Hot Oregon Summer – Berlin Next

Gendarmenmarkt Berlin – depositphotos.com

Gardening and Wildfires

It’s been a restful, contemplative summer in Oregon working in my garden with deer, wild turkeys, annoying yellow jackets, and a stray Gothic-looking black cat. Sadly, dry and windy conditions combined with record-breaking heat resulted in raging wildfires all around us.

Garden Visitor

Cute Stray Cat

The massive Carr Fire near the California / Oregon border created terrifying “fire tornadoes“. They occur when a fire acquires “vertical vorticity and forms a whirl”. Fire tornadoes can “grow to gargantuan size with winds of over 90 mph”.

Fire Tornado – zmescience.com

Carr Fire Chopper – The Mercury News Bay Area

The Carr Fire ignited in late July. A month later, after “torching more than 200,000 acres,” it’s about 90 percent contained!  Smoke from fires in Oregon, California, Washington, and nearby Colorado and Canada creates a surreal aura, bringing an eerie atmospheric haze, poor air quality, and vivid sunrises and sunsets.

Wildfire Sunset San Francisco Bay – Fstoppers.com

Wildfire Smoke at Sunrise – Jonathan Hayward Canadian Press

Brave Wildfire Fighter – Charlie Nash Photography

Next Long Trip

I’ve started getting into the specifics of my next travel adventure. No matter what, this time I’m traveling with one piece of luggage!

Berlin Boroughs and Districts

Like in 2017, I’ll begin in Europe and eventually make my way back to South Africa. I decided to start in Berlin – a new city for me. I’ve studied Berlin’s East and West boroughs and have a few leads for rental apartments in well-located areas near attractions and transportation – Mitte, Charlottenburg-WilmersdorfFriedrichshain-Kreuzberg, and Neukölln. Rents are reasonable, and the apartments look comfortable.

Museum Island River Spree – Stock Photo

Return to South Africa

I’m apprehensive about violence in many parts of Africa – Congo, Mali, Zimbabwe, Sudan, Kenya, Uganda, et al. Although I’ve never experienced violence during my travels in Africa, six cities in South Africa – Cape Town, Durban, Port Elizabeth, Pietermaritzburg, Rustenburg, and Johannesburg – made the top ten list of the most dangerous cities on the African continent. Xenophobic related violence in South Africa is disturbing. Here in the US, we clearly have our own problems and brand of political tension, civil unrest, violence, and a vast chasm between “left versus right” ideologies…

Berlin Cathedral – Wikimedia.org 

Thankfully Day Zero in Cape Town’s drought is now pushed out beyond 2019, but the government’s move toward land expropriation without compensation is a concern. More than two decades after the end of apartheid, land ownership remains a “highly emotive” subject for South Africans – that may be an understatement. According to the ruling ANC government, white people own 72 percent of private land, black people 4 percent, and other ethnic groups 24 percent.

Berlin Cathedral at Museum Island – 123RF.com

Land expropriation is said to be “the most pressing social issue in the country”. However, some think high crime, corruption, and the “triple-time-bomb of poverty, unemployment, and inequality” are the issues keeping South Africans awake at night.

Kayelitsha Township Outside Cape Town – Dan Kitwood Getty Images

Julius Malema Leader Economic Freedem Fighters (EFF) -blouinnews

Julius Sello Malema Leader Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF) – blouinnews.com

The ANC-led government and members of the militant, aggressive Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF) party differ in their approach to land expropriation. The EFF – founded in 2013 and led by outspoken Julius Sello Malema – is a self-proclaimed “radical leftist, anti-capitalist, anti-imperialist movement that draws inspiration from the broad Marxist-Leninist tradition.

Mmusi Maimane – Leader Democratic Alliance

The Democratic Alliance (DA) – the ANC’s official opposition and second largest political party – accuses both the ANC and EFF of “misleading the public on land expropriation”. They claim to have the best land-reform plan. DA leader Mmusi Maimane says, “there can be no new dawn for South Africa until the ANC is out of power“.

