Impressions – Berlin
So I said I would talk about each of the places we visited on my trip, so let’s have at it. 🙂
As anyone who reads regularly knows, my (awesome) boyfriend and I are both living and working in Germany for two years. But we live about 10 minutes from Aachen, which also happens to be Germany’s western-most city. It is literally 20 minutes away from The Netherlands and Belgium. We hadn’t been to Berlin yet. And as this trip was ALL Eastern European countries so it was quite a fantastic way to venture East!
I would say of all the places we visited on our trip, D and I both agree we loved Berlin the most – which is saying a lot since there were so many beautiful places we saw. There are probably a couple of reasons for this – perfect weather, awesome tour guide for the city, amazing city with beaucoup de history, and also great company.
Speaking of company, we took this trip with D’s sister and her husband. We got to meet up with a friend/schoolmate of D’s brother-in-law who just returned to Germany not too long ago from studying in the USA for his PhD. He took us to a couple of different cool place swhere the locals hang out. It seems the summer trend in Berlin right now is to have a “beach bar” in the middle of the city far from any natural beaches. Yeah, they bring in sand and put out palm trees, tiki-hut style torches, etc… Being originally from Florida I found this to be, well not so much out of the ordinary, but fun – D’s sister wasn’t too thrilled with the sand because of our shoes (yes, we should have worn our sandals!) So we went to a couple of these, the one I remember is called Oststrand or Strandbar Mitte.
Okay, so on to more touristic pursuits – Berlin has some amazing recent history.
Most everyone has heard of the Berlin wall, a result of the end of World War II where the French, the British, the Soviets and the US divided the city of Berlin, which was located within the Eastern part of the then newly divided country. The wall fell during the “Peaceful Revolution” in late 1989, and from what my German friend Ralf says, “Berlin now is very different from the Berlin then.” There is so much to talk about on this topic, and I learned some great new things on the trip.
Here is a portion of the wall that was preserved:
In another part of town, which we visited the morning we left Berlin, is a bigger portion of the old wall which is now called the East Side Gallery – which has approximately 106 paintings by artists from all over the world, painted on the east side of the Berlin Wall, serving as a memorial to freedom:
Some other cool things we saw:
Humboldt University, big famous place, 29 Nobel Prize winners are associated with the university and Albert Einstein was a professor here.
Humboldt University is also known because of the infamous Nazis book burning in 1933, where 20,000 books were burned. Books by such authors as Freud, Einstein, Thomas Mann, Jack London, and H.G. Wells. If you remember, this was briefly depicted in the second Indiana Jones movie when Indiana was in Berlin.
A monument to this can now be found in the center of the square, a glass window looks down at an underground room with empty shelf space for 20,000 volumes.
This plaque quotes Heinrich Heine:
Where they burn books, they ultimately burn people
Another big attraction in Berlin is the Brandenburg gate. From what I learned, this gate has historically been a symbol of victory for the people of Prussia, and was modeled after the ceremonial entrance to the Acropolis in Athens, Greece. It reminds me of the Arc de Triomphe in some ways as it was the way people entered the city of Berlin during those times.
At the end of our big touring day in Berlin, we had some free time so we decided we’d go up in the huge television tower we saw at the beginning of our city tour (and it can be seen in most of the city, it’s very tall!) The Fernsehturm (TV tower) was built by the communist government in East Germany between 1965 and 1969 and was supposed to be an icon of Berlin and of the GDR. There was an interesting story to go with the tower about the “disco ball” sphere. It’s not super easy to see from this photo – but when the sun shines on the sphere, the light forms a cross. This is amusing because the Communist government (GDR) had funded this building and was trying supress all church institutions – in Eastern Germany “scientific atheism” the official state doctrine. When Berliners first saw this cross made of light, they immediately named it Rache des Papstes, or “Pope’s Revenge”. Quite funny.
Once we were inside, we took an elevator that brought us to the sphere section of the building in a total of 40 seconds (zoom!).