Berlin in a Nutshell
As the weather slowly warms up (I think), it’s probably time for you to start thinking about travelling again. You may be looking for something that helps transition between the cold weather and the slowly warming up weather, so why not something that melded between the East and the West… why not head to Berlin! (ok, perhaps that was a slight stretch).
If you have some misconceptions about Germany in general (“German’s are too serious!”) then Berlin would change your mind. A German friend described Berlin as the place where people go to make something of themselves. A place where artistes come to be inspired and to create and share. It still retains that hipster boho vibe and if you’re still unsure, just drop by an underground club and check out live polka ska music. Yes, I was dancing to amazing tunes by an accordion.
Berlin also has amazing history, home of the Berlin wall, Brandenburg gate, Reichstag building, and the last site of Hitler. If you wanted to get this knocked out in a nutshell, you can do what I did and head on out with the Original Berlin walking tour.
Museum island/ Museumsinsel
This tiny island holds some great treasures, the Altes Museum, Berlin Cathedral (the Dome), National art gallery, the Bode museum, Neus Museum, and my favourite museum of all, the Pergamon museum built specifically to house the Pergamon Altar, it also houses the Ishtar gate of Babylon which was said to be the gates which Alexander the Great rode through as well as Athena’s Temple and Market Gate of Miletus. The Pergamon museum is so amazing, I almost cried. It’ll move you as well I can guarantee.
Unter Den Linden
Unter Den Linden is an amazing boulevard that used to be lined with lime trees (Under the lime Trees) and has the Brandenburg Gate and Reichstag building located at one end, and connecting to the Museum Island on the other. Along the way you’ll also see the site of the book burning of May 1933, built on the exact site of the fire. Towards the gate you’ll find fun buskers dressed in their unique best charming for your picture (and money).
A little further up from the Reichstag is the last site of Hitler. After Hitler died, there was a discussion on what to do with the site. The Germans decided to not have anything that could resemble a memorial or site to commemorate to make sure there was no altar for congregation for any neo Nazis. Instead, they let it evolve as most land evolves, and it now houses a parking lot for apartments.
The last stop I made in this area was the Holocause Memorial. It’s built in the middle of the city as a continuous reminder of what we cannot forget. It has 2,700 stelae, less than half of what was originally intended. It has no flat plane and no standardized height which makes sure you completely disoriented and confused and feeling lonely when you are standing right in the middle.
The Berlin Wall and Checkpoint Charlie
The great divider between East and West Berlin, parts of the wall remains through the city today serving as a reminder from the cold war. You can see part of the original wall close to Checkpoint Charlie as well, a reconstructed site that was supposed to commemorate where the American sector and the Soviet sectors started/ ended.
East Side Gallery is also where you want to go to see a whole stretch of the Berlin wall (1.3km) that had been painted over with messages of hope, love and forgiveness by artists from around the world. It was originally painted in 1990 with 105 paintings and went through a restoration in 2009 after a lot of graffiti was painted on its wall sadly.
The Jewish Museum
The Jewish Museum comprises of two parts, an old and a new section. The old original historic building, and the modern wing of this building is designed to look like a deconstructed Star of David, or as one guidebook puts it, a star of David that had been blown up. It is also filled with slashes and voids to remind the people of the scars held on by the Jews. There are three axis in the new wing; the Axis of Exile, which leads to the Garden of Exile; the Axis of the Holocaust, which leads to a dead end/ the Holocaust Tower; and the Axis of continuity, which leads on to the historical wing of the museum. The axis were to represent the three different fates that awaited the Jews during the Holocaust.
Walk down the Axis of Holocaust and you will find one of the most disturbing experiences in the museum. The Holocaust Tower which is located at the very end is a ‘room’ that is unheated and unlit. It is fully covered with only one gap for light. The only thing you can see is the light, symbolizing hope and another life. The only thing you can hear, are the streets of Berlin, sometimes filled with children’s laughter. It was successful in moving you into the state of mind of what it would have been like to be a Jew back in the day.
Walking down the Axis of Exile will bring you to the Garden of Exile. Similar to the Holocaust Memorial, the garden was designed to make you feel what life would have been like in exile, no concrete flooring, no clear path, sometimes even causing vertigo.
There are very few exhibitions in the museum with the main artifacts located in the Axis of continuity. The many empty spaces within the museum was to symbolize the void left behind by the extermination of the Jews. There was only exhibition in one of the many ‘voids’ called Falling Leaves. It is made up of 10,000 faces engraved into steel. There is no way to be silent while walking over the exhibition, reminding you that the fall could not have come without any noise
***Imagine seeing all this on your trip to Berlin, just the richness of the history itself. I haven’t even gone into the ‘fun side’ – Alexanderplatz and its famous world clock, Hakeshar Markt and its beautiful terrace bars, KaDeWe and its shopping streets, even Gendarmarkt and its Opera. Berlin is so rich with it all, it is a must do if you were ever visiting Germany. In the words of my friend A who lives in Berlin; Berlin is Hipster Chic, and Hipster Chic is the new Chanel! a must have to keep in memory