A modern day study in
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
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
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
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
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
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.
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