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January 22nd 2011
Published: January 25th 2011
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The kiss heard 'round the worldThe kiss heard 'round the worldThe kiss heard 'round the world

This is a painting depicting the kiss between Erich Honecker, leader of East Germany and Leonid Brezhnev, Soviet leader by Russian artist Dmitri Vrubel
Day 2 in Berlin started with seeing another Bourne site! Alexanderplatz, where Bourne has Nicky meet him under the world clock in the Bourne Supremacy. The world clock is an interesting installment. It has the time zones (1-24) wrapped around a tall, cylinder shaped object off to the side of Alexanderplatz. Wrapped around under the zones is a map of the world with major cities under whichever time zone they belong to. Anyways, we saw a lot more today too. After breakfast at Alexanderplatz we walked over to the huge TV tower. I'm told most Berliners hate the tower, but I didn't mind it too much. It reminded me a little of the Oriental Pearl TV tower in Shanghai. Right next to the TV tower is the red Old City Hall and also a big fountain with (I think) Neptune on top. I'm not sure exactly what he was made out of because some parts of him were a cool blue color.

Mia put up with my search for another historical artifact when we went looking for the Karl Marx/Friedrich Engels statues near the river. We finally found them inside a fenced in area (didn't want graffiti?) between the TV tower and the Spree river. From there we took a stroll along the river and past the Berliner Dom again, which is quickly becoming one of our favorite buildings, because of the beautiful shade of blue on top and the overall fantastic architecture.

By the river a Berliner stopped us and told us about an awesome place to get pictures. He said that inside the Radisson Hotel the elevator is surrounded by a 1 million liter aquatic fish tank with over 1500 tropical fish inside. The elevator takes you right up inside the tank! I'm glad he stopped to tell us, because it was really cool to see. I'm surprised the hotel staff don't get annoyed with everyone coming in and taking pictures, because we weren't the only ones there.

I wanted to learn a little more at the Checkpoint Charlie site, since we were kind of rushed through it on the tour, so we walked back down to it and I got to read a lot of the information thats on plaques down the street. The Haus am Checkpoint Charlie Museum is a real rip-off! It's expensive and all of the information can be found outside on the street plaques. The plaques take you threw the history of the wall from the when it was first built and why until 1989 when it was torn down. It was built for the sole purpose of keeping East Berliners in East Germany. Up until 1961 when it was built, Berlin was the safest way to get from East Germany to West Germany. All the borders outside of Berlin between the East and West had been closed, but in Berlin you could even just take the subway to get across. That was until the wall was built and it started getting more difficult and more dangerous With the right papers, West Berliners could get into East Berlin and back out, but it was very very rare that East Berliners were aloud to visit West Berlin. There were also a lot of escape attempts, some successful. One family knitted together a hot air balloon out of clothes and other fabrics and actually flew over the wall! Some West Berliners built tunnels under the wall into apartments on the East side too. There were also a lot of failed attempts though. The East German guards were told to shoot anyone attempting to get over over the wall and many escapees met this fate. The famous sign that says "You are entering the American Sector" and vice-versa is here at Checkpoint Charlie. There's a lot of different vendors on the street corners in the area selling big Russian hats and even fake gas masks (why?).

From Checkpoint Charlie we took the metro to Ka De We, the second largest department store in Europe. We didn't stop to shop though, what we really wanted to see was the Kaiser Wilhelm Memorial Church that's right down the street. This church was bombed during WWII, but the top of it that was bombed was left as a memorial and never reconstructed. Mia won a photography contest a while back for a photo she took of this church. She wanted to recreate the shot today with her new camera, but unfortunately, as usual in Europe, there's a lot of construction all around the church that not only made it hard to see it at all, but also made al the shots pretty bad.

Mia wanted to revisit the Sony Center next and it was honestly really impressive. There's a movie
World Clock at AlexanderplatzWorld Clock at AlexanderplatzWorld Clock at Alexanderplatz

where Bourne has Nicky meet him in Bourne Supremacy
theater inside and a lot of different shops. It's open air and the roof is a metal canopy that reminded me a lot of the Olympic Stadiums in Munich with the "metal tent" design. There was also a cool giant giraffe outside made out of legos!

A little ways outside of the Sony Center we found a cool exhibit of the wall. There were separate pieces and more information about the fall of the wall. The most impressive one to me was of a superhero. It was more propaganda to have people become organ donors, but it was a cool mural nonetheless. This is where we started following "the line". After the wall was torn down the government put down bricks and other markers to mark where the wall used to be. It goes completely around West Berlin and it's a good way for bikers or walkers to find everything about the wall. We started following it looking for the Berlin Wall Documentation Center, but first we found Topographie des Terrors (Topography of Terror). It's a museum right next to a big remaining section of the wall. Inside the museum you learn all about the SS, Gestapo, and other special forces of the Nazis. I read through all the exhibits and it had some really interesting information that one wouldn't find in a normal book about the Holocaust. It detailed how each country and it's citizens were affected and treated by the Nazis. What the countries went through when they were invaded and under control of the Nazis. It also detailed a lot of specific prisoners, for example, I didn't know the Erich Honecker (leader of East Germany during the Cold War) was sentenced to almost 10 years in a Nazi prison for his "Communist activities".

There was also information about the Concentration Camps and some of the escape attempts. There were pictures of shot escapees and we were told that the Nazis documented these photos to show the "escapees". It also told us that it's more than likely that most of these were executions and only staged to look like escape attempts.

At the end there was a section on the "justice" carried out after the war. I didn't know this, but a huge number of Nazis made it off without any sentence carried out at all. They were re-introduced to society without punishment. Some were even put back into government positions. A lot of this was due to the fact that Berlin was being divided and the Cold War started, taking the focus off of the Nazis.

January 23, 2011

We didn't have a full day today since we had to take a bus back to Dresden (not a a bad trip at all, barely 2 hours), but we managed to see a few more sights anyway. The first, and most important to me, was the East Side Gallery. It's the longest remaining section of the wall (1.3 km) and in 1989 after the fall of the wall many international artists were invited to Berlin to paint murals on this section of the wall. They were all unique and creative and I've posted pictures of a few of my favorites. The most famous is Bruderkuss (brotherly kiss) by Russian painter Dmitri Vrubel. It depicts a kiss between Erich Honecker, leader of East Germany, and Leonid Brezhnev, leader of the Soviet Union. This kiss actually did happen at the 30th anniversary of the GDR.

There was also a funny one I liked off a guard with binoculars in a tower looking down at the street, while someone in a hot air balloon tries to fly over the wall. It was depicting the escape that I explained earlier. Another funny one was a painting of a sign saying "detour to the Japanese Sector".

We walked the entire length of the wall and it had a lot of great paintings. After we finished at the wall we went to Museum Island to see the Pergamon Museum, which houses all kinds of priceless, ancient/Middle Eastern/and Islamic artifacts. It's a UNESCO World Heritage site and the whole museum is really worth seeing. If you're seeing one museum in Berlin it should be this one.

I can't really compare the schools in Paris and Berlin yet, but the cities overall are very different with good things and bad.

Paris +

Paris -

*It's really dirty, especially the metro
*Really crowded, even in the off-season
*Really expensive
*The gym was tiny and packed to the point you could barely workout
*The people seemed less patient and a little snobby (not all the people obviously)

Berlin +

Berlin -

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26th January 2011

Greetings from snowy Massachusetts
I'm glad to hear that Mia puts up with your obsession for the Bourne movies. Good for her!! That fish tank was really cool. Sounds like you continue to have fun. Nice blog.

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