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American Women's Club of Hamburg

Berlin Bits

After sitting in movie theaters for several days, a bit of time outdoors can be rejuvenating, especially in freezing temperatures. But when the sun comes out, it is time to ignore the cold. My first destination was what used to be Tempelhof Airport, most famous for being used in Operation Vittles, the Berlin airlift which took place during 1948-1949. At that time, the Western Allies flew over 200,000 shipments of food and fuel to Tempelhof Airport to fight the Soviet blockade of Berlin.

Originally known as Tempelhofer Feld (Tempelhof Field), the area was used as a parade ground by Prussian forces and later by German forces from 1720 until the start of World War I. In 1909 Orville Wright staged the first airshow which lasted several weeks. It opened in 1923 as an airport. In 1961 it was used for some scenes in the film One, Two, Three by Billy Wilder. As it reached its capacity and other airports were built in Berlin, Tempelhof Airport was officially closed in 2008. Returned back to an open field, a trade fair was held in 2009 and in 2010 it officially became Tempelhofer Freizeit, a park open from sunrise to sunset. There is a six kilometer cycling, skating and jogging trail, a 2.5 hectare barbeque area, a dog walking field and an urban gardening field.

About two kilometers from Tempelhofer Freizeit is Tempelhofer Hafen (Tempelhof Harbor), which from pictures in a tour magazine looked like a nice place to chill out by the water in the middle of the city. It was, however, a disappointing shopping mall on a tiny harbor. The buildings do not in any way take advantage of an open space of water in a rather bleak cityscape. Perhaps in the summer you could actually sit outside by the water for a coffee, but only if you happen to be in the neighborhood.

The last place on my half day tour was described as the most beautiful part of Berlin, otherwise known as the Nikolaiviertel (Nikolai Quarter). It is actually the oldest residential part of Berlin located along the River Spree next to Rotes Rathaus (Red City Hall), about five minutes from Alexanderplatz. It covers only about four square blocks. The highlight is Nikolaikirche which is the oldest church in Berlin with natural stone foundations, dating back over 800 years. The church itself was destroyed in 1944 but was completely reconstructed and now stands as a museum. Walking around the rest of the area reveals lots of cafés and restaurants and a few shops full of things you don’t need but have to have. I stopped at a tea shop where I was treated to a ceremony of making Japanese matcha green tea, complete with large porcelain tea cup and bamboo whisk –and a free cup of tea! Matcha tea is made from a long process which results in the tea leaves being ground into a fine green powder. It is used in making green tea ice cream and all kinds of baked goods. I ended my tour at the River Spree. As the sun became obscured by fluffy gray clouds, the wind picked up and blew leaves around the closed doors of the restaurants bordering the river. It was definitely time to return to a nice warm movie theater.

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