Sunday, October 23, 2011

In and Around Berlin

One thing that remains true no matter where you live, is that we as humans always gravitate towards rhythms and least resistance. Which in some sense is great because it means in little ways Berlin is becoming home. Ashley and I have found a groove of working, the daily choirs, and going for the odd walk. Nothing amazing, and I wonder if we are using our time well. One thing that has slipped is the frequency of our blog posts. Will get back on the horse and fire off a handful.

When doing city tours we have discovered the magic of bike tours. This is especially true in flat places such as Berlin. With our walking tour or Munich we only saw a handful of things and spent most of our time walking. With a bike tour we cruised around on these super comfy bikes and saw most of the major highlights of the city!

Alex our guide was amazing. As one of the few people I know using his history degree he had a real passion for what he was talking about. Here we see him explaining the Berliner Dom, a big Protestant church (which by the way is a few meters taller then the near identical catholic church on the other side of the square).

Humboldt University was really neat to see. People such as Einstein, Otto von Bismarck, and Karl Marx attended classes here. The university also boasts a home to 29 Nobel Prize winners.

Checkpoint Charley was quite the draw for many tourists that day. The French and English also had checkpoints for the parts of Berlin that they controlled, but the American checkpoint gets the most attention. Almost everything from the wall and those times is gone. It really speaks to the German way of moving forward and beyond dark areas of their past.

There are still sections of the wall standing to preserve those aspects of history. The pipe at the top of the wall was added to make it more difficult to climb over. Across the street (no photo sorry) is the old Nazi Airforce HQ as well as former offices of the Nazi Secret Service and Gestapo. Interrogation rooms and cells for political prisoners come with the package. Now... it's the German tax offices. Our guide found that kind of fitting.

Something I found really neat is that where the wall used to stand there is now a two brick wide cobblestone line. A small way to remember that a great wall once stood right here.

This is a parking lot for some luxury condos. Another great example of how the Germans quickly move forward from their past. What is under the parking lot is Hitler's bunker. It is so well reinforced that they could not remove it. So they simply filled it with sand and concrete then turned the top of it into a parking lot. In the last couple years they put up a info sign (the people are looking at it) to give a bit of background. Germany still struggles with neo-nazi groups so it's a fine balance between remembering the past and keeping groups like this at bay. Talking to our guide any Nazi related activity has zero tolerance in Berlin, especially around locations such as these.

This is the Memorial to the Murdered Jews of Europe. The artist purposefully never explained any part of this such to leave the interpretation open to the viewer. Gravestones, empty city streets, war camp... it's up to you. The un-level ground, and variation in stones created a very meaningful effect. As you walk through other visitors will appear and then disappear never to be seen again. A very realistic reminder of what happened. In the bottom photo you can see the glass dome of the parliament as well on the left the top of the Brandenburg gate.

For the ed of our bike tour we were greeted by the Victory Column. This column was erected for the unification of Germany. Not after the wall, but by those Prussians in the 1800's. And yes that statue as well as the extra pieces on the column are gold. It was a very drizzly day so the pictures only kind of turned out.

I've only included about half the stops and even less info then what was on the tour. Overall a fantastic way to get a proper introduction to Berlin.


  1. So fun to see all these posts today!

  2. Hey, so the holocaust memorial that you went to, did you find the underground part with the info on it and photos and stuff? When we went there, we didn't know about the inside area and totally missed it. Just wondering if it was cool...

  3. Looks like a beautiful city. Fascinating how they get rid of so many markers of their past in order to move on. I wonder how many other countries are like that?

  4. Amanda - We didn't have a chance to go to the underground part on our tour, but it is on the list! We will let you know how it is.

    Gerry - I think that Berlin is quite unique (but had to say since I haven't visited every other city). I am reading a book at the moment that talks about the Berlin History as seen through the urban landscape. It is interesting to note how deliberate the Germans have been about defining and developing their identity. And this goes back to the Prussians.