This was our second visit to Berlin; our previous one was shortly after the Berlin Wall came down. I would have liked to have seen it before and after the wall, just out of curiosity and for comparison purposes. Berlin is a city that brings out mixed feelings in me. I found it interesting on our first visit, but not all that attractive and remember feeling I'd have rather stayed longer in the beautiful Austrian town we had lived in prior to our visit. On our second visit I found myself frustrated by the amount of building work going on and the fact that so much of the city was a mess. However, I also found parts of it fascinating and an absolute joy to visit. As a result of my mixed feelings about this city, I have decided only to write tips about the parts I enjoyed and to ignore the parts I found disappointing. On our visit I liked the tier garten, the reichstag, the Brandenburg Gate, the monuments commemorating the victims of the Second World War, the war memorial, the cathedral, Treptower Park, Checkpoint Charlie, Templehof Airport, the Kaiser Wilhelm Memorial Church and the remains of the Berlin Wall.
Berlin has had a long and tragic history. It was the capital of Nazi Germany in the Second World War. It was a divided city when Germany was a divided country. These events have left deep scars, but the sadness of its past also makes it intriguing. Berlin is now the capital of Germany with a population of approximately 3.6 million. Berlin is located in northeastern Germany on the banks of the Rivers Spree and Have. Berlin has been the capital of many different states and kingdoms such as: Brandenburg from 1417 to1701, the Kingdom of Prussia from 1701 to 1918, the German Empire from 1871 to 1918, the Weimar Republic from 1919 to 1933 and the Third Reich from 1933 to 1945.
This is the hotel we stayed in in Berlin.
"Lovely Hotel" : Wyndham Garden Berlin Mitte.
The Wyndam Garden Berlin Mitte is a lovely hotel. It is accessible from three different train stations with a bit of a walk or a tram ride from each.We walked to it initially from Gesundbrunnen Sbahn. To travel around Berlin, we generally went to the closer Osloer Strasse u-bahn. It's an easy walk from there, but you can also take the tram. Check in was pleasant and friendly. I was surprised they gave us only 3 days wifi coverage on check-in when we were staying for four nights. However, it turns out you just go back and get another three days worth when it runs out. Our room was very clean and comfortable. It was also very quiet and we slept well here. Our deal did not include breakfast. We ate in the hotel bar twice which did drinks and snacks. The hotel restaurant was quite expensive. The bar was reasonable. There were restaurants nearby, especially Turkish ones, and a Lidl supermarket round the corner. Our room had a safe and tea/coffee making facilities. I would happily stay here again. Address: Osloer Strasse 116a, Berlin, 13359, Germany.
These are some of the sights we enjoyed in Berlin.
Victory Column: Siegessaeule.
We took a train to go to the tiergarten and got off near the Victory Column. This is an attractive monument with lots of different statues around it. The Victory Column was designed by Heinrich Strack to commemorate the Prussian victory in the Danish Prussian War. The bronze sculpture of Victoria on top was designed by Friedrich Drake.
Prior to wandering around the tiergarten we decided to look at the Schloss Bellevue. We tried to follow the tiergarten map, but kept getting lost, then we met other lost people looking for the same sight, then more. All of us were lost, but we joined together till we tracked it down. We had several more similar experiences with that map during our visit. Bellevue Palace has been the official residence of the President of Germany since 1994. It is located on the banks of the Spree River. It was designed by architect Michael Philipp Boumann in 1786.
We spent a long, long time wandering the Tiergarten. It is beautiful and interesting and has many sights. It also has a map that is extremely hard to follow. Among the parts we liked were the rose garden, the lake and the statue to Queen Louise of Prussia.
The Soviet War Memorial.
Shortly before arriving at the Brandenburg Gate, we came across the Soviet war memorial with its statues, tanks and cyrillic writing. This memorial was built in 1945, a few months after the capture of the city.