My extended South African visa expires in 2020 – a regular entry (tourist) visa issued at the airport is good for 90 days. I haven’t decided whether to pursue the rigorous renewal process. The “retirement visa” has allowed me to make long trips (up to five years) to explore and better understand South Africa. I especially enjoy the Western Cape, hiking Table Mountain, volunteer work with young children, and vibrant Cape Town – a special and dear place to me. South Africa is a strikingly beautiful but complex and sometimes difficult country that can’t possibly be understood without spending extended time there.

Unter den Linden by Night – 123RF.com

During this period of rapid change, the National Development Plan (NDP) is the country’s detailed proposal addressing key issues for uniting South Africans.The lofty NDP goals to eliminate poverty and reduce inequality are to be implemented by 2030. What little I know of the NDP, it seems overwhelming, but I’m digressing – back to Berlin

Clouds Over Table Mountain from Signal Hill Cape Town – Erik Pronske Getty Images

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The NDP’s goal is to “unite South Africans, unleash the energies of its citizens, grow an inclusive economy, build capabilities, and enable the state and leaders to work together to solve complex problems”…

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Staatsoper Unter den Linden

Berlin State Opera Staatsoper Unter den Linden – Wikipedia

Berlin This Fall

I plan to arrive in Berlin in September. Their fall weather is much like Oregon’s with cool but mild temperatures. When winter comes and it starts getting really cold, I’ll move south – not sure where yet. I’m considering exploring new places versus returning to more familiar areas. New countries of interest include Romania and Albania, but Italy and Spain also have moderate winter climates.

Berlin Brandenburg Gate at Dusk – pond5.com

I’m looking for a three-month rental apartment in the Berlin-Mitte borough, the central section of former East Berlin. “Before the war and division of the city, Mitte was the center of Berlin. It’s regained its former pre-eminence to such an extent that many visitors never see the western side of the city.”

Bode Museum Mitte – Wikimedia.org

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Mitte is the oldest and most historic part of Berlin with many cultural attractions and “ever-expanding restaurant, club, and arts scenes”.

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Strandbar at Bode Museum Mitte

Mitte begins at Potsdamer Platz and the Brandenburg Gate on the east side of Tiergarten Park. The grand boulevard, Unter den Linden, is lined with 18th- and 19th-century palaces and monuments.

Mitte – VanDam StreetSmart Maps

Tiergarten Park – berlijn-blog.nl

Komische Opera House Berlin – operawire.com

I’m excited to attend theater performances and the Berlin opera! Berlin is teeming with performing arts theaters, cabarets, and clubs. The Staatsoper Unter den Linden, Berlin’s main opera house, and the Komische Oper, the third largest, are both in Mitte. Berlin’s Philharmonic Season begins in late September. Other major attractions in the area include Gendarmenmarkt, a neoclassical square, Berliner Dom (Berlin Cathedral), and Museumsinsel (Museum Island) with five major museums. Frivolous activities that top my list are – mingling with locals, hanging out in cafés, overnight side trips, and exploring less-traveled backstreets.

Christmas Berlin – efcollegebreak.com 

Germany’s festive Christmas Markets are legendary. These are the top five:

  1. Weihnachtszauber at the Gendarmenmarkt
  2. Berliner Weihnachtszeit at Roten Rathaus
  3. Wintertraum am Alexa
  4. Winterwelt am Potsdamer Platz
  5. Weihnachtsmarkt am Gedächtniskirche

Christmas Markets Berlin – classictic.com

I don’t speak German but am learning key phrases and pronunciation rules hoping I don’t butcher the language too much. During past travels in Germany, English was spoken everywhere. Mehr später…

Monbijou Park Embankment River Spree

Garden Route – Hidden Stretch of Paradise

Outeniqua Pass

The Garden Route between Cape Town and Port Elizabeth is South Africa’s “hidden stretch of paradise”. Although I visited some of the places many years ago, the Garden Route is my next South African adventure.

Kwena Lodge Garden Route

Beginning in late October, I’ll be driving the route, and I’m researching the area to decide which direction to take and what attractions to include. There’s so much exciting territory to explore, it’s a challenge deciding where to stop and for how long.

