BerlinWhen asked about Berlin the first thing that comes to mind is a city known for the wall that divided a nation. With the wall behind them, Berlin has really become a modern city with some impressive architecture and very a important story to tell.

As a student I never really understood the importance of history, but after visiting war affected cities like Berlin it has never been clearer. History is taught to prevent future generations committing the same mistakes that our ancestors did.

For Easter we chose to go to Berlin and did we have a great time! The history-filled city has lots to provide but with only 4 days it just wasn’t enough. If you would like learn more about WWII, Berlin is a must. The war being such a political and sensitive issue, the city has done a fabulous job at providing the stories of both sides of the coin.

WARNING: Berlin was a big weekend for us so this post maybe a bit long but I will try to keep it to the point.

We stayed in a hostel in Charlottenburg (2 doors down from a strip joint… wasn’t intentional i promise :P)

Day 1:

First stop Hauptbahnhof (the main train station). Just think Flinders Station on the top and bottom level, with a shopping center in the middle – HUGE!! A quick stroll and we found ourselves looking at a very long line to get into the Reischtag (Parliament house). It seems the lonely planet was right (as always) advising us to get there early – but obviously we didn’t get there early enough. We decided to keep walking, so then we walked through Brandenburg Gate into Pariser Platz. Following the Unter den Linden we stood in Bebelplatz where there is a very powerful reminder of what happened there. The empty underground library (white book shelves without a single book in sight) is a reminder of where the books were burnt under the Nazi regime. To loose so much of the nations history, art and literature is hard to imagine.

Opposite Bebelplatz is Humboldt University, where Albert Einstein lectured. A few blocks down from Humboldt University we found the new guard house which was a powerful and very artistic tribute to all the people that lost their lives or were persecuted in the war. With a single statue of a mother holding her son the middle of the room with a single light source from an opening in the roof.

All this walking and the smell of sausages made us a bit peckish so we stopped for a Currywurst. Currywurst: Sausage cut up into bit size pieces covered with tomatoe sauce, curry powder served with a crispy dinner roll.

As we were walking the expensive cars exhibition caught my eye so I could not resist going in. In there we could only imagine how much these cars cost but we soon found out that just below was a photography exhibition. Here we spent a good hour looking at the amazing animal portraits taken by a very dedicated photographer.

With museums located all around the city its hard not to immerse yourself so here is where our museum marathon started. Altes museum – just lots of old stuff… Greece, Roman and Egyptian artifacts. Highlights: portrait of Caesar and Cleopatra, Bust of Nefertiti (long necked statue of Nefertiti portrait). Not bad looking for a 3300 year old (give or take a few centuries).

After a few hours in the Altes museum, all the artifacts were starting to look the same so we ventured off to the Berlina Dom. Unfortunately it was closed so we couldn’t get in but in some ways it was a blessing because we were getting very sleepy from all the warm heating inside the buildings.

Catching the train to Gendarmenmarkt which is supposedly Berlin’s most beautiful square. I am not sure if it was only due to the big day were were having, but the only thing that caught our eye was that the only difference between the French Cathedral and the German Cathedral was the German one was built with a dome (it would seem the German architects love domes).

Living in the UK for nearly a year now we are very aware of the rain. And if you keep letting the rain stop you from doing things you wouldn’t do anything! So we put on our water proofs and kept going. What we didn’t realise was that the rain were were experiencing was only the beginning. By the time we got to Check Point Charlie and started to read the long walls of the history of the importance of Check Point Charlie and the Berlin wall we found ourselves standing in a hail storm. It seemed that everyone else disappeared and the only two nutters who kept going were 2 Aussies drenched from head to toe. With an umbrella and waterproofs we survived 30 minutes of heavy rain and hail. By the time we finished the rain had stopped and there was a thick layer of ice on the cars and the roads. We spent the next 3.5 hours inside Check Point Charlie Museum reading different points of views of the Berlin people and the creative ideas and of crossing the wall (smuggling people in speakers, suitcases, car trunks and jumping off buildings).

At this point we were delirious but still had two stops left. Potsdamer Platz to see what was left of the wall, and the Holocaust Memorial. Both were very cold and eery at night but both a very important symbol of Berlin’s past. The Berlin Wall: 1km piece of wall that is left is a reminder of what the Berlin people went through to bring peace to their nation as a whole. The Holocaust Memorial – An artistic tribute to the Jewish lives lost during the war which took approximately 17 years for the government to agree on and build. Both making us speechless.

Day 2:

After our huge first day we figured we take the second day a bit slower. The Reischtag (Parliament house) line up was just as long, even in rain and very chilly conditions. It seems that the never ending line of tourists never stopped day, night, rain or freezing winds. It took us 3 hrs of waiting to see the dome and it was well worth it. The dome was very well thought out with visitors walking up in one direction and leaving in the opposite direction. This means people could stop and take their time both up and down and not cause any delays. Since I have not seen this anywhere else I would stay it’s just German genius where things just work.

After spending 4 hours at the Reischtag the day seemed to disappear. We made our way to Alexanderplatz where we found ourselves in a German all singing, drinking and eating market place. As we enjoyed our lunch (of course sausages and meat patties) we listened to some local music. As the rain started to get heavy again we decided to get some cover and go shopping. After walking around aimlessly in a shopping center our tired feet got the better of us so we decided to find a place to eat and have an early night.

Day 3:

With so much history it was hard to not visit a museum but we took it to another level. Both keen to learn as much as we can while on our visit to Berlin we decided to tackle 2 more museums. Little did we know that we would spend the whole day/night in 2 museums.

Schloss Charlottenburg is the only palace in Berlin. With some rooms still in tact it was amazing to see such old furniture, paintings and room designs. As you walked from room to room, the designs showed the changes in taste as the years went on. After walking through rooms with designs dating back to the late 17th century its amazing to see that even rich, famous royalty can have bad taste.

From here we went to a more modern museum. The Jewish Museum is a museum with so much information about Jewish culture in Germany. The building is not like any other building I have ever seen before. Built with so much meaning and clever design.

Each detail was done with a purpose in mind. From changing in height of each room to window locations or the lack of windows in some parts of the building. Every detail was thought through and thought through again. As you walk through each room it tells a unique story in the most artistic and powerful manor. It explains the culture and the life of a Jew and the constant fight for acceptance. Absolutely fascinated, I wanted to read every article and learn every detail and message that was being expressed. After loosing myself in the first 2 floors of the museum I realised that I was only half way through!

We both really don’t know the exact number of hours we spent in that museum but all I know is when we walked into the museum it was day light and coming out, it was night. With our minds exhausted, legs sore and tired we went to home for a late dinner and a good nights rest.

Day 4:

Being a bit tired of museums at this stage we decided to do some sight seeing. We saw a church that survived the bombing raids of WWII. The replacement church was a very modern church. Built to look like a concrete box it was filled with blue windows which when the light shown through it lit the church bright blue. A truly amazing display of artistic flair in a church.

To finish off our trip of Berlin we walked through Tiergarten to the Sony Center where we found another dome roof. Filled with restaurants and shops the Sony Center was a good final stop for our jam-packed trip to Berlin!

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