In June 2017 Master Reggie and I decided to go on a ‘lads’ tour of Berlin. Master Reggie had just completed his degree course and Mrs Reggie suggested it was time for some Father and Son bonding.
Master Reggie recommended Berlin as he had been there on a history school trip a few years earlier and it was somewhere I was interested in visiting too. Flights from Bristol Airport were booked and a hotel near one of the main railway stations (Berlin Hauptbahnhof) was selected as an ideal base to operate from, due to its central location.
Berlin is to the east of Germany with a flight time of under 2 hours from the UK. Our flight passed without incident and we landed at Berlin Schönefeld Airport on time. Berlin has a number of airports, all of which should have closed by now and replaced by one super airport. It is years overdue and massively over budget. Seems the Germans aren’t immune to the same problems which affect us.
We made the short walk from the airport to the railway station and took a train directly to Berlin Hauptbahnhof. The station is quite incredible. It’s modern and has railway tracks operating on different levels – quite stunning by comparison to many UK stations. In fact almost all the stations we went through looked very modern and new.
Our hotel was less than 5 minutes from the station and not far from the Reichstag, Bundestag and the German Chancellery, with the Brandenburg Gate a bit further away but well within walking distance. The entire area surrounding the hotel was open and largely undeveloped. I guess that Berlin was heavily bombed during WW2 and not much was done before the reunification of Germany. All the new buildings looked very modern and impressive (if you like modern architecture) and almost all of them were “funded by the EU”.
There are so many museums and sights to see in Berlin that you would probably need over a week to see it all. As it was we spent our days walking around Berlin and looking at the many historic sights. The Brandenburg Gate was pretty impressive as is the “Victory Column” (Siegessäule) which is visible with the Brandenburg Gate behind you. Don’t bother with ‘Checkpoint Charlie’ – a complete waste of time.
Other things of note include the Memorial to the Murdered Jews of Europe, the Topography of Terror (based on the site of the old SS Reich Main Security building) and the surviving bits of the Berlin Wall. The path of the Berlin wall has been permanently marked on the ground in many places and it was interesting to see how it cut some streets off down the middle.
The Jewish Museum was quite a sobering experience to say the least. Museum Island (with 3 separate museums on it) was incredibly popular and whilst we would have liked to see all of them it simply wasn’t possible so we chose the Neues Museum which contains many exhibits from Egypt including the bust of Neferiti.
My son asked me if I wanted to visit the concentration camp at Sachsenhausen, which is north of Berlin. I was a bit hesitant at first but decided that I would regret it if we didn’t go. We took a local train from the main station and arrived in Sachsenhausen town about 30 minutes later. The camp was another 15 minute walk from the town, up local residential streets. It was quite a bizarre experience in some ways, passing houses with their neat little front gardens, only a few minutes away from a place of terror. I don’t know what I expected from the visit but it was pretty grim for anyone who was sent there. At the end of WW2 the camp was run by the Russians as an NKVD special camp and operated until 1950. They were set up by the Soviet Military Administration in Germany (SMAD) and run by the Soviet Ministry of Internal Affairs. Because the camp inmates were permitted no contact with the outside world, the special camps were also known as silence camps. The Soviet occupation authorities did not admit to the existence of the camps until the Western press led the Soviet Union to respond with a moderate propaganda campaign of their own admitting and defending the camps’ existence.
On a more lighter note, as well as the museums and places of historic interest, Berlin has many bars, cafes and restaurants catering for all tastes and budgets. Many parts of the city have been modernised and if shopping is your thing there are a few shopping malls to spend your hard earned in.
On our final day we had a few hours before we headed back to the airport so we did a tour of the DDR museum. It was quite amusing to see how the average East German citizen lived under Soviet rule – well worth it.
Things of note – everyone speaks very good English and is polite and keen to help. I don’t recall it being particularly expensive to eat there and the museums were pretty good value. A lot of them are free too.
It’s a place I would definitely visit again.
© Reggie’s Mind of Evil 2020
The Goodnight Vienna Audio file