As briefly mentioned in my previous post my best friend and fellow traveller Emma and I took a six hour walking tour around Berlin to quickly get to all of the sights in the city within the limited amount of time we were staying in Germany. The walking tour that we decided included history spanning from World War I all the way through modern day Berlin, which not only enhanced the tour but also the manner in which the history was taught because we got to physically stand in the locations in which major events occurred. Our tour began at 10:30 in the morning, which was perfect for us because we were able to sleep in a bit while leaving enough time to arrive on time and enjoy a full day in the city. After picking up a small group of people from a nearby hostel, we walked to the first destination located at a beautiful synagogue that had been saved from being destroyed from attacks during WWII by a police officer and the fire brigade. This made visiting this particular location that much more powerful because a lot of the buildings in Berlin were completely demolished or visibly damaged during the war, so the fact that this synagogue still stands is absolutely incredible. Here is a photo of the exterior of the Neue Synagogue.
After visiting the Jewish quarter we walked towards the Tränenpalast also known as the palace of tears where families and friends said their last goodbyes to one another before leaving East Berlin to enter West Berlin during the period of time that the Berlin wall stood. This historical border crossing has now since been converted in to a museum where visitors to the city can learn more about the history and prominence that this building held during the 1960’s until the 1980’s. If you are in Berlin for a short period of time, this museum is a great place to stop in and view some of the artifacts donated by people who experienced crossing the border at this station during this time period.As you can see at the top of the doors you can see the word “exit” and “border” written in Russian, German, and French.
Next stop, the famous Brandenburg Gate which I’m sure you recognized from the first picture on this post. Here it is again! As you can see the weather was being very indecisive during our visit to Berlin.
I must say these types of gates with the topper of horse drawn carriages were very popular throughout the different parts of Europe that Emma and I visited, after a while they all start to mesh together. I suppose it was a trend of the time. Following the Brandenburg Gate, the tour guided us back through Tiergarten park on the way to the Jewish memorial to view a few other memorials that reside along the park paths. Here is a view of the Memorial to the Murdered Jews of Europe from farther into the blocks of the memorial.
This memorial is particularly interesting because there is no label or explanation for what the memorial is or the meaning behind it that the artist intended, so it leaves it up to the viewer to interpret what the memorial represents. I thought about sharing my thoughts behind the designer’s intention for this memorial, but I think it is important for people who haven’t visited this site yet to go in without preconceived ideas about it’s meaning. What I will say is that if you find yourself in Berlin and pay this memorial a visit, I think it is important to get multiple perspectives by walking deeper into the memorial because as you can see not everything is as it seems. Sometimes you have to look a little bit closer to understand the bigger picture. As you walk further into the memorial, the cement blocks get taller and you begin to notice that the ground they are built on is very uneven. It almost begins to feel like a maze that you are trapped in with little knowledge of what direction to move in to find the exit. With all of the history that Berlin has to offer this memorial is a must see. Next we made our way towards checkpoint charlie, or what remains of the old American checkpoint, to take a short coffee break. Now it’s become more of a tourist attraction than anything with people pretending to be American soldiers at their respective posts. Following our little break at a local cafe, we walked towards a remaing portion of the Berlin wall, which was only a very small portion of the wall that once stood.Continuing our walking tour, we stopped at the location of the book burnings that occurred during WWII in Berlin, which is remembered through a haunting room in the library that is missing one crucial element, the books. The lack of books gracing the library shelves serves as a memorial to remember this period of time and the destruction and lack of freedom that it brought. It is difficult to see through the dirt and reflection from the rain, but if you look closely you can see some of the empty book shelves.
Towards the end of the tour, we walked past a sculpture of a woman holding a child, which from first glance startled Emma and me because we had actually walked past this sculpture the night before when the gates to the monument were locked so it was difficult to tell what it was. When we visited this monument on the tour, Espin our tour guide, explained that this sculpture is integrated into the design of the building because the hole at the top of the roof allows for changes in the weather to affect the monument. So when it’s raining outside, the sculpture has the appearance of the woman crying.This very informative Berlin walking tour ended at the grandiose Berlin cathedral where our tour guide tied everything together and gave us a bit of insight about modern day Berlin.This photograph almost looks fake, but I promise you this is exactly what the cathedral looked like on the day we visited. The architecture is just beautiful!
I would highly recommend taking the time to check out any of the walking tours or even the bike tours offered in this city because not only do you get to see a lot of the places that you would probably seek out anyway, but you walk away with more history about the city you are visiting! There was quite a few other places that we visited around Berlin on this tour and it honestly didn’t feel like we had even been walking around for that long. If you ever find yourself in Berlin definitely check out the Brewer’s Berlin tour! Following the walking tour, Emma and I made our way over to the Jewish museum. I only took a couple of photographs because I wanted to take in the experience without looking through a viewfinder the whole time, but the design of this museum not only presents honest truths of families affected by the holocaust, but also symbolically represents their experiences through the layout. Part of the museum exterior.Here is an artist’s exhibition in the museum. From a distance it is difficult to figure out what the individual pieces are, until it is revealed at a closer glance.
This museum was really interesting and incredibly moving and I think that it’s an important place to visit in this particular city. Emma and I both really enjoyed our time in Berlin immersing ourselves in it’s history, and I hope to visit again sometime. Our next stop was the magical city of Prague where we met quite a few fellow travelers and were able to explore the Easter markets the city had to offer. I will be blogging about our adventures in Prague this week, so stayed tuned for updates!