Surprisingly, Whitney and I had never visited Germany together. I went to Germany with a school trip when I was 17 and loved it. Berlin is a quirky city, bustling with diversity and historical significance yet not the most beautiful of European cities. With so much of the city destroyed by bombing during WWII, the majority of buildings are more modern rather than architectural icons. Although it may not be the most stunning of cities, Berlin boasts a rich heritage. From the Brandenburg Gate to the Reichstag to the Berlin Wall, our visit was packed to the brim.
We took a train from the port town of Warnemunde to Berlin’s city center at dawn and quickly made our way around town. We started at St. Nicholas’ Church in the Nicholas Quarter, the oldest part of town with medieval buildings and cobblestone streets. The church is the oldest church in Berlin, built between 1220 and 1230.
We then admired the famous sculpture Neue Wache depicting a mother holding her dead son. The sculpture is a memorial to the victims of war and tyranny. The roof above the sculpture is open to the sky, so whether there is rain or snow, she is open to the elements.
Next up was the Brandenburg Gate, the 18th century monument built by the Prussian king, Frederick William II. It symbolizes the tumultuous history of Germany, but also unity and peace. It is also where Ronald Reagan famously told Gorbachev to “tear down this wall”.
The Berlin Wall separated eastern and western Berlin from 1961 to 1989. There were thousands of people who crossed in Berlin alone, hoping for freedom and 200 people were killed trying to cross. Checkpoint Charlie was the main entry point for visitors to cross the Iron Curtain into East Berlin. The crosses along the fence near the Brandenburg Gate commemorate a dozen of the many people who were murdered while trying to escape the east.
The Reichstag is a magnificent building home to the parliament but notable for its use for Nazi propaganda during WWII. During our tour, we saw many other monuments of Berlin including the Victory Column that was built in the late 1800s to commemorate the Prussian victory in the Danish-Prussian War. We also saw Potsdamer Platz and the Berlin Cathedral. Lastly, we visited the Allied Museum where we learned even more about the division of Germany after WWII between Russia, England, France, and the United States. We read about the Berlin Air Lift where countless food and supplies were dropped into the Soviet surrounded Western Berlin. One pilot was known as the “Berlin Candy Bomber” because he dropped candy with handkerchief parachutes for the German children.
No good trip to Germany is without traditional German fare. Pretzels were eaten with abandon and sausages dolloped with sauerkraut. Apple strudel was quickly devoured and German beer swiftly drank. All in a day’s work!