7 Days in Berlin (pt. 2 of 4)

Wednesday, November 12th, 2014


On Wednesday, we decided to rent a car and take a trip to the lovely historic city of Potsdam. In looking at my past previous post about Potsdam, I discovered that it was a Wednesday morning in March (2011) the last time I visited with my sister and daughter. Hmm, odd coincidence.

Anyway, we decided to take a side trip to our old stomping grounds first–Berlin Brigade’s Truman Plaza. Truman Plaza was the US Armed Forces community hub. It was a large area consisting of post exchange [department store for military personnel and their families], commissary, US post office, Stars & Stripes bookstore, American Express bank, barber shop, florist, hair salon, cafeteria, laundromat, DYA (community center for teens), indoor swimming pool, sports center , bowling alley and at some point after I left Berlin in 1983–a Burger King! This was the center of life for military personnel and their families during the Cold War.

Truman Plaza is now an upscale German shopping and housing area, called Fünf Morgen Dahlem Urban Village. For my Berlin Brat friends, brace yourselves: They put a lake in the middle of  Truman Plaza! The whole new ‘fusion’ living concept is pretty awesome if you ask me. Despite this huge change, there are still a few remnants of US military presence left. One of which is the Cole Sports Center. Most of us called it the BB (Berlin Brigade) gym. Not only is it still there, the German government didn’t change its name! The inside looks great!

The Cole Sports Center had a gym, where we played all our home basketball games. It’s where teens and GI’s could play pick up basketball and where the US Army held ‘Boxing Smoker’ events. Down in the basement, there was a bowling alley and tiny arcade, and a snack bar. So many memories… Unfortunately, the downstairs was blocked off. I don’t know whether it was just shuttered up and never used, or whether it was just closed that day.

We then decided to go to Oskar-Helene-Heim U-bahn station, which is at the corner of Argentinishce Allee and Clayallee. This little U-bahn station is a big deal to former US military personnel and their families, because it was the station that served a large part of the US military community.  Truman Plaza, military family housing and US Army HQ were all within walking distance of this station. This station meant freedom for military teens who, unlike their US counterparts, could come and go as they pleased, because our parents did not have to bother chauffeuring us around. Also, since we were in a walled city, with very low crime, our parents tended to be much more lax about our coming and going.

The other really important thing about this corner is the IMBISS stand. In Germany, Imbiss stands are small food stands that provide the most wonderful street food. As a walking city, the need for lots of these types of eateries cannot be overstated. This particular eatery used to be an open air stand, but is now enclosed with glass walls. All the American teens used to eat here back in the day.  We decided this would make for a good backdrop for our documentary, so Anastasia shot some footage here.

Finally, we went through our old neighborhood so Trisha could see her old apartment. She lived on Taylorstrasse and I lived a couple of streets away on Flanaganstrasse. She was so excited to see what it looked like now. Unfortunately, we couldn’t go inside– something I was able to talk someone into when I visited my old place in 2006.

After our brief walk down memory lane, we headed to Potsdam, stopping along the way as we passed through the beautiful  and tranquil Grunewald for Christian to take pictures.

Potsdam, which is about a 30 minute drive from Berlin, was part of East Germany during the Cold War. It is probably most famous for the Potsdam Conference– when Churchill, Stalin and Truman met to negotiate the terms for the end of the war and decide the fate of Germany.


When we arrived in Potsdam, we decided to go shopping in the historic city center. As in Berlin (or any metropolitan area in Europe) finding a parking spot was difficult, but we finally did. We walked along Brandenburger Straße enjoying the sights and sounds. There are a lot of places to eat and shop (including H&M and Starbucks) along this street. The avenue is named for the Potsdam Brandenburg Gate,which stands at the west end of the street. If you were so inclined, you could keep walking west through the Postdam Brandenburg Gate, and come to the back gate of the palace grounds of Sanssouci.  Pictured above is the St. Peter & Paul Church, which is at the far eastern end of Brandenburger Straße.  We walked down to the church and noticed that there was an open air flea market on the side. We browsed the stands of food, lace, and home goods for a while, then decided to head out to Sanssouci Palace.


Sanssouci is gorgeous, but unfortunately, by the time we parked and started walking the grounds, the sunlight was quickly waning– it was November after all. Despite the diminishing light, I thought Christian captured the exquisite beauty of fall at Sanssouci quite well.

Since I already blogged about Sanssouci in  previous posts here, here and here, I won’t reiterate that information in this post. But I will share some more of Christian’s pictures of the palace grounds:


Communs at New Palace- servants’ quarters

Next post: 7 Days in Berlin (pt. 3 of 4).