The morning started out on a somber note with a visit to the Holocaust Memorial, just around the corner of the Brandenburg Gate. It was early in the morning, so I was the only tourist. The site comprised of 2,711 concrete blocks that looked about the same height before entering, but then as you walked through you realize that the blocks are of different heights, and you were walking up and down slopes. It was difficult to stay on the site for very long. Inside the Tiergarten across the street were two other memorials that are lesser-known: one for the homosexuals that were persecuted, and another for the Roma and Sinti.
After seeing the memorials I realized I was right next to the Reichstag (Parliament) Building, which is well-known for the dome designed by Norman Foster, so I went and asked about visiting the building. I was lucky enough to get an evening slot at 9pm. Whew.
I then walked through the Brandenburg Gate once more to catch the train to Nordbahnhof and see the Berlin Wall Memorial. I had been there just the day before for breakfast – but on the opposite side of the station. Inside the Nordbahnhof station were several panels that told the story of “Ghost Stations” or Geisterbahnhöfe, stations that were closed after the Berlin Wall was erected. Nordbahnhof was one of such stations. See a quick before and after video on YouTube.
Outside of the station was the Berlin Wall Memorial along Bernauer Straße, which was where a section of the Wall once stood. This section of the wall was also where many amazing escapes took place when the wall went up in 1961. As the street belonged in the West, those who lived in homes along the border were able to escape to the West by jumping out of their windows, or climbing down via a rope. The GDR regime then sealed off the windows with bricks, and eventually demolished all of the border buildings and created what was called the “death strip” along with watchtowers and another wall, further dividing East and West Berlin. I took my time walking alongside the wall, and then into the memorial, visiting each exhibit inside the grounds. It was just difficult to image how a world can be so divided just like that for 28 years, and it came down as fast as it went up. This November 9th will mark the 25th anniversary of the fall of the Wall, and there will be many events, including a “Balloon Action” event that involves the release of 8,000 balloons along a 15km stretch of where the wall once stood.
I kept walking along Bernauer Straße and then across the way to climb up an observatory area where you can see a section of the Wall along with the watchtower and the inner wall – the enclosed area was called the “death strip”. Across the way was the Fernsehtrum (TV tower) and Alexanderplatz. Standing up there I kept thinking about how crazy it was to have a 156.4km (97-mile) enclosure all the way around West Berlin, complete with watchtowers and the death strip, and then the 138 or more people who died trying to escape.
After visiting the memorial, I walked to get lost in the East – just so I can see more of it. I ended up at Rosenthaler Platz (which also had a U-Bahn station that was a ghost station as it was on the border), where I gave myself a bit of a break before heading (again) over to Alexanderplatz, and then over to Jannowitzbrücke station to take more photos along the Spree River.
I then headed towards the East Side Gallery, where the largest single stretch of the Berlin Wall still stands, and has been turned into – an open air gallery.
Then I hopped onto the trains again, stopping at random places, such as Hackescher Markt, a market square that is quite lively, with the Hackesche Höfe (courtyards) in the art nouveau style. It was great getting lost in the city.
I had to head back to the hotel a bit to get some real rest before heading out again to catch the sunset over the Brandenburg Gate. I ended up catching the tail end of the sunset, and then headed over to the Museumsinsel (Museum Island) for more photos, before heading to the Reichstag building for my tour, ending a very long day of walking (15+ miles).