we took shelters few times where Santanu tried to give quick dégustation class on coffee. From here we walked to Berlin Cathedral built between 1895 and 1905. We even climbed to the top of dome to take panoramic view. It faces the Lustgarten (pleasure garden) and the Berliner Stadtschloss (berlin city palace). Lustgarten is a park on Museum Island. It houses Altes museum (old museum) which we visited later.
It was dusk when we were waiting in a long queue to visit Reichstag - German parliament near the Brandenburg gate building with large glass dome and access to top with a great view of Berlin. Although free entrance but extensive security check and at same time its worth visiting.
Then, we went to see Germany’s iconic landmark Brandenburg Gate at historical center and nucleus of former East Berlin district Mitte. This is where it’s all happening. It’s numéro one place to be seen and to see. Cafes, bars restaurants, theatres, designer shops selling everything from shoes to scarves; day or night places along with many other sites of historic interest are teeming with people. It is new hangout for young and restless. In the very heart of Berlin is a memorial to the murdered Jews of Europe which we didn’t visited as it was already dark.
Lastly, went to house of world culture centre for non European art whose floor was superbly decorated… no doubt. Had dinner at one of Chinese restaurant near Zoologischer Garten and left for our hotel.
Time to say Ciao, a presto (bye, see u soon) to Venice!!! Although we knew it might never be soon again. With happy mood we left for Milan from where we started our memorable journey. We boarded Euro-star for which we had to make advance reservation. Indisputably it was the best train we boarded in last seven days. On reaching Milan kept our luggage in lock room and set off to explore the business city as well fashion center of Italy.
Starting with Milan’s cathedral, the city’s centerpiece and third-largest church in Europe is worth visiting. Next to Cathedral Square “Galleria Vittorio Emanuele” – Milan’s great four-story-high, glass-domed arcade- place to shop for rich and famous. Milan’s famous opera house was closed for renovation. We skipped Leonardo’s “Last-supper” and his bronze horse which he never built.
We had pasta at lunch in small store which was really ambrosial - no doubt. Late afternoon, wandered through big brand stores for clothes and ultimately I bought one wrist watch for myself as souvenir which cost me dear.
Early evening, we headed towards a restaurant recommended by guide book in the business district which was very deserted being Sunday. Unexpectedly, we found the place and it was big restaurant with white table cloths. We were received with great affection and hospitality by owners which we can never forget. Service was excellent along with food. We started with Pasta and had fish as second serving oh! That was big fish as they served us; Pamela missed all those bones and head as they took away that trolley (as she is a big human cat who loves to chew bones be it fish or chicken). Well, slowly clock was ticking off giving us a reminder to say Ciao to Italy. Train to Paris came from Venice and we had a good night sleep after a long strenuous day.
Epilogue: Writing travelogue after 3 years was not easy. Had to refer various web site to get the details right. But the only person made it finish is Pamela as she wrote each pages and I just added few lines here and there. Yes, its worth remembering those eight days. This was great to immerse oneself with recollections of those lazy afternoon or vigorous morning for sure as I know I am not going to have this kind of break soon in my present life.
Next day, when we woke up, were very happy to see blue sky after two days of grey sky. Around 9.00 AM we came by boat to hot-spot St. Mark's Square. St. Mark's Basilica which is Byzantine influenced was too crowded to visit that time and unfortunately in evening we ran out of time and could not make it so satisfied ourselves from outside only. Doge's Palace is a gothic palace with bridge of sighs at rear end which is made of white limestone and has windows with stone bars. It connects the old prisons to the interrogation rooms in the Doge's Palace and last view point of Venice that convicts use to see before their imprisonment. Campanile bell tower is worth for city view only but we did not take the flight of stairs as we have lot more to explore. Visiting museum was big NO as we had enough (time was another constraint).
Did enjoyed trip along the Grand Canal with hopping on-off. Countless bridges lace together the neighborhoods of Venice. Amazed to see many historical buildings is slowly sinking into the marshy ground…getting tilted?
At afternoon after lunch we took a cruise to one of islands in the Venetian lagoon. We went to Murano where one gets chance to watch Venetian glass blowers fashion their delicate objects known for glassware, lamps, chandeliers and glass jewelry. We started with glass museum and visited few glass factories, they show you the art, but for them it is just part of work. We got few souvenirs for friends and family.
At evening we came back to Rialto Bridge. Rialto Bridge is famous for its shops. There are three bridges joined together which makes it special. Wandered around saw many taking gondola ride – it’s ‘expensive’. Best if you are a group of four to split the cost for those twenty minutes. Any way, we could not found another couple to share and decided against it. The route from the Rialto to the Academia (one of the famous museum) and back to piazza San Marco winds through ornate squares and is quite interesting.
TIPS: Get a travel pass to ride the elusive water bus – else single tickets are less economical if you plan to spend days touring in order to explore every nook and cranny. We missed few things at Venice; we did not visit the famous Opera house which underwent renovation. We stayed in Lido but we did not explore its beaches. Last but not least we missed to pick up those carnival masks for wall hanging.
It seems Venice is not the place for pasta. Rather, Cichetti (chee-keht-tee) are small portions of food served in bars all over the city, with small glass of wine. You eat while standing in a crowded room. Certain bars display all the Cichetti before you; Sorry, couldn’t enjoy that as I am not a wine-lover.