Germany is a place I have been curious about for a long time, so much of the worlds recent history seems to revolve around this one place. Before the trip a big part of this, for me, would have been the two world wars, which took up a large part of the twentieth century. After having visited though, I think it is also very important to include the Cold War. The Cold War was an important part of German history, having left physical marks that still can be observed across the city today.
The Cold War
The Berlin Wall divided Berlin from 1961-1989. The east sector was Soviet and Communist, people could not leave this part of the city without very special permission, at times they could not enter either. The west of Berlin was split in to the French sector, the British sector and the American sector. Most of the pictures are from checkpoint Charlie, in the American sector, and one of the few ways in or out of East Berlin. One of the fascinating aspects of this wall being put in place is that it was done almost over night. At first it was mostly an empty field with barbed wire on either side and was built up later, however as soon as it was installed nobody was allowed to cross. Some people that had only been over for the day or had just crossed the street to party at night were now caught. Eventually, the walls were built up and guard towers were constructed to be able to watch the zone where nobody could go.
One of the stories we were told about the wall was that there were always two guards stationed at any position along the wall. This was to keep them on task… and from running away. Some guards did get away however as they would either make a pact or as one saw the other start the run, instead of shooting he would take his chance to run to freedom as well. Today, the wall is completely different. Covered in paint, it now takes on the meaning the artists desires.
Popes Revenge (TV Tower)
A well known fact about communist Germany is that they were anti religious. They had this tower built in 1969 (during the cold war) and it should have been the pride of East Berlin. As you can see in the picture however, at a certain point during the day the tower reflects the sun as a perfect cross. The cross is named the Popes Revenge as it was very upsetting to the East Berliners that this cross showed up but even worse, it could be seen from West Berlin.
The Prussian Victory Column
The victory column was built to commemorate the Prussian victory over Denmark in the Danish-Prussian war in 1864. By the time it was completed in 1873 Prussia had also defeated Austria in the Austro-Prussian War of 1866 and France in the Franco-Prussian War of 1870/1. The column is 69m tall topped with an 8.3m gilded figure sometimes referred to as ‘Golden Lizzy’. It is also referred to as ‘Chick on the Stick’ can you guess what country the soldiers who named her that came from? One of the major battles of the end of World War 2 was fought here, and all around this intersection it is possible to see bullet holes in the surrounding walls.
The German parliament buildings have a big glass dome over them, this was added in 1993 to symbolize the new openness of the German Bundestag (parliament). Any meeting is now open to the public and even televised.
The Brandenburg Tor
The Brandenburg Gate has been in Germany since 1778 and has a very important place in German history, the statue on top has traveled. The Prussians built the “Quadriga” along with the gate in 1778. In 1806 Napoleon stole the statue and took it to France. Paris was then captured by Prussian warriors and the statue was taken back to Berlin. This is when the Iron cross was added to the statue. The cross however was removed during the communist era but then permanently reinstalled in 1990.
Museum Island is a collection of five museums in Berlin.
World War 2
World Wars 1 and 2 also had a very big impact on this city. There is one memorial in particular that leaves a big impact from this time.
This Holocaust memorial is a very visible yet very open reminder of what happened here in Germany. The memorial is located near the Brandenburg gate and many other attractions of the city. This chilling reminder can be seen in many different perspectives.
Currywurst is one of the German foods we had a chance to try during our time in Berlin. Sausage is a staple of German food and this one is spiced with a curry flavoured homemade ketchup. We also had mulled wine which is very popular and as we found out can be very nice on a cold day. We just couldn’t leave without getting ourselves a chocolate and sugar covered pretzel.
While we were walking around we stopped by a christmas market with a snow slide where people were doing some tubbing. Of course there was also a lot of food, and a ferris wheel.
The Berlin bear, one of Berlins mascots.