Thursday, 26 July 2012

Berlin: In Three Days - Day 2

Day Two

Again, the History student in me tells everyone that you can't leave Berlin without visiting the infamous border, Checkpoint Charlie. Checkpoint Charlie, along with Glienicker Brücke (Glienicker Bridge) was the best known border-crossing of the Cold War days. The sign, which became a symbol of the division of Cold War Berlin and read like a dire warning to those about to venture beyond the Wall – YOU ARE NOW LEAVING THE AMERICAN SECTOR.

Until the fall of the Berlin Wall on November 9, 1989, it signified the border between West and East, Capitalism and Communism, freedom and confinement. The Museum, known as Haus am Checkpoint Charlie (entry is 12.50 euros), contains the best documentation available on the many escape attempts from East to West. The nearest station is Kochstraße U6, and around the corner is Wilhelmstrasse, which houses Germany's former governmental administration.

Wilhelmstrasse was the site of the Third Reich's most important ministries and embassies. The Topography of Terror is an open-air exhibition (free), which documents the history of this site as the control centre of the National Socialist programme of persecution and annihilation. Niederkirchnerstraße is the road you need to look for to find the site.

Walk far enough down Wilhelmstrasse, and turn left onto Hannah-Arendt-Straße, next thing you'll see is a grey labyrinth of concrete boxes. The Memorial to the Murdered Jews of Europe also known as the Holocaust Memorial, literally dawns on you as you meander through a field of of 2,700 concrete slabs.

The abstract graves is open to personal interpretation, however the overall feeling getting lost through the mammoth maze, is of suffocation and impending doom as the blocks gradually grow.

Back on Wilhelmstrasse, you can catch a glimpse of the Brandenburg Gate. The neoclassical triumphal arch is one of the most illustrious landmarks of Germany. It is the only remaining gate of a series through which Berlin was once entered. Just one block north stands the German Reichstag (Parliament), which once the governmental home of the Prussian Empire.

After being sufficiently 'historied'-out, Tiergarten not only was the preferred hunting ground of the elector princes of Brandenburg, but its swampy forests is like a magical wonderland. It's apparently the largest park in Berlin. And that's another thing, Berlin parks are like no other - and must be explored.

Again, the best way of unearthing a great place is to actually take a bicycle or your feet and get around the place.

It's time to head back for today, if you're feeling drained from the walk, but there's plenty of nightlife in Berlin to enjoy- so rest beforehand!

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