I had written a whole blog post about how terrible our hotel in Berlin was…. but you know what? I sounded like a complete whinger and nobody wants that. So let’s just say that our hotel wasn’t great and get on with what was.
I’m not sure how I feel about Berlin if I’m honest. I really didn’t have any preconceived ideas or expectations. History fascinates me and Berlin holds quite a few of the bigger historical stories, so coming to Berlin should have been really exciting for me, also didn’t want our visit it to be all about the war and the wall, but after a day of wandering around and seeing landmarks and memorials and pieces of the wall, it’s hard to make it about anything else.
They are placing pieces of the wall back in their original spots around the city as a symbol of reunification.
And they’ve also laid different tiles to mark where the wall was positioned. Some lengths sit under new buildings.
There somehow seems to be an infinite amount of broken bits of the wall for sale.
Some reminders are a bit hard to take… this statue shows the two kiddies at the front being trained to England to be fostered out and behind them is a group of kiddies who were being trained somewhere entirely different…
This is the plaque.
Our hotel was in the Potsdamer Platz which was part of a dead zone when the wall was up – it was flattened and buildings torn down. Now it is the thriving hub of Berlin and has a massive square – not too dissimilar to Federation Square in Melbourne with restaurants and a big open space and an Imax theatre, etc… But it also houses parts of the old hotel that used to stand in that very spot. I tell you it’s eery.
It makes you feel sad and little bit sick to think about the amount of beautiful buildings that were destroyed.
Chris had read about a relatively new initiative in Berlin where a very thoughtful person is placing these plaques around Berlin. They sit in front of the houses or places of work, (or where the buildings used to be) of the people who were killed during the war. We were lucky we knew about them otherwise they would have been easy to simply step over. This city has certainly moved on in so many ways, but there are some things that will take generations before they can truly move on.
The first one says:
JG 1874 (born ?)
humiliated / disenfranchised
Cursed in the death
This is the Brandenburg Gate where the building of the wall first began. It’s a shame that it’s remembered for that because it was built in 1791 as the royal city gate and is quite a beautiful piece – architecturally speaking.
(I don’t know what I’m talking about – I just like it)
Now one place that has turned more touristy than any other is Checkpoint Charlie. This was originally the principal gateway for foreigners and diplomats between the two Berlins from 1961 – 1990, but now it’s more tacky than Times Square…
Note the chap here dressed up in uniform with a list of prices around his waist…
That’s the price you pay to have your photo taken with a hat on next to these two disinterested ‘actors’ in front of the checkpoint hut.
One thing they have done well though is the Holocaust Memorial.
It took 17 years of discussion and planning and construction, but it was finally completed in 2005. It’s the size of a football field and set out like a grid. We walked a couple of meters in from the side, but if I’m honest, it didn’t feel right to walk in any further.
Just as Greece was all about the gyros, Berlin is all about the schnitty – that’s a veal schnitzel for this of you that aren’t from Australia. Chris (you may remember her as Kiki – but we’re in Germany now and I’m yet to find out our German names – it’s probably still Chris) Anyway, Chris used to live in Zurich, Switzerland back in another life before marriage and kiddies and she confesses to eating a fair few schnitties in her time, so this was a great opportunity to get out there amongst it and taste a few of Berlin’s finest.
Our first night was what we’re calling a run up to a good schnitty because we found ourselves in a shopping centre at night and we were all of a sudden starving – so the food court was found and optimistically a schnitzel was purchased. There might have also been a cutlery malfunction…. We’re not proud.We promised ourselves that this would NEVER happen again, so the next evening we headed towards a little German pub (although they’re just called pubs here) that I had read about which was walking distance from our hotel. It was a lovely, cosy pub with train platform bench seats that sat back to back (with no back to them) so when you sat down and somebody sat at their table behind you, your backs just leaned up against each other. Like I say, it was cosy. Well, they did not disappoint. We also realised that if we just bought one dish to share then we wouldn’t leave feeling bilious – so we left satisfied both in our tummies and in the knowledge that we’d finally learned something.
Chris and I both love a downstairs department store food court – like the one at Harrods or Galleries Lafayette, etc…. Well, we found the Berlin one – Ka De We – which stands for “Kaufhaus des Westens” (Department store of the west). It’s described as a ‘mind-boggling bonanza of gourmet treats from around the world.”
It has everything you could possibly want in a food hall. Things we’ve never seen before…. These were eggs of flavoured salt. I thought they might be Easter eggs. Luckily Chris is fluent in German food.
They’ve got a mini cup cake place – the cup cakes were tiny bite sized morsels. I tried the matcha and ginger – and it was delicious!
We went for a little wander through the suburbs – that’s what happens when you get off the u-bahn a stop or two after the one you were planning to….
I think you can tell what sort of neighbourhood you’re in when this is spray painted on every corner!
You might also want to think about how you lock up your bike….
But after a wrong turn, we were met with a fabulous street of all sorts of shops – this book/music/stationery shop was right up our alley.
And look what Chris found…. do you remember that we’re seeing Midnight Oil whilst we’re here in Berlin? Chris is a little bit excited!
I hope that wasn’t too many facts for everbody….. and just in case you’re wondering, the beer is lovely.