After a long train trip we arrived in Berlin.
Berlin feels much more normal than the tourist filled Prague. A short taxi ride for a sensible fare and we are at our hotel, which overlooks the Berlin Zoo and is away from the centre of the city. It had been a debate about whether to stay in the West which is a little more conservative or in the East which is apparently more edgy and cool. An upgrade from a room to a small suite made the answer to that question easy! Our hotel is the former Danish Embassy building and is also next door to the Spanish Embassy.
After a week and a half I couldn’t get to the hotel gym fast enough. Won’t make up for all the holiday excesses but its a start!
Our first full day was all about the Wall and the Second World War.
We started at Check Point Charlie and The Wall. All interesting but it is very clear that Berliners have moved on and that this area is for the tourists.
From there across to the area known as the Topographie Des Terrors which is flanked on one side by remnants of the Wall and contains both an external collage and a museum of the period leading to the appointment of Hitler to Dictator in August 1934. It is located on the now destroyed headquarters of Hitler’s SS and the Gestapo.
Our school history is but a distant memory, but as we read the history we were both able to recall what we had learnt. As we discussed afterwards our recollections were that Hitler’s rise was swift but not that so much of his control was achieved in only six months to mid 1933.
As much as anything my memory of this place won’t be what I read, but of the people all looking at the photos and reading silently about this period of unimaginable horror. It was clear that many had no real understanding of it before they entered this building but left knowing so much more. It wasn’t just the others who learnt but me a well. Perhaps the most important lesson was just how quickly people can be convinced to come along for the ride, fail to question and believe that it will all be OK.
The numerous memorials whether to the Jews, Gypsies, Homosexuals and Russian Soldiers are all reminders that it isn’t always.
The manner in which the history was retold engrossing. The Topographie Des Terrors should be a must on any visit to Berlin.
For me this photo said it all!
From there we took in a number of places around The Wall and loved the way it has become a vibrant part of Berlin’s street art.
The best example is The East Side Gallery. Literally hundreds of pictures painted on the East side of the wall.
Getting to the East Side Gallery also showed that we had finally achieved a basic grasp of the public transport system! It’s a cheap way of getting around what is a large city but it does require patience particularly if you don’t speak the language.
We also had an aborted attempt to get to one of the Soviet Memorials and re confirmed a fundamental rule – you will never find something which is not on your map !