Wednesday, 24 September 2008


Its been ages since I last wrote. I know I've been a bit slack. I think I go through phases of intense interest in blogging and then sometimes it doesn't seem as important. Anyway its not as if there hasn't been anything to write about either but I just got lazy. I realised that I haven't written about our trip to Berlin yet. It feels like such a long time ago that I had to look at my google calendar to find the date. We went to Berlin in early September. We caught Easyjet there and we were delayed again. Besides that the airport we arrived in was deep inside East Berlin, and coming back into town in the train we saw many decrepit and creepy looking train stations along the way. The train ride in took ages and it was very late when we checked into our hotel. We stayed at the Westin off the main street of Unter den Linden. Saturday morning we grabbed some breakfast in a nice cafe on the way to the Brandenburg gate. That was where our free walking tour of Berlin began. The guided walking tour was excellent.. and the best way to see the main historic sights of Berlin for anyone going there. It covered the following places:
  • Pariser Platz
  • The Brandenburg Gate
  • The Reichstag
  • The new Holocaust Memorial
  • Hitler’s Bunker
  • Luftwaffe HQ
  • The 17. June Memorial
  • The Berlin Wall
  • The Former SS Headquarters
  • Checkpoint Charlie
  • The Former Red Light District
  • Gendarmenmarkt
  • Bebelplatz
  • The Book Burning Memorial
  • The Old Royal Boulevard
  • Neue Wache
  • The TV Tower
  • Museum Island
As you can see it covers numerous places of historical interest, many of which have a lot of significance to the Nazi era and when Berlin was divided into east and west. We saw the remnants of the Berlin wall and its path in the city still etched on the ground where it once stood. Our tour guide (a soft spoken English girl) told us many stories about people escaping the wall and trying to reunite with loved ones trapped on either side. We went past the Humboldt University, Berlin's oldest, at the sight of which the Nazi book burning took place. There is poignant memorial to that day on the square giving a view of a room through a glass sheet embedded on the ground full of white empty book shelves representing the books burnt on that day. Across the road in front of the University there is a free book fair held every weekend giving away copies of those books once burnt. That place stirred a lot of sadness for me.

After the tour we had a late lunch and went back to the hotel to rest. We headed out to dinner that night to an area full of restaurants and there was too much choice for us. In the end we went to a Cuban restaurant and had great food. After dinner we made an impulse decision to go to the ultra modern parliament building which is open for tours till very late at night and gives a good view of the city. We rushed through the streets in the rain but were not let in as we were one minute late!!!! After getting over the disappointment of that we walked to the Brandenburg gate which is lit up beautifully at night and took some great pictures there. Berlin is full of great bars and an excellent night life and if you like to drink its a great place. We skipped the bar experience as we had just finished a bottle of wine between the two of us at the Cuban restaurant. We got back to to hotel and had some nice apple strudel and ice cream :) It was sooooo good!

The next day we spent a lot of time at museums and riding around the different parts of the city on buses. The time went quite quickly and soon it was time to head back home to London. At the end of the our time there I understood a little better how much the city itself had gone through, its legacy and why some of the wounds of the past will take many more years to heal. That is not to say that a lot of people are not trying to do just that. The city is full of history & culture but a little depressing and hard to stomach when you are there for a short visit. Much of the east parts of the city are still quite run down, grey and dirty while there are areas in the west which are newer and greener. The city is full of contrasts and the people friendly. One thing I did love were the alldescribingwordsstucktogether German names for places and things which were a bit hard to get used to at first but were a delight once you were a bit clued in.

Check out the photos of Berlin we took.