Thu 21 Nov - Berlin, Germany

Foggy day in Berlin...

The weather prediction was for a cold day (maximum of 2 degrees) and with early fog, but no rain. We could see the fog bank rolling in from our balcony in the morning...

After breakfast we headed outside, well rugged up and with just a couple of broad ideas on where we were going. This is how we eventually walked - a 17km meandering route over the inner east and west of Berlin.

We felt that we had not given Checkpoint Charlie the appropriate consideration during our first visit at our first free walking tour so that's where we started.

This concrete post on Friedrichstraße was moved here as it is now in the old West Berlin, but was an actual border marker of the DDR.

These guys had worked out a good money spinner. At the point where the old entry to West Berlin was for Checkpoint Charlie there is a booth and these "soldiers".

You quickly realise how commercialized and western this place has become. Maccas on the right and plenty of souvenir shops on the left.

For €2 for a photo we still thought it was a bargain and just to ensure we got our money's worth, Di quickly snapped a second photo.

Hans smiling happily and giving the thumbs up as he is now in the American sector.

Di was sneaking into East Berlin under the watchful eye of the young soviet soldier.

The reverse of the sign above Di.

From our walking tour last week we remembered that a substantial section of the Berlin Wall was nearby off Niederkirchnerstraße so we headed towards there.

On the way we got distracted by Trabi World. Hans "loves" these cars and how they reflected everything about the DDR she he grew up.

We find the Wall on Niederkirchnerstraße on and "off" the street and behind Hans. By the end of today we had crossed it many many times.

This 200 metre long section on Niederkirchnerstraße is right behind the Tax Office and can be seen in newspaper photos from the time with people sitting on it, pushing bits over etc.

In other words, this section of the wall was forever captured in one of those defining moments in history. As a result it was declared an important historic monument and protected even though it is on Niederkirchnerstraße itself.

Nevertheless Hans had a go at pushing a chunk over... "Break down the wall..." as he got into the spirit of Pink Floyd...

Di reenacted a DDR resident stepping through the wall for the first time. Lucky it was not before 9 November 1989 or she would have ended up at the Stasi prison or worse...

We kept heading west, and came across 2 nice old buildings that have either been restored or survived the war...

This gallery, Martin-Gropius-Bau, we suspect was damaged and restored, however the two statues at the front, which were decapitated, armless and legless, were left as is or was.

The Berlin State parliament building was directly opposite the gallery above but we failed to take a photo as we tried to figure out who the statue in front of it depicted.

Opposite Potsdamer Platz we saw this guy was trying to make a Euro or two by charging for adding old DDR stamps into your real passport. What? Declined!

Our main destination for today's wandering was Tiergarten as we just skimmed the surface of that huge park last week.

Tiergarten was beautiful on this foggy morning. Not always quiet as there were gardeners with industrial leaf blowers clearing paths of wet slippery leaves. We understood why but it all seemed a bit pointless as tomorrow...

Tisch Tennis (ping pong) seems quite popular in Germany and they have these permanent tables in the park. We even saw 2 brave souls having a game there in the woods.

Despite the cold the Tiergarten park was used by walkes, joggers and cyclists. It is a great way through a busy section of the city. Even 50 metres from the road it gets quiet and lots of lovely paths so this was the busiest we had.

The fog looked great around the Brandenburger Tor which forms the eastern bookend of Tiergarten. Even the background of cranes almost disappeared.

Looking westwards from the same spot as above and you see the Victory Column shrouded in fog. More on that memorial later...

Aaahhh we needed that break. The green container toilets inside Tiergarten were definitely practical but not terribly warm for the exposed bits.

The Tiergarten map showed that the north-western end of the park had an Englisches Garten and a cafe so we headed towards there. First we reached the river Spree yet again looking quite lovely under the bridge.

No luck...the Teehaus at Englisches Garten does not open until 12pm - not very English old chap!

So we found a nearby art school which has a cafe. We kept laughing about the 1970's typical college buildings. Pebblecrete, exposed concrete and mission brown bricks. We've all seen it and this is not even In former DDR.

Hans bought a coffee (not bad). Di had thermos tea which we had brought with us.

Warmed up we motored on.

Now the fog has lifted we can see the monument...the golden statue of Victory at the top. The Victory Column is a monument designed in 1864 to commemorate the Prussian victory in the Danish-Prussian War.

  • Victory is looking quite lovely.

    Originally we guessed the monument was to a soviet victory but the depictions were too old and we worked out it was older and marked a Prussian victory in the 1800's.

