Berlin, a cool, modern, vibrant city but definitely not the city to go to if you want a traditional German experience. I didn’t know what to expect when looking at Berlin as a potential stop on our interrail adventure but decided that exploring the historical landmarks would be too interesting to miss out on. We rolled in on the train from Copenhagen, which stopped in Hamburg along the way and immediately went out to find our hostel: ‘Generator Berlin Mitte’. This hostel is in a perfect location, smack in the middle of most of the main attractions (and it was also cheap) We booked a private 3-bed room and got given a luxury private 6-bed room for some reason. We dumped our bags and off we went to explore.
BEING TOURISTS AT THE BRANDENBURG GATE
One of the most famous sights in Berlin, the Brandenburg Gate. It is considered to be a symbol of the tumultuous history of Europe and Germany, but also of European unity and peace. We found that one side was quite empty and strangely that was the side where you get the best photos from. Once we stepped through the gate, we were set loose in a tourist free-for-all. It was like feeding time at a zoo. Having seen this magnificent piece of architecture that stands for so much on Instagram and other peoples blogs, I was dying to see it, and I’m glad I’ve now ticked that off my bucket list. It also makes for a cracking Instagram post.
Memorial for the Murdered Jews of Europe
To be honest, I had totally forgotten that this memorial was even in Berlin, but a simple search on Google the night before left me in no doubt that I wanted to see it. Each of the different blocks is a different shape and size to commemorate each life lost in the Holocaust. I didn’t realise how big this memorial was but once you get there and start walking between them, you can easily get lost. The thing I didn’t like about it was that kids were playing all the way through it (maybe I’m just cynical and getting a bit old) and were screaming, playing hide and seek. There is also an exhibition here but we didn’t go into it and just opted to walk around the blocks ourselves taking it all in.
Adding to our History tour at the Soviet War Memorial
Heading back through the park towards the Reichstag there is a war memorial that seems to be out of the way of everything else. It wasn’t on our list of places to see, but we saw it in the distance and thought we may as well go take a look. I’m so glad we did, it’s surrounded by beautiful gardens and the monument itself is stunning. It’s also a burial site for over 2000 fallen Soviet soldiers. I think this is the greatest thing about Berlin. It’s a city steeped in history and around every corner is another monument that pays tribute to its treacherous past and fallen soldiers.
TAKING IN THE BERLIN WALL.
You can’t go to Berlin, and not go to the Berlin Wall. There were two areas of the Berlin Wall that I wanted to go and see, but could only go and see one of them (due to an injury I picked up). We decided that seeing the original wall was the best bet here so set off in the searing heat. I didn’t know what to expect, but I saw the wall in a positive light. The fact that it’s no longer there but stands as a sign of how times have changed is a wonderful thing. At the same time, it’s quite a weird feeling being stood in ‘no man’s land’ where people literally would have been shot if they went in there.
The area where the wall memorial is is only a small area, but it’s got photos of people who were murdered in that area which I found to be very harrowing. Slabs of the original wall with graffiti all over them stand proudly on show and sections of the original wall still stand in the place where it has been for many a decade. It’s definitely the place I’d recommend the most for a trip to Berlin.
DISAPPOINTING CHECKPOINT CHARLIE
Another site that I had set my heart of seeing was ‘Checkpoint Charlie’. It was the best-known crossing point between West Berlin and East Berlin and got its name from the Western Allies during the Cold War. However, after just seeing the Berlin Wall, and having to walk 45 minutes in the heat, I was sorely disappointed. The place was so touristy it was unreal. You had to pay to get a photo in front of it with some tacky guards dressed up in the war uniforms. I couldn’t get a clear shot of the original crossing point so I was left very disappointed. You also had to take your life into your own hands if you wanted to stand near it as obviously, it’s in the middle of a very busy road. Adding cars to the mix of a thousand busy tourists and it’s a recipe for disaster.
Berlin was definitely a culture/history trip and I’m glad we went, however, I wasn’t that impressed with the city as a whole. It felt very ‘Ungerman’ to me and just like any other city. There was a lot of history to take in and I enjoyed walking around most of the sights and reading about how the city was affected during it’s hardest time. I’d recommend it to anyone who is interested in history and wants to come and view some very famous sights. The Berlin Wall is a must-see for anyone so get booking.