Did you guess any of my destinations from yesterday's clues?
First I took the U-Bahn from across the street to Potsdamer Platz to save myself a chunk of walking that I'd done before in both directions anyway. U-Bahn, you need to improve your information signage. Currently you are stuck at British Rail levels of crapness, a 1/4 century behind London Underground and Paris Metro and even the New York Subway is better.
Then Flagon and Speedy wanted to be photographed in front of the Berlin Wall. Flagon asked if he should whoosh it down? but I explained that the German people had already done that before I had even met my Dragon friend; these bits were to act as a reminder of the past and a warning for the future. More effective, though, are the big photos on display showing the devastation that was Potsdamer Platz during the era of the Wall and other similar photos of the "Death Strip" between East and West. Horrific. Now it's completely surrounded by exciting modern buildings and full of Berliners and tourists alike.
Not far down the street is the Holocaust Memorial - Berlin bravely faces up to history it seems. Many people were sitting on it which seems disrespectful but they probably didn't know what it is because there are no interpretation boards or signs explaining. It's impressive but not as much as the one in, of all places, Miami Beach, Florida.
A bit further along is Speedy's "rocky hill top," which he was surprised to learn was no such thing, the Brandenburg Tor being, in fact a gate! Anyway, more "Flagon and Speedy are cliche tourists" photos ensued - there was lots of that going on. One attractive looking young woman was actively posing, like she was a model, for her boyfriend to take pictures...
Hardly any distance further on was Speedy's "male deer" which, he learned, was no such thing, the Reichstag being a big old parliament building...Very impressive, as are the buildings on the opposite side of the Spree from it. (It should be noted that previous mentions of the Spree I've made were in fact no such thing but rather a canal that branches off the real river...)
And across the Spree I went, and on to the Natural History Museum, where Flagon did see some of his "non-magical ancesters" aka dinosaurs and "pretty Treasure" aka the mineral display. Taking the latter first, it's a quite old-fashioned catalogue type of display, divided up into primary and secondary chemical classifications. It's really comprehensive; I estimate 15-16,000 separate items! Some are visually spectacular items, too and some displays about the uses of minerals and metals. One looks fairly innocuous but is so rare I've never come across a sample of it before - macroscopically crystaline malachite. It reminded me of being a first year undergrad, sat in a lab, identifying rock and mineral samples and examining them microscopically using "thin sections" - thin enough for light to go through them.
The dinosaurs were, of course, impressive; the first time I've seen a full size brachiosaur displayed; over 13 m tall ! Also a diplodocus - over 13 m long ! The brachiosaur is taller than the diplodocus at the shoulder but then the neck goes almost vertically up for several meters more. The brachiosaur skeleton indicates that the neck could probably only articulate like a crane. On the other hand diplodocus's neck stuck straight out horizontally and probably could not articulate vertically much at all, which is why it had such an epically long tail to counter-balance it. Also a S. Hemisphere species of stegosaur (never knew there was more than one kind!), an allosaur and others, but, of course, the real crowd-pleaser is Tristan Otto, the Black Tyranosaur, which gets his own room. Only 50 T. Rexes have been unearthed and this is the third most complete, with 170 out of an estimated 300 bones discovered - bones that really are black because of the circumstances of fossilization. There's some really good, innovative and informative interpretation surrounding the dinosaur displays, including a bunch of other diplays showing fossils of other plants and animals (land, sea and air) that were discovered alongside the brachiosaur, allosaur and diplodocus, during one expedition to Tanzinia. (Tristan, like all known Tyranosaurs, comes from North America. Flagon was moved to note, "Roar! Almost as Fierce as me!" Probably a ot less Friendly, too!)
There's a bunch of other exhibitions covering topics including, evolution (too basic for my level of knowledge), Earth history and plate tectonics (much of it again too basic for me), the solar system and meteorites - had some great stuff about this topic, including an explanation of the theory of how a huge meteorite impact killed the dinosaurs (and an estimated 70% of life on Earth) and the now very strong evidence base, nearly 40 years after the initial hypothesis. There was lots more but it would take ages to go through it all. Suffice to say, it took me ~5 hrs, including lunch and some rest stops, to see everything I wanted and two visits would be required to look at everything properly. One of the breaks was enforced; there was an "alarm" and everybody was evacuated. I say "everybody" but Flagon and Speedy were trapped inside, which was very worrying until ten minutes later we we allowed back inside. No idea what that was all about!
Afterward I wandered back by nearly the same route and stopped off for some food. Now, it took less than 24hrs after my arrival in Germany to eat my first bratwurst, plain. But all the street vendors are proclaiming Currywurst boldly, which is clearly a Big Thing in contemporary local food culture - it's just your basic bratwurst mit pomme frites, bitte with curry sauce thrown on top, but it is yummy. However I was disappointed to learn that instead of being an additional option, it seems to have entirely replaced sauerkraut, which is a shame - I was looking forward to some sauerkraut. I wonder if you can still get it in New York? Some of the hotdog carts there had it.
Needless to say the walks to and fro were a nearly continuous series of photo-blitzen and I'm looking forward to seeing how they turn out.
Now, what should I do tomorrow, my final full day, before flying home some time on Saturday? I haven't made a plan; suggestions very welcome!
Oh! Mysteriously, I found a Stegosaur by the name of Stella in my bag on returning to the hotel...this keeps on happening!