7 Days in Berlin (pt. 3 of 4)
Thursday, November 13th
A DAY AT THE ZOO
On Thursday, we stayed in Berlin to take in more of the sites. One of my brat friends had told us that the zoo was reduced price this week, and since the Berlin Zoo is usually about 15 euro, we decided to go. I will begin with the disclaimer that the reason I wanted to visit the zoo is because I had fond memories of it from school field trips in high school, and remember that the Berlin Zoo usually had real habitats. However, personally, I don’t like the idea of zoos, and neither do my kids. So, I also partly went to see if the zoo was as progressive as I remembered it.
The Berlin Zoo is the oldest and most visited zoo in Europe with millions of visitors each year. It also participates in several species reintroduction programs. For the most part, the animals had decent habitats, but the big cats were in glass cages since it was cold out, with little room to roam. There were certain monkeys that seemed cold and were screaming and huddling for warmth, while various other monkey species were inside in glass cages. So, yeah, the Berlin Zoo is a beautiful park, but it’s hard for me to enjoy zoos where animals are locked up in glass. I’m definitely not a tree hugger, but I don’t believe God’s creatures were meant to be caged, unless it’s for purposes of rescue and rehabilitation.
On this clear, crisp day, we called our friends Michael and Marcel to see if they could join us at the zoo. We had hung out with them earlier in the week during the reunion. Marcel wasn’t able to meet up, but Michael joined us later. Above are a few pictures from our visit to the zoo. In the top picture, taken at the Zoologischer Garten Bahnhof (Zoological Garden Train Station) you can see the famous Kaiser Wilhelm Gedächtniskirche (Memorial Church), and the Mercedes Benz Building to the left of it. After coming up out of the station, we decided to check out the new Bikini Mall . The last time I’d been to Breitscheidplatz [the public square that encompasses the Kaiser Wilhelm Church, the Zoo Station and Europa Center– and was at one time the city centre of West Berlin] in 2011, this block was taken up by Zentrum am Zoo (Zoo Center). The Zentrum was a five-building complex–a Cold War era relic that was way overdue for a makeover.
The Bikini Mall is a super hipster ‘concept mall.’ One of its many cool features is that one wall on the ground floor is made of glass and looks out into the zoo’s monkey park. In the second picture above, you can see the windowed wall. In the bottom picture, Anastasia and Christian are sitting on a bench adjacent to that windowed wall, watching the animals in the zoo. We didn’t get to it, but there is a terrace and garden on the roof that overlooks the zoo next door and the Tiergarten [the huge 520 acre park in the middle of Berlin] further on.
In the photos above, Christian is standing in front of the buffalo habitat. At the back of the zoo, we saw this giant kangaroo statue. Also, at the back of the zoo, there is this sweet 5-star hotel called Das Stue, that looks into the zoo, just like the large windows at the Bikini Mall. There are ground floor staterooms which form the perimeter for that part of the park. It’s impressive how seamlessly it blends into the zoo exterior. The building is actually a 1930’s building with beautifully restored interiors.
Germans are really environmentally conscious, so they incorporate a lot of green space into their architectural designs. Thus, the zoo is a beautiful park as well. In the picturesque scene below, Christian captures the beauty of the Landwehr Canal as it winds through the zoo.
When we left the zoo, we stopped to have a late lunch– currywurst mit pommes frites! Currywurst is an iconic street food invented by a Berliner named Herta Heuwer, after the war. She mixed ketchup and curry powder and poured it over bratwurst and the rest is history. Pommes frites are German french fries. Yummy! After lunch, we met up with Michael on the Kudamm (Kurfürstendamm) to shop. The Kudamm used to be the place to shop in West Berlin. It is still vibrant, and exciting, but the money that was poured into the former East with areas like the revitalized Potsdamer Platz, means it’s no longer the only place to shop.
When I’m in Germany, I always go to H&M and C&A. Neither of which had stores the US until recently. C&A, which is similar to H&M, and older, is still not in the US. They always have great sales, so I got some choice goods at both stores. Michael also took us to visit Käthe Wohlfarth– a store that only sales traditional German Christmas decorations. It was a visual treat- room after room of Christmas scenes and decor.
Our last stop for the night was the famous KaDeWe (Kaufhaus des Westens). KaDeWe (usually pronounced Kah Day Vay) is the second largest department store in Europe. It is seven floors of luxury shopping comprised of 60,000 square feet with 2,000 employees. KaDeWe hosts 40-50,000 visitors a day! Like Harrods, the largest department store in Europe, KaDeWe is high end, so we just went from floor to floor exploring the store. We finished exploring just as it was closing!