BERLIN 22– 26 August 2018 with Jewish Renaissance
5 days and 4 nights with exceptional guide staying in lovely area of Challotenburg in the west
Berlin is a city steeped in rich Jewish heritage going back to the 12th Century. Today, there are around 60,000 Jews living in Berlin with approximately 80% having come from the former Soviet Union. This, together with an influx of Israeli and 'returning' German Jews, Berlin is believed to be the fastest growing Jewish city in the world today. Berlin also has an extensive cultural life, with superb museums, art and music.
Our guide for three days of the tour is the exceptional Dekel Peretz. Dekel arrived from Israel over 15 years ago and has made this city his home. He has a great depth of knowledge of German history which he communicates very engagingly. He is a fellow of the Walther Rathenau Kolleg affiliated to the Moses Mendelssohn Center for European-Jewish Studies in Potsdam and an associate of the Berlin-Brandenburg Center of Jewish Studies. There is no better guide to Jewish Berlin.
Our fine Hecker’s Hotel boutique hotel is located just off the Kurfurstendamm in the Charlottenberg quarter of West Berlin which allows easy access to two great synagogues for those wishing to attend services. It is also within easy walking distance of excellent restaurants, including kosher restaurants, as well as art galleries and smart shops.
Wednesday 22 August We take BA 0984 from Heathrow at 10.45 to arrive at Tegel airport at 13.35. We will take shared taxis or a 30 min bus journey to within 3-minutes walk of our hotel. Once checked in you might like to visit the nearby highly-rated museum of the work of one of Germany’s great 20th century artists, Kathe-Kollwitz, and the Gallery of Contemporary Art or the multi-media Story of Berlin. And note that August is usually sale-time in KuDam, the smartest of Berlin’s shopping streets. In the evening we can sample one of the area’s many good restaurants which include the restaurant attached to our hotel, often frequented by Angela Merkel.
Thursday 23 August
Our guide Dekel will meet us at our hotel at 9am and take us on a coach tour of the main sights of Berlin, stopping at the Brandenburg Gate on Parisen Platz where Unter den Linden, the magnificent boulevard and the centrepiece of Old Berlin, leads to the Schlossbrücke bridge. We also see the Bundestag, the State Opera House and Checkpoint Charlie, Humboldt University, Bebel Platz (site of the book burnings memorialised by Ulman ‘Empty Library’ and the Royal Library, the Prussian-German Royal Palace and the Old National Theatre (now a Concert Hall). We visit the Memorial for the Murdered Jews of Europe, built by Peter Eisenman, where 2,711 pillars, planted close together in undulating waves, represent the 6 million murdered Jews. We finish by driving to the Weissensee Cemetery, the largest Jewish cemetery in Europe, with tree-lined avenues with an amazing variety of high quality tomb architecture, now painstakingly restored, which offers some fascinating stories of the golden age of Jewish life in the late 19th and early 20th century.
For the evening we can book for those who would like to visit the famed A-Trane Jazz Club or eat at a jazz café.
Friday 24 August
We leave 9am with Dekel to use the train service from Sauvingplatz station to Hackesher Market for a 3 hour visit of the Jewish quarter. This will include Vorstadt Spandau and Sceuneviertel: Rotes Rathaus, Marienkirche, sites in and around Hamburger Strasse including the site of the cemetery, the grave of Moses Mendelssohn, Jewish buildings and community institutions and the site of the former Hochshule where the infamous Rossenstrasse demonstration took place during the WWll. We conclude the tour at the Neue Synagogue, Orienburger Strasse, with its well-known prominent dome where those who wish can see the remains of the inside and the museum and/or lunch at the Israeli-style Humus and Friends restaurant next door.
In the afternoon we walk along river, along with strolling Berliners enjoying the cafes and bars, to Museum Island. You are then free to visit the museums, including the The Pergamon Museum, home of the Ishtar gate that was the entrance to the glory that was biblical Babylon. Return when you wish to the hotel from the nearby station (ticket supplied).
Those who wish to attend the service at the lively nearby Central Orthodox Synagogue at Joachimsthaler No 13 need to be ready at 18.50 to be ready for candle lighting at 19.00. An excellent Shabbat dinner in the rooms above is included in the cost.
Day 3 Saturday 25 August
We go to the service at the nearby Pestalozzistrasse Synagogue, that of the famous cantor Lewandoski whose tunes are standard in many British synagogues. The synagogue retains the pre-war custom of using an organ and mixed choir, although there is separate gender seating. The choir is a treat for chazanut admirers. Or you may prefer to return to the Central Orthodox Synagogue. Both services are followed by a sit-down kiddush that makes lunch unnecessary.
The rest of the day is free. I will give recommendations to museums – but if the weather is good you might like to visit one of the picturesque lakes (bring your swimmers) or parks.
An optional extra is the Baroque Opera Gala at the Charlottenburg Palace for which you need to be ready to leave the hotel at 19.00 (cost £50). Shared taxis will be organised – or you might like to go earlier and have what is recommended as being a very good meal in the elegant surroundings of the palace as well as enjoying the splendid gardens and looking round the palace. See: www.residenzkonzerte.berlin/opera_galahttps://www.residenzkonzerte.berlin/opera_gala
Sunday 26 August
9.00am We check out and put our cases on the bus. We travel to Grunewald S-Bahn Station for a memorial service at ‘Track 17’ where two sculptures memorialize the deportation of 35,000 Berlin Jews who were loaded on to trains at this station between 1941 and 1945. We also visit Wansee where the Final Solution was decided on, and the Glineker Bridge famous for the Natan Sharansky prisoner exchange.
Afterwards we take the coach to Potsdamer Platz, in the 1920s and 30s, one of the liveliest squares in Europe. Left in ruins by Allied bombing, after WWII the square, located between the American, British and Russian sectors, became a no-man's land and in 1961 was flattened with the construction of the Berlin Wall. Today it has been completely rebuilt, with modern office and leisure buildings. We also visit the Topographie Des Terrors (former Gestapo headquarters] Museum and the They were Neighbours Exhibition at The City Hall. We conclude the week-end tour by having lunch at the famed Liebeskind designed Jewish Museum. The main exhibit is closed this summer but Dekel’s tour of the architecture will capture the essence of the power of this building.
At around 4.45pm we leave for airport for the BA flight home at 19.15 landing in Heathrow at 20.15.
The cost of the tour will be around £795 per person sharing, £195 single room supplement. This includes bed and breakfast at the hotel, the guiding services of Dekel Peretz on three days of the tour, coach and public transport costs, museum entrance fees for those we visit with Dekel, and Shabbat dinner. If you wish to go to the opera on Saturday night, it will be an additional £50+ dependent if you wish meal included. You will book the flights yourselves.