|Berlin, KaDeWe and me|
Coming back to Berlin after 31 years is the closest I’ll ever get to time-travel. This was the city where I came of age, where I met, fell in love with, and married my husband when we served in the Air Force.
When we left in 1983, the city was still divided. West Berlin was a snappy international cosmopolitain, so unlike its sad-eyed twin on the other side of the Wall it was hard to believe they were even related. Now the whole unified city has WiFi. And digital billboards. And a sleek metro system that puts others to shame.
Berlin has become a full-blown bon vivant with a knack for advancement and a pragmatic conscience. The eastern half not only looks caught up, some areas are leading the charge.
|One small corner of the 6th Floor Food Hall at KaDeWe|
Our hotel was just off the city center’s Kurfurstendamm, or Ku-damm. We were within a stone's throw of metro stations and Europe’s largest department store, Kaufhaus Des Westens, nicknamed KaDeWe and pronounced kah day vay.
With its 100-year history and legendary 6th floor food hall, KaDeWe has always been one of our favorite haunts. Small wonder it was our first stop after arriving late Thursday.
Platz der Luftbrücke commemorating the Allied Forces Berlin Airlift
The next day we took the metro to Platz der Luftbrücke which not only commemorates the allied airlift at the end of WWII, but stands just in front of Tempelhof Central Airport (TCA) where we lived the year before getting married.
Although no longer an active airport, we were allowed to walk the grounds as long as we stayed outside. Technically, we couldn't go inside TCA's buildings because so much has been converted to private offices. Technically. (I have it on good authority that the lobby's elevator no longer has a "Looby" button.)
After re-familiarizing ourselves with TCA and streets nearby, we headed south to see our old apartment building in Lichterfelde.
|Metro train and rail station in the eastern part of Berlin|
When Berlin was still a divided city, there were two metro systems. The first was the U-Bahn that generally ran in the western part of the city. This we rode on a regular basis.
The second was the S-Bahn which operated in Communist East Berlin. We were not allowed to ride it or even go into the stations. It was, in a word, verboten.
From what we saw back then, the S-Bahn was sadly run down, as was most of East Berlin. But now that the city is unified, we happily hopped on that S-Bahn like a couple of truants. And what a glorious, gorgeous surprise: the stations are so efficient and streamlined they border on futuristic.
I'm not gonna lie: we ate like pigs this trip. From the bratwurst with its crispy, crackly roasted skin and laughably small bun to the donar kebab with onions, sauce and spicy shaved meat, we never stopped.
No matter what we ate during the day it didn't spoil our appetites for dinner. And then we still had room for croissants and coffee next morning. We ate until we squeaked.
|Stumbling stones memorializing Holocaust victims.|
Barely higher than the surrounding sidewalk, the stones intentionally cause one to stumble slightly in order to acknowledge their significance. By 2013 over 40,000 such stones have been set. These two were just outside our hotel. Sobering, to say the least.
|Iconic Brandenburg Gate, site of so much celebration since 1989|
Even the Victory Column, which I only remember as a gray blur from the west, was freshly gilded and taller than years past.
I was pleasantly surprised to see the Soviet Memorial still standing. And in a deft move to ensure ongoing activity and commerce, foreign embassies are now located near the Brandenburg Gate.
Before leaving on Sunday we made time for another bratwurst, a stroll through the Europa Center, and one last walk along the Ku’damm. Berlin was everything I remembered and then some. Well done, Berlin, next time I won't stay away so long.
|Shops along the Ku'damm|
It's the little things . . .
Even the humble manhole cover boasts unification with historic landmarks like the Kaiser Wilhelm Memorial Church, Funkturm, Victory Column, and others.