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Our next destination was to the capital city of Germany – Berlin. I enjoyed my stay in Berlin very much because it has such a rich history. We even spent a day going out of the main city to visit a concentration camp (which I will talk about in the next post).
Part of the Topography of Terror Museum
Topography of Terror is a museum where I will recommend as the first place to visit in Berlin to grasp the rough history of Germany. There's two parts to this museum: one is the open air museum (as above) where one walk down the path to read excerpts of interviews of war survivors, short video clips and numerous photos. The other is a building (a more traditional form of museum), which we didn't go in.
I really liked the open air museum because it really brings me through the history of Germany from World War I to Weimar Republic the rise of the Nazis to the persecution of Jews to the establishment of the Soviets in East Germany to the history of the Berlin Wall. It's a long walk - pausing in between to read the panels and look at the photographs - but it's definitely very rewarding.
One thing to note though, just make sure you are walking down the correct flow of panels - otherwise you'd be reading the history backwards!
Remains of the Berlin Wall
Right above the Topography of Terror is the remnants of the Berlin Wall. The area's been cordoned off to preserve what's left of the wall and to prevent theft - tourists stealing bits and pieces of the wall back home as souvenirs.
Next we walked to Checkpoint Charlie. Besides the interesting history behind this checkpoint, it honestly does not fascinate me much, unless you count taking photos with the "soldiers" fascinating (and you have to pay for it of course!)...
Sightseeing, drink beer and work out at the same time!
While walking, we also saw this really interesting vehicle that combines sightseeing, drinking (beer) and working out at the same time! What a way to drink and be merry (and not worry about the extra pounds!)
We also walked past Viktoria Park (the lazy me wasn't interested to climb up...), where the main highlight is the castle looking building right at the top of the hill - the Schinkel Monument.
St. Hedwig's Cathedral
On the second day, before we went for the free walking tour, we visited was the St. Hedwig's Cathedral - the most important Roman Catholic religious building in Berlin. The design style was inspired by the Pantheon in Rome, hence this cathedral is often referred to as the Berlin Panthon. We didn't manage to go in and walk around because there was a mass ongoing.
State Opera Berlin under restoration
Staatsoper Unter den Linden (Berlin State Opera) is a German opera company. It's a real pity it's under restoration...
Our meeting point for the free walking tour is at the Brandenburg Gate. I was always amazed and impressed whenever I see gates and arches like this: I mean, how did they build it without modern technology?
Built between 1789 and 1791, this Quadriga placed on top of the gate was siezed by the French in 1806 and was only returned in 1814.
The Holocaust Memorial /Memorial to the Murdered Jews of Europe
After explaining the history of Brandenburg Gate, our guide brought us to the Holocaust Memorial, which is also known as the Memorial to the Murdered Jews of Europe. Costing 25 million euros to build, this memorial was opened to the public in 2005 and consists of 2,711 concrete slabs of varying heights arranged in a grid in which the ground slopes are uneven.
The Holocaust Memorial /Memorial to the Murdered Jews of Europe
The aim of the varying heights of the concrete slabs and the unevenness of the path is to allow visitors to get loss in the memorial and feel how the Jews had felt during the persecution of Jews - upset, fear and loss. I'm not a good writer, but I found an article which described the memorial beautifully and sadly, here's an excerpt:
Painting of the famous East German soldier, Conrad Schumann, jumping over the Berlin Wall
Conrad Schumann jumped over from the East Germany to the West Germany in 1961 (which consisted of only barbed wires then), in which the scene was captured by a photographer and became an iconic image of the Cold War era.
Gendarmenmarkt - Französischer Dom
The walking tour also brought us to Gendarmenmarkt - a square created by Johann Arnold Nering at the end of 17th century and reconstructed in 1773. On the right hand side of the square sits the Französischer Dom, a French Cathedral built between 1701 to 1705.
Gendarmenmarkt - Konzerthaus Berlin
In the middle sits Konzerthaus Berlin, the newest building to be built on Gendarmenmarkt. It was built in 1821 and currently serves as a concert hall. Right in front of the building is the statue of Germany's poet Friedich Schiller.
Gendarmenmarkt - Deutscher Dom
Directly opposite of Französischer Dom is the Deutscher Dom, built in 1708 and was rebuilt in 1945 when a fire completely destroyed it during World War II.
There are many war memorials in Berlin and one of the most striking and memorable is Neue Wache, aka New Guard House. The exterior of the building may not seem much, but what's inside really takes my breath away.
