Tuesday, January 18, 2011


Euro Tour 2010/2011 – Day 9 – Berlin

Sunday December 26th 2010 – Boxing Day, not that anything is open..
Brandenburg Gate

I had a fairly intense itinerary planned out for myself for each city, especially Berlin. However, after going through all the pamphlets in each hostel, I usually end up with a slightly different day than I planned. The main reason being is I go on tours. It really is the best way to go. Instead of wandering around the city all day, finding touristy hot spots, snapping my photo and moving on, you get to meet a bunch of fellow travellers, make friends and of course the main attraction, you get a guide.

Holocaust Memorial
I had a pompom toque on..

I went on the Sandeman’s New Europe Free tour for Berlin. The same company as in Amsterdam and in Hamburg. They have really good knowledgeable guides who are more than just “a guide”. They add a certain spice to the tours. A touch of humour there, some interest in who you are and where you are from there. They are really nice people, plus to be working a Free Tour, they must be loving what they do, so yeah, they’re really in to it.

open interpretation 

2700 of them

incredible, isnt it.
Killing some time in Starbucks where we were to meet, I met two peace corps workers that were working in Romania. Very friendly folk, polite too. And also interesting… As well, I met a lovely Aussie girl. Already having assembled a mini group, I knew this was going to be a good tour.

for my 2 cents
nazi architecture
Right outside was the Brandenburg Gate. Way back when, this used to be the main gate to the city. If you were somebody (royalty, dignitaries) you would enter the city by these gates, probably with a whole procession of horses, men, men on horses, you get the picture. These days this square (Pariserplatz) is home to the U.S. and French embassies.

In his time, Napoleon came and conquered Berlin. With it, he took the statue from atop of the Brandenburg Gate, then name Eirene (Goddess of Peace), back to France. After the fall of Napoleon, the statue was returned and renamed Victory (Goddess of Victory). The ‘joke’ is that now Victory just so happens to be overlooking Pariserplatz, right down where the French Embassy just so happens to be…

Luftwaffe to the Tax Man
Some trivia on Berlin: the city was built on a swamp. Yes, lovely. Sometimes you can smell it, mainly in the hot summer. So lovely. When they first built the city, us the people, being oh so creative and bright (especially ‘back then’), named the city The Swamp. Yes, Berlin means The Swamp. That is definitely something you would not learn walking around by yourself

some remains.

The Holocaust Memorial (also known as the Memorial to the Murdered Jews of Europe) is not much to look at from the outside; just a field of some 2700 stone slabs, all the same shape, perhaps resembling a coffin. I entered it, I got an odd feeling. Perhaps it was because it was like a maze, or the fact that I could not see or hear much of the other people around me, who had also disappeared inside. The farther I went, the higher the slabs towered over me. The interpretation of the memorial is left open, each to their own. Perhaps you sense confusion as where you are going to end up is no longer clear, or you never know when you will see someone next. Possible emotions felt by those through out the Holocaust?
East Berlin side?

Our next stop was no where overly special. It was just a small green space by some apartments. Under our feet was the where Hitler’s war bunker once was. It was where he married his fiancée and then where they committed suicide the next day. The bunker was destroyed when they built the foundations for the apartments. Apparently dynamite did not work to blow up the bunker. That really is not surprising. There was some debate whether or not the location should be noted with a sign or not. The spot no longer holds any significance to most people other than being a toilet for their dog.

not The Wall,
just A wall

We walked by the only remaining example of Nazi Architecture. It was really intimidating: tall, square, gated and dark concrete. It screamed strength and power. The small windowed building once housed the main command station for the Luftwaffe (Nazi air force) and ironically survived through all of the air raids. It now houses the head of the Berlin tax agency. Slightly humorous?

American Soldier

There is a mural on this building of how the Nazis depicted Germany: everyone working hard and together for success and a prosperous life, when in fact we all know that was not reality. Just my two cents so you are not thrown off by the random photo.

The English Church

On the same corner, we find part of the Berlin Wall. I still can not decide if I was disappointed by it or not. I know exactly what to expect; about a 10 foot concrete wall with a round pipe along the top so you could not crawl over. Again, not having any connection to the Wall probably has to do with the slight impression it had on me. What I found most interesting about the Wall was how one side of the wall had a definite more artistic, colourful and larger amount of varying displays of paintings (some would say graffiti). Would this have something to do with West Berlin to East Berlin freedoms? I am not sure. I guess that would depend on how close the West Berliners could get to the wall, which I do not know.

I only took photos of the English church..

A block away we get to the most famous of the three wall crossings; Checkpoint Charlie. This is where the most people were able to sneak from East Berlin to West Berlin. Escape method were varied and creative ranging from hiding in cars, using another person’s passport, tunnelling under the wall and even an attempt wit ha homemade hot air balloon (not all of these attempted occurred at Checkpoint Charlie, I’m just saying).
Oh look, a photo of the
German church,
and it looks exactly the same!

On one side of the street there was the HQ for the East Berlin’s communist influence: the U.S.S.R. Kiddy corner to it is the office of the democratic U.S.A., influencing West Berlin. Here the two parties could literally watch over the other. To represent this, there is a large sign with an American soldier looking over to the east and respectively on the backside there is a Russian solider.
After our lunch break, we saw the German and English churches, which were exactly the same.

kinda wish it wasnt covered in snow..

All through out the tour all of my history classes (mainly Gr.11 History) came flooding back to me. At each stop I remembered the even or significance of the location. One in particular was Bebelplatz: the square where one of the first of the Nazi’s book burnings occurred. Right infront of the Humboldt University thousands of books that we “ungerman” went up in flames.

Mother Caressing her Child
 To finish the tour we turned onto Unter den Linden (a main road) and saw Neue Wache which is now an open air memorial with a statue of a mother caressing her child. Across the river on the Museum Isle was the Berliner Dom and the Old Museum.
Although the Dom looks like it was built in the Baroque period, it was actually built in the 20th century. Berlin, a major city, lacked a big old cathedral, so they built one that looked old. Way to go Berlin; faking having old stuff.

Neue Wache
After returning to my hostel and taking a quick nap (those tours really do tire you out! It’s like a three hour history class, but more like an Outdoor School history class because as you can see, I actually remember the better part of it, haha) I went out for supper with my friends from Chicago that I met in Amsterdam. I have no idea what I ate (some mix of a rich yellow cause, chicken, pineapple and raisins) but it was awfully delicious! Yum! Then we hit the town. There is a surprising amount of Berlin available to be hit on a Sunday night.
kill 2 birds with 1 stone
Berliner Dom AND
the TV Tower
stupid trees.. oh well

Old Museum

still the English Church
woman with a red hat was one
of the peace keepers


  1. Mmmm so jealous, that would be so interesting!
    I wish I would have done more tours like that while I was in Germany.. but I guess I had families to show me around and stuff. Needless to say though, we definitely did NOT go in depth on the historical aspect.

  2. Great entry. A little behind on your Bank entries, but I'm catching up. Giving me the tour with out having to be there - although that would be nice, too.

  3. Thank you
    Next time you'll just have to come along!