First full day at Berlin, and we started it off with our standard city walking tour, again with Sandeman’s. I’ve yet to have a bad experience with this company – the guides have been fantastic, full of knowledge and fun facts and never pushing us to pay beyond what we want to tip.
We met our guide David in front of the famous Brandenburg Gate, where he proceeded to take us on a four-hour walking tour spanning the major landmarks and attractions of Berlin. Berlin is an interesting place – full of history yet haunted by its Third Reich past. It almost didn’t make the vote to become the capital once again after the war. A lot of buildings were destroyed during the carpet bombings during the war, so the city is a mix of newer buildings interspersed with some more historical buildings.
Our group saw some really cool sights, including the Holocaust Memorial, which was an area of giant concrete blocks rising up from the ground, where visitors could walk through the memorial and experience isolation and darkness. We walked past the area where Hitler’s bunker was located below before heading on to see parts of the Berlin Wall that were still intact.
It was crazy, just imagining two layers of walls separating East and West Berlin, with soldiers patrolling every section just to make sure East Germans couldn’t leave. Must have been a really scary time and puts into perspective the tensions and high stakes during the Cold War.
We stopped by Checkpoint Charlie to see the area where American dignitaries could enter and exit East Germany, also the sight of the famous twenty-tank stalemate showdown between US and USSR forces. Everywhere we went, we could see and almost experience the Cold War atmosphere – it’s been awhile but that period of time is recent enough to feel connected to it, in a strange way.
The second half of our tour saw more historical buildings, including Museum Island, Berlin Cathedral, and Nazi Book Burning Memorial. We ended on the steps next to the cathedral and headed to the TV Tower to take a quick look before being caught in a sudden rainstorm. The weather here is seriously weird – through the course of the day it was sunny, then rainy, on three separate occasions. After waiting out the storm at a McDonald’s (and enjoying a hot caffe latte), we walked back to the gate for some last-minute pictures before heading to our hostel.
Berlin is such an interesting city, and even though we’re staying two more days (with a day trip to Dresden), I wish we could spend some more time just absorbing the culture and exploring all the districts. Definitely an excuse for a possible future visit.
Stay tuned and read about my other adventures in London, Paris, Berlin!
Steps taken: 23,315 | Miles walked: 7.72
Berliner at randomtidbitsofthought.wordpress.com