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Berlin: 15 - 27 May 2018

Updated: Sep 29, 2021

1. Lodgings: We stayed in the Mitte section. It’s interesting that after the Wall fell, that old East Berlin is now the place to stay. As you walk around the neighborhood notice:

-the stumble stones in the sidewalk, which are concrete cubes bearing a brass plate inscribed with the name and life dates of victims of Nazi extermination or persecution. Each one commemorates an individual at exactly the last place of residency—or, sometimes, work—which was freely chosen by the person before he or she fell victim to Nazi terror, euthanasia, eugenics, deportation to a concentration or extermination camp, or escaped persecution by emigration or suicide.

-most of the houses were built post War. As Arthur "Bomber" Harris once said in response to the Blitz of 1940: “They sowed the wind, and now, they are going to reap the whirlwind”.

-Zeit für Brot (Alte Schönhauser Straße) for coffee and a nosh. Friendly and fresh.

-RWE Supermarket (Schönhauser Allee 10) for groceries.

2. East Side Gallery: a rather large section of the Berlin Wall has been preserved and international artists have painted murals on it. Worth a look from both a historical and artistic point of view. Make sure you see the mural of “My God, Help Me to Survive This Deadly Love

3. Free Walking Tour: Sandemans does a fine job. 4. Topography of Terror: the HQ for the Gestapo was heavily bombed during WWII and the ruins were subsequently leveled. In its place is this extensive museum devoted to the inner workings of the most heinous secret police ever known to man. Note the section on how local police throughout Nazi-occupied Europe assisted the Gestapo in rounding up Jews and other enemies of the state. Directly across the street is the former HQ of the Luftwaffe - a good example of National Socialist intimidation architecture. Left standing by the Allies to provide future office space.

5. Checkpoint Charlie: the epicenter of the Cold War is a must-see, but unfortunately the guard shack, sign, guards, etc are not original and the whole area has a Disney feel to it. Swing by going to/from the Topography of Terror.

6. Schnitzel at Alpenstück Restaurant & Bakery: the best schnitzel I’ve ever had. It’s a fine dining experience in quality and pricing, but the schnitzel was perfect - not too dry.

7. Reichstag: use this website to book an entry into the Reichstag. The building drips with German history, reluctantly built by the Kaiser, played a key role in Hitler’s rise to power, and now the symbol of German reunification. Rebuilt and redesigned by Norman Foster in 1999 to house the reunified German Parliament. Great 360 degree views of Berlin from the roof.

8. Berlin Wall Memorial: a section of the Berlin Wall remains as is and it is worth a visit. Its location, on Bernauer Strasse, played a unique role in the construction of the wall and how the world viewed it. Highly recommended.

9. Führerbunker: I can understand the creepiness of it all, but I cannot understand going all the way to Berlin and not wanting to see the location of the Führerbunker (maybe it’s me?!, as I felt the same way about visiting the epicenter at Hiroshima. 10. Brandenburg Gate: review the history of the gate and some old photos prior to visiting. Then walk in the footsteps of Kennedy, Reagan, Montgomery, Napoleon, Obama, and this yahoo.

11. Proceed West from the Brandenburg Gate and on your way to the Berlin Victory Column make a brief stop at the Soviet War Memorial (Tiergarten). None of the other victorious powers have something similar. I was not sure what to make of it, so I leave it to you to come to your own conclusion. Legend has it that some of the marble blocks are remnants of the Old Reich Chancellery (is it just me or is that weird?!).

12. Berlin Victory Column: built to commemorate German victories during the Wars of Unification. A bronze relief is mounted on each side of the square base. One for each war and one of the victorious German Army marching into Berlin. Inspect the relief for the Franco-Prussian War - France removed this specific relief in 1945 and it was only returned in 1987 (note that several panels have still not been reinstalled - apparently France wants to ensure Germany remembers who the victor was in the final war). There is a fee to climb the column, but may I recommend you instead retire to the Café Viktoria across the street and allocate the fee to the purchase of a beer and a pretzel. Then contemplate a thought that William F. Buckley had about WWII “sometimes wars do settle something”.

13. The Berlin-Hohenschönhausen Memorial is located in Berlin's north-eastern Lichtenberg on the site of the main political prison of the former East German Communist Ministry of State Security, the Stasi. Entry included a guided tour, which helped bring out the creepiness of the whole place. Excellent - an AAR Must See. Before going see the movie "Lives of Others", as it gives a good overview of the surveillance state that East Germany had become.

14. Haus Schwarzenberg Street Art Alley: a nice place to relax, people watch, while enjoying a beer and the ever-changing street art. When I think about Berlin, this is one of the first places that come to mind.

Brandenburg Gate

The Author, The Goddaughter & the Haus Schwarzenberg Street Art Alley

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