    It seems that either the locals didn't like it or it got some WWII damage (or both) as there were marble gouges and chunks missing. Some damage to us definitely looked like bullet holes. You be the judge...

    Our route took us back eastwards and as we crossed the road at one set of lights just east of the Victory Column, this guy was busking with his sticks - juggling - during the red light intervals.

    Not much money handed over by drivers and we understood why, he wasn't very good and did drop his sticks a few times. A novel approach though for a captive audience, if only for a short little while.

    After wandering more in the Tiergarten we stepped out onto the main road leading towards Brandenburger Tor and found the real soviet memorial.

    The memorial is to commemorate 2,000 soviet soldiers who died here during WWII and was handed back to the German government in 1990 to maintain.

    A true war memorial, tanks and all, which sat like 2 guard dogs at either side of the memorial entrance. We appreciated the irony that in this shot the tank seems to be in line towards the Brandenburger Tor.

    We tried one more attempt to get an appointment to see the Bundestag after missing out 3pm appointment on Tuesday (as street art in Kreuzberg was too interesting). The queue was long so nope and next appointment was not possible until several hours later. Maybe next time...

    Time for lunch and we've been successful to date in getting pretty reasonable lunch deals around local railway stations so we walked to Friedrichstraße Bahnhof with that agenda.

    A good idea as we found a seafood place underneath the station, with seating, where lunch for us both was 11€.

    For that we got 1 box of fish cocktails and wedges and 2 boxes of delicious garlic herb fried shrimp (we started with 1 box but too good...) and nice sauce too.

    After yesterday we vowed that today would be more upbeat but we were very close to a free museum called TrienenPalast, or Palace of Tears, so we decided we just had to go.

    This open, friendly looking building is the museum and was previously the checkpoint in and out of East Berlin for those going by train from Friedrichstraße Bahnhof in the old East Berlin, to West Berlin.

    You can see how close it was to Friedrichstraße Bahnhof (to the left, and where we had lunch). It was for a reason...

    These doors let people in one by one where border guards did lots of checking of paperwork to ensure you were authorized to leave.

    And this was the old corridor that led directly to the train station. It was fully enclosed all the way so once in you were on your way to the West.

    DDR residents would wait here for approval to leave (rare) or for family members to come to visit from the west. It was known as Palace of Tears due to tearful reunions or farewells of loved ones from the West.

    The museum was reasonably interesting with personal stories about people getting out of the DDR and what came through with family visits and packages to supply those in the East. We skipped most of the background because we know it pretty well by now.

    In this scale model of the processing building you can see how close the back corridor was to the train station.

    From another angle.

    OK, enough of sad DDR stories for today. We opted for the scenic route home along the Spree canal and river and were happy to be out and about with no rain.

    We followed the river Spree and soon reached Museum Island.

    No more museums for us today but we needed the photo of the busker (far right with the white box in front of him) who was playing the accordion, very French style, on the bridge, but with hardly any passing foot traffic - he didn't seem very commercially minded.

    The Pergamon is the big museum in Berlin, and like the British Museum has antiquities and art from all over the world. Not on our list to see but we did notice how enormous the place is and they seem to be extending. All the buildings you can see, and one in the background are part of this museum. The extension (we think) also seemed big and they seem to be reclaiming land to do it - everything behind the dam wall.

    You don't really think of Berlin as a city with a river and canals, but it does have them. Nothing like Hamburg or Amsterdam but nice enough for a wander along on the way home. Not that nice that we would pay about 20€ each for a river boat trip like the people on the boat here. We prefer to walk.

    We kept following the river and eventually reached Berlin Hafen (harbour, sort of). This is surprisingly close to where we currently stay on Leipziger Straße and it looked very nice.

    Along the way we had been keeping an eye open trying to spot another "Bourne Supremacy" film location (sorry, there are just so many!).

    We found it about 3 minutes from our front door and on the same road. Leipziger Straße. This is supposed to be Moscow and was where Jason Bourne was shot in the shoulder trying to escape the Russian police.

    From the same location you can see our building...4th in line on the left. Very close. Roughly this image was also in that Bourne movie.

    In the movie the Russian police do a sliding u-turn and drive their car up onto this footpath. We figure they filmed it early one Sunday morning because Leipziger Straße is a busy road nearly all the time.

    Back at Leipziger Straße 46 and we decided to yet again pop in at Lidl to get some more red wine and ingredients for Di to make some gluhwein for us. She did and that was very nice indeed.

    Dinner was leftover spaghetti bolognaise, still very good too.

    A lazy evening followed as we thought we had done and seen enough for one day. A bit of blogging...

    Good night.


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