Friday, November 08, 2002

Finally got back to Berlin (Germany, that is). Checking out the city. Found what may well be the biggest internet cafe in the world - over 350 computers on two floors. You don't even have to talk to anyone. You just buy time from a machine which gives you a ticket with a password on it. Of course this place is open 24 hours a day. And there's even a Dunkin' Donuts outlet!!! It's right on Ku' Damm, the main drag, near the Zoo Station.

Yesterday went to the great Museum of Indian Art in the suburb of Dalhem, to the southwest of Berlin, just a short hop by the underground metro. Saw the famous paintings removed around the turn of the century from Khocho and Bezeklik in the Turpan Depression of Xinjiang in western China, which I visited last year. See photo of Three Donors mural from Bezeklik, now in the Dahlem Museum in Berlin

The day before went to the Pergamon Museum, surely one of the world's most awesome. Entire walls and buildings were removed from various sites in the Mid-East and reconstructed here. Of course, this kind of thing cannot be done anymore, which is probably for the best. Will have more details, with photos, soon.

Then to the Egyptian Museum. Here of course is the world famous statute of Neretiti, as drop-dead gorgeous now as she was 3000 years ago. What a babe! For photo see Nefertiti!

Bought a special three-day tourist pass good for unlimited use on all the public transportation in the city, so I have travelled from one end of this vast city to the other. What a difference from Vienna, where almost everything of importance to visitors is within the so-called Ring, which can very easily covered on foot. From one side to the other is only a 20 to 30 minute walk. Berlin is spread all over Hell and back. In fact, there really doesn't seem to be a city of Berlin, only different neighborhoods each of which seems like its own little city.

Tuesday, November 5, 2002
Finally got out of Vienna. After a night in the cosy little Pension Anna I walked up Mariahilferstrasse at six in the morning toward the Ostbahnhof (West Train Station) just as the what is apparently Vienna’s first snow of the years began filter down out of the black skies. Caught the 8:16 to Nuremburg. I sat in the last car of the train, which is a car with regular seats two abreast on each side of the aisle and not a compartment car, with six seats to a compartment. I have quickly learned that the misanthropes tend to congregate in this car, so there would be little chance of anyone striking up any pointless conversations: indeed, most people fell asleep the moment they sat down. One of the dangers of traveling in foreign countries is the assumption on the part of some people that you are interested in meeting new aquaintances or having interesting little chats about your experiences in their wonderful country. I just want to quietly by myself and gaze out the window, the passing countryside providing a convenient backdrop for my daydreams. And what a backdrop today. I am still a bit surprised by how rural Austria is. Not fifteen minutes out of the Vienna train station we are in some heavily forested mountains not unlike the fabled Alleghenies of western Pennsylania.m The upper slopes of these mountains are already coated like an apfelstrudel with a dusting of powdered-sugar-like snow. Then out into rolling farm land dotted with hills topped by grim castles, stern monasteries, and onion-domed churches. The streams we cross are flooded from yesterday’s rains and the edges of the fields are covered with standing water. As if it hasn’t been wet enough in central Europe this summer now they are getting still more now. At St. Polten we met up with the Danube River, now anything but blue swollen as it is with gray, muddy water. Now the entire landscape is covered with damp snow . . . Wild goose that I am I should be heading south, toward the Mediiterrean, or at least the Bosphorus and the Black Sea, but no, I am bound for the Teutonic austerities of Berlin.

At !0:10 we pull into Linz, famous mainly as the town where Adolf Hitler grew up. He had big plans for this place, hoping to turn into into a model city of the Third Reich. He also hoped to return here after he retired from public life. The Soviet Army advancing on Berlin obviously had something else in mind for him. Now Linz is an industrial hub with huge smokestacks spewing smoke into the already gray skies.

Crossed the border into Germany at Passau. Of course there really is no border any more. No passport checks or anything. The whole time I was on Austria I never had any kind of Austrian visa or even entry stamp in my passport. In fact I was never once asked to produce my passport, or any other kind of ID while in Austria. In the Bosch Pension I never even filled out a registration form. I just told the lady my name.

For awhile we follow the Danube, which is over its banks here, and then cut across a vast plain broken only by thin church steeples rising out of the small agricultural villages. Big piles of potatoes everywhere: they are going to rot as wet as it is. Water standing in the fields. Despite the flatness of this area there are numerous electricty producing windmills. Now if people in western PA. would only get off their duffs and built some of these. . .

Then through Regensburg (12:30 pm) which all the books say has a spectacular old medieval city at its center, despite the particularly bleak train station, which is all I saw. Then back into the hills and dales, dotted with tidy villages of houses with orange-tiled roofs.

Then Nuremburg, with its grimy, industrialized suburbs but spiffy new railroad station with a host of restaurants (including MacDonalds), bakeries, well stocked bookshops (papers from all over Europe, Turkey and the Mid-East: only USA Today from the States, internet cafes (the latter packed with people). Unfortunately I was only there for an hour before catching another train for Berlin (at 2:33) so I was not able to check out the city . . . Then Bamberg (3:06 pm) and on to Lichtenfels. All the creeks and rivers in this area are flooded too and still a lot of standing water in the fields. And poor Mongolia is dying from a drought! See photo of Nuremburg Train Station.

Rolled into the Zoo Station in Berlin at 7:50 in the evening.. As usual this train station is jammed; there’s a host of restaurants, stores, and perennial hangers-about. Outside it’s cold, windy, a few flurries in the air.
Headed for my regular hotel near Wittenbergplatz . . .

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