I’ve been away for a while, going back home to Ireland for personal reasons, but now I’m back on my travels for the time being at least and decided to head to Berlin. I have heard people raving about Berlin and I have to say I wasn’t to be disappointed. It really is a wonderful city. The juxtaposition between the east and west sides is an amazing way to see the different paths that history took in Germany. It is easy for younger people to forget that under 25 years ago, Germany was split into two different parts. Although Berlin actually sits in the area formerly known as East Germany, the city itself was also partitioned into Eastern and Western sections.
To stop East Germans from getting into the Western section (and out of East Germany), a wall was built around the area and an area of “no mans’ land” was set up. The majority of this wall was torn down in the late 80 and early 90’s when the two Germanys reunited with one another. However, it is possible to see areas where sections of the wall still stand. There is a large section close to the river which is famous for its amazing graffiti. This graffiti shares a lot of amazing political and historical sentiments from people from both sides of the wall. Down by this “gallery” there are also some tributes to the people who died whilst trying to cross the wall.
I head over to Checkpoint Charlie as well, which is the site where one of the old crossing points used to be. I think this was one which was administered by the American military. For a small fee, you can even get a stamp put in your passport to show that you have been thorough here! The Checkpoint Charlie museum is a must visit exhibition if you are interested in the differences between the East and the West and the whole Cold War. One of the most interesting sections talks about all of the different ways that East German citizens tried to escape to the West. One family built a car with a false top which was designed to come off when it hit the checkpoint barrier, so that the car could drive under the barrier without having to stop! There are also some fantastic bits of espionage kit, which really make you think about what kind of spy technology must exist by now…
One of the best free attractions in Berlin is the Reichstag Dome. Although you need to book online before you visit, there is no charge for this service, and you get to step inside one of the most iconic buildings in Europe. It is worth noting that the dome may be closed at short notice due to the fact the Reichstag building is where the German parliament sits. If a foreign head of state is visiting, they may shut parts of the building, including the dome, although I think that it is still sometimes possible to see down and view the parliament in session. If you do go to visit the dome, you should know that they will not accept large bags and you will need to go through security to make sure that you do not have any harmful weapons.
I also enjoyed visiting the Mauerpark market, which is the largest market in Berlin. It’s full of amazing handmade/homemade stuff, as well as lots of little second hand trinkets. It is also a great place to go if you want to try a plethora of different street foods from around the world. The grass area overlooking the market is also a cultural haven, where street musicians and performers just turn up and compete to entertain the crowds. If you don’t like what you are listening to, you can vote with your feet and wander off to find a performer who you find more pleasing. I spent almost the whole day here just enjoying the sunshine and soaking up the amazing atmosphere. It is the perfect park for an afternoon with friends.