Tuesday, June 30, 2015

Seeing the Sights in Berlin - Touring Tuesday

The day my sister and nephew left London, we jetted off to Berlin for a few days.  Matt and I have been to Munich a few times, and we thought it would be great to see the north of the country.  Berlin is quite a different city than Munich, and it is full of history!

Train Stations - The best way to get to know a city is to walk it.  However, we took the train a few times as it's one of Youngest Kiddos favorite pastimes.  Riding the train in Berlin is much different that in London.  You validate your ticket upon first ride and then you don't need to bring it out again unless asked by an inspector.  Such a difference from London where we have to tap into and out of the train each time we ride.    

The Kaiser Wilhelm Ged√§chtniskirche was bombed in November 1943, and the decision was made to not repair the building.  They felt leaving the church in its destroyed state would remind of the terrible repercussions of war.  The more modern chapel next door is now used as the worship space.  Its interior is starkly different from the traditional German church I think of.

Checkpoint Charlie, unfortunately, is an unfortunate tourist spectacle.  Men dressed in military gear (with no military status at all) stand at a replica of the original checkpoint to pose with tourists.  For all the history that occurred on that spot, it's a shame for what it turned into.  We preferred the visual panels across the street that outlined how people tried, with differing success, to get out of East Berlin.  

Remnants of and reference to the Berlin Wall is everywhere in Berlin.  Remaining panels are on display at the Berlin Wall exhibition across the street from Checkpoint Charlie.  I remember watching the Berlin Wall come down in 1989; my parents told me that I needed to watch the TV with them as it was a historical event.  Evidence of the wall is seen all over town.  Remembrance plates lay on the ground where the wall used to split sections of the city down the middle.  The East Side Gallery also displays sections of the wall that painted once the wall ceased to exist.  It is in a declining state, so we were happy to see it.  Panels of the wall were preserved and put on display all over the world.  I've seen a panel at the Ronald Reagan Library in Pomona, CA, which is fitting since he gave a speech urging the demolition of the wall, and at The Imperial War Museum in London.

The Brandenburg Gate was modeled after the Acropolis in Athens when it was built in the late 1700s.  It was the main gate separating West and East Berlin.  Former United States President Ronald Reagan gave a famous speech here in June of 1987 urging Mikhail Gorbachev take down the wall.  Two years later the wall came down in November 1989.  

The Ampelmann is a symbol seen all over town.  The logo was seen by Berliners on the communist side of the wall.  Today it is a symbol of the city, and a big hit with tourists as there are many bits of merchandise you can buy.  

Berliner Dom is a gorgeous cathedral on Museum Island.  It was originally built as Hohenzollern family's church until the early 1900s.  The crypt downstairs has the sarcophagi of many family members.  The main area of the church is ornately decorated with a heavy focus toward the family.  It's upon further study of the walls and art that you see typical religious symbols in muted colors.  

The Lustgarden is in front of the dom.  The square of earth has it's own significant history.  It was used as a military parade grounds under Wilhelm I & Napoleon.  Anti-Nazi demonstrations took place in 1933, but eventually Hitler addressed approximately one million people in this space.  Thankfully today it's a lovely spot to sit in the sun. 

There's a few more spots we visited to where just a few photos isn't allowed, that's a post for later.    


  1. Very interesting! I'm surprised that Checkpoint Charlie has become such a spectacle....it doesn't seem to fit with the spirit of everything that happened there!