Today is the first of just two days that I have to spend in Berlin. There is no doubt over the past century Berlin has seen a great deal of pain and suffering. While the memory of this is still strong in Berlin, there is also a desire to move into the future as well. But many prominent reminders remain around the city.
I wanted to see and experience a little more of Berlin than a what a traditional bus tour might offer. I wanted to see the city from the ground at a slower speed you could appreciate all that you could see. Even now many years on from when the Berlin wall came down there is still many reminders. The bullet and shrapnel markings the guard towers and remnants of the Berlin Wall.
So in doing my research, I found a bike tour of the city that would visit many of the interesting sites. In the past, I had not considered bike tours, but it seemed like a great way to see Berlin and its history. The tour is something of an easy pace and gives you the opportunity to see the city.
TV Tower Observation Deck
With the tour starting later in the morning I had time for one other stop first. It was right next to where the bike tour departed from as well, so made a lot of sense. You might have noticed in previous posts how much I like to visit observation decks. In Berlin they have a couple around the city, but here in Alexanderplatz is the TV Tower Observation Deck. It is the highest observation deck in the city and gives some great views from 203M above the found.
The view is rather good, but there were a few issues with getting good photos. The first problem is there was a layer of fog or smog over the city. While the second issue is the windows were not so clean. Either way, I will share one of the photos I got from the top.
Berlin City Bike Tour
The tour was stop after stop of some rather interesting and historic places. The first stop was at Berlinerdom (Berlin Cathedral) somewhere I knew I would find my way back to later on. Even though this church is designated as a Cathedral, by the true definition, it is not an actual Cathedral. To achieve a Cathedral designation a church is supposed to be seat of a Bishop, which Berlinerdom is not. Never the less it is a rather impressive building.
The next visit was a square now known as Bebelplatz. It is in this square that public book burnings took place. They were organised by student associations for “Action against the Un-German Spirit”. It is now the site of a memorial, but there were too many people around to get a photography.
The next stop is one that probably brings back more memories of what was than any. The checkpoint is one of the points where it would have been possible to pass from east to west. It is now part of the Allied Museum and not in the original position. It is now a tourist attraction with places for photo opportunities and gift shops nearby.
Not too far away is one of the remaining sections of the Berlin Wall. Due to visitors seeking a quick souvenir, it is in a rather poor state. However, it is now a protected monument along with two other reasonable sized sections.
Old Guard Tower
I was surprised to find how close the tour was to my hotel at the moment and how close the next stop was. As we passed my hotel and turned a corner to arrive at this abandoned guard tower. I would never have known it was there if I was not to go this way.
It is one of the original guard towers which allowed for monitoring the area between East and West (No Man’s Land). Ensuring that no one attempted to cross the space illegally.
One of the most terrible outcomes from World War II is the loss of life. Estimates put the total number somewhere between 50-70 million people. It is estimated approximately 6 million of these people were Jewish, in what is known as the Holocaust.
Like many other cities in some area’s of Europe, Berlin has a memorial to recognise and remember those lives lost in the Holocaust. If covers almost an entire city block and is quite abstract in its nature. However, the important aspect is that it is a place to remember these people.
At one point in time, the Brandenburg Gate is a monument built on the site of the former city gate. In the past, it has been a site for major historical events. But today it stands more as a symbol of the turbulent history of Europe and Germany, but also of European unity and peace. I passed here twice today, the first time on the tour during the day, and returned later in the evening for the second photo.
The tour continued into an area known as Tiergarten and to Großer Stern (Great Star) where Victory Column is located. The column was moved to the current location as pictured below in 1939 by the Nazis. However, was officially inaugurated in 1873 in front of the Reichstag. The move could have saved this column as during the war the original location was destroyed by American Air Raids in 1945.
The Reichstag is the German Parliment Building. It is a rather interesting building itself and was the last hold out of the Nazi’s in World War II. Of course, the building did not come through the war undamaged. The glass dome that now adorns the building was no originally made of glass and was not even originally a dome shape. However, in some ways, this highlights the fusion of new and old in Berlin.
Although from here the tour was complete and we returned to the starting point. I was still ready to keep going and explore a bit further. But will leave it here for today with too much more to share to keep going. I will either include some in tomorrow’s post or write up another post in the next few days while I am travelling.