Whirlwind Berlin

It's amazing, and tiring, how much you can fit into one day!

With so many schedules to work around, we were forced to stay over a weekend in Germany on our last business trip. We decided to use that time to go to Berlin and see the sights. We got there late on Friday night so saw little more than a restaurant for dinner but we were good to go on Saturday to explore the city.

We knew we wanted to do a bus tour but were were complete rubes when it came to finding where the tour started. As we stood around outside our hotel trying to get the map apps on our phone to give us some direction, this woman came up and said, "Did you want to do a tour?" Turns out, the spot we were in was one of the tour bus pickup/drop off sites.

It was the Yellow bus, not the Red that I was looking for but we decided, "What the hell? Let's do it!" and got on. Lesson learned. The Red bus company is much better than the Yellow. We did the Red in Frankfurt and they filled you in on a great deal of the history and current details on the city while you were on the move. The Yellow company just really told you about the landmarks as you were in front of them then played music the rest of the time.

It was good to get the lay of the land, though. We took it all the way through then waited until it got back to the stop nearest the Berlin Wall and Check Point Charlie where we got off.

There's not much left of the wall but there are some spots where they show you where it used to be.

Of course, Phred Parrott traveled with us!
What is left of the wall is close enough to touch if you lean over quite a bit. Much of it has been carried away by "woodpeckers" as they call the folks trying to take souvenir pieces of the wall home with them.

Touching history.
They've turned this piece of the wall into an exhibit across from what used to be the SS headquarters. Much of that building (along with a lot of Berlin) was damaged in the war and eventually completely torn down except for some basement rooms which are part of the full exhibit.

Also on the site is a museum documenting the Nazis rise to power and the persecution and murder of Jews, Gypsies, the mentally and physically infirm and prisoners of war. It also had quite a bit on the key players in the process and their subsequent post-war lives. It was sobering and also angering. Too many of the people who committed or ordered the atrocities ended up living out long lives outside of prison. Some served in the new government, others were lawyers or politicians and quite a few became spies for other governments. We spent about two hours there as the amount of information to absorb was impressively large.

We kept forgetting the name so we called it the "Tower of Terrors".
It felt good to shake off the depression from this exhibit but it's difficult to not think about it as you travel through Berlin. I think it's also very important to spend time there. We should never forget how good people stood by while this happened and I hate that genocide and blind hatred of those different than us still happens today.

We were happy to get to Check Point Charlie. They have "soldiers" on duty and they've learned how to make some euros here. For 5 euros, you can get a set of passport stamps in your actual passport. One of my colleagues and I were all over that.

These are from all the countries that had a presence in Berlin post WWII.

You could also get your picture taken (for another fee) with the soldiers. I chose to just get something from afar.
The infamous Check Point Charlie.
Kathy and Phred at Check Point Charlie.
We then spent some time at the Wall Museum which is an outside exhibit with many pictures and stories about the Wall and the people trying to get across or through or under it. Again, the stories were powerful ones of desperation and sometimes death.

What's interesting is that one of our colleagues is from Poland and she was on the "bad" side of the wall. The Wall came down in 1989 when she was pretty young but she doesn't remember it as being that bad. Sure, you had to wait years to get a car, or know someone who could pull some strings, but everyone worked and they had food. She told us how people came up to here after the Wall was down and gave her candy and money because they felt sorry for her being under Soviet control. As a kid, she was just happy to get the cash and the sweets.

We continued to hoof it through the city and saw many famous buildings a little closer than you could get from the bus.

The Brandenburg Gate.
Schloss Charlottenburg - largest existing palace in Berlin.

Humboldt University - established in 1810.
Reichstag and Berlin Cathedral (Dom) in a panoramic view from my iPhone.
Reichstag (main government building)
TV Tower - tallest structure in Germany at 368 meters
View from the TV Tower
We ended our sightseeing with a drink at the top of the TV Tower. One of my colleagues suggested walking back to our hotel. I pulled a "Frak, no!" so we took a cab. That was a good call as it was a 6K walk and took us 15 minutes just by car. For the record, the one who suggested walking went to bed when we got back to the hotel while the other two of us still managed to go out to dinner.

I know we only scratched the surface of Berlin but I am content that we got the most out of it in the time we had. As much as it can be tiring and frustrating traveling for work, I'm grateful that this project is giving me an opportunity to explore places that I probably wouldn't have gone to on my own.

Bonus that it's also a country where everyone pronounces my last name correctly!


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