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As Purefrancenow discovered, Berlin is one of those historical cities which has to be high on the list to visit, at least once.
I went with my wife, Lucy, and our son, Ellis, and Juliane, my wife’s mother ( who was born in East Germany, and is from Prussian descent.) Juliane had never been back since WWII, after the Russians moved in. Not a good time!
So, a bit of a symbolic and emotional trip in many ways, as well as a short vacation for us all.
A short flight from Lyon, where we are based, and you are there – in the heart of the metropolis of Berlin. Living and breathing in all its tangled history.
Berlin is a place, of course, full of strange contradictions and with such a fundamental place in both the ancient and modern history of Germany. And like many countries in the Europe, with a very complicated and intriguing history.
Yes, you cannot escape the symbolism, myriad images, and history of war. But you really don’t want to!
This is recent history which still has current momentum.
The remnants of bullet holes in old buildings is all part of it. My son, Ellis, and I competed in spotting them as we wandered the streets!
But there is much, much more, of course.
The remarkable new architectural structures which have risen from the destruction of war, have been designed and built for a variety of new government buildings, international embassies, art exhibition centres, residential apartments, offices, theatres, museums, etc. (part of the opportunity of reconstruction after the war, and the eventual re-unification between East and West.
A new modern landscape has been created, interspersed with the few carefully renovated older buildings, including cathedrals and churches which still remain.
Brilliantly designed and informative museums – particularly the Deutsches Historiches Museum (History of Germany from Ancient and Roman times through to the modern day and the Jüdisches Museum (History of the Jews). Impressive.
Places of interest abound (some not so obvious to find!) Including remnants of the cold war, such as the ever-present Berlin Wall (many grafitty-designed pieces of it dotted around the city as a permanent symbol of the communist annexation after WWII), Checkpoint Charlie, and the original Gestapo Building nearby, Hitler’s bunker (no monument here, of course!)
I could go on, but you will find much more in the guide books. We often use the Eye Witness ones – brilliant!
The Holocaust Memorial, is particularly unusual, amazing and thought-provoking, and the Brandenburger Tor really needs no mention as, bizarrely, the essential German symbol of both triumph and defeat.
Walking around the inner heart of Berlin is easy, and you can get to key places of interest very quickly. However, it is always good when your feet are beginning to ache to jump into and experience the superb German taxi – often clean, leather-seated Mercedes driven at fast confident speed through the crowded German streets. Most definitely not expensive compared to other places I’ve been.
The quality and variety of restaurants is excellent, probably as you would expect in a major capital city, but the quality of food, friendliness of service, and most reasonable prices were a pleasant surprise. Whilst we were there we ate German, Thai, Italian, Chinese, and Bavarian – all exceedingly good.
In the week that we were there ( and I know you expect a major capital city to be full-on) Berlin did seemed to be a tremendously active, dynamic, and intriguing place.
Obviously you can never ‘do’ Berlin justice in such short time, of course, but we got a good ‘feel’ of it all.
I felt that it was an especially cosmopolitan, contemporary, creative city that was thriving (despite the current economic malaise in Europe), and most content and confident with it’s heritage and both it’s colourful and dark past, but also distinctly focused on a bright and modern future – striving forward.
A very interesting place. I would visit again, there’s much more to see!
If you’ve never been – just go!
As an additional bit of fun for the family, it is well worth going to the Berlin Zoological Gardens ( a famous original-style zoo with some modern touches, and where you can get closer to the animals than normal.) The old Natural History Museum, too, is most definitely worth a visit – the kids will love it!