After visiting the tiergarten, we went to the Reichstag. This building houses the German Parliament. It first opened in 1894. Later in 1933 it was severely damaged in a fire. The Riechstag fell into disuse after World War II as the parliament of the German Democratic Republic me in the Palast der Republik in East Berlin, while the parliament of the Federal Republic of Germany met in the Bundeshaus in Bonn. After German reunification which took place on the 3rd of October 1990, the Reichstag was rebuilt following plans drawn up by architect Norman Foster. Since 1999 the Reichstag has again been the meeting place of the German parliament.
The Brandenburg Gate.
The Brandenburg Gate is one of, if not the, most famous landmarks in Germany. It stands on the site of a former city gate that used to mark the beginning of the road from Berlin to the town of Brandenburg. This gate was commissioned by King Frederick William II of Prussia and built by architect Carl Gotthard Langhans between 1788 and 1791. The Brandenburg Gate suffered considerable damage in World War II. It was isolated and inaccessible during the postwar Partition of Germany. Between the years 2000 and 2002 the Brandenburg Gate was restored by the Berlin Monument Conservation Foundation. On one side of the gate stands the famous street Unter den Linden which means under the linden trees. I was disappointed with this street as there was just so much construction work taking place on it.
Memorials to victims of World War II.
The area between the Brandenburg Gate and the Tiergarten has several poignant memorials to the victims of World War II. The first one of these we visited was The Memorial to the Sinti and Roma Victims of National Socialism. This monument is dedicated to the memory of around 500,000 people. It was designed by Dani Karavan and was officially opened on the 24th of October 2012 by German Chancellor Angela Merkel. This memorial is a circular pool of water with a triangular stone in its centre. The triangular shape of the stone symbolizes the badges worn by concentration camp prisoners. A fresh flower is placed upon this stone daily. Around the edge of the pool is the poem 'Auschwitz' by Roma poet Santino Spinelli.
a broken heart
out of breath
The second memorial we visited was The Memorial to the Murdered Jews of Europe, which was designed by architect Peter Eisenman and engineer Buro Happold. This monument is huge and consists of 2,711 concrete slabs arranged in a grid pattern. I have spoken to people who visited this monument and they all seemed to love it. I found it rather puzzling myself and was not sure what it all meant. The third memorial was The Memorial to Homosexuals persecuted under Nazism. This memorial was designed by artists Michael Elmgreen and Ingar Dragset. It is a concrete cuboid with a window, through which visitors can see a film of two kissing men.
The Neue Wache is located on Unter den Linden. I had researched Unter den Linden prior to our visit and was quite excited about walking along it. This excitement proved to be misplaced as at the moment it is a building site. The Neue Wache was the first building on it I actually liked. The Neue Wache means the New Guardhouse. It was originally built as a guardhouse for the troops of the crown prince of Prussia. It dates from 1816 and was designed by architect Karl Friedrich Schinkel . However, it has been used as the "Central Memorial of the Federal Republic of Germany for the Victims of War and Dictatorship" since 1931. It has a hole in its roof known as an oculus. Directly under this is a statue called 'Mother with her Dead Son' by Käthe Kollwitz. It is placed directly under the oculus to be exposed to the rain and snow. This symbolizes the suffering of civilians during war times.
The next building that I liked after visiting the Neue Wache was Berlin Cathedral. This is located on Museum Island. It was completed in 1905. There is a garden outside it which is known as the Lustgarten. Many people were sitting around here chatting, sunbathing or resting after sightseeing. We did not go inside the cathedral, but found it very attractive from the outside.
Statues of Karl Marx and Fredriech Engels.
After we had visited the cathedral we crossed the road and continued towards the TV Tower, the next sight we came across was the Marx Engels Forum with its statues of Karl Marx and Fredriech Engels. Personally I rather like Soviet style statues and was sorry that so many were destroyed after the fall of the Iron Curtain. I think Hungary had the right idea; it rounded them all up and made them a tourist attraction. Anyway in Berlin Marx and Engels survived somehow.
The Red Town Hall.
