Berlin

After our night in a hanger, we moved on to Germany’s capital, Berlin. We parked The Van in a site in one of the suburbs so we could take the train into the centre.

We did another walking tour using the Rick Steves phone app. It started us in amongst the partimentary buildings of the Reichstag and the Bundestag. Around the side of the Reichstag is a monument to the 96 members of parliament that obstructed the Nazi’s on their way to power, and were all murdered. Each iron shard has the name of the person and their party.

A short walk away is the famous Brandenburg Gate. Beyond the gate is the start of the street called Unter den Linden, which literally means Under the Linden (Trees). The wide boulevard is lined with linden trees and runs all the way to the city palace, which was the general direction the tour was taking us.

A short deviation off Unter den Linden is the Holocaust memorial. It is simply a collection of concrete blocks arranged in a grid pattern with a narrow walkway between them. What makes it odd is that the height of the blocks changes, as does the height of the paths. So at the edges the blocks are only waist high and the whole field can be seen, but in the middle the path is undulating and has dipped down and the blocks are well above head height. It is disorientating, especially if you meander around a bit. You’ll very quickly lose anyone you are with. I guess that’s what the artist was aiming for.

The next stop was Bebelplatz. This is watched over by a massive statue of Frederick the Great, the domed and slightly tucked away catholic cathedral (catholics still weren’t popular it seems) and the Humboldt University Library. This square is where the Nazi party held a book burning rally. The centre of the square now has a window down into a room containing empty shelves for the roughly 25,000 books that were burnt there.

Following the linden trees a bit further took us to Museum Island, which is where the Spree river is split in two, leaving an island that is filled with libraries, historic buildings… and several museums. It also includes the Berlin City Palace. This stands on the grounds of the formal imperial palace that was demolished by the East German government in the 1950s. It is a modern building, but the facade replicates the original palace. The Palace will contain museums and several other functions, but it’s still not quite complete.

The walk then took us to the Marx-Engels Forum, which is a park constructed by the GDR (east german government) only a few years before the wall came down. The park is overshadowed by the massive TV tower, a symbol of power also built by the GDR. It is still the tallest building in Germany with a height of 368 metres.

We also visited the Topography of Terror museum, which is an archive of what happened between the wars as the Nazi party rose to power. It includes an outdoor exhibition, which is a timeline that runs parallel to a remaining section of the Berlin Wall. It covers Hitler’s earliest steps to power, the incremental changes that were made to take Germany towards the war and tries to explain how the terrors that were undertaken were almost normalised. It also provides evidence against the many lies that the Nazi party told the public.

Joolz really wanted to go to KeDeWe (abreviated from Kaufhaus des Westens), which is a very large department store renowned in Berlin (only smaller to Harrods). As an indulgence, we ate in the Winter Garden, a really nice restaurant on the top floor which gave us a good view over quite a bit of Berlin.

KaDeWe restaurant

We would like to have stayed in Berlin for a couple more days, but the problem was the heat. It was already 33C and expected to get several degrees warmer in the coming days! So we made a break north to head for the coast…

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