Meeting the Group

August 14, 2011 - 9:01 am No Comments

Kirtan and I started off by visiting the East Side Gallery, the longest continuous segment of Berlin Wall left standing and now decorated by local artists.

Me at the East Side Gallery

From there, we ventured to the west side of the city to the iconic Siegessäule, also known as the Victory Column. I’d seen photos of it before. I guess I imagined it to be bigger.


Statue of Victoria

Glass Mosaic

A spiral staircase inside leads you all the way to the top. Nice views of the city.

Stairs Up the Siegessa?ule

View from the Siegessa?ule

From there, we took a stroll through the enormous Tiergarten, an urban park in the middle of Berlin much like New York’s Central Park.

River Spree in the Tiergarten


One of the other places I wanted to go for photographic reasons was the Kaiser Wilhelm Memorial Church, bombed in WWII and left damaged in remembrance. Naturally, we arrived at the church to find it completely covered with scaffolding.

Damaged Spire of Kaiser Wilhelm Memorial Church

You couldn’t see anything from the outside, so we popped inside for a quick look at the interior and headed back.

Ceiling of Kaiser Wilhelm Memorial Church

Ceiling of Kaiser Wilhelm Memorial Church

We returned to the hotel for our 6pm meeting with the group. At first glance, I thought, “Uh oh, mostly older people.” I silently hoped that they were cool.

We went around the table and introduced ourselves. There are 4 Aussies, 1 Kiwi, 1 Brit, 1 American, 1 Canadian, and me. Aside from Kirtan and Alex, a loud, bubbly, ridiculously tall teenage girl from Australia, most of them seem to be in their 40’s and 50’s. To my surprise, everyone is traveling alone. They all seemed cool, and Aussies are always lots of fun, so I’m optimistic that it will be a good trip.

I could tell right off the bat that Frank, one of the Aussies and a grandfather, was going to be the joker of the group. With his Rorschach t-shirt that reveals strippers and lots of man humor, he instantly became one of the guys.

We went to dinner as a group and walked back to East Side Gallery at dusk. Snapping away with my giant camera and tripod, many of them took an interest in my photography, peering over my shoulder and asking technical questions. I guess you can’t avoid that kind of attention when you’re walking around with a big-ass camera and your tripod makes 6 loud, attention-getting clicks as you open it.

East Side Gallery at Night

My God, help me to survive this deadly love

Friedrichshain began to fill up with skinny kids smoking cigarettes and drinking beer, ready to hit the clubs. Boys proudly wear ill-fitting skinny jeans, girls wear black pantyhose or black tights. All of them seem happy and friendly. I’ve warmed up to the Germans. After getting past their harsh-sounding language, accepting that history is history, and interacting with them a bit, they seem like a nice enough people.

Before calling it a night, Tomi led us past some dark, decrepit buildings to a bar for a couple of drinks.

11 Freunde WM Quartier

Skatehalle Berlin


Outdoor Cinema at Cassiopeia

Kirtan and I had some curryworst, sausage soaked in curry sauce and sliced up into little pieces. A local specialty.


I got back to the room to find Kirtan, who had come home earlier, snoring away. Just as I was dozing off, he lurched up in bed and loudly asked nobody in particular, “What is this for?” Moments later, he was snoring again.

I’m now back at the Bäckerei Morgenduft for another glorious breakfast with the yellowjackets. My research suggests that the insects, which are all over Berlin, are the German wasp, aka Vespula germanica. The females sting when provoked and like to lay eggs in strudel.

I’ll be meeting up with Alex this morning to do some exploring. Like me, she’s been in Berlin for a few days and has already seen all the highlights, so we’ve picked a few out-of-the-way places to go to. Three days is just about the perfect amount of time to take in Berlin.

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