Berlin is… (Day 1)
…the bee’s knees, the ant’s pants and the cat’s pyjamas! It was non-stop from the get-go but here are Day 1 highlights.
Where do I start? It’s been more than 30 years since I was last in Berlin and it’s like a different city - a city reborn and rebuilt. Of course, the Wall had not long come down when I first arrived so I shouldn’t be surprised by the change.
I didn’t end up arriving until much later than expected as my train from Köln (Cologne) to Berlin broke down… but we (hundreds of us) made it to Berlin so I can’t complain (though my faith in German engineering has been shaken!). And I lucked out again with a lovely hotel (not very hotel like really) in the recently gentrified area of Prenzlauer-Berg (place to be seen, eat and live), only two tram stops from Alexanderplatz.
Berlin is almost flat - it was built on a swamp - so perfect for walking, which is how I saw much of the city on my first day. Day 1 was all about re-orienting myself, knocking off a few of the ‘must sees’ and working out where I wanted to spend my time in the days to follow.
I soon realised that doing everything I had planned, and everything I then wanted to do but hadn’t planned, was ambitious. I’ll cover off the Day 1 highlights only in this post:
The Brandenburg Gate - Napoleon knicked the Quadriga (the statue that sits on top of the gate) in 1806 after he defeated the Prussians, but it was returned after his loss at Waterloo.
Holocaust Memorial - a relatively recent outdoor art installation, it takes up an entire city block (albeit it a small one relative to other city blocks) and consists of cement slabs of different heights (see the gallery for an shot of one slab with a rose on it).
Checkpoint Charlie - a reconstruction (and not a faithful one by all accounts) but a selfie-op for lots of tourist (particularly the Americans).
Former SS & Gestapo HQ - added the Topography of Terrors to my ‘must visit’ list of museums (will cover in a later post).
The Royal Boulevard (Unter den Linden) - with the Berlin State Opera House (also in a later post).
The Red Town Hall - it’s red!
Book Burning Memorial - in a platz on Unter den Linden between the Berlin State Opera House and Humboldt University - is a glass section of the paving that allows you a view of the underground memorial (empty white bookcases). The memorial is the site of the burning of the books by the Nazis in Berlin (and elsewhere) on 10 May, 1933 - many of which were tossed out of the university‘s windows (Law Faculty now but was then the Library).
Hitler’s Bunker - now a car park. It was here he committed suicide (the day after he married Eva Braun).
Museum Island - conveniently locating three of the museums on my hit list (for a later post). Berlin Catherdral (and Dome) is also on Museum Island.
Tiergarten - a lovely, large park area.
Victory Column - saw it from a distance… it’s a column.
TV Tower - the German’s are ‘uber’ practical when it comes to naming things… the Red Town Hall is red, the Green Clock is green, the TV Tower (before cable) was a TV Tower, Museum Island is where… well, you get it (handy for the uninitiated though).
The Reichstag was booked out so didn’t bother with a visit.
A tid-bit… nostalgia in German is ‘nostalgie’ - they’ve played with this and have coined the term ‘ostalgie’ (Ost being east). One of the things from the East being adopted by the West is the Amplemann - the green ‘walk’ and red ‘don’t walk’ simples. Amplemann has taken to capitalism like a duck to water and you can now buy all sorts of (expensive) Amplemann merchandise. As they fix or change lights as crossings in what was West Berlin, they are replacing the old signals with the new (or perhaps the older) Amplemann.