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Day Two in Berlin – History and Sights

Posted by on June 1, 2011

It was time to educate myself on some of the history of Berlin. I needed some sort of museum. Fortunately after some wandering through the center of what was East Berlin and towards the Brandenburg gate I found the Berlin Museum. Fortuitous!

Checkpoint Charlie

Checkpoint Charlie


The Berlin Museum is well laid out – with a history of both the city itself as it developed (from its fishing roots to its modern status), as well as the information one would hope to find about the wars and indeed the Berlin Wall itself. Much of this was an eye-opener for me. I knew there’d been a wall, and it was after the War, but when I actually sat and thought about it I couldn’t really answer why it happened or why it came down. It was also interesting to see how open Berlin was about the role it played during World War 2, including the origins of the Nazis, but was at pains to point out (rightly so) that they did not represent all of Germany at the time.
Charlie's beach, complete with giant iPad advert above it

Charlie's beach, complete with giant iPad advert above it


I never really thought about the link between Berlin and the Cold War, but when it comes down to it – in a way – the little ‘pocket’ of the west that was West Berlin was the very center of the Cold War. And if it was the center, where the two sides met – where it got the most heated would have been at Checkpoint Charlie, where at one point the Soviet and American tanks had a standoff across no-man’s land. Nowadays it’s ridiculously touristy, and where the wall had no-man’s land inbetween there’s now Charlie’s Beach – a ‘sand beach’ in the middle of downtown Berlin.
Part of the Berlin Wall still standing

Part of the Berlin Wall still standing


I followed the wall down from here, and came across the largest segment of it still standing. It’s worth noting that there was really two walls with the no-man’s land inbetween – which included sentries, guard dogs, mines and anti-tank devices – as it evolved from a small wall to a definitive boundary keeping – ironically, the East Berliners from getting out into the west – as once they were in West Berlin they could get out to other countries in the west.
The TV Tower - 368m tall

The TV Tower - 368m tall


It was boiling hot and after heading through Potsdamerplatz and Alexanderplatz, seeing the new buildings since the war and the common meeting places, I headed back to the hostel for a while to wait for it to cool down, before heading to the 368m high Berlin TV Tower to get a view of the city at sunset. It’s got a sad history – in that it was meant to show the might of Soviet technology when being built, but instead they had to ask for outside engineers to help design and build it. The view is spectacular over the entire city, and this is something I do like doing – going up high to get a perspective of where things are in relation to one another in a city. Also pleased to note that New Zealand’s own Sky Tower is taller :)
Berlin from the tower - Brandenburg Tor in top left if you look close

Berlin from the tower - Brandenburg Tor in top left if you look close


Back to the hostel where the finalists of the Eurovision Song Contest were being decided on television, and I headed to sleep.

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