Monday, November 14, 2011

Eurotrip 2011, Day 4: Tales of Nazi & Communist Berlin

I can't lie, after a night out on the town it was rough getting out of bed on our fourth day in Europe. But we did it, because we'd paid the 9 Euro for the Berlin Walking Tour offered by Contiki. And to be honest it really was worth it - though the tour was long and tiring, our guide was really great and we definitely learned a lot. I just think they should have offered this tour on a morning other than the morning after the Eye Spy tour ;)

First things first, we crossed the River Spree and wandered up Karl-Liebknecht-Strasse to the Neue Wache War Memorial.
The River Spree
Steve hates the Humboldt Box. No, he REALLY hates it.
Neue Wache
The Neue Wache is one thing I would have walked past and not thought about had I not gone on this tour. It was mentioned in my Berlin guidebook, but our guide did such an amazing job explaining the statue and the memorial that I have to say that it's one thing you shouldn't miss if you ever end up in Berlin. Basically, the statue - Mother with her Dead Son - is a tribute to all those who have died during wartime. It's a sadly beautiful statue and the fact that it sits directly under the oculus of Neue Wache - and is therefore exposed to all of the elements - really wrenches at the heartstrings. Yes, I'm being serious.

We continued up Unter Den Linden to the book burning memorial - a basement room full of empty shelves that you look down into from street level - and past the statue of Frederick the Great - all the way up to the Brandenburg Tor. (Told you it was a lot of walking.)
Book Burning Memorial
Frederick the Great statue on Unter Den Linden
Hey, that's me at the Brandenburg Gate!
Knowing that this beautiful gate has withstood the test of time - and war, and Soviet occupation - is truly amazing. I totally understand why everyone says it's probably the #1 thing you should see on a trip to Berlin!

Next up - the Memorial to the Murdered Jews of Europe. I really liked this memorial - it was very sobering, probably because no one really understands it. But that's kind of what I liked about it - it's open to your own interpretation. It takes up a lot of space but to be honest, would it ever really be enough?
Memorial to the Murdered Jews of Europe
After a short break, our guide next brought us to where Hitler's bunker used to be. Of course it's not there anymore - well, maybe it sort of is buried there underground, considering they tried to implode it or something and that apparently didn't work the way they wanted - but it was still neat to stand right above where he hid and hear the story of his demise.
That's our guide, and we're standing just about [above] where Hitler's bunker was
Next stop: a remaining section of the Berlin Wall, and Checkpoint Charlie!

Unfortunately, our tour did end at Checkpoint Charlie and on top of that we were stuck in a rainstorm for the last 20 minutes of it. Once we split off from the group we were starving and our feet hurt, so we sat down to a sadly forgettable lunch at a little Italian place right near the Checkpoint. We followed lunch by a stop at the [FREE!] Topography of Terror Museum. This museum is located just around the corner from Checkpoint Charlie (next to that aforementioned still-standing part of the Berlin Wall) and it's worth a peek if you (a) have the extra time and (b) are in the area. It's really just a lot of storyboards telling about Nazi and Communist Germany, but hey, it's free!
Topography of Terror Museum
Bulletproof trial box from Eichmann's trial
That was the end of our last morning in Berlin, but we had big plans for the afternoon and for our last dinner in this vast, amazing city...so stay tuned for the next installment!

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