Saturday, August 22, 2009

Köpenick on the River Spree

Apart from one window which we need to have mostly closed to keep out the noise, the hotel room is poorly ventilated, resulting in a restless sleep. The room is so warm that the clothes Michael washed when we arrived last night had dried by the morning - including his thick woollen socks! Ah, what the heck it just reminds us to appreciate the gems we have stayed at....and yearn for, such as Fancy House!

We rose late and since breakfast at the hotel is €12 (A$24) per head, we decide to search for our repast beyond the hotel walls. So, Michael goes out for a fag and reconnoitre to seek out breakfast. Slim pickings I'm afraid - well at least on this side of the River Spree - as Michael returned with croissants and orange juice. Oh, Michael had bought the orange juice at what we assumed to be a supermarket, albeit, it turned out to be a pharmacy selling everything from medicinals, cosmetics, surgical and homecare products to fruit juices, confectionary and - pet food and products...well, we are in Europe? However, Michael does say the bakery, where he bought the croissants, does have a breakfast menu 7 days a week...maybe we'll suss it out tomorrow?

As the last couple of days have been rather hectic, we decide to take it easy today: me to catch up on the blog and Scrabble while Michael decides to take the 'dog' (ie. camera) for walk around the environs.

(Michael) I suppose the main reason for taking the 'dog' for a walk was to find a tourist centre regarding local transport information. The hotel reception was fairly light on when I enquired; there again they were obviously providing the most convenient route....I think? Such as: "Catch the tram from Köllnischer Platz to Spindlersfeld; then the bus S47 to Schöenweide; then at Schöenweide change to the U-bahn (underground) for the Spandau line and get off at Hackescher Markt or Friedrichstrasse." "Oh, danke, but do you have a map?" "Of course, and here is the hotel." 'X' marks the spot. (Groan...why does it have to be this hard?)

Anyhow, I hit the pavement and choose the direction which will take me over the bridge. Wow, when I ventured forth earlier I hadn't gone this far, as it's almost another world! This sight is obviously the remnants of once a market square or forecourt which led up to the palace. Yes, folks, there's even a palace here as well. I say remnants, as the area appears as such before it was carved and remodelled to accommodate tram tracks and roadways.

However, within this precinct is a collection of retail outlets, cafes, statuary and a Tourist Information centre.....shit - it's closed until 10am Tuesday! ( may very well be a local tourist office - still.... ?) ...moving on MacDuff. With a shrug, I walk towards one of the side streets, which I assume is situated a building which I noticed as I walked over the bridge. The building appeared to have an impressive clock tower and I soon to discover the building is as impressive. It is the Köpenick Rathaus (Town Hall), in its red brick splendour.

If I may indulge a little here, Köpenick is a locality in the borough of Treptow-Köpenick in Berlin, and before Berlin's administrative reforms of 2001 was a borough in its own right. However during the Cold War, Köpenick was part of East Berlin and shadows of the Socialist regime can still be seen...which I'll refer to later.

Today, being a Saturday one would not expect a local administrative building open to the public. However, there were a couple of wedding registrations (reminiscent of Warsaw) in progress, so the happy couples had use of the main entrance before we Plebians could gain entry across the carpet of rose petals which had been thrown over those young couples.

Leaving the Town Hall while the wedding celebrations wend their way, I made my way towards a small village green where stands an Evangelist Church, St Laurentius - Stadtkirche. (SFX: moans and groans) This is a rather austere compared to some of the other churches we have seen. However, the interior is modest with timber ceilings, gallery and devoid of gold leaf. The windows are of coloured glass in lieu of stained glass and somehow add to the buildings modest aspect.

I return to the Rathaus and gingerly stepped across the 'threshhold' - what an amazing building, the internal architecture outshines the exterior - I just stood gob-smacked. Ribbed vaulting, tessellated brick designs, stained glass windows and galleried corridors. As I entered the main foyer, I noticed a Watchman sitting in his office; so, in my worst German I asked: "Kann ich die photographieren?" ("Can I take photographs?"). With a broad smile and in very good English, the Watchman replied: "Of course you can!" So, in a went I and snapped away - on all three floors! Oh, at the front stairs and to its right is a bronze statue of a Prussian Officer; I was soon to discover who was the subject of this casting.

As I had finished with photographing the interior and as I was making my way out, I saw a noticeboard indicating a display concerning a Der Hauptmann von Köpenick, (The Captain of Köpenick). If you follow the link, you can read all about Herr Wilhelm Voigt.

Leaving Herr Voigt and the Rathaus, and as I make my way towards the river I notice a rather unusual...well, what can only be described as a cargo-net-obstacle-vortice? It obviously has been erected for the benefit of the athletically challenged. It appears to be a suspended obstacle 'tunnel' as there are openings at either end. So, study the the photo; make your decision then give yourselves ten points!

Walking along the river's edge is a rather pleasant diversion as the river bank has been transformed into a green verge, with seating for those to admire the waterway. The verge has been punctuated by various statuary and with one gushing water. This promenade eventually guides me to a bridge, which crosses a 'moat', leading into the centre court of the Schloss Köpenick (Castle Köpenick). One amusing point with the castle, not so much the castle, moreso with a group of tourists being given the drum about the Schloss by a guide dressed in the uniform of a Prussian guard. With much bobbing of the head and gesticulating with outstretched arms, the guide presented a lively dissertation in German to his appreciative audience. Now, without dwelling on the cultural monument, I'll leave you to follow the link at your leisure.

After a quick look around, I head for the other side of the bridge and hit the adjoining promenade along the River Spree. It's obvious this area is popular judging by the various groups of people and photo sessions of more wedding parties (no photos, as enough is indeed enough...). More statuary adorn the sprawling grounds as I press onwards to another bridge leading to another town centre.

Crossing this other bridge was like travelling back to Bratislava, as the hallmark of Socialism has taken slightly longer to disappear. The buildings appear 'tired', yearning for that element of TLC. The only building within my line of sight which appears to be well maintained is another church; however, the gates are chained and padlocked without any signage to identify the denomination. Across the road is another park, at its nearest corner appears to be a gatehouse which has had some work done to its roof and rendering. Moving on there is this sprawling building, which in its hey-day must have been an impressive. Above the main threshold in high-relief lettering is the name: 'HEGEL-SCHULE'. Regrettably, the rendering is showing signs of decay and the grounds seem to have been forgotten. However, the structure is obviously still in use as the roof tiles appear to have been cleaned or replaced. Whether it is still being utilised as a school, and even in its sorry state, it must have been quite an impressive sight in its day. So, after seeing two distinct precincts I perform a 'U-turn' and head back for the hotel.

We decide to eat in tonight at the hotel's restaurant - The Amarillo. Bit like a large dining hall with a feeble attempt to up-market it. But the food is surprisingly good. It was hard to know what to expect as the Schnitzel Buffet of last night is a hard one to judge the balance of a menu on! We are pretty hungry and decide to have a full meal, so we order:
Chili con carne Suppe (Chilli con-carne soup) Michael
Kartoffelsuppe mit gebratenen Zwiebeln, Croutons und Wurst (Potato soup with fried onion, croutons and sausage) Maria
Gewalzte Rindfleisch in Sauce mit Gemüse (Rolled beef in gravy with garden vegetables) Michael
Lachs auf Kartoffel-Rosti mit drei Saucen und einen Garten Salat (Salmon on potato rosti with three sauces and a garden salad) Maria
Finished with coffee before we returned to our room to catch up with Anne and Mick on Skype and just as Michael is about to come to bed, Amanda and a very very chatty Bella come online and he delightedly chats back!

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