Today we wandered into central Berlin and had a tourist-y day. It wasn’t far at all to walk from our hostel (near Alexanderplatz) down Karl Liebknecht Strasse, over Museumsinsel, and onto Unter Den Linden. The above left picture is of the Humbolt University which stands in the former Bebelplabtz square; this is famously where the Nazi’s had a mass burning of the Jewish books. There is a glass panel on the floor which shows an underground bookcase as a memorial to this event. Round the corner from Bebelplabtz is Gendarmenmarkt square which is home to the Konzerthaus (Concert Hall – bottom right). The French and German cathedrals stand at either end of the square and have been fully restored after the damage dealt by WWII.
Now, at this point, Hannah’s ‘walking tour of Berlin’ kicked in…much to Jack’s demise. To put it into context, it was about 20 degrees and we were walking around all day (to an English person, 15 degrees is considered hot let alone 20- you get the drift) and I was eager to do as much as possible, as quick as possible. Map in hand, we traipsed from Gendarmenmarkt to Checkpoint Charlie which was arguably the biggest let down I’ve seen. Yes, it’s a must-see in Berlin and the history behind it is astonishing yet the site itself is really just a toll-booth in the middle of a road with some actors posing as guards for pictures…really selling it aren’t I!
Brandenburg Gate was incredible to see in real life and was packed full of tourists with their selfie-sticks. As an Ancient History student, it was amazing to see the artistic sculpture on the gate and to see the Quadriga in all its glory (eventhough I cut it off in my picture…oops). A little information: the gate was isolated during the time of the Berlin Wall and no one could access it, it marked the gateway to the Reichstag and the monuments of Prussia, since WWII it had been seriously damaged and has undergone restoration in 2002 to the amazing state it is in today!
From there, it was a short walk to the Topography of Terror– a free museum built on the SS and Gestapo Headquarters from Nazi rule. The best thing, for me, at this sight was walking alongside the longest segment remaining of the outer Berlin Wall. Unfortunately, we didn’t stay here long since it was way too hot to stay outside so we ‘wandered’ (got lost) to Potsdamer Platz, the modern area of West Berlin. After a starbucks or two, we left Potsdamer Platz and its glass towers and found ourselves at the Holocaust Memorial to the Murdered Jews of Europe– the most sobering place I’ve ever visited. The combination of the uneven ground and towering concrete blocks makes you feel VERY disorientated and discombobulated- to generate empathy for those who lost their lives. Admittedly, it isn’t the sort of attraction that requires a lot of time, but it is most definitely a must-do.
The Berlin Wall segment at the Topography of Terror
As mentioned by my aunt and one of my friends who’d previously visited Berlin, a visit to the Reichstag is a MUST! Make sure you reserve your place online beforehand and in advance to your trip- the online process is very easy to navigate and shows you the available tours for your timeslot. There were no available slots left for just a ‘Visit to the Dome’ so I booked myself and Jack into a ‘Guided Tour’ which was given in English and is available in other languages too; it is also worth noting that the entrance to the Bundestag is FREE and well worth it when seeing a slice of German History as well as current affairs as the building is still used in Parliament.
If you do come on this tour, PLEASE MAKE SURE YOU BRING YOUR PASSPORT as security is very tight here- it’s like passing through airport security, there are bag and passport checks. Once we were through security, after Jack’s ‘disagreement’ with security about whether he could bring his hairspray in (-_-), we were taken through the building and shown its offices, where the communication tunnels used to be, and most amazingly- the seats in Parliament which are currently being used in office (top right picture). Our guide was very knowledgeable and answered any questions from the group. After, she guided us to a lift (also heavily guarded) to the glass dome above the building where we walked the height of the spiral staircases up to the top; you can see right across Berlin and is well worth the trek (especially as it’s FREE). All in all, the tour took us around an hour and a half and was an evening well spent!
Also, I’m taking this opportunity to complain about the service of one of the restaurants we found in Berlin – Vapianos. We were starving this night and remembered walking past an Italian restaurant earlier in the day and decided to go back. Unknowingly, this restaurant was self serve and your orders were scanned onto your own card – handy system, or so I thought. You had to go up to the kitchen counters yourself and each meal was made to order, so I, the ‘adult of the situation’ went up first whilst Jack reserved us a table with our drinks. After waiting in line for an HOUR, I got my Carbonara (my fave pasta dish…which turned out to not taste like Carbonara at all and was overpriced) and ate it infront of Jack while he sat wriggling getting jiffly about wanting to leave- I couldn’t blame him, it’d be another hour before he got his food. We left. It may have been the time of day we went, it may have been that specific place. But I wouldn’t run back in a hurry. Jack ended up having a Currywurst at the hostel- the best ones we found!