Saturday 24 to Wednesday 28 June
There is a different kind of excitement when you return to a city rather than exploring a city for the first time. There is the element of knowing where everything is, which is very different to the initial sight. Then there can be the added bonus of returning to a known city to visit a loved one. And so we were in Berlin primarily to visit Hayden and Andrea who have now worked there for two years.
And since this wasn’t our first visit we were looking for the less popular tourist sites.
We started with a walk to their local street market and then to their local park where we found a pleasant beer/wine.
We visited the Berlin Unterwelten Berlin Underground – Subways and Bunkers in the Cold War, to see how bomb shelters had been prepared. (Sorry, no pics allowed). Our English speaking guide made us realise that firstly only a select few 5% of population could be accommodated, and secondly the shelters may protect you from an A-bomb, perhaps. But it could only keep you there for 3 days. There was no food or water, so it is BYO. And when you leave the shelter, the air and soil would likely be contaminated.
Shelters were actually built within the underground train system utilising spaces that are created during construction.
Switzerland, on the other hand can accommodate 110% of its population in far more secure bunkers.
We also visited a Banksy exhibition. It had been in Melbourne but we had missed it there. An opportunity to understand his artistic ability. As it turns out, it was not an official exhibition, it was curated by the artists’ former manager, Steve Lazarides. There had been a falling out, so Banksy, who maintains a distance from any publicity, had nothing to do with it. Nevertheless it did illustrate his artistic abilities.
We looked for Hitler’s lair. Today it is a car park with a sign announcing it, but there is no attempt to turn it into a tourist attraction. In fact the shops in the area were closed and empty.
But just across the road is the Memorial to the Murdered Jews of Europe. Being Monday it was closed, but there is a permanent installation of concrete blocks above it called the ‘Field of Stalae’ which covers an area 19,000m2 and 2711 blocks.
Of interest, the foundation is now also responsible for the memorials to the persecuted homosexuals and the murdered Sinti and Roma of Europe.
We visited the Berliner DOM (Berlin Cathedral is the short name for the Evangelical Supreme Parish and Collegiate Church in Berlin). Inside was like many large city cathedrals, luxurious in gilded statues. There is an amazing selection of tombs both in the church and in the crypt. We climbed the dome to get a great view of the city under grey clouds.
We had a little trouble finding the DDR museum as it was discreetly tucked away by the river. Very interesting insight into life in East Germany during the Cold War. Products were of a poorer quality and in scant supply so although people had work and were paid, there was nothing to spend their money on, and of course the money was worthless outside of east Germany.
This is a very hands on exhibition, you can sit in a Trabant 1.1 car, take a ride in a wobbly lift, dress in clothes from a digital wardrobe and play with East German toys. There were drawers and cabinets to open and explore stories of life under socialism.
An excellent museum for young adults whose life has not been affected by the wall and the Ministry of State Security.
Hayden made sure that a beer experience was included in our visit so we met them after work and proceeded to the BrewDog. Fortunately they also served wine. I laughed when I found a blackboard illustrating instructions on how to brew beer, in the Ladies Toilet!
Dinner was at a Thai fusion restaurant called Royals & Rice. The food was spicy and interesting.
It was nice to see H&A more relaxed and familiar with their surroundings in Berlin and easily able to choose places to go to.