After visiting the Marx Engels Forum, we walked to the Red Townhall. There are several sites here: the Red Town Hall, Saint Mary's Church and the Neptune Fountain. The Red Town Hall is made up of red bricks hence its name. It was built between 1861 and 1869 by Hermann Waesemann, but was heavily damaged in World War II. When Berlin was a divided city, the East Berlin Magistrate held its sessions in the Red Town Hall and the West Berlin senate held its in Schöneberg Town Hall. In 1991 the Red Town Hall became the seat of government of the now reunified Berlin. St. Mary's Church is located on KarlLiebknechtStraße. It is believed to date from the early thirteenth century. It is a Lutheran Protestant church. The Neptune Fountain lies between the Red Town Hall and St Mary's Church. It was built in 1891 and was designed by Reinhold Begas. The Roman god Neptune stands in the centre of the fountain. He is surrounded by four women. They represent the four main rivers of Prussia when the fountain was constructed: the Elbe, the Rhine, the Vistula and the Oder. This area, like so much of Berlin, was a building site when we visited.
Alexanderplatz is known as "Alex" to Berliners. It was a cattle market in the Middle Ages, then a military parade square and exercise ground until the mid nineteenth century. It is named after Alexander I, Tsar of Russia. One million people congregated here on the 4th of November 1989 to demonstrate against the GDR regime just before the fall of the Berlin Wall. Sights on Alexanderplatz include the 365m high TV Tower and the "Brunnen der Völkerfreundschaft" or Fountain of Friendship amongst Peoples.
We went to Treptower Park, which is in itself really quite a nice park, purely to see the Soviet War Memorial. The Soviet War Memorial was designed by architect Yakov Belopolsky to commemorate the Soviet soldiers who fell in the Battle of Berlin in 1945. It opened on May 8th, 1949. We walked through an archway adorned with hammer and sickle motives then arrived at a sculpture of Mother Russia weeping for the loss of her sons. Beyond Mother Russia there are two sculptures representing Soviet flags. In front of these stone flags there are two statues of kneeling soldiers. Next we came to a central area lined on both sides by 16 stone sarcophagi. These have carvings of military scenes and quotations by Joseph Stalin on them. 5000 soldiers of the Red Army are buried in this area. At the end of the central area stands a 12m tall statue of a Soviet soldier designed by sculptor Yevgeny Vuchetich. The Soviet soldier is brandishing a sword and cradling a German child while standing over a broken swastika. Personally I really adore Soviet style statues for some reason and I thought this was very well worth visiting.
Crossing the Spree River by train on our way to Treptower Park we noticed a giant sculpture which we later walked back to see. The sculpture is of three huge men, who looked to me like they were fighting each other, though apparently they are just running to each other. This sculpture is known as Molecule Man and was designed by American artist Jonathan Borofsky. The sculpture is made of aluminium and there are many holes in it symbolizing the molecules everything is made of. This sculpture is one of several Molecule Man sculptures; the others are in Los Angeles and Council Bluffs, Iowa.
After visiting Treptower Park we went to Tempelhof Airport. The site which is now Tempelhof Airport was originally land belonging to the Knights Templar hence the name Tempelhof. Throughout its varied history this site has been used as a parade field by Prussian forces, then until World War I by unified German forces. In 1909 Orville Wright, made his first flight here. Tempelhof was chosen to be an airport by the Ministry of Transport in 1923 and its first terminal was constructed in 1927. In the mid 1930s the Nazi government began a massive expansion of Templehof in anticipation of increased air traffic. At the end of World War II Tempelhof's German commander, Oberst Rudolf Böttger, was supposed to blow the airport up. He refused and committed suicide. Soviet forces took over Tempelhof in the Battle of Berlin on the 28th and 29th of April 1945. Later following the Yalta Agreements, BerlinTempelhof was handed over to the United States Army in July 1945. In 1948, the Soviet authorities stopped all traffic by land and water into and out of the western controlled sectors of Berlin. This left only three 20 milewide air corridors as access routes into the city. The Western Powers used these air corridors above occupied Soviet territory to airlift in supplies for the next eleven months. This was known as the Berlin Airlift. There is a famous monument to this near the entrance to Tempelhof. With the fall of the Berlin Wall and the reunification of Germany, the American forces left Berlin. Tempelhof Airport was used as a commercial airport until 2008 when it was closed. Instead of demolishing it, its field was used as a recreation site and its airport buildings have been preserved.
