This is our first visit to Berlin so we took off on our own designed familiarisation tour around its streets. The city is huge and spread out so much that we decided to take a special taxi to see it at a pace that enabled us to take it in and be comfortable at the same time.
As a first timer here, it is hard to escape the historical events and the landmarks whether it be the Holocaust or the communist era that divided Germany. Our guide Stephan gave us a running commentary about the history and of the buildings.
The city has no specific heart so it takes some time to get a sense of place. We know already that five days will not do it justice.
Our transport mode was a bicycle that is fitted with a motor but operator Stephan still had to peddle somewhat to keep it going – it is just not as strenuous an effort. Thought I would tell you about the motor just in case you thought we were not very PC using a human to rickshaw us around.
Many important buildings have actually been relocated brick by brick or stone block by block and some monuments have been given new homes. Everywhere you walk there are road works or cranes in the sky, so in general the city is getting a massive makeover.
Recently opened and reconstructed, the Pergamon Museum where the famous bust of Nefertiti is a major draw-card.
The area is called Museumsinsel – Museum Island and is listed as a world heritage site by UNESCO.
We learned that around 3 million people live here, there is quite a lot of unemployment and overall the residents are not as prosperous as other cities in Germany.
Berlin is very large and walking around in five days is not enough time to get my bearings, I would need at least six months to acquire a sense of the place.
The Brandenburg Gate is a hive of activity most days. It was quiet on our visit but anyone who is anyone visiting Berlin is brought here for a photo shoot.
This building is behind the Berlin TV tower which is a modern landmark of Berlin in an area known as Alexanderplatz. No we did not take the lift to the top. Remember I hate queues.
There is an area known as Museum Island and on a map the layout resembles the Ile Saint Louis in Paris. Several museums are in this area so at least that area looks like more organised town planning than the rest of Berlin. This website has the plan of the island.
We visited the Humboldt University and right opposite is the Operanplatz (Opera Square) where the burning of 25,000 volumes of ‘un-German’ books took place, here they were taken directly across the square from the library and burned on May 10 in 1933. On the ground is a glass panel that you look through to see a memorial to the event.
So we go from the serious to something ridiculous.
And back to something serious again.
Checkpoint Charlie here, well we did not plan to go but we came across it accidentally.
5,000 people managed to escape across the Berlin Wall between 1961 and 1989 and many died trying.