Berlin is a fascinating city. I have vague memories of the Berlin Wall falling when I was in grade school, but didn’t understand the significance of it at the time. Everywhere you look the city is bursting with history.
One of the images I had of the Berlin Wall was of lots of graffiti. It must be a significant part of German culture because there were many abandoned buildings, galleries, clubs and bars that embraced graffiti. Some of it was very pretty and unique, while some didn’t speak to me at all. It did make for interesting eye candy.
The architecture of the city was the most interesting. Approximately 80% of the city was destroyed during World War II. Buildings ranging from the Third Reich offices, the Reichstag, churches, homes, and restaurants were demolished. Therefore, the city has been almost completely rebuilt. Some buildings were recreated to look like what they did before, such as the Reichstag, the German Parliament. However, others took the opportunity to embrace modern architecture. Some of the most interesting buildings were the embassies of different countries. You could spend hours just walking around looking at the buildings.
Berlin has many observation points to observe the city from above. We took advantage of three of them. The first is located in Potsdamer Platz. During the Cold War it was part of No Man’s Land and the land was completely un-developed. After the reunification of the city, they built a modern office complex in that space. One of the buildings has the fastest elevator in Europe and great views of the city. The next viewpoint we saw was in the TV tower. It was built by the East Germans, as the second tallest building in Europe. The first is the TV tower in Moscow. It was designed to be seen from everywhere in West Berlin. That viewpoint was higher, but it was very foggy and there were lots of misbehaved children, so it was hard to appreciate the experience fully. The third bird’s eye city view was from a hot air balloon. Michael does not like to fly and is scared of heights; however, it was his idea to go in this balloon. I am unclear how it works, because it was tethered to the ground with a metal rope. It was incredible to be floating over the city from such heights and really see how large the city is. We could make out some buildings that we saw over the previous few days.
Food-wise, we didn’t starve in Berlin, but it wasn’t a culinary experience. Mexican food in Moscow leaves a lot to be desired. On our second day in Berlin we discovered a very good Mexican restaurant, with some of the best nachos I have ever had. We paid a repeat visit there on another night. On our first visit, they gave us each a free tequila shot. It was my first tequila shot since a very bad night my junior year abroad in Israel. Thankfully, the night in Berlin ended on a much better note! There was an outdoor holiday market set up that had lots of beer (it is Germany after all!) along with lots of typical German food. The most tantalizing was a booth full of gingerbread cookies and other home-made confections. I settled on home-made french fries that were cooked to perfection.
One of the cutest things we saw were the East Berlin signs on lights that indicate when you can walk and when you cannot. The story is they were implemented because kids didn’t want to wait to cross the street so they created a cartoon-like character that kids would want to wait to see turn green! It worked and became a cultural icon. When the Wall came down, the city took down those too. However, people in East Berlin had an attachment to them and demanded they be put back up. The figures are known as Appelman. We spent a long time in an Appelman store debating which of the cute items to buy. Michael settled on a t-shirt.
From Russia with Love,