Käthe Kollwitz's sculpture Mother with her Dead Son
The whole building is devoid of any decorations, hence everyone's attention will be directed to the statue - Mother with her Dead Son sculpted by Käthe Kollwitz. The sculpture, exposed to sun, rain, snow and cold, portrays the suffering of the civilians during World War II. The ethereal effect created by its exposure under the oculus evokes a deep feeling inside me. I'm not an art person, so I'm quite shocked by myself that I feel so much for an art piece.
A part of the memorial's text that I found (link):
Berliner Dom (Berlin Cathedral)
Our tour ended on Museum Island, at the Berliner Dom, which is a beautiful basilica built in 1905. Several buildings sat at this exact spot before this basilica was built - the first church was built in 1465! It cost 5 euros each (students 3 euros) to visit the basilica so X and I gave it a miss.
We chose to sit around on the green field and people watch and eat snacks... (:
Altes Museum (Old Museum)
Museum Island is known as Museum Island because of the 5 museums on this island (I sound kinda stupid saying this). Museum lovers will definitely go nuts because each and every single museum on this island are internationally significant.
One of the museums is Altes Museum which is built in 1830. There's also Neues Museum (New Museum), built in 1859 and rebuilt in and reopend in 2009; Alte Nationalgalerie (Old National Gallery) which features a collection of 19th century works; Bode Museum, opened in 1904 and showcases Antique and Byzantine art and lastly Pergamom Museum, constructed in 1930, which contains several reconstructed historically significant buildings.
Kaiser Wilhelm Memorial Church Model
After resting, we went to visit the Kaiser-Wilhelm-Gedächtniskirche (Kaiser Wilhelm Memorial Church). It was really unfortunate that we didn't get to see the ancient building because it was surrounded completely for restoration. The only thing that we get to see is the tiny model... 🙁
Inside the new Kaiser Wilhelm Memorial Church
We did go into the new Kaiser Wilhelm Memorial Church and it really wows me.
Berlin Victory Column
On the third day, after we came back from the tour to a concentration camp (more about that in the next post), we went to see the Victory Column. Built between 1864 to 1873, this column is 69 metres tall and the statue is 8.3 metres tall and weighs a staggering 35 tons (31 kilograms)! The column was closed when we got there, otherwise we could have climbed up to the observation deck.
Love the sunset view...
This building was built to house the parliament of the German Empire. It was opened in 1894 and was in use until 1933, when a fire damaged the bilding severly. It was only until 1990 before reconstruction of the building took place. It was reopened in 1999 and is now a meeting place for the German parliament.
There is a dome right in the middle and right at the top of the builidng. One can savour the 360-degree view of Berlin up there and look at the people from the parliament at work below. Prior reservations are required in order to enter the dome.
And here's the Brandenburg Gate at night.
And now, on to the food! The one food that everyone will eat when they are in Germany is definitely sausages, or currywurst.
And I can totally understand why! They have a huge variety of sausages and they don't taste... gelat. I can't really explain the meaning of gelat, but it roughly means "sick of something because you had too much of it"...
And, and, and! They are super generous with the sauce. Awesome!
We also saw this kind of mobile currywurst. It's a quick snack that's not bad! I think it's actually kind of heavy and difficult to carry this thing around!
We also had one of our best meals in Europe. The food was awesome and the service was impeccable. I really don't remember the name of the place (so sorry!) but it's a restaurant/bar near Viktoria Park (and yes, I know they have many restuarants/bars there...) It was a really sweet restaurant/bar becaues I remember seeing bowls for pets to drink water from (so I figure it's a pet-friendly restaurant/bar) and they gave out blankets for diners sitting outside because the weather's pretty chilly.
We started off by drinking this soup - full of vegetables and full of flavour. Lovely!
Turkey strips served with mushroom cream sauce, grilled vegetables and rice
I've always worried that turkey will taste dry and tough, but these turkey strips are well-marinated and well cooked! It was so tender and soft and it goes perfectly with the cream sauce.
Chicken breast with lentils and potatoes with lemon sauce
I've never really liked to eat chicken breast because they are very dry and not tender. However, this chicken breast is so perfectly done - really tender and juicy. I'm not a huge fan of lentils, but the huge chunks of potatoes really kept me full.
Knuckle of pork with pickled vegetable and boiled potatoes
On another day, we had the pork knuckle - many people recommended the pork knuckle in Germany but unfortunately we just can't find a good pork knuckle place to try! 🙁 We weren't very satisfied with the dish...
A drink that I'll recommend to try (especially the ladies) is Berliner Weisse Rot (Red). It's beer mixed with a red syrup, it comes with the option of a green syrup as well (but I heard the green syrup taste weird). The resulting beer is sweet and lighter, definitely a favourite among ladies. (:
And so this is the end of Berlin (city) trip! Gonna write about the concentration camp visit in the upcoming travel post. (: