Day seven turned out to be, like most other days, pretty grim weather wise. But, I was determined to do something and so sheltering my camera from the rain I made my way out of the house. What I didn’t know before I came to stay was that my friend lives literally on the wall (or where the wall once stood). When she walks out of the house everyday she has to cross the wall to get to work. The path that runs outside the door is the old ‘no mans lands’ and the patrol path of the guards. While I was in Berlin I discovered that the city is working to uncover, preserve and mark as much of the wall as possible. To aid this, the stretch outside where I stayed, which continues for quite a distance down the road, the wall is marked out with metal inlayed into the ground, interspersed with information stations, huge photographs, audio files and videos which give the viewer more insight into what life was really like when the wall was still in place. The information booths were positioned, as much as possible, in the same places where the events occured that the boards told you about – for example when they spoke about escape tunnels you were standing on top of one of the famous ones. Things like the escape tunnels and original areas occupied by the border houses were also marked out on the ground, and areas of exposed original foundations were marked and labelled. It was a very sombre experience for me, and I think being by myself in the rain and the silence really set the mood – perhaps even a little too well. Then, after visiting the documentation centre which had more info about the wall, I went to the Neues Museum on Museuminsel (Museum Island) because it was not a day for staying outside. The price to get in is a little hefty without a student card at €12 (€8 concession) but I would say that if you’re into museums it’s definitely worth a visit. You can get a pass for three days or one for the whole Museum Island, but because it already relatively late in the day because I walked everywhere (to see more, and save on train fare – travellers tip) and also because sometimes you can only do so many museums. There were a surprisingly large amount of Egyptian pieces, which were pretty amazing, but if you do take a visit make sure to go all the way to the top floor and look at the pieces local to the area, which were interesting in their variety. That evening, as one should, we went for cocktails in a cute bar called the Bahamas (literal sand on the floor – but the cocktails were pretty amazing) and it definitely made up for the rain!
Pictures: 1-3. Views of the Wall trail, with photographs and information boards (and rain rain rain), 4. An Egyptian sarcophagus, 5. Inlayed into the street throughout Berlin are these plaques commemorating individuals (Jews) who were deported from that area. This was the first time that I noticed them, in the back streets of Berlin – it’s sad to think that those names are probably forgotten to many, and never seen.
Day eight – my last full day in Berlin! I don’t have many photos of what I did on my last day because it was pretty depressingly gross and rainy. I took a walk around Alexanderplatz and then stumbled across this place called Nikolai Viertel (or the Nikolai Quarter), which despite walking past it all week, I had never actually noticed before. It is the oldest residential area of Berlin and has a beautiful church of St Nicholas (circa. 1200) which is just stunning – even in the rain. There was also a statue of what looked like a lot like St George and the dragon, but I could be wrong. The awful weather drove me into shopping centres where I could buy Haribo and Milka chocolate and Berlin postcards just to prove that I had been to Berlin – and then we had a long lunch at a great little cafe/deli place who did amazing platters and sandwiches, but who’s name has completely slipped my mind! Another late night was had with cocktails at Bahamas – the waitress there now knows me – and then I had to be up ridiculously early to get a train back to other side of Berlin to the airport.
Pictures: 1. found in the tree in Nikolai Viertel, 2. St Nicholas Church, 3. Incredible pattern of leaves, 4. St George and Dragon? I think so.
And that was Berlin! It was crazy, and cold and rainy, and beautiful and grimy and basically just another European city, but I fell in love with it. I loved the street art, and the smell of Gluwein and bratwurst, and the rubbish and the Autumn leave. I love the fact that you’re constantly crossing a road to look down at your feet and discovering that this is where Ronald Reagan told Gorbachev to tear down the wall, or that the house you live in is two feet from the wall – the way that old and new Berlin are so closely entertwined that I don’t think one could survive without the other. Everywhere I went I found more places to visit, and even though I tried, I couldn’t see everything – but everything that I didn’t do is just there, waiting for next time. I hope it’s soon.
Have any of you visited Berlin, or Germany? Was there something that I shouldn’t have missed? Let me know in the comments or tweet me at @Francesca_Sleet