Germany Adventure: DAY 2, Berlin by River

June 20, 2008, Germany Day 2
The second day in Germany began about 8am local time. We woke up in the most comfortable hotel bed I have ever slept in, got ready and headed to breakfast where we were greeted with a healthy, fresh spread. My favorite part of the whole thing was the ridiculously large bread selection separated into a bunch of little baskets behind a cutting board. You selected your bread, cut it fresh and topped it with one of the adjacent cheese selections. My favorite: “cream cheese” which was very similar to what we know as brie. That on top of a whole grain roll was heavenly! My colleague Ivy (from North Dakota) and I continued our Starbucks love affair and walked to get our familiar coffee from the Americanized Starbucks that was attached to our hotel. Somehow, it didn’t feel right to be drinking American coffee in Europe, and after my second coffee of the trip which was a true German “kaffee” I won’t make the same mistake again! We noticed last night that it was light for so long and inquired about the hours of daylight. What I learned was that Germany is situated further north than the US, comparable to northern Canada. Daylight during the summer is from 330am to 1030pm. In the winter, it is just the opposite, offering only 5 hours of daylight from 1030am to 330pm. Makes for a great summer, long winter. The climate is quite similar to the bay area, upper 70s during the day dropping into the 50s at night. It is such a lovely break from the 100 degree heat of Texas!
We boarded the bus and drove to our “Berlin by River” tour which was a two hour boat ride up and down the main waterway through Berlin.
I quickly became known as the boat photographer and was asked the rest of the day (by others on the boat) if I knew what I was doing or had a special passion for it since I was “taking some of the most interesting shots” according to one colleague. I just smiled and said I had a different eye since I have taken up photography. I so thoroughly enjoyed the trip, the scenery and the endless photographic opportunities. I took well over 300 pictures and was most intrigued by two things. First fascination: the bullet holes that lined the old walls of the river. The river runs through the city and is lined by buildings and had a polka dotted pattern than went on for miles, preserved so visitors would try to imagine what the hostile times were like during the “World War Second” as the locals call it. It made me close my eyes for a second and think of how hostile things must have been. The volume of bullet holes in the concrete is enough to make any one shiver.
The second fascination is the combination and strong contrast of old, intricate architecture and brand new, extremely modern buildings. One minute you are studying the carved stone, gilded turrets and historical masterpiece of a cathedral and the next building is a square box that is orange and covered in deliberately minimalist windows and lines, sometimes they were even attached together!
Since the city was leveled, there is still major building going on and while there is a lot of preservation of anything that still remained standing, there is also a lot of recreation of the old style of buildings. Sometimes only the facades remained and the building was added from the back so the front stayed about the same. Some building were left with just the original front door and built up with modern architecture around the original door; it is quite strange. We were on a boat that was over a hundred years old and had a large steam pipe sticking out the top. Since the bridges in Berlin are so low, every time we came to one (and there were about 15 on our short tour) we had to go into a “lock” where they blocked us into a holding cell, lowered the water a couple feet and then the boat staff lowered the pipe so we had enough clearance to go under the bridge, often just a couple inches! It was crazy! It changed my perspective for a couple of pictures that I wouldn’t have been able to get otherwise! Also worth noting, is the large city telecommunications tower than has a huge silver ball with many panels of reflective glass, not unlike a disco ball, but large enough in size to be compared to the Seattle Space needle. There is and was a lot of controversy regarding the ball, since as a complete coincidence, there is a reflection of the sun that is the exact shape of a cross from every angle the tower is viewed. After the war, the government here wanted to create an Atheist nation and was so upset about the strong presence of the inadvertent religious symbol that they tried everything to get rid of the reflection. Obviously nothing worked and I actually think it is kind of neat. Makes for a good story!
Few more shots from the boat( I would have done a slideshow, but picasa hates me today):

By this time I have completely fallen in love with this city. Tommy and I have always entertained the idea of a European tour with the Military since the largest Military hospital in Europe is in Germany and it may be a reality someday. The current medical flight path for the most critically injured is from Iraq to Ramstein Air Base in Germany and then to Lackland AFB, transferred to Tommy’s hospital, Brooke Army Medical Center. I would live here in a heartbeat. There is such social conscience that is long forgotten in the US. Only certain vehicles with certified emissions efficiencies are allowed into city center. What is seen is streets lined with smart cars and miniature Mercedes that are not offered in the US. Even the Honda civics is different, smaller. One tour guide remarked that people who bought the very expensive vehicles are out of luck as they sit with their hundred thousand Mercedes and can no longer drive them to work because they are not clean or small enough for the color sticker needed to head downtown. Bikes are ridden everywhere here, even by people in full business suits. Most remarkably, I have yet to see an obese person that is not American. There is no rushing on the street, there are warm smiles everywhere and what can only be described as a genuine love of life. I love it here. I could live here and not miss much of anything in the US.

