Back to the great city
We arrived in Berlin at 3.30pm on Friday 5 September and will stay till Wednesday 10 September when we fly to Vienna. We have travelled 4 352km by coach and a further 400km by ferry from Stockholm to Helsinki. Today was a day of 550km travelling west across the plains of central Poland and over the border into Germany, arriving later in the exciting city of Berlin! Our hotel is in what was once East Berlin.
Berlin is the capital city of Germany and one of the 16 states of Germany. With a population of 3.5 million people, Berlin is Germany's largest city. It is the second most populous city proper and the seventh most populous urban area in the European Union. Located in northeastern Germany on the River Spree, it is the center of the Berlin-Brandenburg Metropolitan Region, which has about 4.5 million residents from over 180 nations. Due to its location in the European Plain, Berlin is influenced by a temperate seasonal climate. Around one third of the city's area is composed of forests, parks, gardens, rivers and lakes.
Berlin's history has left the city with a highly eclectic array of architecture and buildings. The city's appearance today is predominantly shaped by the key role it played in Germany's history in the 20th century. Each of the national governments based in Berlin—the Kingdom of Prussia, the 1871 German Empire, the Weimar Republic, Nazi Germany, East Germany, and now the reunified Germany—initiated ambitious (re-) construction programs, with each adding its own distinctive style to the city's architecture.
On Saturday, 6 September, we had a city tour followed by a tour around Berlin's recent dark past.
Our first stop was at the Reichstag, the people's Parliament built in 1874 and partly destroyed by fire in 1933. The building was very badly damaged during WW2 and has now been restored and had a large glass dome added. This part of the building was designed by British Atchitect Lord Norman Foster.
Of those that were not totally, destroyed many have been rebuilt.
The Berlin Museum
The Berlin Cathedral or Dom
Fresco above the main door of the Cathedral Dom
Panel showing Martin Luther on the Berlin Dom.
The Brandenburg Gate
Winged Chariot above the Brandenburg Gate
Photo showing what the area looked like at the Brandenburg Gate at the end of WW2.
Official residence of the President of Germany - The Bellevue Palace.
Berlin was devastated by bombing raids during World War II, and many of the buildings that had remained after the war were demolished in the 1950s and 1960s in both West and East Berlin. Much of this demolition was initiated by municipal architecture programs to build new residential or business quarters and main roads.
The pictures below show some of the remnants of the Berlin Wall. The Berlin Wall (German: Berliner Mauer) was a barrier constructed by the German Democratic Republic (GDR, East Germany) starting on 13 August 1961, that completely cut off (by land) West Berlin from surrounding East Germany and from East Berlin. The barrier included guard towers placed along large concrete walls, which circumscribed a wide area (later known as the "death strip") that contained anti-vehicle trenches, "fakir beds" and other defences. The Eastern Bloc claimed that the wall was erected to protect its population from fascist elements conspiring to prevent the "will of the people" in building a socialist state in East Germany. In practice, the Wall served to prevent the massive emigration and defection that marked East Germany and the communist Eastern Bloc during the post-World War II period.
One remaining checkpoint is Checkpoint Charlie shown below.
Where the wall used to be is shown by these courses of cobblestones along the streets of Berlin.
This vehicle is a Trabant, now affectionately known as a Trabi. These cars were made of a lot of plastic, run on petrol and oil and are quite smelly but are still around in numbers as vehicles for hire. The cars were made in East Berlin where people had to pay in advance and wait anywhere from 7 to 13 years to take delivery.
We visited the site of Hitler's Chancellery and the Bunker. The Bunker is not open to the public and is marked by this display above where it is.
The only remaining parts of the Chancellery are these three window frames.
Adjacent to the Chancellery is the Holocaust Memorial to the 6 million Jews who perished during those terrible years.
The Holocaust Memorial.
This is the new Chancellery where Chancellor Angela Merkel has her office.
There was a German resistance to Hitler. There were 40 attempts to assassinate Hitler. On 20 July Graf Von Staffenberg, a Colonel in the Home Army, left a briefcase bomb in The Wolf's Lair which killed some of Hitler's officers but failed to kill him. In retaliation, five leaders including Von Staffenberg were shot in the courtyard of the below Guard Building where this memorial marks the spot. Around 3 000 others were implicated in the plot and most died through hanging.
On Sunday night we had a very enjoyable farewell dinner for our tour group. The music and atmosphere was lively, the food was very good and the drinks were on demand. My stein kept being replaced with a fresh 500ml of good chemical free German beer.
So, the next day was a rest day for us. We caught the tram to Alexanderplatz and enjoyed some currywurst and some shopping. The Galleria shopping centre didn't open till 1.00pm. The Gourmet section of the Galleria has an amazing range of fine gourmet foods. Here are a few pictures.
On Monday 7 September, we had a journey back into the history of Berlin. We took an English speaking walking tour and rode the regional train out to Oranienburg Station and then walked approximately 5km to Saschenhausen Concentration Camp.
