Welcome to Berlin! A short flight from Poland and we touched down in the great city. Karla who had been travelling with us for a while decided to carry on north to Lithuania, Estonia, and other such freezing cold countries. Brett and I promptly made our way to town and joined a walking tour of Berlin and I was suprised at what I saw. To be honest I realised that I knew next to nothing about Berlin and its history. We emerged from the underground (they have a crazy network of trains around town, not dissimilar from London) at the famous Pariser Platz to find ourself looking at the Brandenburg Gate.
As recently as 1990, everyone there would have been shot for being in the "death zone" between East and West Berlin. How times change!
Moving on with the tour, we came to a Holocaust memorial built not too long ago, which I found quite interesting because the person that designed it said that there was no explanation about what the blocks are, they are open to whichever interpretation you want.
We stopped at what at first looks like a boring car-park. The tour guide then said that this was where Hitler had his underground bunker and spent the last few years of his life.
I have watched the movie "The Downfall" and enjoyed it, and so if that movie is anything to go by, I could picture how different the area would have looked back then.
The next stop was at a standing section of the famous Berlin wall.
As you can see it's pretty carved up - everyone used to be able to chip a peice and keep it, but now you can't do that so easily.
Next up was Checkpoint Charlie - a fake outpost set up purely for tourists. Nearby is a picture on a billboard which has a different picture on each side. On the side facing the east is a random US soldier, and on the other is a random Soviet soldier. Yes, they were chosen randomly. Go figure.
Moving on we came to Humboldt University, which was a little unremarkable except for the fact that during the Nazi regime in 1933 there was a massive book burning where they would burn any books that opposed the Nazi point of view. I was struck by this plaque:
It was written by a man in 1820 referring to a similar event back then, and says "That was only a prelude; where they burn books, they ultimately burn people".
Now it turns out Berlin is quite the place to go if you're interested in museums. There are so many of them, it would probably take a month to see them all. I did take the time to go to a Nazi museum out of interest, and learned more about it. Here's one such museum on an island known as Museum Island because it has 3 museums on it.
It was hot in Berlin and so Brett and I decided a few of those fantastic German draughts that we had so enjoyed back in Oktoberfest were in order. We went to a pub recommended by a local and saw an excellent invention that I wish would take off. It's a touch screen that allows you to order food and drink, and also keeps track of how much beer you pour yourself. Fantastic!!
The next day we wanted to see more of the city, so went around visiting the sights. We went to a place in Berlin where a section of the wall and the "death zone" around it was preserved.
We went down to another section of wall known as the East Side Gallery which is quite long - a couple of kilometres. When the wall came down artists from all over the world came to paint the east side of the wall, and there were some great paintings.
Moving on we decided to go on a little tour that we heard was pretty good - an underground "nuclear bunker" tour. Basically we saw the extent of preperations that was done during the second world war in case the war turned nuclear. Suffice it to say, there wasn't much done. The vast majority of people were told that there would be room for them underground, but what they weren't told was that in fact the vast majority would not fit and would die in the event of a nuclear attack, and the rest would die within days from either thirst or suffocation since there wouldn't be any clean air. One interesting thing they did was convert this underground train station.
The tunnel could be sealed on both sides, and there was a section next to the station where inside was a clinic area and storage area for supplies.
I had a great time in Berlin - except for in our hostel one night there was this guy who's feet stank to legendary proportions.. but that's another story.