The afternoon took those of us employed by Bayer to Bayer-Schering headquarters, where we toured the production facility and the only building that was left after the War, which now houses the Schering Museum. The production facility is where all of the drugs we sell are made and is lines and lines of sterile, sophisticated supply chains. The US YAZ was not in production today, but the European version of the product (same ingredients, different name), “Yasminelle” was. The packaging was completely different.
We saw where the US YAZ was produced and learned that just after the launch, there were additional personnel hired and production occurred 24 hours a day, 7 days a week just to meet the new demand. We almost faced backordering since the uptake of the product was so quick and successful. We also saw how Magnevist was packaged (a contrast medium for digital imaging-MRIs) and one of the Oncology drugs. Unfortunately, Mirena is made in Finland, so we were unable to see any of that in production. Much of Mirena production is still by hand, which would have been neat to see! We found out the night before that we had to have our legs covered in order to enter the plant and since many of us brought skirt suits, the trip director bought a massive amount of pantyhose and we all had to wear them. (gross!!!) Mine were tap/jazz costume style and were thick and shimmery and very tan. Lovely. Once we had those on, the white foot booties, the lab coat and hair cap, we were all sweating in our monkey suits. I was expecting the tour to be fascinating. I was a bit disappointed. The museum was interesting and preserved a lot of the history of our company. Who knew that Schering used to have a photography company?!? We were not in there long due to the lack of air conditioning, but it was nice to see where the home base of my company resides. Best fun fact: Berlex (what my company was called before Bayer bought out Schering AG and the US subsidiary, Berlex) stands for “BERlin EXport” since all the medication was and still is made in Berlin. Yep, those little YAZ & Yasmin pills still come from Germany, check your box!!
Once we got back, we decided to go have dinner at a rather disappointing restaurant, but dessert in a very hip, bustling place. There is a large Sony Center around the corner and a huge dome that is lit in changing colors that casts the most interesting ambiance over a huge courtyard full of restaurants and colored fountains. This area is called the Potsdamer Platz. I saw a picture of it on my yahoo homepage this morning as one of the most emailed photos regarding Berlin’s upcoming fashion week!

[from outside the center]

[one of the main anchor buildings, I thought it was cool that all of the lights were on at night]

[in front of the fountains that constantly change colors]

[how cool is the roof? Also changed colors…]

We parked it at Josty’s for a latte (best I have ever had) for me and a sundae for Tori and enjoyed the light show. I ordered a carmel latte and it came with a side packet of carmel, which I definitely never used because the espresso was soooo good! Check out that froth! That’s what you DON’T get with skim milk! I think tomorrow we are going to try another restaurant we saw for dessert, which had all white couches and white roses and candles. They even provided blankets if you were cold! It was a great way to end the day.

[inside the platz looking out towards the street]

Tomorrow is the last day in Berlin before we fly to the other side of the country, to Munich which we hear is the polar opposite of the cosmopolitan place!

Hi! Hello! I am Shawna, the founder of Styleberry Blog. This creative corner of the internet has become a learning haven for moms and creatives, offering a warm and encouraging nudge to those who wish to be better and do better, but often don't know where to start. From Decorating to DIY to Diapers and Paleo-ish Dishes, I strive to make the complicated simple and empower women to take action beyond their personal comfort zone. I subscribe to the Shine Theory & so strongly believe that we shine when the women around us shine and mutual support—lifting up instead of tearing down--will always be the culture here. Are you in? I hope so! Beyond the computer, I run Styleberry Creative where I work with clients to create low fuss, high function spaces that are pretty and practical in San Antonio, Texas and beyond. I LOVE making a house a home. My own studs out renovation is now complete and I am now back to working with clients. Please don't hesitate to drop me a line if you'd like to work together! I hope you’ll join me on this fun new adventure! Xo.