A Visit to Berlin, Germany

Berlin, Germany – a city full of rich history and vibrant German culture. I visited Berlin in July of 2019 with my friend Adrianna. It was definitely one of our favourite stops! There are so many places to visit and you could easily spend a week here. Below I have highlighted some of my favourite stops in Berlin.

“World’s People, we are one of the people” by Shamil Gimajev

1. Berliner Dom

One of the prettiest sights to see in the city – the Berliner Dom is a grand Protestant cathedral. It was built in the 15th century and designed by Julius Raschdorff with baroque style and high renaissance influences. Adrianna and I were able to enter the Berliner Dom and get some amazing photos of the cathedral’s ceiling and a great view from the balcony. Also, don’t forget to visit the Hohenzollern Crypt below the Berliner Dom. I found it really interesting, although I think Adrianna found it quite creepy.

2. Museum Island

If you are a museum or history geek you will definitely love this area of Berlin. Spree Island encompasses five large museums built by Prussian rulers and one modern building – the James Simon Gallery. Museum Island was designated as a UNESCO World Heritage site in 1999. If I had more time in Berlin, I would have visited each museum. Adrianna and I decided to visit the Neues museum on the island. Actually, I will admit this was more of my choice, as I have a nerdy obsession with Egyptian artifacts and this museum happened to have the one and only famous bust of Nefertiti. After scanning through the Neues’ museum’s grand exhibits, we eventually arrived at the bust of Nefertiti. I was completely amazed when I saw it – the artifact looks just like all the photos in history books I awed at when I was younger, one of the significant artifacts which inspired me to pursue archaeology for quite some time.

3. Berlin Wall Memorial

Historical sites and reminders of Germany’s dark history are evident in so many areas of the city. Of course, we had to visit the Berlin Wall. I must admit my knowledge of the Berlin Wall was quite limited before I visited the memorial. Adrianna and I found the plaques and information provided at the memorial quite educational and informative. Just to give you a brief history, the Berlin Wall was one of the most defining features of the Cold War era. In 1961, Germany’s Communist government began to build a concrete and barbed wire barrier between East and West Berlin in order to block Western Germany’s fascists from disrupting Eastern Germany’s socialist state. The Berlin Wall was dismantled in 1989 when Germany’s Communist party declared its citizens could cross the border freely. We took time to read stories of families being separated by the wall, those who tried to jump the wall and the houses which were right on the boundary. It’s hard to imagine such a time. Adrianna and I walked along the paths of the memorial often in silence, taking in and imagining what it must have been like 50 some years ago. We walked along where the wall stood, and we were even able to look through sections of the wall which was still standing. This experience to me at least reaffirmed to myself the danger and consequence of building such barrier walls, as such overt boundaries often lead to hostility and pain.

4. East Side Gallery

I think this must have been one of my absolute favourite stops in Berlin.The East Side gallery is where local and international artists sprawled colour, creativity and imagination onto the remaining parts of the Berlin Wall. Adrianna and I loved looking at the array of murals- some containing meaningful and worldly messages for visitors. I would have to say the “World’s People, we are one of the people” by Shamil Gimajev and the “Test the Best” mural by Birgit Kinder by were two of my favourite murals.

5. Checkpoint Charlie

This was the crossing point between East Berlin and West Berlin during the Cold War Era. It was named by the Western Allies. In October of 1961, this checkpoint was the scene of American and Soviet tank confrontation. Apparently the spot has also been the setting for spy movies such as James Bond. I would recommend visiting Checkpoint Charlie as it is an important part of German and Cold War history, but also because it is easy to find and relatively a quick stop. The area is quite touristy and its hard to miss it amongst the hoards of tourists and visitors walking towards it. Adrianna and I took a few photos of the spot, read the history and then left to wander the streets and check out small shops.

6. Holocaust Memorial (Memorial to the Murdered Jews of Europe)

This was a place Adrianna and I were determined to visit during our time in Berlin. We visited this memorial in order to reflect on one of the most tragic human rights atrocities committed in recent history and one of the darkest times in German history. The memorial site designed by architect Peter Eisenman and and engineer Burro Happold contains 2711 rectangular concrete blocks lined row by row on an uneven sloping ground which seems to come in waves. You get a different perspective from wherever you stand. In some areas of the memorial the rectangular blocks were much higher than us, while in other areas they were extremely low. I could tell this area was designed so that each individual visitor could experience and process the memorial and what it stood for as they wished. While we were visiting the memorial, Adrianna and I were quite astounded by the disrespectful actions of some visitors as they jumped on the rectangular blocks and did everything possible to get the perfect shot. I would definitely deter visitors from doing this as tempting as it may seem.

These are only a few of the many places to visit while in Berlin. Some of our best photos and memories are also from roaming the streets of the city while gazing at the beautiful buildings. The one place I wish we could have visited is the Reichstag (German Parliament) building. From what I have heard, you have to book your visit in advance.

Anyway, Danke! 🙂

Sources:

https://www.berlinerdom.de/en/

https://www.history.com/topics/cold-war/berlin-wall

https://www.visitberlin.de/en/east-side-gallery

https://www.visitberlin.de/en/memorial-murdered-jews-europe

https://www.smb.museum/en/museums-institutions/neues-museum/home/

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