BERLIN

22-26 August 2018

In association with West End Travel

berlin 01

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. On this tour we will hear about life for Jews now growing up and living in Berlin as well seeing monuments to the tragic history of the past community. Berlin also has an extensive cultural life, with superb museums, art and music.  And you will be in the company of other friendly and open-minded readers who are as interested in you in finding out about Jewish history and culture in a wider context.

ronen guide

Our guide for three days of the tour is Ronen Altman Kaydar. Ronen, born in Israel, and educated in Israel and the US, has been a Berlin guide for 10 years. He is the author of guide books to Germany (as well as of a novel and poetry). He knows the city inside out and eloquently communicates his passion for its Jewish history. He is also a follower of the city’s vibrant contemporary art scene, of which we will see examples on the streets as we go. Find out more about him on: www.yourberlintour.com.

Our fine Hecker’s boutique hotel is located just off the Kurfurstendamm in the Charlottenberg quarter of West Berlin which allows easy access to two of Berlin’s most remarkable synagogues for those wishing to attend services. It is also within easy walking distance of many restaurants, including kosher restaurants, as well as art galleries and smart shops.

On Wednesday evening the effervescent Yael Schlesinger, whose parents survived in Berlin, will join us for dinner to talk about growing up Jewish in Berlin and about the current Jewish cultural life in the capital.


ITINERARY

Wednesday 22 August Those coming from London take BA0992 from Heathrow at 10.50 to arrive at Tegel airport at 13.40. We will take shared taxis or a 30-min bus journey to within 3-minutes walk of our hotel. (There are flights from Manchester at 7.25 (Easyjet) and 12.25 (Ryanair) to Shoenenfeld airport from which you can take a bus or train to within about eight minutes walk of the hotel). Those coming from London will arrive in time 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 will be joined at dinner in a nearby café by the effervescent Yael Schlesinger, whose family survived in Berlin. She will tell us about growing up Jewish in Berlin and about recent developments in the cultural life of the Berlin Jewish community, where she is an active Limmud member.

Thursday 23 August
Ronen 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, the remains of the Berlin Wall and Checkpoint Charlie, Humboldt University, Bebel Platz (site of the book burnings memorialised by the Ulman ‘Empty Library’, 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 have lunch at Potsdamer Platz, in the 1920s and 30s, one of the liveliest squares in Europe. Left in ruins by Allied bombing and flattened with the construction of the Berlin Wall in 1961, it is now rebuilt with modern office and leisure buildings. Then we drive through the now trendy Prenzlauerberg in the north-east of the city to the Weissensee Cemetery. Its tree-lined avenues and squares show an impressive variety of tombs, now painstakingly restored, and Ronen will tell fascinating of those who they were built for. It is the largest Jewish cemetery in Europe – so a guide is essential.

On the way back to the hotel we will discuss options for the evening: eating at one of the area’s many good restaurants which include the restaurant attached to our hotel, often frequented by Angela Merkel – or a Jazz cafe.  Jazz enthusiasts might like to go to the famed A-Trane Jazz Club which is near the hotel.

Friday 24 August
We leave 9am with Ronen to take the train from Savingnyplatz station to lively Hackesher Markt of Berlin’s medieval centre, with its market stalls and street musicians. Our walk follows the development of the Jewish community in Berlin from its humble beginnings to its heyday as a centre of Jewish culture and learning – and its destruction at the hands of the Nazis. It will include Scheuneviertel, Vorstadt Spandau and Rathaus and sites in and around Hamburger Strasse including the site of the Od Jewish Cemetery, now a park, where we listen to the story of Moses Mendelssohn, father of the Jewish Enlightenment, who is buried there. We also visit the museum at the site of the factory where the blind Otto Weidt saved his Jewish workers, as well as the site where the Rossenstrasse demonstration by non-Jewish wives of captured Jews took place outside the former hochshule. We conclude the tour at the Neue Synagogue, Orienburger Strasse, 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 Ronen takes us along the river, along with strolling Berliners enjoying the cafes and bars, to Museum Island. You are then free to visit the museums, including the Pergamon, 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 13 Joachimsthaler 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 and beautiful Pestalozzistrasse Synagogue, that of the famous cantor Lewandoski whose tunes are standard in many British synagogues, and the only synagogue in Berlin to survive the war. The synagogue retains the pre-war custom of using an organ and mixed choir, although there is separate gender seating. The choir is excellent, a treat for chazanut admirers and our group will have a warm welcome. 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 – or, if the weather is good, you might like to visit one of the picturesque lakes or parks –ensuring that all who wish have companions for the afternoon.

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 for the 20.00 start of the performance. Shared taxis will be organised – or you might like to go earlier to enjoy a meal in the baroque surroundings of the palace and the splendid gardens.

Sunday 26 August
9.00am Checking out from the hotel, 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.

We go on to visit the Topographie Des Terrors (former Gestapo headquarters) Museum and the They were Neighbours Exhibition at the City Hall. After lunch in the Bavarian quarter nearby we conclude the week-end tour at the famed Liebeskind designed Jewish Museum. Ronen will give us a tour of the architecture which will capture the essence of the power of this building. The main exhibit is closed this summer.

At 4.45pm we leave for Tegel airport for the BA flight BA0987 at 19.15 landing in Heathrow at 20.15. Those not taking this flight will be dropped off at around 5pm at Friedrichstrasse Station where there is a direct train to Schoenenfeld airport for the 21.40 Easyjet flight, and any staying on in Berlin might like to visit the Haus der Geschichte Museum which tells the Cold War history of this famed station (open until 6pm) or take advantage of the super-modern shopping opportunities

Cost
The cost of the tour will be £795 per person sharing, £195 single room supplement. This includes 4 nights bed and breakfast at the hotel, the guiding services of Ronen Altman Kaydar on three days of the tour, coach and public transport costs, museum entrance fees for those we visit with Ronen, and Shabbat dinner.  You will need to book the flights yourselves but wait until the tour is confirmed.

Additional costs (per person):
Baroque Opera Gala Saturday 25th August Charlottenburg Palace
Ticket only £50
Ticket and Palace entry £60
Ticket plus meal plus Palace entry £100

Extra nights at the Heckers Hotel with breakfast are £130 for a twin/double or £100 for a single.

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