Trip to Berlin: Part Two

This is part two of my trip to Berlin. For part one, see here. The next day (Friday) we went in to the city and walked around a bit (well quite a lot actually). The first place we went was Unter den Linden, which is a big long boulevard (about 1.5km) with the Brandenburg gate at one end at a huge statue of a guy on a horse at the other. After walking through the gate whilest simultaneously trying to avoid a large group of American tourists, we turned left and visited the Holocaust memorial, which is I think the saddest place I’ve ever been.

There was a huge amount of material in the information centre under the memorial, which we took about an three quarters of an hour to look around. It was a sad place, it felt like a never-ending funeral. Every person in there, even a few younger children, were silent as they walked around, and you could feel respects being paid. One room told the story as a timeline of events, and a few more rooms (three, from memory) told stories of individual people, families, and concentration camps. It felt strange as I came out the other end, perhaps it’s not something I can really describe. I feel deeply saddened for those who lost their lives, and even more so for those who lost somebody they knew.

Our walk around central Berlin

After coming out of the Holocaust memorial we walked North to the Reichstag and the other government buildings. We didn’t go into the Reichstag, the lines were long and we couldn’t be bothered. Instead we walked through a few of the parks around that area. We skirted around the edges of the Tiergarten, and through Spreebogenpark. We walked over the bridge to the Hauptbahnhof where we caught a train to the next station, Freidrichstaße. From there we walked South to Unter den Linden again. Here we got hungry, so we ate some donuts. We then walked East along Unter den Linden looking for a drink to wash them down with, and also at a few of the sights (the opera house is on the south-east side of this boulevard, near the word Mitte on the map). A word of advice: the south side of Unter den Linden has no food shops at all. The central island had a few sights on, mostly museums, as well as the Lustgarten (which apparently gets it’s name because it’s full of couples in the summer months).

Crossing over the next river we came to a couple of nice cathedrals: one on the side of the river we had just come from, and one to the East of us on the main bank. After a suitable pause looking up at them (much more impressive than the two cathedrals in Hobart), we walked towards the tallest building in Berlin, the TV tower (368m). I was surprised to find a casino lying at the bottom of it. After this we walked to another train station, Alexanderplatz, where we caught a train back to Freidrichstaße again. This was for the purpose of going to the biggest bookstore I’ve ever seen (and as such, how can I resist). On the 5th floor I found the English-language computer books, which I had a great time looking at. Stephanie could eventually be dragged away from the English-language literature as well, and so that wrapped up my second day in Berlin.

On Saturday (the 7th) we visited the second largest department store in the world (if I recall correctly), KaDeWe. I had a look at mobile phones, since my current one (a very nice HTC Touch) is dying. Battery life is now somewhere around 2 hours. After buying some Earl Grey tea flavoured chocolate on the top floor, we left for the cold weather outside. We walked along to see the Kaiser-Wilhelm-Gedächtniskirche church, which was bombed in the second world war, before catching a random bus and seeing where it would take us. We rode it across the centre of Berlin before catching a tube train home.

On Sunday we started by walking along the East Side gallery, which is a remaining section of the Berlin wall, now covered in drawings and paintings. The wall stretches most of the way from the Warschauer Straße station to the Berlin Ostbahnhof, about 1.5km. From there we went to Checkpoint Charlie, the point where officials and foreigners crossed between West and East Berlin. The original checkpoint has long been demolished, but in its place has been put a replica.

Next to the checkpoint is Haus am Checkpoint Charlie, a museum dedicated to the history of the wall. It was previously used as a place from which people viewed the happenings at the checkpoint: comings and goings of guards and so on. Now it’s the most confusing museum I’ve ever been into. The rooms are all over the place and are filled with all kinds of stuff. I guess it’s what happens when you build a museum out of old apartments. It is filled with all sorts of information though. I found the most interesting part was the details of the escape attempts from East Berlin to West: people used hot air balloons, hang gliders, flying foxes, tunnels, all sorts of things.

Those three days were the ones we did the most sightseeing in. I’ll write next about some of the other random things we’ve done!