The city of Berlin has so much history and a couple of days ago one of BerlinBoy’s super friends offered to take me on a walking tour of some of the key parts. I felt so lucky to be shown around by a fellow ex-pat Aussie who had great knowledge and also some very special personal knowledge handed down from his girlfriend’s grandparents and shared with me! We spent about 4 hours wandering around the central city area at my pace and although there seemed to be many tourist buses around – nothing ever seemed crowded. We chose not to go inside any buildings or museums, but rather viewed Berlin from outside, with all it’s street history.
I’m sure my tour guide had a plan and an order to what we saw and but I am going to write from my heart which probably means I will mix up the order in which we viewed places or leave out some significant areas – so if you have been to visit the same places, don’t be confused if I seem to be jumping around in my sharing, I am! The imprint left on my heart will be key to my sharing here.
The very first thing that made an impact on me was that, when looking at a map of the city as it was when the Berlin Wall was in use, was how much the wall was not a long straight line dividing 2 places, but that it was rather a circular structure that made part of the city into an island! In many parts of Berlin, I had already seen the markers in the street …. showing exactly where it used to be, but until I had seen a map showing it in it’s entirety, I didn’t really put all the pieces together. The sudden realisation of immediate, forced separation from family and friends came as a shock to my comfortable existence. I would not have liked it and wondered how I would have coped?
The Brandenburg Gate is a truly majestic structure. Originally commissioned, as a symbol of peace, to be built by the Prussian King, Friedrich Wilhelm II. It took from 1788 – 1791 to complete and was the entry to the boulevard of linden trees that led directly to the palace of the Prussian monarchs. It was damaged extensively during World War II which was not restored until 2000 to 2002. It had become inaccessible during the time of the Berlin Wall, however, since the reunification of Germany, it has renewed it’s importance as a symbol of peace and unity, while also being a reminder of the history of Europe.
Today, it sits surrounded by parliamentary buildings and embassies. The combination of this and other historic buildings, contrasted with newer more modern structures make for an interesting area. Below are some pics taken in and around this precinct.
I have always had a great fascination with the Berlin Wall. Probably due to the fact that it was erected in my lifetime and was featured in concerts by the late David Bowie and Bruce Springsteen. I will never forget sitting up late into the night in early November 1989, watching The Wall being demolished bit by bit by the citizens of Berlin, on television. The excitement I felt from thousands of kilometres away was huge!
You can view The Wall in a few different ways around the city. One of the most famous ways is to walk along the remaining part and take in the street art and graffiti that has covered the surface of what was the West Berlin side. I have seen this from the Spree River cruise that my son and I took a week ago but even though this is only a couple of kilometres from where I am living, it is still on my to do list! I will be doing it before I leave! There are a couple of other sections or single blocks that you can see elsewhere. These brought home to me the height and width of The Wall which in hindsight was not that high or wide! It was in fact 2 walls with a No Man’s Land in between, that made it difficult to get across. Graffiti and street art continue to be a feature on these blocks and today’s locals and tourists have added gum to the display!
Another section of The Wall is the backdrop to a display referencing the events leading up to and the events, of World War II. I found the use of The Wall as a backdrop here very symbolic and quite moving. In fact, the whole of the outdoor (because we chose not to go to the indoor section) section of the Topography of Terrors, was both informative and overwhelming at the same time. Housed in the exposed bunkers of the old Gestapo, S.S and Reich buildings, it is a photographic remembrance of the S.S and the police of the Third Reich and the crimes they perpetrated across Europe. Hitler and the Nazi Party’s rise to power and the appalling treatment of the Jewish community as well as other minorities.
As I walked along the pathway, stopping at each station to read and take in the information, with hundreds of other tourists – I couldn’t help but notice the silence of the crowds. There was no idle chit chat! There wasn’t even a background burble of noise! There was simply the silence of people from all over Germany and the world, trying to absorb the immenseness of what had taken place, not so long ago. I found myself questioning what my own ability to stand against such a powerful regime would be. Would I have been strong enough? I really don’t know! I have to mention here, that the disbelief I felt, that people could believe and accept such actions and leaders; and that surely people of today would never have gone there; quickly led to more than a passing thought of the present day election going on in America. We need to be constantly reminded of the danger that too much power can bring.
The Holocaust Memorial I found both haunting and awe inspiring! The anonymity of the featured blocks and the sheer size and amount represented, touched on the enormousness of the tragedy. It was easy to get lost in the maze-like display and you only had to turn a corner to feel completely alone and the isolation enveloped me completely. The coldness of the concrete blocks, their differing sizes and shapes, the grey colour and the smoothness of the surfaces, all added to the chilling effect. Yet it is a beautiful place to remember.
As my tourist guide for the day, looked at me …. I simply said that I could take no more! My heart was full! My mind was full! I needed to go home and sit still for a day or two and try to process all that I had experienced. I was no longer capable of talking really and I certainly was no longer in control of my emotions.
It was time to reflect, remember and resolve.