25.07.2017 - 25.07.2017 24 °C
On our way home (to Denmark) from France we took a short 3-day stop-over in Berlin.
We negotiated our way by train to our first stop, the Brandenburg Gate, which was high on my to-do list. .It is a very impressive monument, and iconic landmark, obviously popular with tourists from all over.
The Gate has often been a site for major historical events. Built with the Quadriga, a chariot drawn by four horses with Eirene, the goddess of peace, atop it by the King of Prussia in the 18th-century, it was originally named The Peace Gate.
Then in 1806 Napoleon was the first to use the Brandenburg Gate to celebrate a victory, in this case the defeat of the Prussian army. He then removed the Quadriga and took it back to France as a victory trophy. However, it was returned to Berlin after Napoleon's defeat in 1814 and the Prussian occupation of Paris. It was then redesigned as a triumphal arch, and the goddess of peace replaced by Victoria, goddess of victory.
The gate was used as a party symbol by the Nazis. It survived World War II, but was badly damaged with holes in the columns from bullets and nearby explosions. One horse’s head from the original Quadriga survived and today is kept in a collection in a Berlin museum.
After the fall of Berlin in 1945, the gate symbolised freedom and the desire to unify the city of Berlin. Vehicles and pedestrians could travel freely through the gate until the Berlin Wall was built on 13 August 1961. The gate then became a part of the wall, standing between East and West Germany. One of the eight Berlin Wall crossings, it was opened on the eastern side, but was not open for East Berliners.
Thousands of people gathered to celebrate the fall of the Berlin Wall on 9 November 1989, and on 22 December 1989 the Brandenburg Gate border crossing was reopened.
On 2–3 October 1990, the gate was the scene of the official ceremony to mark the reunification of Germany. At the stroke of midnight on 3 October, the black-red-gold flag of West Germany—now the flag of a reunified Germany—was raised over the Gate. The quadriga was removed in 1990 and the gate privately refurbished in 2000 at a cost of six million euros. Following the refurbishment it was again opened on 3 October 2002 for the 12th anniversary of German reunification.
We then took a 3 hour tour with SANDEMANs New Berlin, Free Walking Tour. Sam, our guide (an immigrant from Britain 😊 and a history graduate) was excellent. His presentation was very interesting and informative, and his humour and dry wit kept us engaged .. though the 3hour walk was tough 😄 . While showing us all the relevant sites (the wall, Holocaust monument, Checkpoint Charlie), Sam also encouraged us to see past the horrors of WWII and the Cold War to the many other positives of Germany, especially the building of the modern Germany since reunification. I appreciated this different perspective.
The course of the former wall and border is now marked in the street with a line of cobblestones.
The original wall.
Checkpoint Charlie. The original booth was removed in 1990, but a copy of the guard house and sign that once marked the border crossing was later built where Checkpoint Charlie once was.
Another must-do for me was The East Side Gallery, the largest open air gallery in the world. Check it out::
East Side Gallery
After the fall of the wall, from February to September 1990, 1316 metres of the wall was painted with images. Over 118 artists from 21 countries created 106 very diverse paintings expressing the joy of the fall of the Berlin Wall and the end of the Cold War in Europe.
Michail Serebrjakov - Diagonal Solution Of The Problem . / . Rosemarie Schinzler - Anything Open
Schamil Gimajev - Worlds People
This image shows the area of 'no mans land' between the wall and the River Spree. All the waters of the river were in the East German fortifications which extended to the shoreline on the Western side. A number of children drowned after falling in the river on the western side and were unable to be rescued due to the fear of being shot from the soldiers. Eventually a fence was constructed along the west bank and troops on the eastern side ordered to respond and rescue the children if further accidents occurred.
When walking around the city I found myself wondering if I was in the eastern or western side of the wall, and contemplating the very different lives experienced by each, with families and friends separated by the wall.
Beside the gallery is The Wall Museum.
This was a very interesting museum, with multi-media presentations showcasing the history of the Wall, from its construction to the historic events leading to the fall of the Wall.
The museum is a series of thirteen small rooms with a chronological portrayal of events, using information, photos, film, interactive displays, mannequins and artefacts, and other media. Each wall of each room was filled in some way with flashing screens, videos coming at you from all sides. It was quite overwhelming and difficult to manoeuvre. It tells a harsh story. It was very difficult to hear the stories of those affected.
Having lived my life in a free society I was very moved watching film from 9 November 1989 when the East German government announced that their citizens could visit West Berlin and West Germany. Seeing everyday people celebrating their freedom with tears and overwhelming emotion, with crowds climbing the wall joined by their West German countrymen on the other side, and the joy of being able to be with family members was very emotional . Similarly in other eastern bloc countries, as the Cold War ended.
I very much enjoyed our time in Berlin and hope to return one day to explore it further. It is a great city.