(Graffiti decorates what remains of this section of the wall in East Berlin)
At first glance of the huge and vastly modern city of Berlin, it is hard to believe that less than 25 years ago it was divided.
My most recent traveling adventure was to Berlin. You can almost see the layers of history in the architecture, but walking the streets you may associate it with a popular American city.
It is good to gain perspective from time to time when living in a different country. As a service member living in such a peaceful country, it is easy to forget what brought us to Germany in the first place, but Berlin serves as a monumental reminder.
(Brandenburg Gate attracts tourists as the former gate to the city)
When I started planning my trip to Berlin, my list of things to see included the Berlin Wall, The Brandenburg Gate and Checkpoint Charlie. I thought back to my history lessons and assumed I would see a city as old and war-warn as the photos always showed.
History taught us of Berlin’s role in both world wars, the division of the city and the fall of the wall during the Cold War; I assumed the city would still show the impact of such hardship. I was wrong. The city of Berlin is huge in every sense of the word! It is one of the most modern cities I’ve ever traveled to.
Berlin has a feeling of a freshly remodeled home; everything looks new, but it still holds much of its old charm and you can easily see the past peak through with numerous memorials.
(This church serves as a reminder of the destruction of the city after the war)
We only had about 24 hours in the city to fit the trip into just one weekend. The drive there, including our gas stops, took us about 7 hours, but we were lucky not to hit traffic. We were less lucky on the way home when the drive took more than 10 hours.
With our limited amount of time, we opted for a hop-on-and-off bus tour. This is the second time I’ve used this form of transportation, and I was grateful for it! Unless you are a skilled navigator and historian, I recommend a tour of some sort as Berlin holds so much!
We saw the capital building, Museum Island, synagogues and churches. We stumbled across city festivals and found free exhibits.
One of the exhibits we visited was the Topography of Terror which served as a photo documentary of the Nazis. The exhibit was built where the headquarters of the Secret State Police was once located.
What I enjoyed most was visiting Checkpoint Charlie. It was the one of the most famous crossing points for the Berlin Wall and still stands. Being the tourist I am, I paid to take photos with them and then got my passport stamped.
We saw all the historical sites, but also found time to experience shop, eat, roam, make friends and figure out the local train system which runs all night on weekends.
While the drive was a deterrent on me going to visit, I encourage everyone to see Berlin. The city will surprise you.