Tag Archives: gløgg

Stasi, KaDeWe, & Feuerzangenbowle

My foot and knee are still bothering me, and probably won’t recover until I stay off them for a while. So naturally today I walked almost eleven miles.

In the morning I went across the river to the East Side Gallery, which is a mile-long section of the Wall that was given over to artwork in 1990 and restored in 2009.

A lot of it is overtly political, not surprisingly, like this famous picture of Brezhnev and Honecker kissing, which until this trip I did not realize was based on a photo and the actual practice of communist heads of state.

Hard to imagine kissing Brezhnev. That’s the stuff of nightmares, that is. Not that Honecker would be a delight, but Brezhnev is somehow worse.

Tödliche Liebe

Some of the pieces are more fanciful.

Japanese Sector

There are signs threatening prosecution for defacing the murals, but a lot of them have graffiti anyway, like this Pink Floyd piece.

The Wall on the Wall

Of course the best is this one. Somewhere there’s a companion piece showing the other side, but I don’t know where it is. There are bits of the Wall all over the place.


From there it was only a short hop on the U-Bahn to the Stasi museum, inside the old Stasi headquarters. There was a film crew there, so I wasn’t able to see Erich Mielke’s office, but I did snoop in some of the lesser offices when the film people weren’t paying attention.

Stasi HQ

At its peak, the Stasi complex covered 54 acres, with 50 office buildings.

Classic Communist Architecture

From there I took the train to the Checkpoint Charlie area. Of course it’s not the real Checkpoint Charlie, because that’s long gone, but everyone’s heard of Checkpoint Charlie and expects to see it, so they have a fake one. There’s also a Checkpoint Charlie museum and a film experience and a whole lot of souvenir shops all selling the same souvenirs. I bought a shirt.

Then I walked over to Unter den Linden and bought another shirt. Then I walked to the Brandenburg Gate, where someone was assembling a giant menorah.

Hitler would plotz.

Menorah at the Brandenburg Gate

Then I walked up Unter den Linden. Initially I was identifying things in the guidebook as I went, but it was getting colder and I started walking faster and I left my guidebook, and my hands, in my pockets most of the time, so I don’t know what everything was along the way.

Probably a Famous Building

In all of the tourist areas, there are guys selling genuine East German and Soviet hats and pins and flags. Absolutely for-sure real stuff.

Suspiciously New-Looking Relics

Some of the stores are even still selling pieces of the Wall. And in case you doubt them, they come with a certificate of authenticity. And certified authenticity is the most authentic authenticity.

After a brief stop at the hotel, I took the train to Kaufhaus des Westens, aka KaDeWe, the largest department store in continental Europe. All of it is impressive, but the food market is amazing. It’s an entire floor of cafes, delis, bakeries, candy stores, grocery stores, wine bars, and any other food-related thing you can think of. It is to an ordinary food court what West Berlin was to East Berlin. I think I spent close to an hour just wandering around on that floor.


After I left KaDeWe, I got on the train going in the wrong direction. Could happen to anyone, really.

Eventually I made it back to Alexanderplatz and stopped in the Nikolaiviertel for a Feuerzangenbowle, as one does this time of year.

“Feuerzangenbowle,” it says here in Wikipedia, “is a traditional German alcoholic drink for which a rum-soaked sugarloaf is set on fire and drips into mulled wine. It is often part of a Christmas or New Year’s Eve tradition. The name translates literally to fire-tongs punch.” It’s a close relative to glühwein and thus to gløgg, but probably a bit stronger.


The venue selling this concoction was right next to the Nikolaikirche, a (mostly reconstructed) 13th-century church that is now a museum. They seem to be connected to it in some way. They sell this drink and a few others and have the 1944 movie Die Feuerzangenbowle running on a continuous loop.


The Nikolaiviertel itself is supposedly the historical center of Berlin. The church is legitimate, even if it’s mostly a restoration, and some of the other buildings are authentic, too. They’re just not necessarily authentic from that particular location. And a lot of the others are idealized recreations.

All of this was put together by the East German government for Berlin’s 750th anniversary in 1987. It’s sort of a Germanic Main Street USA.


Arrival in East Berlin

After one train delay and rescheduling in Hamburg, I made it to Berlin Hauptbahnhof and thence to Alexanderplatz, where I immediately got lost because most of the space is given over to the Christmas Market. Or markets. There are two sections. Possibly they are rival markets. But they’re both much bigger than anything I saw in Copenhagen. And my phone battery died again, but I was able to use a map that I had that was printed on paper, like primitive humans used to use. Also, it took me longer because I had to eat bratwurst along the way.


