We arrived in Berlin Sunday afternoon after a long day of traveling. After dropping our luggage off in the hotel, we left to have our first taste of German food. For many of us our first German dish was Schnitzel: a delicious but very heavy food that comes in many varieties (chicken, beef, broccoli and cheese, etc.). Once we had our fill we strolled back to the hotel for a quick architecture lecture from Professor Coddle to prepare for our bus tour tomorrow morning.
An early eight am start to our first full day in Berlin! Our bus tour leader was Stevie; a true Berliner who lived and worked here during the Cold War. She began our tour with a visit to the Charlottenburg Palace. The Palace is located along the Spree River and located on the top of it is the goddess of luck who acts as a weather vane. Today the Palace no longer houses Frederick the Great, but it is used for large receptions and as a museum.
Next we visited the Kaiser Wilhelm Memorial Church. The church has two parts; the remnants of what had been damaged due to the war and a new section right next to it. As we walked through what remained there were signs explaining the historical significance and how the church is being used today. Kaiser Wilhelm II built the church in 1890 for his grandfather. However it was badly damaged after the bombings of World War II. In the late 1960s the new church was added and the remains of the damaged Kaiser Wilhelm Church was turned into a memorial. In the memorial section of the church were remains of the Jesus on the Cross along with the Cross of Nails, which was constructed out of the remains of the church.
As we continued our tour of the city we passed by the victory column and the Brandenburg gate. What is interesting about both monuments is their beauty and rich history associated with each. The Brandenburg gate specifically fascinated me. It was created under Frederick II to represent peace; most significantly it has a chariot with four horses atop it and the goddess of peace (Eirene). It was first used after the defeat of Napoleon’s army in 1814 for a victory march. During the Cold War the gate was closed, but once the Berlin Wall came down it was reopened and seen as a symbol of freedom.
The cities we have already traveled to were filled with elegant classical architecture. Berlin’s beauty lies in its history. It is an industrial city and is incomparable to our previous destinations. Berlin is a city with a rich history of tenacity. Perfectly symbolized by the phoenix who constantly rises from the ashes; Berlin rebuilds itself every time something is destroyed. Its comeback story is why people love this city and why Berliners are proud to be from Berlin.
Our first 24 hours gave us an amazing feel of the city and I can’t wait to see what the rest of the week has in store for us!