Berlin

We visited the Berlin Wall to view the amazing art at the East Side Gallery

One of my extra curricular activities at work is to be a tutor on the Lead with Impact course across Europe. A great advantage of this is that I can get to see parts of Europe that I have never been to before.

This time it was Berlin.

I had wanted to visit Berlin way back in 1987 on my first Inter-railing trip, but the logistics at that time of getting across East Germany for the restricted 24 hour visit seemed a bit too daunting, so I never made it. In 1987, there was no hint of the events that would unfold in a couple of years time.

But at last, this was my opportunity, and to take full advantage we booked a ticket for Pete as well.

We arrived at Berlin Schönefeld airport, the one used for budget airlines, and took advantage of the excellent public transport by taking a train to the Zoologischer Garten, the nearest stop to our hotel. A €7.60 ticket provides all day travel across Berlin zones A, B and C. It was a 40 minute journey and took us past many of the sites we wanted to visit on foot.

At the Zoologischer Garten station, we got our bearings and started walking towards the hotel, passing the first of many many monuments that recognised some of Germany’s history. Like much of Berlin, this was bombed during World War II, but rather than being destroyed it was preserved.

The Kaiser Wilhelm Memorial Church, or "The Hollow Tooth"
The Kaiser Wilhelm Memorial Church, or “The Hollow Tooth”

After quickly checking-in at the the hotel we spoke to the concierge about where to go and what to do. As we had already purchased a day travel pass he suggested that we took advantage of the number 100 bus which would take us past all the historical sites we might want to see on our first day. We could hop off and back on again at any stop, and they run every 10 minutes. Perfect!

But first, lunch at the excellent Bag Yard cafe near the hotel…

Laetitia at our yummy lunch venue
Laetitia at our yummy lunch venue

Suitably refreshed, we found the bus stop and didn’t have to wait long. Our first stop took us to the Victory Column, which is next to very large Tiergarten. The area is peppered with monuments of events and people I’d learnt about in history classes, such as Otto von Bismarck and the unification of Germany. The Victory Column used be in front of the Reichstag, but was moved and extended in the ’30’s by the Nazis. A lucky escape as amazingly it wasn’t destroyed by the bombing. A very cheap €3.00 ticket gave us some excellent panoramic views from the top.

The Berlin Victory Column
The Berlin Victory Column
The view from the Berlin Victory Column towards down town Berlin
The view from the Berlin Victory Column towards down town Berlin
Laetitia having fun with the subway art installation leading away from the Berlin Victory Column.  The wall "watches" you and reflects your outline back with light...
Laetitia having fun with the subway art installation leading away from the Berlin Victory Column.
The wall “watches” you and reflects your outline back with light…

Again, we didn’t have to wait long for the next bus to arrive, which was good because Berlin’s reputation for being cold was living up to itself. Luckily the buses are well heated.

Our next stop was The Reichstag…

The Reichstag is one amazing government building
The Reichstag is one amazing government building

We pre-booked a visit (free!) inside the ultra modern dome, which had a fantastic audio commentary as you walked around the dome, explaining its history and all the sights around Berlin.

The Reichstag's ultra modern dome designed by Norman Foster class=
The Reichstag’s ultra modern dome designed by Norman Foster

… then in quick succession the Brandenburg Gate, Alexanderplatz (very modern) and a wander around some old streets (very traditional).

Alexanderplatz

old streets

We got very cold and very tired, so we decided to go back to the hotel for an early dinner and a rest.

The next day refreshed, we planned our day again taking advantage of the cheap day travel card.

We headed first over to the East Side Gallery, a large area of the wall that has been preserved for its art. Much of the gallery is protected by railings now. Which I think is a shame in a way. After all, Berlin does seem to be the home of graffiti and to preserve ‘art’ in such a way seems to go against the community spirit.

We visited the Berlin Wall to view the amazing art at the East Side Gallery
We visited the Berlin Wall, which fell in 1989, to view the amazing art at the East Side Gallery
Berlin Wall
Berlin Wall

Berlin wall

Much of the wall was destroyed in the early 90’s, but there are a few areas preserved, including nature reserves that grew up in the ‘death zone’. The line of the wall is now marked by stones, which winds it’s way through Berlin, vanishing under many of the new modern buildings.

The complete path of the wall is marked by a series of stones embedded in the ground.
The complete path of the wall is marked by a series of stones embedded in the ground.

After the appropriate coffee and cake stop, we walked along the line, visiting numerous sites: Topographie des Terrors (on the site of the Gestapo headquarters), Checkpoint Charlie (which didn’t really look like this at the time), some fun antique soviet cars, and the Memorial to the Murdered Jews of Europe.

Checkpoint Charlie
As part of our exploration of the Berlin Wall we also visited the famous Checkpoint Charlie

trabi

Memorial to the Murdered Jews of Europe
Near the Brandenburg Gate is the Memorial to the Murdered Jews of Europe

By then it was dark, so we headed back to the Brandenburg Gate for night time pictures.

We'd visited the Brandenburg Gate during the day but we waited till night for what is supposed to be the best view of this, Berlin's most famous and popular, attraction
We’d visited the Brandenburg Gate during the day but we waited till night for what is supposed to be the best view of this, Berlin’s most famous and popular, attraction

And then we found a most excellent place for a spot of traditional German dinner with beer.

Wursthaus
We finished our amazing weekend seeing Berlin’s awesome and thought provoking tourist sights with a meal in a very traditional Wursthaus :yum: :yum:

We had a great weekend. On Monday Pete took the train back to the airport and I spent the day preparing for the course. Berlin is well worth a visit and I would love to go back in summer…

2 thoughts on “Berlin”

  1. Brilliant report. This is one of the obvious European places to go that I too have failed to visit; you’ve made me feel I should get it back on my bucket list.

    1. You definitely should. I was really taken with Berlin, having had no particular expectations. It’s really easy to get around and so much to see. Great report Guys – you took pix of all the places I visited too!

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