Weltzeituhr und Pyramiden Treff

Christmas Market

Limping to Christianshavn

After the Viking Ship Museum, my plan was to take the train to Christianshavn and visit Christiana, the hippie squatter enclave that’s been there since 1971.

With all this walking, though (32 miles so far this trip), I seem to have strained a tendon on the left side of my left foot, which has me hobbling along like Inspector Clouseau in his salty sea dog disguise.

The bus didn’t show up to take me back up the hill to the train station, so I limped up the hill, detouring a little to walk through the main shopping area and get some money out of an ATM, then took the train and metro out to Christianshavn.

Christianshavn has historic ties to Greenland, and there are three statues depicting life in Greenland. One of them shows someone disemboweling a seal.

Seal guts

From that point it would have been another 20-minute limp to Christiana, plus a walk around, then 20 minutes back, so I would have had another hour of walking, at least. I stopped in a nearby Joe & the Juice to get a flat white and consider my options.

I like weird offbeat jurisdictions and living situations, so I would have liked to see Christiana, but it now has a sort of official status, so it’s less like Sealand and more like a giant Synergy House. Interesting, but not worth destroying key foot tendons to see it.

So I took the metro back to Nørreport station and walked down the Strøget, stopping in a Christmas market to get some gløgg along the way. Maybe a half hour of walking.

Viel gløgg!

Now I’m having brisket and beer in Warpigs for the third night in a row. This is my last night in Copenhagen. Tomorrow I take the train to…?????


Wandering Through Copenhagen

I took the Rick Steves walking tour, approximately. I saw a palace and the ruins below it, drank some gløgg, wandered through pedestrian shopping streets and Christmas markets, drank some more gløgg, saw the Little Mermaid, got lost in the meatpacking district, and now I’m having brisket and pilsner at the Warpigs brewpub. I haven’t found Reptilicus yet, but I saw a gorilla playing an accordion. I gave him ten kroner.

Christiansborg Palace

12th Century Toilet Drain

Purveyor of Gløgg

Somewhere in or near the Meatpacking District

Not Reptilicus


Denmark: Fabled Land of Reptilicus

It’s December, so it’s the logical time to go to Copenhagen, because…um…well, I don’t know. But anyway I’m here, staying at an Airbnb in the center of town.

The flight was straightforward enough: Seatac to Heathrow to Copenhagen, then a train to the central station (they all go to the central station), then a short walk to the apartment. Sarah, the owner, wasn’t going to be there, but her friend Shami was going to meet me at the gate and let me in. She gave me his number and I sent him a text when I was on the train.

But he never got the text. Google Maps sent on a bizarre (but undoubtedly efficient) path through the back alleys of downtown Copenhagen and got me to the apartment building, at which point the battery died. I remembered Sarah’s name, but not Shami’s, and I couldn’t see his phone number, let alone call him. And he wasn’t at the gate.

Someone was just coming out of the gate and she helped me track down which apartment it was, but with no one there that didn’t get me very far. So I walked back to the train station and charged the phone in a Starbucks, then walked back to the apartment and called Shami. I had assumed that he lived there, but he lives about 15 minutes away, so I waited in the courtyard until he arrived.


Apartment courtyard

The walk was easier the second time. All I really needed to do was walk straight down from the train station and turn left at the cow. You’d think Google Maps would know that.


This is the cow.

The apartment looks like an American apartment from the 1940s. It’s charming and has everything I need, but it’s small and the walls are thin. The neighbors were having a party when I arrived, and it sounded like it was in the kitchen. It almost was, because there’s a (blocked-off) door to their apartment in the kitchen.

KitchenLiving room

But it didn’t matter, because I hadn’t had anything to eat all day except for an orange and two crackers, so I went out wandering through central Copenhagen without any sort of plan except to eat something.

I mostly just wandered around lost, but I found a small Christmas market and had some currywurst and gløgg. Gløgg is spiced wine, and they added some rum to it, so I’m going to say that’s why it took me so long to find my way back to the apartment.

In 1962, Copenhagen was nearly destroyed by the monster Reptilicus. That’s a true historical fact that’s documented in the movie Reptilicus. Anyway, at the end of the movie, a piece of Reptilicus’s tail was all set to regenerate into a new Reptilicus, and that was years ago, so there must be another Reptilicus around somewhere. My quest is to find him. I will begin my search today on the walking tour from the Rick Steves guidebook.