Journey’s end in Berlin

Wednesday 16 to Wednesday 23 September

We had visited Berlin before. In 1972 when I first met Bruce & Denis our journey from Scandinavia to the Oktoberfest in München included a stop in Berlin, visiting both East and West Berlin.

We returned in 2005 during my first European visit in 25 years. Our focus was to visit the Bauhaus museum. Of course Germany was in reunification mode and we saw a lot of changes.

This was a new adventure – meeting Hayden and  Andrea in Berlin. They had just moved there from Barcelona, set up an apartment in the trendy Prenzlauer Berg area and settled into their respective jobs at Here and Uberall. They had also transported ‘box 34’ for us, the wintery clothes we didn’t want to carry through the Americas after our Icelandic trip.

Hayden had a couple of days off work, so we were able to explore his Berlin.

First stop was the Mauerpark. A small part of the old Berlin wall has been preserved along this park with a lot of information about the days of divided Berlin. We had visited in the days the wall existed – never should we see anything like this happen again.

We explored Mitte, the main tourist area of Berlin. we walked and walked and walked. The Berliner DOM (Cathedral), Alexanderplatz and the Fernsehturm de Berlin (TV tower), the Central Memorial of the Federal Republic of Germany to the Victims of War and Tyranny with its sombre statue sitting in the middle of an empty space.

We wandered down to the famous Brandenburg Gate. The gate was finished in 1791 by King Frederick William II. The statue on top is known as ‘Quadriga’ depicting the goddess of victory. It has survived being moved to Paris by Napoleon and returned as well as the two world wars.

We were able to spend time with Hayden and Andrea over the weekend. After a local breakfast we wandered the upmarket Kurfürstendamm shopping street and visited the Kaiser Wilhelm Memorial Church. This church was badly damaged in a bombing raid in 1943 and the shell has been left as a reminder. A new chapel and bell tower have been built beside it.

The weather turned cold on Sunday so we donned our coats and headed out for a warming typical German lunch at the historic Lindengarten restaurant in Neukölln, to the south of the city. Hayden and Andrea were already finding their way around Berlin and seemed very confident on the train system.

With a couple of days left, we revisited Checkpoint Charlie. This was the crossing point from the American sector of Berlin into East Berlin. I remember getting a very fancy stamp in my passport when I made the crossing in 1971 and 1972. Now it is perhaps one of the most famous sights in Berlin, complete with actors dressed as Soviet and USA armed forces.

We found our way to the Tiergarten, one of the largest city gardens in Europe. It was devastated during the occupation as local people clambered for firewood and found space to grow vegetables.

We spent our last day visiting the Sanssouci Palace in Potsdam. It was a 30 minute train ride from the station at Alexanderplatz.

The original palace was built by Frederick the Great in the 18th century as a Summer Residence. Sans Souci means carefree. The New Palace was closed (it was Tuesday), but we visited the Orangery and the Sanssouci Palace Kitchen. The gardens were magnificent. The highlight was the vineyard which was a central part of Frederick’s design.

Now it was time to go home. We had been on the road for 390 days. But I’m sure we will be returning to Berlin and getting to know this lovely city better.