Susi and Austin's

Travelling the Rivers and

Canals of Europe



Sunday 23 July 2023 4:54 PM

Leaving Spandau we heard that a lion was on the loose in Berlin, and that was where we were headed! So while cruising the Hohenzollern Canal to the Spree, we kept our eyes peeled. The river Spree curves right through the very center of Berlin, passing the modern buildings of the Government quarter and the old “Reichstag”, the parliament building, with it’s modern glass dome. Just before “Friederichstrasse", a central area with a great array of restaurants, bars and theatres, we found the 48 hour free mooring which our Spandau harbour master had recommended. A lovely couple from the Black Forest, who were moored in front of us, welcomed us with : … "but have you heard the news...?" They were referring to the lion. Apparently people in two suburbs of Berlin had been told to stay indoors.

Since we weren’t anywhere near these areas and not the only people around, we felt quite safe to explore the city by foot. Starting at the near-by Reichstag we passed the many memorials of our sad past: white crosses for the East Germans who perished while trying to escape to the West, a part of the wall from the border of East Germany to Poland, large glass walls remembering the Sintis and Romas murdered as “gypsies” under the Nazi regime, and of course the heartbreaking memorial of the holocaust.

Nice to see though that today minorities are largely accepted and celebrated. Even the government buildings sported rainbow flags to welcome the thousands of LGBTQ+s and supporters which were gathering for "Berlin Pride" and "Christopher Street day" Festival. In preparations for the weekend's parade and open-air concert at the Brandenburg Gate,  barriers  and road blocks were being put up and there was a general buzz in the air.

Unhindered on this Thursday, we strolled down “Unter den Linden”, Berlin’s expansive boulevard and arrived at Bebel Platz, a square surrounded by the grand Law Institute, Operahouse and Humbolt University. Statues of the two Humbolt brothers, Wilhelm and Alexander, flank the entrance of the latter. Born in Berlin in 18th century, they travelled the world. Wilhelm, a philosopher, linguist and diplomat shaped and standardised the German education system, while his younger brother is credited with advances in Geography, Geology and Physics.

Be that as it may, the Bebel Square also has a sad history.

Here, on 10 May 1933, Nazis with the help of the Hitler Youth burned thousands of books of free authors and writers, like Stefan Zweig, Alexander Bebel, Erich Kästner, Karl Marx and Siegmund Freud. A glass window in the pavement looks down on a room with empty shelves - a library without books- symbolising this tragic event.

We felt uplifted by the beautiful Berlin Cathedral. We even dared the 270 steps to  the dome’s balcony from where one can enjoy 360 degree views over the city from. 

That night on the Lodi, we had front row seats for the Berlin Pride rehearsal as cruise boat after cruise boat noisily “disco-ed” their way up and down the Spree, their fare - partially in drag- joyfully waving pompoms and bopping to the music.

The next morning, the update on the lion was that inspite of extensive efforts of police, zookeepers, vets etc. the lion still hadn’t been found. I warned Austin, if he was going ahead with riding on his scooter to the next bakery, he might be seen as “Meals on Wheels” by the big cat. 

He returned safely with some bread rolls, and soon after, a news flash reported that stool samples taken had confirmed that the sightings most probably were of a wild boar and not a lion!

Being a little foot soar from an 8km walk around Berlin the previous day, we took the Underground to Mühlendamm, where a 1.3km stretch of the former wall which divided the city has been turned into an art gallery. Called "East Side Gallery", it claims to be the longest open-air gallery of the world. Before the fall of the wall, unlike in other areas, here the wall was visible from the East. It was in fact hiding the so-called death strip from important visitors to the DDR. At least 16 people lost their lives on this border stretch. After 1989, international artists expressed their joy and diverse emotions in over a hundred paintings on the 3.6m high wall. The painting getting the most attention is one of Brezhnev and Honecker kissing, symbolising the bond between the Russian and DDR leader in the 70th.

We re-visited Alexander Platz, a former central square of East Berlin, the infamous Check Point Charlie and a few other landmarks, but really only scratched the surface of this amazing town! Das “Rote Rathaus” was formerly also in the East. Called “red town hall” for it’s red brick exterior, it serves now as seat for the mayor of the united city.

 Close by is the “Museum Insel” where 5 museums, from classical to modern art to the antique, can be found. The buildings alone, erected by the Prussian kings, are worth seeing .They stand in stark contrast to the tall TV tower next door. 

Unfortunately, we had run out off time to visit any of them,

 but we hope to get a chance when we return from Scotland in August.

Just 50 metres from our mooring starts a strip of terrace restaurants and bars stretching along the river and side streets. We chose a Japanese/Vietnamese restaurant to celebrate our last night in Berlin, and the food was delicious.

When leaving Berlin the next day, we we made one final stop at Schloß Charlottenburg. The Rococo castle was built for the wife of Prussian King Friederich I, Sophie Charlotte of Hannover. She was the sister of Georg Louis who succeeded to the British throne as George I in 1684. When Charlotte died of pneumonia at the age of 36, her husband named the castle “Charlottenburg” in her honour. Over time side wings, an orangery and a teahouse were added. The castle opens up to a beautiful garden and wooded parkland.  

For two years, from 2004-2006, Schloß Charlottenburg was even the seat of Germanys president. The president, who has a representative function similar to the govenor general in Australia, sits now in the slightly minor Schloß Bellevue in Berlin’s largest green area the “Tiergarten”.

In the late afternoon we got back to Potsdam yacht harbour to pack for our trip to Scotland. The place reserved for us was unfortunately occupied, so we shimmied into the only spot left. We weren’t happy, but the next day as boats left. we got some more room and could tie Lodi up properly for her 2 week stay.

The weather had suddenly deteriorated with very strong wind and some heavy rain. It was as if it wanted to prepare us for Scotland, which is said to have only two seasons: 

June and Winter!


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