After my long train ride to Copenhagen, I was happy to have an uneventful ride to Berlin. When I arrived, I checked into my hostel which was very nice, but also a 5 story walk up, which was not my favorite thing to do with my pack. By this point, my bag was pretty heavy as I sometimes bought guidebooks when I visited cool places, especially if I couldn’t take pictures. I liked Berlin quite a bit, but also found it to be an emotional couple of days.
I did a 4 hour walking tour of Berlin past the parts of the Wall that remain and to Hitler’s Bunker. I was glad that I did a tour because a lot of things, like Hitler’s Bunker, you would never know was there unless someone pointed it out to you. There are certain things that Germany would rather not be reminded of every day, so some things aren’t marked. Also, Hitler’s Bunker has since been covered by a street so you would never know that you were standing right on top of it. I also did a tour of Sachsenhausen, which will covered in its own post.
Remnants of the Berlin Wall:
Memorial marking where the wall used to be; controversial because they all face West, so you can only read it standing on one side of the former wall.
Brandenburger Tor: Berlin’s only remaining gate; today is a powerful symbol of a reunited Germany.
Bebelplatz: Marks the spot of the 1933 book burning by Nazi students. A plaque bears a 1820’s foresighted quote from Heinrich Heine, whose works were burned: “Where men burn books, there they will finally also burn humans.”
Bears from around the world. There is one representing each country. The U.S. is the Statue of Liberty
Large soccer ball in front of gate, can go inside to watch the game and see World Cup memorabilia.
Hotel in which Michael Jackson hung his baby over the balcony. Such a touristy thing to take a photo of, I know…
After the tours, I decided to have bit of a lighter day so I spent some time just walking around the city and enjoying the World Cup festivities. I bought some souvenirs for my family and because I was at the halfway mark for my trip, I decided to ship a box home. I know there are some backpackers that never buy anything and others that buy some stuff and just carry it with them for months. Being in Germany during the World Cup changed my perspective. I didn’t know if I would ever again be in a country when they were hosting the World Cup, and I wanted memories that were more than pictures. I think it’s ok to ship a box to a family member or friend occasionally while you’re traveling so that you’re able to buy a few things here and there and also not have to schlep them around for months. It’s also wasn’t too expensive. Since I knew I still had 4-6 weeks of travel left, I paid for the slowest and cheapest shipping method and my box still made it to the U.S. before I did.
There was one final thing from the Holocaust that I wanted to see while in Berlin. So after leaving the post office I went to the Topography of Terror-the remains of the central institutions where the Nazis made their decisions. It’s a long stretch of ruins with tons of photos and bits of history. On the opposite side is information about the Nuremburg trials including those that were tried, information about the judges, the new telecommunications that they used to interpret. It was very interesting.
I walked around some stores after I left the Topography of Terror and then as I was walking to the subway station I noticed an amazing building, so I walked over to it to see what it was. It was the remains of a church that had been almost completely demolished during the war. After the war, instead of tearing down the rest of it and rebuilding it brand new, the builder decided to keep a part of the church as a reminder of the destruction of war. Now half of the old demolished church stands, while a new church is built to the side. They hold services in the new church, but keep the old part open for people to see. It still has all the cracks in the ceiling and holes in the walls. You can even see bullet holes from World War II. In fact, in a lot of old buildings that are still standing in Berlin you can see the aftermath of the war.