Brandenburg Tor, the Reichstag building, Neues Museum and Altes Museum

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December 3rd 2013
Published: December 5th 2013
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This morning we set out to catch the train to Brandenburg Tor, but when we reached the station we discovered that the line that we had planned to take is one of the ones that is closed for renovations. So we changed our plans and decided to go first to the old Reichstag building that fell into disuse between 1933 and 1999 after it was severely damaged by fire. Reconstructed between 1990 and 1999 the building is now the home of the Deutscher Bundestag (German Parliament).

Although this was on Bernie's list of things to do in Berlin his research did not discover that, although it free to enter the dome, you have to register to do so. So, we queued up to register for a visit to the dome later in the day. It's quite a process to register as you have to present photo ID and then you have a time for your visit allotted.

With the official confirmation of our visit to the roof terrace and dome of the Reichstag Building in hand we wandered through the gardens towards Brandenburg Tor via the Gypsy memorial. Approximately 500,000 Sinti and Roma (Gypsies) were murdered by the Nazis during the Holocaust so this small reflecting pond and garden has been dedicated to their memory.

Brandenburg Tor was one of a number of gates built into the old city wall by the Prussians. The wall and gates were constructed to ensure that excise duties could be collected on goods entering the city. Brandenburg Tor was damaged during WWII and then neglected until reunification because it actually stood in the exclusion zone. It has now been fully restored and is one of the best known landmarks of Germany.

Not far from Brandenburg Tor stands the Jewish Memorial that consists of 2,711 concrete slabs or "stelae", arranged in a grid pattern on a sloping field. We took a few photos of the rather sombre Jewish Memorial and we were just about to continue on towards the station when Bernie noticed a man setting up a tripod and camera. Curious to see what that was about we waited in the cold to see what happened. Rather unbelievably his friend stripped off to swimming trunks and thongs and strode off down the street towing a wheeled suitcase across the pedestrian crossing. I imagine that the spectacle of a man dressed for the beach in downtown Berlin would attract attention at any time of the year, but with the temperature only about four degrees today it certainly turned heads!!The young man turned around at the other side of the intersection and, when the lights changed, he headed back across. We have no idea what it was all about. Maybe it had something to do with a project set for a photography class??

We had a few problems today with planning to take certain train routes only to discover that those lines were closed. The station nearest Brandenburg Tor was one that was closed so we continued onto Potsdamer Platz. Spying another Christmas market we headed in to find a snack. I was pleased to be able to track down some Kartoffelpuffens because I have seen these a couple of times and thought they looked worth a try. They are sort of a cross between rösti and a potato cake consisting of grated potato 'pancakes' deep fried.

We caught the train around to Alexanderplatz and then to Hackescher Markt so that we could visit the last of the museums on Museum Island - Neues (pron noy-ez) Museum and Altes Museum. The New Museum has an extensive collection of Egyptian masterpieces including the world-famous bust of Nefertiti and the Golden Hat. The Old Museum exhibits Etruscan, Roman and Greek art. We really didn't do the Old Museum justice; we just sort of stuck our heads in and walked around the ground floor before we needed to head back for our visit to the Reichstag building. Fortunately with the entrance fee included on our Berlin passes it didn't matter so much whether we spent five minutes or five hours at the museum.

We arrived back at the Reichstag building with just enough light left to take a couple of photos of the front of the building. With the daylight fading quickly we headed to the welcome centre for our security checks before we could enter at our scheduled time of 4.15pm. We were escorted from the welcome centre to the main entrance and then into a lift that took us to the roof terrace. On the roof terrace we picked up audio guides and then we were free to explore the dome at our leisure. We were just in time to see a beautiful pink sunset over the Berlin skyline.

Determined to have German meal in Berlin we went to dinner at the Löwenbräu Restaurant. Before we came away we joked about the fact that we would have to eat pork knuckle and sauerkraut every night. As it has turned out Italian restaurants have been much easier to find!! Anyway tonight Bernie had the schnitzel with salad and fries, but I decided to attempt the roasted pork knuckle with potato dumpling and sauerkraut. Oh boy, what a hunk of meat!! I think the pork knuckle was the cut of pork that would be equivalent to a lamb shank. Lovely and tender, but there was a lot of fat and rather leathery 'crackle' to trim off.

Tonight as we returned to Pension Gallerie we went into the Checkpoint Charlie Museum. This museum was filled to the brim with information about the wide variety of methods that were devised to escape from East to West. The museum includes displays of many of the modified vehicles, suitcases and even speaker boxes that were used to smuggle people over the border. Desperate times call for desperate measures. The museum also chronicled some escape attempts that were, unfortunately, not successful. The really chilling part of these stories that these people were often betrayed by their so-called friends, sometimes even by family members. Chilling stuff indeed.

14.82 km walked

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