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.