Days 20-22: Planes and Boats and Trains

Such has been our busy week of flying from Moscow to Berlin, taking a hydrofoil to Peterhof from Moscow, and the train from St Petersburg to Moscow. We enjoyed the Sapsan train the best, which turns out to be the same as the ICE train I am taking from Berlin to Salzburg. We assumed the Russian premier long distance train was its opportunity to showcase Russian engineering, but it looked suspiciously similar to the German trains.
IMG_7686Yesterday, on Gee Kin’s last full day in Berlin, we took a day excursion by local train to Sans Souci Palace in Potsdam. We didn’t visit the palace as most visitors do, but took a three-mile walk between Sans Souci and Charlottenborg Palaces in the scant shade of 99 degree weather. A UNESCO world heritage site, Potsdam was the chosen site for the summer palace of King Friedrich. Here’s a Wiki link:

The event planners were preparing for the Sommernacht at the palaces the following day. It sounded like a wonderful celebration of German classical music in a beautiful venue, but unfortunately we were leaving. It would be worth coming back one day for the festivities and fireworks in this elegant location.

In our 36 hours in Berlin, we had launched our stay with a leisurely walk in the neighborhood of Potsdamer Platz, through the zoological garden in the middle of the city. It was calming and provided time for us to reflect on all the Siberian landscapes we had just traversed.

Those of you who know us are aware that we like long urban walks, 5-10 miles a stretch. This was yet another “walk in the park”. (For the curious, I have a website,, that provides detailed information on Bay Area walks). It may seem pricey to go halfway around the world for a walk, but these are the most memorable and enjoyable ones to us.

We managed to balance the rest of our three days with local tours and attractions. We found a good Turkish restaurant in the more local area around the Zoo. Gee Kin slugged out on the museum track so we did a Young European concert with the Kiev Orchestra last night.

Sandwiched in between our morning walk and the evening concert, we visited the Reichstag dome. Being one of the hottest days ever in Berlin, we wondered how we got ourselves into this predicament. Masses of local tourists had come from all over the world to the Reichstag for their German civics lesson, on this one day. We not only fried at every pit stop, but then we were sous-vide under the dome, which resembled the George Forman griller.

Nevertheless, it was still fun to see and experience Norman Foster’s masterpiece. Luckily for you, the photos can never effectively convey temperature. But I guarantee you, the open vents in the building were insufficient ventilation for the once-in-a-hundred years heat wave. My dead straight hair went curly and the wood on our paper fans are permanently warped from this day at the Bundestag.

Three activities in one day’s 99-degree weather may be asking for trouble. Gee Kin’s alternative was to go to some delightfully soothing, air-conditioned art museum and he picked this?? Granted, the tour to Reichstag was pre-booked. We had failed to do this a few years back on our first trip to Berlin around 2012. And I was a day off on the booked date. Being our last day, we were not going to forego these paid-in-advance commitments so we had no choice but to go. So our last day was a bit of a marathon but it was penance for our lethargy the first 48 hours.

As mentioned, we went to a concert at the Konzerthaus Berlin, in a renovated building in a lively area in the middle of the city. But that’s not saying much, as everything seems to be in the middle of the city. Rome and San Francisco feel intimate like this, but not Moscow or Paris. Those are honking huge BIG cities, that dwarf your existence. That may be due to the six-plus-lane wide ribbons of thoroughfares used for pomp and circumstance.

I am at this very moment passing through Bamberg, where Gee Kin and I first discovered Cameron Carpenter. He is an amazing Curtis-trained contemporary organist who can do both classical and popular music. Some of you saw his performance at the SF Symphony Hall last year. He is one of our favorite new artists.

I am sitting in the dining car for lunch, noshing on bratwurst and cold potato salad. (See photo). IMG_7743The quality of food is less important to me thanthe total experience–environment, ambience, and PEACE. This was it, enough for me to write all of this discreetly in a maple-veneer and leather-lined carriage. Prices were reasonable by American standards. I had my .2ml wine (a bit more from the split bottle but you can measure if you want from the mark on the glass), entree and dessert with coffee, with a priceless view and free opera music via my IPhone to boot! To me, this beats a table at French Laundry.

Am heading to the Salzburger Festival and will post from there in a few days. Til then, stay wet (not dry
for SFers) and cool (for Deutschers). Clouds on the horizon.

4 thoughts on “Days 20-22: Planes and Boats and Trains”

    1. Thank you for the encouragement! Traveling in a long haul helps to connect the dots. We have been comparing three countries-China, Russia and Germany on this trip. Gee Kin loves the history and the political-economic dimensions, and I prefer the physical and environmental aspects. He’s funny ha-ha
      kind of guy so I can use humor at his expense


  1. It is such a delight to read your posts and (virtually) travel the world with you. How did you plan and organize your communication tools – my iPhone never works in Europe – and AT&T too expensive. Cannot wait to learn some good tricks of the trade from you. I am impressed by the quality of your content as well as the quality of your posts. Cannot wait to hear your Salzburg impressions ..


    1. These are good questions. To make it brief, here are three pointers.
      1. Save all your efforts for wifi available hotels.
      2. Don’t make calls unless your carrier gives you a package. I have one on tap but have not had to use it so far.
      3. I have learned from trial and error how to post pictures and words using WordPress. After a year, I am getting better. If you go back to the first ones a year ago you can see the improvement!


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