Bridge along the N2 Garden Route

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Along South Africa’s Garden Route, “be at one with the indigenous forests, ever-changing sea, mysterious rivers, and wondrous lakes”.

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Knysna Lagoon

The Garden Route “can be driven in five hours, but hidden destinations and side roads are the region’s secret jewels”. The two routes to choose from are inland and coastal.

George Golf Course

Inland R62, the route less traveled, has “stunning mountain scenery and quaint, historic towns”:

Great Karoo

It’s recommended to take at least 3 days for the R62 and allow an extra day for the Prince Albert Circuit. Prince Albert is in the arid Karoo Plains, an “oasis on the southern edge of the Great Karoo”.

Prince Albert Bungalow

The town’s water supply flows from springs in the Swartberg Mountains. The spring water “runs in irrigation furrows bringing gardens and orchards to life” and makes Prince Albert one of South Africa’s prettiest towns.

De Bergkant Lodge Prince Albert

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As it “meanders along the coast from Heidelberg in the West to Storms River in the East,” the Garden Route has breathtaking scenery!

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Jeffreys Bay South Africa’s Surfing Capital

“Serene Prince Albert has beautifully restored Cape Dutch, Karoo, and Victorian buildings, a number of which are National Monuments”. Founded in 1762 on a farm called Kweekvallei (Valley of Plenty), after it gained municipal status in 1845 the town was “renamed Prince Albert in honor of Queen Victoria’s consort, Prince Albert of Saxe-Coburg”.

Prince Albert Farm

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The Garden Route “can be driven in five hours, but hidden destinations and side roads are the region’s secret jewels”.

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Dolphin Hiking Trail

Jeffreys Bay Surfers

Coastal N2 is a “brilliant marine drive” along the Indian Ocean passing:

Canola Fields Swellendam

Heidelberg

Inland R62 and Coastal N2 Garden Routes

Parks and reserves along the Garden Route include Tsitsikamma National Park. Tsitsikamma (sits-ee-cah-ma) is a coastal reserve that protects South Africa’s indigenous forest and giant trees like the Outeniqua Yellowwood.

Ostriches Oudtshoorn

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“Serene Prince Albert has beautifully restored Cape Dutch, Karoo, and Victorian buildings, a number of which are National Monuments.”

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Garden Route N2 Beach

“Rivers in the area carve deep gorges as they wind down from the plateau to the sea. The Tsitsikamma Forest is also home to adventurous activities like bungee jumping at Bloukrans Bridge, the Storms River Adventure Center, the Tsitsikamma Canopy Tour, and the Tsitsikamma Waterfall Zipline. Hiking choices are abundant, including the Otter and Dolphin trails.”

Chris Davies Otter Trail

The Otter Trail is one of South Africa’s most famous hikes through coastal forest, river crossings, and viewpoints with gorges and waterfalls. It’s a 5-day hike along 27 miles of Tsitsikamma coastline, from the Storms River mouth in the east to Nature’s Valley in the west. Bookings are essential. They open a year in advance and sell out quickly.

Dolphin Trail

The unique Dolphin Trail is a challenging hike covering 10.5 miles in Tsitsikamma. The hike begins at Storms River mouth and winds east through fynbos and pristine indigenous forest. It ends on the banks of the Sandrift River at The Fernery. This hike is on my bucket list!

Oudtshoorn

Port Elizabeth marks the end of the Garden Route, but it’s also the gateway to Addo Elephant Park and the Eastern Cape’s private Big 5 game reserves:

Elephant Family Addo Elephant Park

Addo Elephant Park

I’ll probably vacillate between the inland and coastal routes, hike, and enjoy the more affordable game reserves. Tsitsikamma Waterfall Zipline sounds fun. Planning the itinerary is a bit overwhelming, but I have a few weeks to get things together. More blog posts in October, when I encounter some of these spectacular places!

Outeniqua Mountain Range

Outeniqua Mountain Range

Swellendam