After seeing Portugal win the EURO 2016 last night 12 years after losing to Greece at home, we had the pleasure of having a tour of Berlin today. Our tour guide, Stevie, is an American who has lived in Berlin for over 30 years, so she had plenty of knowledge and was obviously passionate about her city!
We started off by visiting the Charlottenburg Palace which is the largest palace in Berlin. Stevie told us that the palace was commissioned by Sophie Charlotte and a bit more history. Unfortunately, there was scaffolding so we couldn’t see it but upon doing a bit more research I learned that it’s made in baroque and rocco styles. After this we drove to our next point and on the drive Stevie told us that Americans are loved and told us about an experience she had when she first moved to Berlin- she was watching a film with a German friend and he said “I never thought I would be sitting with an American watching a film.” During this drive she also explained to us that in the area we were in many of the buildings were badly damaged, and therefore most buildings were new.
We got to our next stopping point, the Kaiser Wilhelm Memorial Church. The original was built in the 1890s but was severely damaged during the Second World War. Today, there is a memorial hall and then a separate church.
After this brief stop, we continued driving and Stevie would point out where the Berlin Wall would have been as well as where the British, French and American sectors of West Berlin were. We then stopped along the wall and walked along where it would’ve been. Stevie also showed us where the Second Wall in East Berlin would have been, as well as the “no man zone.” Also near here was a piece of the Berlin Wall as well as the Former Air Ministry during the Third Reich which is now the Finance Ministry.
After this, we passed by Checkpoint Charlie and went to the East Side Gallery. She told us that it was developed after wall fell by an East German advertiser and West Berlin artist in 1990. We then drove through what would have been East Berlin and Stevie pointed out typical buildings and Soviet Art. Our last point on the tour was the Book Burning Memorial and the Neue Wache (New Guardhouse). The Book Burning Memorial commemorating the book burning consists of a glass plate in the ground, giving a view of empty bookcases (Which can hold all 20.000 burnt books). The Neue Wache was originally a guardhouse for the Palace of King William III of Prussia but is today the Central Memorial of the Federal Republic of Germany for the Victims of War and Dictatorship. The sculpture inside is an enlarged version of one by Käthe Kollwitz, who was a famous artist who died during the War.
After this, we were free and a few colleagues and I went to the Topography of Terror which sits on the site of buildings of the headquarters of the Gestapo and the SS. The exhibitions were quite interesting and informative.
Today was a truly informative and day and I look forward to visiting the Bundestag (Parliament) tomorrow!