early walks / by Mark Ziegler

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The last week in Berlin was equal parts rain and sun, but just as enjoyable as the first two. Now that we're getting used to the tour schedule, I find it easier to plan and get out to do things. Here's the rundown and a new batch of photos to go along with it: I got to catch a really good jazz trio let by Shai Maestro (great name, huh?) at the Jewish Museum. They moved it inside because of inclement weather, but the museum is beautiful and it was a great way to spend a drizzly Sunday morning.

I mentioned a video from the "jazz fest" and here it is. If I knew how to prepare you for this, I would try. Pay specific attention to the revolutionary use of "house/house" rhyme scheme.

[wpvideo yFOXTRKT]

The Fest, at the very least, led us to Bergmanstraße and to some good food. Bergmanstr. is part of Kreutzberg which is a really hip part of town and appears to be in the somewhat-early stages of the inevitable Yuppification era that happens in (or, to?) the cool neighborhoods. It borders Friedrichshain, though at one point it was difficult to cross the border. Why? There was this thing called the Berlin Wall in the way. And some of it still stands as what's called the East Side Gallery. I didn't get a chance to see it in person, but it's worth going here for some more information.

The Reichstag was an obligatory tourist activity that was even cooler than expected. If you make a reservation a few days in advance, they'll let you go to the top of the renovated government building and walk up the spiral staircase in the glass dome. As you walk around - based on your location - an audio guide tells you what you're looking at throughout the city. It would be a great place to go at night, but in early July the sun sets around 10 pm and at that time I'm in the middle of act two.

I kept hearing from German friends about "X-burg". I like to be in the know, so instead of asking someone I decided to become a super sleuth and figure it out. Is there a "Christ-berg"? No. Dang. "Chi-berg"? Nope. Although, "da bears" - statues, at least - seem to be big in Berlin. And there's plenty of grilled meats for Ditka and co, but still no dice. So, I went neighborhood by neighborhood. I knew it had to be a cool area. And a berg. And, then I realized I'd been there. The coolest hood around: Kreuzberg = "cross mountain." I even got another German vocabulary word to throw around.

I made it back to X-berg (feels cool to write that) for lunch with a friend from Lake Placid Jazz Seminar back in the day. Great to see her, and have been checking out some excellent albums of hers in the meantime. We took a walk up the "berg" - not really a mountain but cool views of the city, even with some tall trees. It's another gem of a little park hidden in the middle of Berlin. There's even a waterfall with nice views of the monument at the top.

Sunday night I wasn't feeling well, so I packed and turned in early. Monday morning we were headed to Leipzig, and I found myself awake at 4 AM, wishing I had taken some early morning pictures. Had it not been for the free coffee machine in the lobby, I might have hit the pillow again. But, I actually got up, downed some espresso and hit the road. I got to the hauptbahnhof (main train station) with enough time to get to the Reichstag and the Brandenburg Gate before the early morning colors went away. I was pretty much the only one at the gate: the only tourist, at least. By the time I trekked over through museum island to Alexanderplatz, the sun was in full force and I was ready to get back to bed for a few hours before leaving for Leipzig.

Since Monday, I've busked with a guy I met in college, caught a few pieces sung by the Thomaskirche Boys Choir, and saw a guy play trombone with his foot. But more on all that later.

(Berlin 3 slideshow for mobile devices)

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