Berlin & London 12/98

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A modern day study in dramatic change...

The Berlin Wall -  Many small people...

Berlin was one destination I had looked forward to for a long time. There is an immense amount of history in the city, and it is a study of rapid change in the present. I was told that in 1998 there was more construction within Berlin proper than in the rest of Europe combined. My older son Ben (then 12) and I made the trip in the week before Christmas, 1998. My high school German helped a bit, but most people in Berlin spoke English as a second language. We experienced a bit of a language problem getting directions when we left Berlin on our trip to Sachsenhausen on Tuesday.

Much of the evidence of the division of east and west Berlin had disappeared just nine years after the fall of The Wall on November 9, 1989. This added an urgency for me to get to Berlin before it looked like just one more big modern city. Berlin did not disappoint. It was a city of change, history and excitement. We arrived in Berlin in the evening of Saturday December 19th and headed for the just opened Grand Hyatt at Potsdamer Platz (first picture below). The hotel sits directly on what was the no-mans land by The Wall. There was no evidence at all of what had been there before.


Sunday December 20th - Berlin

On our first full day of sightseeing, we walked to the Brandenburg Gate (second picture above) and got Welcome Cards for the public transportation system. You can still see the bullet holes on the columns from WW2 (third picture above). We walked to the Reichstag, under construction to become the future home of the German government (fourth picture above). A subway trip away, Check Point Charlie is now located across the street from its original spot with a small but worthwhile museum on its history (fifth picture above). There was construction everywhere in Berlin. Cranes were visible from every street as shown in the first picture below.

Monday December 21st - Berlin

On our second full day of sightseeing, we headed across town to see the East Side Gallery, the longest remaining section (over a mile) of The Wall. This was very worthwhile. The large picture at the top of the page and the second and third pictures above show the front of The Wall and the fourth shows the back where the no-man's area was.

We continued by subway and train across town to Charlottenburg Palace (first picture below) and then on to Kaiser Wilhelm Memorial Church (second picture below). We made a quick stop at the Berlin Hard Rock Cafe (third picture below) before ending the day at the top of the former East Berlin Radio Tower.

Tuesday December 22nd - Sachsenhausen, Berlin & London

On our last day in Berlin, we traveled by train an hour out of town to the site of the WW2 Sachsenhausen Concentration Camp. Now a memorial, this camp was a powerful experience for both of us, accentuated by gray overcast skies and a biting cold wind. I have visited other concentration camps since: in Austria, Mauthausen, near Munich, Dachau, and in Poland, Auschwitz / Birkenau. The gate to Sachsenhausen is the same as at other Concentration Camps - "Arbeit macht frei" - work makes you free (fourth picture above). In the background of the gate is a tower memorial to the Russian army, which captured the camp at the end of the war. The first picture below is a barracks and the second is a memorial set over the spot of the infamous ovens.

We took the train back to Berlin and visited the Berlin Technical Museum before heading to the airport for the short flight to London. In London, we arrived at the Marble Arch Marriott in the evening, grabbed excellent fish and chips at The Seashell, and rested for a very full next day. We had been to London with the whole family a year before and had seen most of the tourist sights. We had one full day to catch some things we had missed before.

Wednesday December 23nd - London, Stonehenge, Salisbury, Bath

We took a full day tour of Stonehenge, Salisbury and Bath and then took in a play and late dinner in the evening. It was raining at Stonehenge (third and fourth pictures above and large picture upper right), but the sight was worth seeing.

From Stonehenge we traveled to Salisbury Cathedral (first picture below). and then on to Bath, the site of ancient Roman baths fed by natural hot springs (second and third pictures below). We did a 5 minute turnaround at the hotel and took a cab over to Starlight Express, just making curtain time. We finished the day with a midnight dinner at the Hard Rock Cafe in London (fourth picture below). The next morning, Christmas Eve, we flew back to LA.

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