I opted out of a boat trip on the Spree and a tour of Potsdam Babelsberg with the Goethe Institute this weekend for my own individualized tour. Here’s the daytime version of my itinerary on Saturday:
10:00: Meet friends from the Goethe Institute for Brunch at Sud Bloc, a Turkish Restaurant in Cottbus Tor.
12:00: Attend The International Design Festival. It was a tough choice between the 9th Berlin Art Biennale and this one, but my priorities and practicality surfaced simultaneously. Besides, the Biennale is here for another couple of weeks. It shows what a fantastic city this is for art and artists. Below are a few of the displays that were presented at Kraftwerk, a huge warehouse/industrial building in Berlin Mitte near the Heinrich-Heine Station.
14:30: Walk through trendy streets in the Mitte near Rosenthaler Platz. The KW Institute for Art, one of the Biennale centers, is located on Augustus Strasse. It parallels another delightful alley, Linienstrasse, that is sprinkled with cafes, one-of-a-kind handmade items, and art galleries. I had a red lentil and avocado sandwich with a German rose wine across the street at the old Jewish school. Melissa and I saw the Kennedy Exhibition there in January this year.
16:00: Stop at my Air BNB on Brunnenstrasse for a cake and coffee break.
17:00: Visit the Bernauer Strasse wall exhibit (see posting from last week)
18:00: Alexanderplatz pit stop, with a Afrikaner Festival food and entertainment in high gear.
19:45: Performance of the Return of Tobias, an Oratorium by Joseph Haydn at the Elizabeth Church around the corner from where I am staying.
This was a bonus performance. Since I was so tired, I was debating about whether to go. The performance was sold out, but seating behind the orchestra was available for 5 euros! I could enjoy the full choir, orchestra, and professional quality opera singers and kick my shoes off at the same time. The performance began with actors at the cemetery a couple of blocks away, setting the stage for the story. Everyone returned to the church, where the full story, singing, and beautiful music in an intimate setting unfolded. A delightful close to an exhausting day.
The following day’s activities started with alot of guilt-laden German studying, but in the afternoon I treated myself to a brilliant performance of “Tristan und Isolde” by Richard Wagner at the Deutsche Oper. The marathon performance lasted 5 hours, from 4pm until 9pm. (Only the Meistersinger at the SF Opera was longer at 6 hours). Needless to say, the German stiff upper lip in me kicked in. In classic behavior, when in Berlin, do as the Berliners do.
The opera was very moving and emotionally draining–one of the best I have ever seen. To top it off, there was a standing ovation. That was a thrill. First to see a heart-pounding performance, then to witness genuine, never-ever inflated gratitude offered by a hard-core, German audience.
By purchasing student rush tickets an hour before, I am able to procure the best seats available (5th row from the stage, 9th seat in from the end) for 15 euros (thanks to the Goethe Institute). The only minor inconvenience being so far forward is having to tilt my head up to read the double subtitles in German and English. That’s hardly a problem or complaint for what I am getting! At these prices, the immense difference in cost of opera tickets pays for my four-week German class!!