Friday, January 27, 2012

The scars of Berlin...

Taking a break from telling you about my mundane daily life today to start revisiting some of the places I have been. Don't worry though, I will spread them all out so you don't get too bored of my travels :-)

Berlin wasn't a city I was particularly excited about seeing, and the day I was there it was a lovely 4 degrees, but the history contained there was different to other European cities. It was almost as though Berlin didn't really exist before the war and it's still fighting for a real identity.

Berlin Wall...there is a 1.3km section remaining called the 'East Side Gallery', it's the section that is painted and most commonly appears in photos.
Seeing it in person is a little odd, it's a landmark no one seems to care about. Something that makes Berlin famous but is also like the weird cousin you don't like to talk about.
Though there are sections that are most 'obvious' placed in different areas of the city as public art.
And everywhere the wall isn't, there's paving marking where it once was. It's easier to see how it cut through the city.
The famous Brandenburg Gate, a gate to the city long before the Berlin Wall. Another interesting landmark, it's one of the symbols of the new Berlin yet it was used by the Nazi's as a symbol of their power...there are still bullet holes and craters visible on the columns.
Checkpoint Charlie, the most used gateway through the Berlin Wall. There is a fake checkpoint on the actual site...
And all the pieces from the original have been placed upstairs in the museum. It also houses tales of life within the Berlin Wall and stories of escape attempts. Some are entertaining (like cutting the roof off a car and attempting to go under the boom-gate) but most are heartbreaking, it's terrible to think of it happening  within my lifetime (I was 4 when the wall fell).
This is the Reichstag, the parliamentary building of Berlin. It wasn't used for parliament during the Nazi reign after it was damaged in a fire (1933), and wasn't repaired properly until the 1990s after the fall of the wall (technically the building was in both East and West Berlin). During it's repair it was covered with aluminium foil by Christo and Jean-Claude two rather eccentric artists. There was a picture of the wrapping in one of the train stations, I took a picture but you'll get a better 'experience' by following the link. My picture is rubbish in comparison. The glass dome was added in the late 90s, you can take an elevator to the top and check out the views (again, boring pictures).
Each of these little plates is a memorial to the 96 parliamentarians killed by the Nazis after they claimed power.
Just south of the Brandenburg Gate, covering 4.7 acres, are these large, height-varying concrete blocks. Though it's unlabelled on site, they make up the controversial Memorial to the Murdered Jews of Europe
There are 2,711 of them and walking through feels both like a maze and a dungeon, making you want to run and hide at the same time.

Now if you've sat through that little history lesson, you deserve some fun...
These are the traffic lights in East Berlin, known as Ampleman they are the walk/don't walk signs and appear to have a cult following. There are shops selling only Ampleman souvenirs, I bought a shirt with Green Ampleman on the front and Red on the back (I merged that photo by the way...) and some gummi bear Ampleman.
And finally, this was my walking tour guide you think he looks like Matt Damon too?


  1. Yes, your tour guide indeed does look like Matt Damon. I would have swooned!

    1. It was a little odd. The heavy german accent spoiled the illusion though...