The past three days I have been really busy at the conference and not much time to do any sightseeing. The conference is being held at the Intercontinental Hotel which is in the West Berlin area of Kurfurstendamm. This has always been a commercial area favored by the upper classes of Berlin. The focus of the city has moved east and today it is more touristy than authentic, according to the excellent guidebook, Rick Steves Berlin. The Germans are fanatical about Christmas and so I had to buy a decoration for our tree at the Kathe Wohlfarht Christmas Ornament Superstore in the Bikini Berlin Shopping Mall.
On my walk from the Kurfurstendamm train station to the hotel, I pass the Kaiser Wilhelm I Memorial Church. It is dedicated to the first Emperor of Germany who reigned from 1871 to 1888, which is the year my dad’s grandfather, Andreas Kralovec, emigrated to the USA at age 18 from Bohemia. He probably remembered Wilhelm’s reign. The church was partially destroyed during an Allied bombing raid and city officials wisely decided to keep it as a reminder of the destruction of the city. A modern church was built next to it.
The hotel is close to Berlin’s Central Park, the 400-acre Tiergarten Park is a really nice wooded area. I love large urban parks and the Tiergarten fits the bill. This was the site of the infamous June 17, 1953, uprising of East Berliners and subsequent massacre when the rally was closed down by officials. To this day, June 17 is German Unity Day and a national holiday. Hitler moved the iconic Victory Column (Siegessaule) to the center of the park before World War II. The column celebrated Prussian victories over the Danes and Austrians. He had grand plans for his Nazi capital of the world and the tower was to serve as a landmark, Washington Monument-style for the long and wide boulevard from the city center. The tower was moved from near the Reichstag and by doing so, saved it from being destroyed by the Allies. You can walk up the long winding stairs to the top and get a pretty good view of the city. The Tiergarten was close to the hotel that was hosting the conference so during short breaks, I walked around the park. The classic autumn leaves, crisp blue skies and long paths through the forest was such a delight and recharged my energy during the many interviews I had during the three-day conference.