If I had one word to describe Berlin, it would be OVERSIZED.
Building? Make it bigger!
Green space? Make it larger!
Boulevard? Make it wider!
For us, this trip wasn’t simply about seeing the sights, but about retracing some family history. Colette’s father was stationed in West Berlin for several years in the 1950s , and it was a cool opportunity to see some of the same things that he saw sixty years ago.
In Colette’s words – I felt like I had time traveled. A weird cool folding of time to stand in the same spots.
Berlin was bombed heavily in World War II, and while everything looks old it’s mostly reconstructed to look as it did before the war. The city was also treeless after World War II due to the bombing, it’s hard to imagine with the vast amount of parks there are today.
The best way learn about history and culture is to stand right in the middle of it.
Ancient Rome? Go there.
The Civil War? Go to Gettysburg.
World War II? Stand in the middle of Nazi Germany.
The fall of the Iron Curtain? Touch the Wall.
Immersion not textbooks.
World War II was long before my time, but I distinctly remember watching the destruction of the Berlin Wall on television. It is definitely an amazing thing to stand in the Death Zone and read the stories of those who escaped, and those who didn’t.
One thing we both noted – So. Much. Graffiti. It’s everywhere! Some is well done street artistry, but most is poorly scrawled junk. It’s too bad that people continue to deface their own city in this way.
We also noted vast areas of poor city maintenance on the fringes of the city – boulevards and traffic circles with long unmowed grass, litter, just a feeling of unkemptness (is that a word?). A stark difference from what we’re used to here in Stuttgart, and different from the more sanitary central government areas of Berlin.
While Berlin isn’t on our return list, it should definitely be on everyone’s ‘once’ list. The history, the feeling of individual smallness in the shadow of the oversized-everything – it’s a trip you won’t forget.
Additional Photo Galleries
Retro Berlin – Some of Don’s old photos and the same shots today.
East Side Gallery – The art gallery painted on the Berlin Wall
The Allied Museum – A museum of American Life in Berlin after World War II
The Anhalter Bahnhof was once one of Berlin’s most important railway stations. Severely damaged in World War II, it was finally closed in 1952. Most of the structure was finally destroyed in 1960, but with public outcry the front facade was left standing.
The Sun Must Rise
The sun rising behind the Brandenburg Gate. Formerly a no-man’s land between East and West Berlin, now it”s the premier tourist attraction in unified Berlin.
Through These Doors
You know that Checkpoint Charlie is tourist central when there’s a McDonald’s right across the street.
A very cool old van parked at the Gendarmenmarkt
The largest Protestant church in Germany, the Berlin Cathedral was damaged by Allied bombing during World War II. The interior was reconstructed in 2002, and there are ongoing plans to complete restoration of the exterior.
This shot clearly shows the missing top of the Kaiser Wilhelm Memorial Church.
Lines on Lines
Clayallee is the main road that Berlin Command is on, named after General Lucius Clay who was the initiator of the Berlin Airlift.
Colette enjoys a cold one as we relax at Lake Wannsee. Her father had some good memories of hanging out on Wannsee during his years here, and we wanted to get a photo to help take him back down memory lane. As well as an excuse to drink a beer!
The three arcs on the Airlift Memorial symbolize the three air corridors that brought supplies into West Berlin during the airlift. A duplicate monument facing Berlin is located at the Frankfurt airport.
An eagle monument in front of the Berlin Templhof airport where the majority of the Berlin Airlift operations took place. It was removed from the tower to allow for new radar equipment to be installed, and shipped to the museum at West Point. The Air Force returned it to where it sits now in Berlin in 1985.
Down the Wall
The very photogenic Oberbaumbrucke (Upper Tree Bridge) sits at the end of the East Side Gallery.
Glass Glass Glass
Ultra-modern buildings surround the Berlin Hauptbahnhof (central train station).
The Reichstag Building is the center of German Government. From the glass dome above you can see the lawmakers in session below.
A Long Walk
Your Own Symbolism
There is no stated symbolism to the Holocaust Memorial, you get to visualize your own as you spend time in contemplation.