Travel Blog: Berlin (Part 2)

The world I heard most often in Berlin was definitely “rebuilt”.

From the time I spend there, one thing became perfectly clear, Berlin was bombed to ruins during the Second World War. Seriously, go on the “big red tourist bus”; I promise almost every single attraction will have been “rebuilt” after the war.

One of those attractions to have been rebuilt was Berlin Zoo.

Germany’s oldest zoo, it hosts a collection of over 16,000 animals. Rebuilt after the war, it received heavy artillery fire; only 91 of the animals survived the war. I loved Berlin zoo. While I am not entirely comfortable with the thought of a zoo at all, there is no denying that seeing some of the world’s rarest animals is a thrilling experience. The zoo’s separate aquarium is also absolutely worth the money.

After the Zoo, we headed along to the infamous Alexanderplatz; the largest urban square in the whole of Germany. If I am honest with you, we didn’t spent much time in the square. At that time of year (December) it is entirely taken over by a Christmas market and shopping stalls. If I am honest with you, by this point in the trip, we were both pretty much burned out on these entertainment options.

However,  my girlfriend and I spent significantly more time in another German urban square, Postdamer Platz. During the war, Potsdamer Platz was almost completely destroyed (as with most other things…) and spent more than 40 years in a state of wasteland located between the East and West. After the city’s reunification though, Berlin had the unique opportunity to completely rebuild a section of their city centre. They have done well; even the sceptics have had to admit that Potsdamer Platz has been a great success.

My MUST SEE from Postdamer Platz is Panoramapunkt, a stunning viewing platform offering a 360° panoramic view of Berlin. This offers one of the best opportunities for photographs in the whole of Berlin; a must for budding photographers.
An added bonus is the ability to ride the fastest lift in Europe; taking just 20 seconds to reach the top the 24th floor. Stomach churning, but enjoyable!

Checkpoint Charlie was next on this speedy tour of the city. Checkpoint Charlie is the most famous East German-West German border crossing. You will no doubt have heard of/seen it before; this particular army crossing is a favourite for many thriller and espionage movies. One of the reason for its fame is the so-called “tank stand-off” which occurred on October 1961 during the Cold War.
The threat of war was high; but no one fired. It is a really interesting story, if you’re not aware of it, you should look it up.

After all of this walking around the city … we felt we needed a little substanance to fill our rumbling bellies! Pfffft, who needs substanence when you can have sugar!

Fassbender and Rausch is the famous Chocolate producer from the center of Berlin. However, it isn’t just a haven for those with a sweet tooth, it also offers plenty in the way of eye candy: scaled-down (yet somehow still enormous) chocolate sculptures of Berlin landmarks. You can pick a selection of specially made sweets; however, we ended up buying pre-packaged chocolate (which was lovely) after sauntering around lost for a while. We simply couldn’t make our minds up. Far too much to choose from! haha

Close to the Brandenburg Gate in the heart of Berlin is the Memorial to the Murdered Jews of Europe. Made up of 2,711 concrete pillars of varying heights, the final appearance creates a grid-like structure. The uneven terrain helps with the overall effect, creating a beautiful wave like effect. It’s powerful to see and is a fitting tribute to those lost in such a horrific manner.

Now… last week I promised to talk about the Reichstag Glass Dome.

This was the last thing we did in Berlin, attending on our final night. The Reichstag was redesigned between 1994 and 1999 as a modern Parliament building with an attempt to retain the extensive, historical dimensions.

Part of the redesign was the opening of an accessible Glass Dome. Originally the glass generated a lot of controversy, but has since become one of the landmarks of Berlin. You can see why. It’s a stunning piece of architecture.

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Travel Blog: Berlin (Part 1)

A trip to “visit a foreign city in the run up to Christmas” is an item which has been on my bucket list for a very very long time. Despite this, it has thus far evaded me…until this year, when my girlfriend and I managed to escape the dreary rain of Glasgow and ambushed the beautiful city of Berlin.

We flew in and spent 4 nights in the stunning Ivbergs Premium Hotel; which is located near the Breitscheidplatz area in the heart of the city. Breitscheidplatz is a major public square in the inner region of Berlin. Together with the Kurfustendamm Boulevard, it very much marked the centre of the former West Berlin.

For me, one of the highlights of the Breitscheidplatz Square was definitely the Kaiser Wilhelm Memorial Church. It was a strange mesh of very traditional and modern architecture; both of which were equally stunning. The original church was destroyed during a bombing raid in 1943; however, what remains of it still stands today in unison with a new, modern, architectural addition. This was apparently decided by the German people, who voted with their voices that the original ruin must not be torn down. The new church consists of honeycomb-like blue coloured glass blocks which produce an intense blue light inside. I could instantly see why it was such a massive appeal to those who were religious in the area. Not religious myself, I could still feel the calming atmosphere the inside of the building created all on its own.

I was really excited to finally get the chance to see some of the famous tourist attractions which stand in Berlin; including the Reichstag Building and the Brandenburg Gate.

The current version of the Reichstag Building was officially opened in 1999 (good memory eh?) and featured a new roof terrace with a large glass dome which you can see in the photos below. The roof terrace and dome of the Reichstag Building can be visited by members of the public, and we took this chance to witness the spectacular views of Berlin’s sights. More details on this in Part 2!

The Brandenburg Gate is the only remaining city gate in Berlin and was originally used to represent the separation of the city between East and West. Fortunately, the city has moved past this; and now, since the falling of the Berlin Wall, the gate has become the cities symbol of German Unity to the city.

German unity…but of world unity. Unfortunately our trip had coincided with the aftermath of the horrific tragedy in Paris…and a large memorial had been laid out by the people of Berlin as an act of remembrance and unity with those affected. It was beautiful.

 

Back to the lighthearted fun! I had a great time in the DDR Museum!

The DDR Museums is the only museum in Germany that deals exclusively with life in the former German Democratic Republic, a.k.a the East side of the wall. This was an incredible exhibition that I thoroughly recommend any visitors Berlin make the time to visit. It’s interactive, with each piece of fascinating information hidden doors and in drawers. There is also Trabi car available in which visitors can drive through a virtual tour of the area. This was amazing…Grand Theft Auto in East Berlin!!

There was also a stereotypical East German home set up for your to go and experience…we had some fun with that too! 😀

 

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