ashley does germany (vol. 2): berlin

I’m following up on my last post of Ashley’s visit to Germany with a post dedicated just to what we did in Berlin. We spent four days there and saw SO MUCH – it really felt like we went non-stop! Ashley’s comment at the end of the week, “I can’t even feel my feet any more,” pretty much nailed it.

My dear boyfriend Julius has family in Berlin. He came with us, helped us plan our trip, and we were able to stay with an aunt of his who lives pretty close to the action in the city. It was great to have a German along to play the guide and give us some “insider” information about what we were seeing.

Berlin is a huge city with a complicated and fascinating history. The city was reduced to ruins in WWII. The Allied powers (USA, UK, Soviet Union, and France) divided the destroyed Berlin into four sectors after the war’s end in 1945. With the Cold War, Germany split into the East and West. The wall went up in 1961 to prevent Easterners from escaping to the West. The city of Berlin lies in former East Germany, so West Berlin was essentially a Western “island” in the middle of Soviet territory. The wall came down in 1989 and Germany was reunified in 1990. Signs of the divided Berlin remain today – in the architectural differences, the remaining portions of the wall and the memorials. And yet, they have rebuilt a unified yet diverse city and restored major landmarks to the splendor appropriate for a capital city.

Here’s a look at what we explored…
 
Major landmarks:
The Reichstag, where the German Bundestag (Congress) works.
Brandenburger Tor
Great at night!
The Berliner Dom
Inside the cathedral for a short evening service
The wall and remnants of the divided city:
At the wall memorial, which includes a memorial to the more than 130 victims of the wall
A portion of the wall intact
Art at the wall memorial, entitled “Reconciliation”
Checkpoint Charlie – the best-known crossing point between East and West Germany – now quite a tourist attraction
Kitsch abounds! Soviet souvenirs at Checkpoint Charlie
“More Walls to Tear Down” – art installation also near the Checkpoint
Shots from the East Side Gallery 
1.3 km of the wall has been painted as a memorial to freedom
 
 
The East German president and a Soviet leader give the fraternal kiss.
“My God, help me to survive this deadly love”
This section was my favorite

Museums:

We visited lots of museums! The Pergamon Museum houses antiquities, Middle Eastern artifacts, and Islamic art. We also went to the Jewish Museum, which told of the Holocaust, but really focused on Jewish life in Germany throughout history. We also visited the museum that lies underground under the Memorial to the Murdered Jews. It featured the stories and voices of individuals and families from around the world who were victims of the Holocaust. Finally, we saw the DDR Museum, which was an interactive exhibit about life in East Germany.

We listened to so many audio guides!
The Ishtar Gate from Babylon, built under King Nebuchadnezzer II in the Pergamon Museum
Ashley and me on the steps to the Pergamon Altar
The Jewish Museum
The Memorial to the Murdered Jews

We saw other landmarks and architecture toward the end of our time there:

Me in front of the President’s home, Schloss Bellevue
Inside the Kaiser-Wilhelm-Gedächtnis-Kirche, which was destroyed in the war. The tower was left in ruins, just patched over with bricks. They built a new tower and sanctuary which are in use now. 
Inside the new sanctuary – made of beautiful blue glass
The Siegsäule – or Victory Column – which commemorates a Prussian victory from the 19th C
A corner of Soviet architecture, which looks quite different than other parts of the city

It was a great 4 days in Berlin. Of course we didn’t see it all, but we covered a lot of ground, and I feel like I learned some history. Berlin and Munich couldn’t be more different. Berlin is dirty with tons of graffiti, the people there look generally “edgier,” the population is much more ethnically and socio-economically diverse… the vibe is just different than it is here. Munich is more beautiful, pristine and traditional. Berlin is cooler and more interesting. I felt like I experienced another facet of culture in Germany, and I’d like to go back! I have a meeting there this summer, so hopefully I’ll get to explore when there isn’t snow on the ground.

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