Berlin capital of Germany 17 to 19 September 2014

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September 22nd 2014
Published: September 22nd 2014
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Berlin capital of Germany 17 to 19 September 2014

We arrived in Berlin at about 11.00am booking into the City Camping Platz which is about 10 kms from the centre of the city. We caught up with emails etc and then caught the bus then metro into the city. This all took about 40 minutes. We were really looking forward to visiting Berlin again as it was pouring with rain almost constantly when we were here in May last year. Today was absolutely magnificent with not a cloud in the sky.

We had remember the Metro system but once that was done, we got in the mode again. It was made more simple by buying a 24 hour bus/metro ticket as we caught a few metros because it is such a big city.

The sights were saw were:

Berliner Dom— The biggest and most impressive church in Berlin, built at the turn of the century (19th/20th) as an expression of imperial power.

The Berliner Fernsehturm, which is the TV tower and is Germany's tallest construction: 368 meters high. Observation deck is 204 meters above ground.

Reichstag building - Bundestag – The German Parliament building, near the Brandenburg Gate, was renovated by Sir Norman Foster and reopened in 1999 with a spectacular new glass dome.

Berlin Wall— A large stretch of intact Wall can be found to the east of the city centre along the River Spree in Mühlenstraße near the Oberbaumbrücke. Known as the East Side Gallery, it is a section of the wall that is preserved as a gallery. It has many beautiful murals, politically motivated and otherwise. This wall is 1.3kms long and is now registered to preserve it.

Checkpoint Charlie, a crossing point between East and West Berlin during the Cold War, is no more. Formerly, it was the only border crossing between East and West Berlin that permitted foreigners passage. Residents of East and West Berlin were not allowed to use it. This contributed to Checkpoint Charlie's mythological status as a meeting place for spies and other shady individuals. Checkpoint Charlie gained its name from the phonetic alphabet; checkpoints "Alpha" and "Bravo" were at the autobahn checkpoints Helmstedt and Dreilinden respectively. Checkpoint Charlie's atmosphere was not improved at all on 27 October 1961 when the two Cold War superpowers chose to face each other down for a day. Soviet and American tanks stood approximately 200 meters apart, making an already tense situation worse.

Humboldt Universität which is the oldest university in Berlin with an impressive record of alumni and professors – Albert Einstein, G.W.F. Hegel, Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels, to name but a few. During the Cold War it was the main university in East Berlin and after reunification there have been efforts to reinstate its former glory.

Before we went back to the motor home the first night, we sat on the steps of the south bank of the River Spree next to the Parliament buildings and watched a film and light show which presented a journey through parliamentary history from the Reichstag to the Bundestag (parliament house). The presentation started with the imperial period in the late 19th century and taking the audience right up to the present day. It told the story of the construction, destruction, restoration, wrapping and reconstruction of the Reichstag buildings and its final reincarnation at the end of the 1990s as the seat of parliament of reunified Germany.

They are screening the show for 10 weeks over summer. Watching the local Berliners view the production, it was obvious it was a moving presentation. We were sure that many who were watching, were reflecting the events in their life time. It is hard to believe that West Berlin was a walled 'prison' for the people and members of some families were separated when the wall was established.

We also found the site of Hitler's bunker which has been destroyed and built over. All that remains in a plaque at the site.

We saw the Holocaust Memorial which commemorates the darkest chapter of German history. Germany's central memorial place provides a record of the persecutions and destruction of the European Jews during the Third Reich. The grey colour of the 2711 columns is in remembrance of the ashes of Jews who were cremated. Hardly visible, a slight inclination of the columns, along with their alternating height, gives the visitor an impression of a moving and unstable floor intending to create a feeling of uncertainty and insecurity . It is certainly difficult to create the full meaning of the holocaust through a memorial but this one went part way there. It was opened in the spring of 2005, this gigantic abstract artwork covering an entire block near the Brandenburg Gate. 3.5 million visitors in the first year make it one of the most visited memorials in Berlin.

The 2nd day in Berlin, we did a boat cruise along the River Spree. We certainly got a different perspective of the city from the river. It was a lovely hour, looking at the different features of the city, floating under numerous bridges (Berlin claims to have more bridges than Venice!!), and going through one lock on the river.

We also went up the Panorama Punkt which in the Potsdamer Platz 1 building. What incredible views we had of this big city. On the terrace at the top, there is also an explanation of the establishment of the wall around West Berlin and some of the events that took place between 1961 and 1989. There is also a cafe at the top, so we went and had coffee and a black forest cake - well Tom needed the cake! We took in all the history as well as the fantastic views.

The second evening in Berlin, we got back to the motor home at about 6.30pm, had a shower and dinner and did some emailing etc.

Some of the aspects we learned about Berlin this trip:

Shortly after the first World War, in 1920, the last of the annexations of surrounding cities of Berlin led to the foundation of the Berlin as we know it now. After the coming into power of the National Socialists ("Nazis"), Berlin became the capital of the so called Third Reich and the domicile and office of Hitler (although the triumph of Hitler and his henchmen started in the south of Germany).

WW II led to destruction of most of central Berlin, thus many of the buildings which we see nowadays are reconstructed or planned and built after the war, which led to a very fragmented cityscape in most parts of the inner town. Berlin was divided into four sectors (West Berlin into the French, American and British sector, East Berlin belonged to the USSR). In 1949 the German Democratic Republic ("East Germany") was founded with East Berlin as its capital. West Berlin remained occupied by the western Allies and kept a close relationship with West Germany (with Bonn as the capital) and was an exclave (political island) in East Germany. Because of the growing tensions between West Germany and the GDR, the GDR built a militarised and increasingly impassable border between the states, and then in 1961 surrounded West Berlin with a wall.

In late 1989 East German citizens began rebelling in increasing numbers; this led to the fall of the Berlin Wall. In 1990 West Germany and East Germany were united. Berlin became once again the capital of Germany.

This trip to Berlin filled in some of our gaps in our knowledge and answered a few of our questions about the history of occupation. We have learned so much about the German and Russian impact on Europe by visiting the Baltic States, Poland and now, Berlin. Very interesting.

The next morning (19/9), we packed up and headed towards Koln via Halle and ....well I am not sure. I will let you know in future blogs.!!!!!

Before leaving Berlin, and by the way, it had started to rain (!!!), we drove to the Olympic Stadium that was built in Hitler's time for the 1936 Olympic Games - the games which Jesse Owens won the 100 and 200m events and really p...d Hitler off. All reference of the names associated with the Nazi movement have
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2711 blocks which represent the number of people killed.
been removed from the area. The big bell is still on display with a big hole in it. This happened when the bell tower was bombed in WWll.

The Stadium also has a chapel under the terraced seating. Around the stadium are statues, the hocky stadium and the aquatic centre. It is now home for the Berlin Soccer team and the venue for the 2006 FIFA World Cup. It reopened in 2004 after extensive renovations and over 300,000 people visit the stadium a year outside of events.

And then we said our goodbye to Berlin.

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