Sunday, January 25, 2009

A Day in Berlin

It was a great day. Up and to breakfast by 9:30 and then we were off. We (Evelyn, Kirk, Jer and I) went on a hop-on, hop off tour of the city. We saw Checkpoint Charlie that allowed people back and forth across the Berlin Wall. The Berlin Wall was erected immediately after WWII and divided a city. Anyone on the East side was now East German and those on the western side were West German. It happened overnight that the wall was erected. It was originally wooden posts covered in barbed wire. It later became flat concrete walls with a round (30cm) top so it was hard to climb over. The Soviets controlled the East and that also meant the city was surrounded by the Soviet's East. This control forced the Allies to airlift food and supplies into West Berlin for many years. Some pilots dropped candy bars to the children. It was a city divided from 1945 until October 3, 1989 when the wall came down. I have read that WWII was finally over when it did. About 150+ people were killed attempting to get over the wall. Those most successful at completing this task were the guards. It was dangerous as they were shot and because there was a large area called no-mans land, it was difficult to escape East Berlin.

We saw some amazing architecture. And I mean architecture. I will send some photos tomorrow. We saw San Soucci palace and they have a l'orangerie. We saw the Reichstag (the parliament building - where the Nazis made their last stand against the Allies and continued the war for two extra days. You can see places where they have patched the facade of the old stone. It is where bullet holes and shrapnel marred the surface. We saw churches that were bombed out by the war and left as a memorial so people remember. Today you can follow the route of the Berlin Wall and see exactly where it divided the city. The wall is marked by irregular red stones planted in the ground as marker. In some places the stone line goes right through a newly-built building. At the Reichstag there is a huge open plaza. There are new government buildings. The Reichstag has the old facade and has a contemporarily built interior and new stories. The Germans have added an additional floor and there is a glass dome in the middle that is so avant garde. Hopefully in a short while I will add some photos so you can see it. Before we went to the Reichstag, We visited the Brandenburger Gate. It signifies years of war history. Napoleon stole the statue on the top. I am not certain when it was returned. Great shots of the gate and the area surrounding it. The gate was a place the East Germans could see but never cross over. There is more history that I will share later.

We also went to Checkpoint Charlie (CPC) where people were allowed to cross into West Berlin. It still stands in the middfe of the road and has soldiers out front although it is only for show. There are museums all around CPC. We will go back there tomorrow. Before we got to Brandenberger Gate, we saw a memorial for the Jewish people killed in the Holocaust. It is over 3,000 concrete stones that fill this square. We saw it before it got dark so don't know what it would look like lit. I am attaching some photos of it as well.

Tomorrow we hope to go to the Jewish Museum. The architecture is amazing and we will go back to Checkpoint Charlie and view this museum. Tonight we met up with Miriam and Diane and went to an Italian restaurant. They are great people and I am grateful to meet them. Tomorrow the rest come in. We lost Mark Arnet as he is ill and cannot make it. So our number stands at 15.

Sunday - We are now at Einstein's Coffee house. It is about 10 am and we are going sightseeing again. I had hoped to download images from the camera but must first download the software. Hopefully we can get them posted later today.

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