We visited several key places in the old East Berlin besides the famous Brandenburg Tor. The first stop was the German Holocaust Memorial. Though rather stark, and without any signs or guidance, the artist wanted us to come up with our own interpretation. The thousands of cement coffin-like rectangles above ground are rather depressing.
Second, we stood directly above the secret bunker that housed Adolph Hitler and Eva Braun for the last four months of their lives. Other top Third Reich staff lived there too. Hitler married Braun on April 29, 1945, and both committed suicide on April 30. They used both cyanide and pistols, since Hitler felt cyanide would not kill him. Their bodies were partially burned by his able assistant, mostly to keep the Russians from parading his corpse around Moscow. But he was unable to complete the cremation due to the seige of Berlin.
He quickly buried the partially burned bodies, which were soon discovered by the Russian military. The Russians buried the two out in the countryside in unmarked graves. The location is still a closely guarded Russian secret, according to local legend.
A decent section of the wall remains. Rather than barbed wire, it is topped by a curved metal pipe. The pipe was more effective in thwarting escapes. Barbed wire was easily used either as a tether to hoist bodies over, or simply covered with towels or clothing, rendering it like a helpful rope. The curved pipe was large enough to prevent any grip, rendering the escapee helpless to shinny over, often falling back into the waiting arms of the Stasi.
Nothing remains of Checkpoint Charlie, except a sign, stating that you are leaving the American sector. The other signs, guardhouse, and even the soldiers are not real. The soldiers are actors who will allow you to take a photo with you for 5 Euros!! There is a Checkpoint Charlie Museum there too. Do you know why it was named “Charlie”??**
The wall is now marked throughout the city by a double wide row of stone blocks in the ground. It certainly does not have the “charm” of the wall itself. And certainly rendered me rather disappointed since going through Checkpoint Charlie in 1971. It was the Cold War at its best. Yes, people are better off without the wall, as are Berlin, Germany, and all of Europe.
I just expected to have stronger feelings about my return visit. It is, sadly, just a tourist sight now.
Answer: it was the last checkpoint between east and west, and of course, followed checkpoints A and B. Checkpoint C was called Charlie, like most other military things that were named for a letter of the alphabet!! Apple, Betty, Charlie, Dog, etc.
On the plus side of things, I had my first doner kebab and beer for lunch on Tuesday. Owned by a couple of Greek guys. Figures, since it fits their culture better. Just make sure to order the doner on pita, not a German tortilla! And some schnitzel for dinner, also with more beer. Mostly older people or tourists like me, eating traditional food.
The classical concert at Kaiser-Wilhelm-Gedachtnis Kirche was very good, and lasted only 70 minutes. It featured, among other pieces, Vivaldi’s The Four Seasons, Beethoven’s Symphony No. 5, Mozart’s Requiem, and the crowd favorite, Schubert’s Ave Maria. The acoustics were remarkably good for a large box of a concert hall made from a church. And it was sold out!
I did forget that we also visited famous, and prestigious Humboldt University, home to 40 Nobel Prize winners. Their alumni nclude the likes of Albert Einstein, Karl Marx, Angela Davis, Otto von Bismarck, W. E. B. DuBois, Max Weber, Alfred Eisenstadt, Felix Mendelssohn, Max Planck, Friedrich Engels, rather distinguished like Harvard. And can you believe 5 Americans won Nobel prizes recently, all immigrants!!!
In general, the old east side does not look as depressing as the Cold War Soviet days. I will send photos comparing the two when I get home. Also, the number of young people out on the streets is just remarkable compared to 45 years ago. And hardly any old people begging on the street either. I can definitely see a return trip to the Oktoberfest next year, or even the Tour de France.
So, breakfast today was at Starbucks across the street. It sure beats paying $27 for the ridiculous hotel breakfast with gritty powdered eggs and gamey, greasy bacon. Sad when Bucks is better than a 4 star hotel.
But lunch was much better, some curry wurst with french fries and a Becks beer. I strolled over to the famous Ka De We department store after. I found the champagne bar on the 6th floor. So, I had a glass of Moet just to remind myself that I am not a beer drinker. But I did find something wonderful in the store, wine gummies from England.
I also found a uniqlo store across the street, but I have not more room in my medium small suitcase. So, I cut the shopping excursion, and got back on the hop on hop off tour bus. I am probably the only tourist to fall asleep twice on the bus tour!
Ultimately, it has been a good trip, enough to make me want to see eastern Europe sometime soon. I loved Dublin and Amsterdam. But Berlin, though now a most exciting place, has become a vast tourist mecca, at the expense of an authentic German experience. Life goes on, why not just visit London?? That is what Berlin will be in a matter of a few years.