A 5 day break to Berlin was exactly what the doctor ordered. The weather had been seriously miserable in the UK and although it was a few degrees colder in Berlin, the sun was shining and the skies were clear.
Our first morning was spent seeing Berlin’s notorious monuments. Since the Brandenburg gate, the parliament building and the Memorial to the Murdered Jews in Europe are less than 5 minutes walk from each other, we were able to see these within a couple of hours. We discovered that if we headed out around 9 o clock every morning, we were able to dodge all of the tour buses and the flood of late risers.
The Memorial to the Murdered Jews of Europe
The memorial is filled with 2711 slabs of concrete which gradually become taller as you walk into the middle of the grid. The memorial acts as a cemetery for the Jewish victims of the Holocaust. The height of the concrete blocks gives a sense of the magnitude of deaths during the Holocaust and of all the bodies that were stacked on top of each other by the Nazis. As I was shadowed by the slabs of concrete, I felt a real sense of claustrophobia, powerlessness, disorientation and confusion. I kept on losing sight of my brother as he turned around a corner which felt highly symbolic of a time when a victim’s family or friends would disappear and were never seen again. The amount of symbolism behind this memorial is unbelievably powerful.
The East Side Gallery
It was surreal to touch the wall that separated families and friends for almost 30 years due to two different political ideologies. I find it really difficult to understand how the Soviet Union believed a wall would be a long term solution to their so called emigration problem.
It was really strange to see the emergence of capitalism in the once communist part of Berlin. The east side is still visibly less affluent and less capitalised than the west. It’s easy to forget how recent Germany’s history is and that the wall only came down less than 30 years ago. People are still living through their traumas from the effects of world war two and having to adjust to a newly united country. However, with so much renovation taking place and so much money being invested into the area, it must be a really exciting time to be living in Berlin.
Of course we couldn’t go to Germany without trying a Curryvurst. When I first saw it, I thought we had ordered the wrong thing. I was expecting a thick curry sauce that you buy at the chippy in the UK and was therefore surprised to see a red tomato sauce. Curry powder is sprinkled onto the sausage and then a tomato sauce is poured on top of the sausage. The tomato sauce is a thicker consistency and less sugary than the tomato ketchup you buy in the UK. After a day of walking around Berlin, it was the well needed stodge we had been looking for.
Burger Meister – The best burger I’ve ever had
Burgermeister is situated in the middle of two roads and below the metro track in Kreuzberg. There’s therefore a really cool urban dynamic atmosphere in the restaurant. These days, I find pubs are trying to outdo each other with their most extravagant burger. Burgermeister took it back to basics but added their own little twist. It was literally one of the best burgers I’ve had in a very long time. If only they would come to the UK!
Treptower park gives you an insight to communist architecture. The park was symmetrical, giving a mirrored effect. Monuments and nature seemed so perfectly positioned… Too perfect even. As you enter the park, you are drawn towards a tall soldier standing over a broken swastika. With its dominating presence, you feel like you are being watched over by him. It reminded me of the power the Soviet Union exerted over the population to make sure no one disobeyed their communist ideologies.
And of course, I am still repping Canada wherever I go!
The Sammlung Boros collection
If you appreciate contemporary art, this is the museum to go to. In world war two, the building was an air raid shelter. After the war, it evolved into a nightclub which then was closed down and turned into a museum for contemporary art. Make sure you book tickets in advance as the tours only take place at weekends and are in small groups. Apparently Francois Hollande even took a tour a few weeks prior to our visit.
The Jewish Museum
The Jewish Museum was my favourite museums in Berlin. Even the architecture from the outside was thought provoking. We unintentionally spent hours roaming around the museum and visiting the exhibitions it had to offer.
One of my favourite exhibitions here was by Erin Shakine named, ‘A Muslim, A Christian and a Jew.’
A little outside of the centre of Berlin, a prison that was used by the Soviet Union is still standing. I was fascinated and frightened by the fact that locals did not know what the building was being used for… Or were perhaps just to afraid to ask. The Soviet Union would kidnap people who they believed were a threat to the state. When they were captured, they were shoved inside a van that looked like a delivery van transporting goods just in case they were stopped and questioned by an outsider. It was their prerogative to keep this prison a secret from society. They would then drive the van around Berlin for hours in order to disorientate the prisoner and give them a false sense of location. Since prisoners didn’t know where they were imprisoned, no one ever attempted to escape. The prison was so well surveyed by guards that prisoners never saw fellow prisoners in the building. Only faint taps against the wall could be heard to let other prisoners know there was someone else next door. It was here where prisoners would be physically and mentally tortured in unbearable conditions.
I did not want to leave Germany without seeing a Christmas Market. Yes, expect it to be very busy and expensive but of course, it was totally worth the visit.
The best thing about Berlin is how cheap transport, food and accommodation is. Berlin is an affordable trip away with so much to offer.
I am deeply saddened by what I’m reading in the news right now concerning a lorry ploughing into a crowd at a Christmas Market in Berlin. All my thoughts go out to the victims, to their families and to their friends.