Sachsenhausen ( Saxon's Houses or Sachsenhausen-Oranienburg) was a Nazi concentration camp in Oranienburg, Germany, used primarily for political prisoners from 1936 to the end of the Third Reich in May 1945. After World War II, when Oranienburg was in the Soviet Occupation Zone, the structure was used as an NKVD special camp until 1950. The remaining buildings and grounds are now open to the public as a museum.
The camp is about 35 km out of Berlin.
The camp was established in 1936. It was located 35 kilometres north of Berlin, which gave it a primary position among the German concentration camps: the administrative centre of all concentration camps was located in Oranienburg, and Sachsenhausen became a training centre for Schutzstaffel (SS) officers (who would often be sent to oversee other camps afterwards). Executions took place at Sachsenhausen, especially of Soviet prisoners of war. Among the prisoners, there was a "hierarchy": at the top, criminals (rapists, murderers), then Communists (red triangles), then homosexuals (pink triangles), Jehovah's Witnesses (purple triangles), and Jews (yellow triangles). During the earlier stages of the camp's existence the executions were done in a trench, either by shooting or by hanging. A large task force of prisoners was used from the camp to work in nearby brickworks to meet Albert Speer's vision of rebuilding Berlin. Sachsenhausen was originally not intended as an extermination camp—instead, the systematic murder was conducted in camps to the east. In 1942 large numbers of Jewish inmates were relocated to Auschwitz. However the construction of a gas chamber and ovens by camp-commandant Anton Kaindl in March 1943 facilitated the means to kill larger numbers of prisoners.
It reminded us of man's inhumanity to man and therefore we should never forget this. A former inmate said this much better.
This is where we met our walking tour guide at Central Station.
This is the regional train week took to Oranienburg. There is an excellent S ring train and R regional train network.
We arrived at Oranienburg Station where 13 000 Soviet prisoners of war arrived by train. 10 000 were shot with a neck shot structure in the following 10 weeks.
The site of the neck shot structure where Soviet soldiers were shot.
SS Troops casino.
Street outside the Saschenhausen Concentration camp with original houses used to house guards.
Memorial to the Death March in February 1945. Red Cross buses were allowed or come and rescue Scandinavian prisoners and helped save 6 000 others from starvation.
Like Auschwitz, Saschenhausen had the "Work Sets You Free" logo on the main gate.
Tomorrow, Tuesday 8 September promises to be a more culturally positive day with the visit to the most visited Museum in Germany, The Pergamon.
Just an aside, the German language is pretty easy to interpret. See below
Tuesday 9 September is our last full day in Berlin we made the most of it and visited The Pergamon Museum. The Pergamon Museum is situated on the Museum Island in Berlin. The site was designed by Alfred Messel and Ludwig Hoffmann and was constructed in twenty years, from 1910 to 1930. The Pergamon houses original-sized, reconstructed monumental buildings such as the Pergamon Altar and the Market Gate of Miletus, all consisting of parts transported from Turkey.
The museum is subdivided into the antiquity collection, the Middle East museum, and the museum of Islamic art. The museum is visited by approximately 1.8 million people every year, making it the most visited art museum in Germany. We had to queue for an hour and a half to get in.
Amalzon on horseback near entrance to The Pergamon.
Below are some pictures of the Ishtar Gate.
The Ishtar Gate was the eighth gate to the inner city of Babylon. It was constructed in about 575 BC by order of King Nebuchadnezzar II on the north side of the city. It was excavated in the early 20th century and a reconstruction using original bricks is now shown in the Pergamon Museum, Berlin.
Part of the Processional Way from Babylon.
The Market Gate of Miletus (German: das Markttor von Milet) is a large marble monument in the Pergamon Museum in Berlin, Germany. It was built in Miletus in the 2nd century AD and destroyed in an earthquake in the 10th or 11th century. In the early 1900s, it was excavated, rebuilt, and placed on display in the museum. Only fragments had survived and reconstruction involved significant new material, a practice which generated criticism of the museum. The gate was damaged in World War II and underwent restoration in the 1950s. Further restoration work took place in the first decade of the 21st century.
Floor mosaic from the dining room floor of a Roman House.
The Pergamon Altar is a monumental construction built during the reign of King Eumenes II in the first half of the 2nd century BC on one of the terraces of the acropolis of the ancient city of Pergamon in Asia Minor.
The upper floor has a wonderful Islamic Art section.
Prayer niche from 1226.
800 year old carpet.
The Mshatta Facade is the decorated part of the facade of the 8th century Umayyad residential palace of Qasr Mshatta, one of the Desert Castles in Jordan, which is currently installed in the south wing of the Pergamon Museum in Berlin, Germany. It is part of the permanent exhibition of the Pergamon Museum of Islamic Art dedicated to Islamic art from the 8th to the 19th centuries.
After three hours in the Pergamon, we walked around the Berlin Mitte and most of the way down the Unter Den Linden, the Main Street of Berlin. There is an incredible amount of construction going on.
Tomorrow, we have an early start taking the S train to Tegel Airport to fly to Vienna.