This site receives a lot of negative criticism, but I personally found it interesting to visit although it was very, very crowded. From 1961 to 1989 Checkpoint Charlie was the best known Berlin Wall crossing point between East and West Berlin. The Soviet side of the wall here, Checkpoint Friedrichstraße, had guard towers, cement barriers and a shed, but the guardhouse on the American side of the wall was just a small shack to show the wall would only be there temporarily. The main purpose of Checkpoint Charlie was to register and inform members of the Western Military Forces or tourists before they entered East Berlin. The crossing to East Berlin could be made on foot or by car. On November 9th, 1989 about 3000 West Berliners came to Checkpoint Charlie and several hundred East Berliners to Checkpoint Friedrichstraße to protest against the Berlin Wall. By midnight that night they had succeeded in getting the border opened after more than 28 years of division. The original guardhouse at Checkpoint Charlie is now on display at the Allied Museum in Berlin; a replica version has been installed on Friedrichstrasse, as have replica signs telling people they are now leaving the western sector of Berlin. Actors dressed up as allied military policemen pose with tourist in front of the checkpoint. There is also an open air exhibit along Zimmer and Friedrichstraße with texts and photographs about Checkpoint Charlie's history and a museum of the Berlin Wall.
Kaiser Wilhelm Memorial Church.
This was our second visit to this church. On our first visit in the early nineties I really did not like it, but this time for some reason I did . Kaiser Wilhelm Memorial Church is located on the Kurfürstendamm. The original church was built in the 1890s. It was badly damaged in a bombing raid in 1943 and half of its spire is now missing. The damaged spire of the old church has been retained and its ground floor has been made into a memorial hall, because of the broken spire the church is nicknamed the broken tooth.
The Berlin Wall.
There is a fairly long stretch of the Berlin Wall still remaining along Bernauer Strasse. We went there on our way to Potsdam on our last full day in Berlin and to be honest I would have loved to have spent much longer than we did. Basically the Berlin Wall was really two walls with a no-man's land in between and when we walked along Bernauer Strasse we were walking through no-man's land. Long stretches of the East German side of the wall remain; iron poles mark the former site of the wall nearer the western side. Right in the middle of no-man's land stood the Reconciliation Chapel. The East Germans blew this up as a national embarrassment. Workers in the cemetery next to it stole and hid its cross from the authorities. Now a replacement church has been built. It is in a totally different style from the original. The hidden cross is now a memorial next to it. There is also a reconciliation statue and a few remains from the original church. Other points of interest in this area are markers showing the site of former escape tunnels and a double stretch of wall complete with its guard tower. There is a museum next to this from which you can overlook this site.
We also took a day trip out of Berlin to visit Potsdam.
We decided to do a day trip to Potsdam from Berlin. I will not do a separate Potsdam page for it as we only went to the palace area leaving so much of Potsdam still to do on a future visit. Potsdam is the capital and largest city of the German federal state of Brandenburg. It is situated on the River Havel, 24 kilometres southwest of Berlin. Potsdam was a residence of the Prussian kings and the German Kaiser, until 1918. The first place we looked at was the stunning University of Potsdam. This is opposite the New Palace which was also stunning except for the fact it was being renovated. From the New Palace we headed towards the Orangerie through the beautiful palace grounds. The Orangerie turned out to be a building site. Then we walked to Sanssouci Palace. This is best viewed from the terraces below it, close up on the outside it is very plain. After that we walked to the Chinese teahouse, then the spectacular Roman Baths and another Charlottenhof Castle. It was incredibly hot when we visited. We had intended to go to the centre of Potsdam, too but were too tired.