We left the coziness of our hedgehog home for a daytrip to Berlin. We covered over 18 kilometres of walking – it was a big day! We did also use the underground and overground trains – it is a very broad city!
We caught an overground train to the centre. First order of business was to find coffee! We wandered passed a little alleyway that was filled with contemporary graffiti/art. An unusual fire hydrant (we assume) also grabbed our attention.
Sometime the smallest things can be the most interesting. Here, on the eastern side of a once divided Berlin, we noticed the traffic walk signs for pedestrians are different – more lively! These are the Ampelmännchen or little traffic light men. Designed in 1961 by East German traffic psychologist Karl Peglau as a clear way for every person to see if they should walk/ not walk, they became very popular in the local culture here and, when Germany reunified, were retained as one of the few symbols of the communist past. Now they bedeck all manner of souvenirs and are an iconic symbol.
Coffee obtained, our day could start – first stop the Brandenburg gate. There were a lot of tourist groups here and the monument was much larger than we expected. The gate was originally built in the 1790s as a military gate, it has come to symbolise the city as, when the city was divided, both East and West Germany were denied access to the gate by the Berlin Wall.
Reichstag & Memorial for the Murdered Jews
On our walk we admired the Reichstag (the German parliament building) and then we came to the Memorial for the Murdered Jews. This memorial (also known as the Holocaust Memorial) was opened in 2005 and consists of a large square filled with rectangular concrete blocks of different heights arranged in a grid formation. It famously has no explanation – it is expected that, as you wander through, you make your own interpretation. It seemed to be like different gravestones but we also noticed that it is easy to get lost amongst it – so maybe the artist was reflecting on the anonymous nature of so many deaths.
Throughout Berlin, there are many remnants of World War II and its aftermath. One of the most poignant is the surviving parts of the Berlin Wall that are scattered throughout the city. The ‘wall’ was actually two parallel walls with a space in between – the No Man’s Land that had large towers to allow the guards to prevent people crossing the city.
We stopped briefly at ‘Checkpoint Charlie’ where the guards for the American section of Berlin would ‘check’ that you could go through. It was a bit touristy so we moved on.
We passed Berlin Cathedral (we didn’t go in as you had to pay – when travelling for 13 months we have to be selective!).
East Berlin Wall Art Gallery
Then we came to the East Berlin Wall Art Gallery – which had many thought provoking artworks painted on the remnants of the wall.
We stopped at an amazing burger place – ‘Peter Pane’ to refuel after a long day.