I was extremely lucky and on my 21st birthday I opened a birthday card which read ‘get packed – we’re off to Berlin’. I had visited Berlin back when I was 16 or so but I couldn’t wait to explore the city further (and test out my very rusty German!)
Miles had booked us into the Ku’Damm 101 hotel which is right on the trendy shopping street – Kurfürstendamm. It was a gorgeous room and in a perfect location! After dumping our bags we headed out to have a wander.
We made our first stop at the Holocaust Memorial. Obviously much of the history of Berlin is centred around the events of the First and Second world war, therefore the city is full of memorials, museums and exhibits. Located in Mitte near the Reichstag, the Holocaust Memorial consist of 2,711 large rectangular stones laid as tribute to the Jews that died as a result of Hitler’s ‘final solution’. You can walk through the alley ways in between the structure – the sheer number of stones really brings the scale of the catastrophe to light. The memorial is designed in a way to create a feeling of confusion and unease as you wander through the slabs. Below the stones there is a free museum which focuses on the lives of individual families and how they were affected during that time. It really is humbling and must do in the city.
Having spent some time at the memorial we headed across to visit the famous Brandenburg gate which really has becomes the icon of the city. During the period of time that Berlin was divided the Brandenburg gate was located in what became known as ‘no man’s land’ behind the Berlin Wall. The gate dates back to 1791 and is definitely worth visiting it in the center of Pariser Platz.
After taking a few snaps at the gate we wandered down to visit Check Point Charlie. Back when Berlin was divided, Checkpoint Charlie became the city’s most well-known border crossing from East to West Berlin. There is a museum close by where you can learn more about the divide, however we were happy enough just to have a little look around, take a couple of photos and move on.
Our next stop of the day was the Jewish Museum. The museum traces the arrival of Jews and their contribution to German History. Although it touches on the war, it doesn’t necessarily go into too much detail with regard to the Holocaust. We probably spent three hours wandering around the museum – it really was fascinating.
With the evening starting to draw in we popped across to one of the cities Christmas Markets; Winterwelt at the Potsdamer Platz for some mulled wine, a bit of shopping and a lot of people watching. Sipping mulled wine and soaking up the festive spirit in European Christmas markets is probably one of my favourite things in the world to do.
Our next main stop off was to visit the street art murals at the famous East Side Gallery section of the Berlin Wall. The Berlin Wall was a barrier that divided Berlin from 1961 to 1989. Constructed by the German Democratic Republic (GDR, East Germany)starting on 13 August 1961, the Wall completely cut off (by land) West Berlin from surrounding East Germany and from East Berlin until government officials opened it in November 1989. Its demolition officially began on 13 June 1990 and was completed in 1992. Nowadays there’s tons of cool art on this stretch of the wall which is fascinating to see. I remember the day that we viewed the wall being absolutely freezing – all adds to the experience right!
That afternoon Miles and I headed to another Christmas market and enjoyed bratwurst and yet more mulled wine at the main market in Gendarmenmarkt. That evening we went out for dinner and delicious cocktails at the Helmut Newton bar (‘Newton Bar’) before heading back to Gendarmenmarkt for live music, delicious treats and we toasted a fantastic trip to Berlin!