Guttentag, readers! I’m sorry I disappeared… again! I’m not long back from Berlin with the Beau and we’re already missing it terribly. Have any of you been? We had a fantastic time. It’s the most incredible city, always hiving with activity, always things to do, places to see – we had a great time exploring, particularly in the old East. Even though we were due to stay for four days, we liked it so much, we jacked in our flight home, booked into our hotel for another night and caught a late flight home the following evening. #ilovespontaneity :)
I was going to make this entry like a diary, detailing what we done daily, but I thought it may be better to blog about why I loved Berlin.
A city steeped in history and culture, primarily surrounding the Berlin Wall/the GDR (German Democratic Republic). Some sections of the original Wall are still intact, in what I imagine is solely for the benefit of curious tourists. Berlin seems to be caught between the past and present – is keeping sections of the Wall a sign of survival and triumph, that the Berliners pulled through such a cruel and restrictive regime? Or does it indicate that the city has been so deeply affected by the Wall that it serves to define it? The damage the wall done to the city, and to the Berliners lives, is still evident – could it be permanent? You can feel it in the atmosphere, a city conflicted by the past and present.
The Berlin Wall
The Stasi were the secret police of the GDR, and are recognised as being one of the most formidable organisations in the world. The original headquarters, the newly renovated ‘Stasi Museum’, is open to visitors, as is the prison, though we didn’t have the time to visit the latter. The headquarters were fascinating and definitely worth your time if you are visiting the city. Many of the rooms are exactly as they were when occupied – including Erich Mielke’s office and personal space, large conference room and the canteen. The feeling of being in the exact building where such decisions were made, orders given, and countless lives ruined and torn apart, was incredible, in a conflicting way. Extremely interesting, but also left you feeling cold. There were many exhibits of original spy paraphernalia – from coats and handbags with built-in cameras to portable radios equipped with audio-recording. It is estimated that there was one informer for every seven people in East Berlin.
The office of Erich Mielke – head of the Stasi – exactly as it was, with original furniture, telephone and shredder (seen just behind his chair).
A grey concrete jungle, but dotted with beauty. As a whole, Berlin is not the most aesthetically pleasing city - particularly the East, as the typical cold and grey Communist infrastructure still dominates, a harsh and constant reminder of their long oppression - but it has hidden gems of beauty. One of the things we enjoyed doing most was hopping on the U-Bahn/S-Bahn and exploring different places off the beaten track. We also went on two walking tours – the Cold War, and the Third Reich – and both of these brought us to places we would not have found otherwise.
One of the most affordable cities in Europe. I was not expecting Berlin to be inexpensive, but I was proved wrong. You can eat, drink, travel and sleep very well for very reasonable prices. €25 gets you a three-day, unlimited travel pass on all of Berlin’s public transport for the entire city, even extending to Greater Berlin, including Potsdam (another beautiful city we visited during our stay). All in all, Berlin is a must-see, and I intend to return again one day.
I will leave you with some more photos. Between the two of us, we took about 1,000 (yes, really!) so I’ll just share a handful. Auf Wiedersehen for now!
Brandenburger Tor (Brandenburg Gate) – particularly beautiful at night.
The very impressive Reichstag. Engraved on the architrave is ’Dem Deutschen Volke’- For the German People.
The Memorial to the Murdered Jews of Europe.
We visited Berlin Zoo and Aquarium – recognised as one of the world’s best.
Sanssouci, Potsdam. The photo doesn’t capture how beautiful it was! We decided to visit one evening on a whim and had the entire grounds to ourselves. There’s something romantic about walking in the rain.