04.08.2011 - 04.08.2011 21 °C
Early start this morning as I joined a guided tour of Berlin to get a better idea of where everything is and soak up some more of the awesome history of Berlin. The tour started us in the old E Berlin in the Royal part of the city. For many hundreds of years Berlin was the ancestral home of the Prussian Kings (Kaisers) and Queens so therefore there are (and were) many beautiful old buildings. Most of these were totally wrecked during the bombing campaign of the war but have been lovingly restored over the past 60 years, so that Berlin still has its iconic buildings. One building that didn’t survive (although not because of the war) was the Royal palace of the Prussian Kaisers. This was actually ripped down by the GDR (E German govt) and replaced with this 60s retro brown building as their parliament building. Believe it or not the current German govt has started work to rebuild the old palace to serve as another museum (it will cost in excess of 750M Euros so it is hotly debated as to whether the money will be well spent!). All of the iconic museums of Berlin have been rebuilt and have been reopened to the public.
From Museum Isle (the old Prussian Kings’ complex and now the home to most of the famous museums) we walked down Unter den Linden (old Royal way linking the Royal palace to the Brandenburg Gate) passing the Humboldt University—Einstein, Karl Marx and many other famous German’s all studied and taught at this prestigious university. In front of the Humboldt is also were the infamous “book burning” event occurred during the Nazi regime (it doesn’t look like the scene from Indiana Jones so I can safely say that the movie scene must have been shot elsewhere!).
The tour also took us passed Checkpoint Charlie and part of the still standing Berlin Wall. There are two main parts of the wall that are still standing, the one I saw today (part of the Topography of Terror museum—museum dedicated to the terror inflicted by the SS) and the East Side Gallery. The part I saw today is now also a part of the SS Terror museum. This particular block on Wilhelmstrasse was the main SS police station where hundreds (if not thousands) of people were held against their wills and tortured by the SS.
We then continued to walk down Wilhelmstrasse past the only remaining Nazi building that is still standing (was the “new” Reich) that was built by the Nazis as their govt headquarters and on past the bunker where Hitler spent his last days. The bunker is now a car park and it is quite eerie to know that below you there were hundreds of rooms and corridors where the Nazi’s spent their last days. There is almost nothing marking this particular car park as the location of the bunker... apparently this is deliberate as they don’t want to create a place where Neo-Nazi’s can congregate to lament about the days of the Nazi party.. however it is bizarre to have hundreds of people standing in an over grown with weeds, car park looking at the ground for apparently no reason……….
From the last space of the third Reich we walked to the Jewish Holocaust Memorial of Berlin. It is an interesting space. The architect was ordered to build a memorial... his response was to fill up a city block with odd grey rectangular pillars... In my opinion it is a fine work of modern art (and I really quite enjoyed walking in it and definitely I admire the way he built it) and I guess if it makes people think about the holocaust……….. (it sort of wasn’t what I was expecting though…….)
Finally from the Jewish memorial it was a short stroll to the Brandenburg Gate and the end of our 5hr tour... I had pretty sore feet by the end but gee really well worth my 12 E!