Tuesday, January 5, 2010


We totally get credit for visiting during the 20-year anniversary year. Although they celebrated a couple months ago, it's within the same year of 2009. All in all, Berlin didn't surprise, but it didn't disappoint either. The glamour is almost stripped completely and most of the (eastern side) city is still just riddled with graffiti. The difference between the east and west side of town is striking. Our hotel was located on the east side (totally safe, but felt a little dangerous at the thought of it) of town where the apartment buildings screamed communism. They are/were larger than life and just ugly as can be. We also noticed the same thing when driving into Eisenach later in our trip and in the past when driving through Germany to the eastern side near Dresden.

This was really day two with my parents and they had much better rest this time around. Prague was sort of a whirlwind compared to the time we were able to spend in Berlin. Please excuse the many duplicates of photos that I post. I do this mostly because I want to record the pictures I took and leave nothing out... especially since the majority of people who read this are family anyhow. We're not vain, just accurate in our depictions. Posting 10 pictures of the Berlin wall may seem like a lot to some, but this is also my way of maintaining a photo gallery of sorts.

Here we are driving to Berlin... on the Autobahn. My family was a little disappointed with it, just as we were when we starting driving in Germany. It's just the same as any freeway in America with about 10% of it being without speed limits. For the most part, it's very safe.

Our first stop on Christmas Eve was to see the Brandenburg Gate. It's located near their Reichstag (Government buildings). The Nazis used this gate as a party symbol and was closed off during their rein. Napolean had the Quadriga (top piece) of the gate sent to Paris and after his defeat, it was shipped back.
Here we are standing in front and many more photos of the gate below.

The view after you walk through the gate walls

The Quadriga-- there are also similar structures in London and Paris. The Parisian one is something we saw when visiting Paris later on during the trip and the entire structure had a striking resemblance to the Brandenburg Gate.

Here's a photo I took when visiting the Museum at Checkpoint Charlie later that day. This is before the wall came down in front of the gate. It's crazy we walked all around the area that at one point was taboo.

Memorial of those who lost their lives near the Brandenburg Gate (I think).

Here's the Reichstag Building. It was heavily damaged in WWII. There was also a fire that damaged it. This is the new, repaired version.

Memorial to the 96 Reichstag members of the opposition parties killed by the Nazis (and an interested pigeon).

Did you notice the TUNDRA we were walking on? I only fell twice.

Happy parents riding the metro eating their baked goods. I think we visited a bakery every single morning our parents visited other than the two days we ate at our place in Neuenrade. No one was complaining. Pastries, donuts (Berliner!), croissants... need I say more?

Next stop, Checkpoint Charlie. Here is the happy crowd (freezing) as I took a photo of the event coming off the metro.

And the subway sign... kockstraße ... kochen = to cook, straße = street (so... Cook Street)

The very metro that took us to our destination...

Inside the Checkpoint Charlie Museum. We're pretty sure the guy pocketed our admission also. He charged us something like 12-15 Euro per person and printed "kinder" (child) tickets for us that showed the admission price of free. Whatever allows you to sleep at night, buddy.

Anyway, off the soap box. This is the original sign that was placed at the border crossing. A replica is outside that looks identical.

Here is the replica outside.

Checkpoint Charlie - The military guy you see on the left in front of the white structure is actually a street performer. You see this a lot in tourist areas. They stand there and ask you to pay them 1 Euro for a photo with them. I'm not sure why anyone would want a photo with people who have nothing to do with it...

Back inside the museum-- they actually dug up the concrete and placed the pieces of where the actual line once stood. I'm also not sure why they called it a "Jewel of Checkpoint Charlie" since jewels are usually positive or beautiful things, right? Maybe the words were lost in a poor translation. I think that's it.

Interesting sign from inside the museum. I really should've taken more photos from the inside. That way, people wouldn't have to pay admission and allow that guy to pocket their money. Sorry, off the soap box again.

A small piece of the wall just outside the Checkpoint Charlie museum.

Aren't train stations so fancy?

We headed to the Charlottenburg Palace next. Just like most of Berlin, the palace was badly damaged in WWII. It was originally built in the late 17th century. This was King Friedrich I of Prussia's home. He actually sent the architect to study the Palace in Versailles (we also visited there later in our trip) before building this one. There was a Christmas market in front of the palace, but unfortunately it was closed for the season.

Part of the Christmas market in front... another lovely pyramid!

As it began to get dark, we made it to a shopping district area and discovered this beautiful church -- the Kaiser-Wilhelm-Gedächtniskirche (Kaiser Wilhelm Memorial Church). It was badly damaged in a bombing raid in 1943 and the damaged portion has been retained as a memorial (hence the name). This is what it looked like before the damage was done. Notice the missing spire at the top and the Christmas market, partially open, around the base.

Here you can see more damage and the modern structure behind it is part of the new church built around the old structure. There were two structures built beside the ruined church and because of their modern appeal, the Berliners refer to them as the lipstick & powder box (Lippenstift und Puderdose). You can see the "lipstick" (taller structure) on the right.

The "powder box" can be seen on the left.

A little (dark... argh...) detailing here...

You can definitely see the damage here (and a peek of both the lipstick & powder box on the left and right).


Okay... are you over those photos yet? (by the way... the ones with date stamps are from my mom's camera... the ones without are mine). Though, it wasn't Christmas yet, so I'm not sure the camera was stamping the correct dates!

Moving on. Here's a fun Christmas nutcracker (yes, a German tradition too!) across from the church.

And here he is standing on my head. Ha!

This was taken on Christmas day as we were heading in our car out of town... (Merry Christmas in German).

But, one last stop to check out the largest piece of preserved wall (+ art) in the city. It's located at the East Side Gallery and boy was it hard to find. My recommendation is to disregard the addresses you find online for it and simply drive to O2 World (indoor sports arena) instead. It's right across the street. We drove around for at least an hour getting lost and the GPS taking us to the correct address... turns out there are two locations in Berlin with the same address about 15 km from one another!

This portion of the wall is over a mile long and it is in fact the longest portion still in tact. There are others, but this has been the most preserved with artists given a chance to express themselves here. I recommend this if you ever visit!

Anyhow... here are a bunch of photos. Again, sorry if it's too much. Simple fix... scroll faster! :)

Famous... "My God help me, this deadly love to survive" - Leonid Brezhnev & Erich Honecker. Here is the condition that this piece was in as of 2005. It's obviously been restored!

(actually taken on Christmas day)

As we headed out of town, I wanted to visit a windmill. I just love them. This is the Britzer Mühle‎. This one is located at:
Buckower Damm 130 Berlin 12349 (They put the number after the street name itself).

My mom wanted us to take a silly photo because I made them take one... but I just stepped in animal (crap). I think taking any photo was silly at this point. Ha! Yes, a problem in Europe. People don't pick up their animal waste. It's terrible!

The "serious" photo...

...and the silly one! They're being windmills!

The ugly barbed wire fence blocking us from getting to the windmill and these darling sheep!

And here they are all up-close and personal. My mom took these... and they're darling!

Next stop, Potsdam!