Ah how nice it is to sleep in a real bed! We are not taking back our satisfaction of our last night train, but there is something to be said about begin an actual bed…even if it is a squeaky, old bunk bed. We woke up ready to rock & roll with a bit more Berlin viewing. After a hostel breakfast (with actual Peanut Butter!!!! Yum Yum Yum!) & stowing our bags at reception we hit the town.
We didn’t talk much yesterday about Berlin as a modern city. It’s become a reall awesome place. First there’s the surreal feeling of being at a location filled with so much history. It’s got a lot of sights & experiences. But outside of the tourist realm it’s still a great place. There is more graffiti here than anywhere else we have been so far. It’s also a bit dirty & gritty…but that might be it’s best feature. It feels so real. It is the kind of place you want to go back to for more than a couple of days. It’s somewhere you’d want to experience like a local would, because it seems like a great place to live… 30 years ago, who would have thought someone would think that?
We knew the sights we wanted to see today from yesterday’s touring. We started at the Checkpoint Charlie Museum. This museum is located right beside the checkpoint and wall. It first opened as an exhibition in 1962, shortly after the wall was built. Today the museum contains numerous photos and displays showing the many ways people tried to escape East Germany. And boy were there some original ideas! Our favorite was a woman escaping on a train in 2 suitcases with the one side cut out so she could lay between them. The exhibit really succeeded in bringing this period to life and showing the desperation many had to escape to the West.
This photo goes with yesterday’s story of the tanks faced off at Checkpoint Charlie. The black & white photo is of the Soviet tanks rolling in…the other is us on the same spot…
Our path followed the path of the wall to the still-standing section. It’s slightly unimpressive. You look at it and think “Yeah it’s pretty high” and “that’s a lot of concrete & rebar” but it’s only because you can’t get the full effect. It didn’t need to be any higher, as the tubing across the top (ironically bought from West Berlin) prevented people from getting a handhold to boost themselves up. It wasn’t very thick because people rarely actually reached the wall. There would be a perimeter of no-mans land around it that no one would step foot in (hence the name) for fear of soldiers, explosives and automated guns. We walked along the free-standing piece and tried to picture what it would be like to see something like this appear overnight. It’s not an easy image to conjure!
Right beside the wall is the Topography of Terror. Yesterday we told you how this was where the Nazi Gestapo and SS headquarters were. The ground is covered in small rocks that are all that remains of these buildings. The site will forever be this way, as a way to remember the horrible ostrasities planned here…lest we forget & history repeats itself. There is one building on the site though. It houses a exhibit walking you through Nazi Germany.
When this site was completely brought to rubble in 1987 they discovered the cellar and prison cells where many political prisoners were tortured and executed. These sites were excavated and have now been included in the memorial. Inspired by them a timeline of photos and documents were gathered. These depict the rise of Hitler, the terror of his rein and the treatment of both the people of Germany & occupied nations. The photos inside the museum were both interesting and horrifying. To see the faces of so many who died, or of their bodies laying dead from gunshot wounds or hanging. And to see the faces of those who caused that pain, in one photo stoic…the face of war…but then happy & laughing with the other Gestapo in the next picture (as if they had not just taken countless lives).
We used our last few hours in Berlin to walk around a bit more. We made our way to the Alexanderpatz square and then back to the restaurant infested center just off of museum island. Here we found a great pizza lunch deal. Because of our train schedule tonight this was to be our big meal of the day. We ended up each getting a pizza and a Berliner Weisse beer and the meal was still below €20. This time Justine go the red shot in her beer, which makes it pretty much the same as the original but with a slightly different taste…and it’s red…but inherently the same… Her pizza was pepperoni, salami, mushrooms & peppers. Kristin had a seafood & cherry tomato pizza.
Say hi to Kristin’s new friend!
Tonight we head into central Germany. This post is going to leave off at about 6 pm because that’s what works best considering our travels. More stories tomorrow!
Love, Luck & Lots of Toast,