Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Berlin revealled

Berlin is a city with a long and complicated history.  Just the events that happened here in the 20th century are enough to fill a university history degree.  So with that in mind, we thought it would be a good idea to start our time in Berlin with a tour that would help fill us in on those facts and as usual, we thought our feet would be the best way to really get an appreciation, so we signed up for a half day walking tour.

We were lucky to have a much cooler day today which made walking about for hours quite comfortable in comparisson with the temperatures this last week.

Nearly all of the tour was in the old east Berlin.  Whenever looking at anything in Berlin you have to remember that 90% of the city was destroyed or damaged by the end of the war so nearly everything you see has been repaired or rebuilt.  On the east side, that only began in earnest after the wall came down, so everywhere you go there are cranes, scaffolding and building sites.

Our tour took us from Museum Island, down Unter den Linden, through the Brandenburg Gate, to the Holocaust memorial, past the site of Hitler's bunker, to a remaining section of the Berlin Wall and finished just past Checkpoint Charlie.

There are so many things that I could tell you about today, but two that resonated strongly with me were the Holocaust memorial and Hitler's bunker.

The holocaust memorial is just near the Bandenburg Gate and is specifically for Jewish victims.  Another recognising the homosexual victims is nearby in the Tiergarten and one to recognise the Roma Gypsies is under construction.  It is made up of blocks of concrete of varying height, laid out in rows.  As you enter it, the blocks are ankle high, but towards the middle they tower over your head.  They do this in the main by having the ground drop away so it is hard to appreciate the height until you are inside it.  The architect has left the meaning up to individuals to determine, some people feel it is like a cemetery, representative of graves, others see train wagons, the colour of ash, barracks or even the way National Socialism seemed harmless at first until all of a sudden it was over your head. Whatever the interpretation I found it a deeply moving experience to walk through.

Below it there is a museum, part of which reads the names and details of the known victims aloud.  This year will be the first time since the museum opened that the roll call restarts, it takes about 7.5 years to read.

Just a few blocks away is the site of Hitler's bunker.  It was where he directed the last part of the war and is where he committed suicide.  It is a car park.  The walls of the bunker are still there underground, they were too thick to destroy but it has been completely filled in with soil and rubble.  The only sign there was erected by a local tour company to stop over eager tourists annoying the local residents.

This very different attitude to two significant sites says a lot about the ways in which the German people have dealt with the after effects of the war.

Our tour wrapped up after 2pm, by which time I was very hungry.  We sought out some lunch, wandered a shopping strip (I bought a dress) then headed home by the now open supermarket to buy supplies for dinner.

It has been such an interesting day, my head feels so full of new facts.  Berlin is proving to be as fascinating as I expected but also a very navigable and enjoyable city to visit.

1 comment:

  1. Ach! I'm so keen to go to Berlin, still haven't gotten to Germany. Yes I imagine there would be loads of facts, great for a history buff. Loving your posts as a peek into the country :)
    Heidi xo