Berlin is a massive and very diverse city that you would need at least a week to see it properly. From the massively impressive Reichstag and Brandenburg Gate to the simplicity of Checkpoint Charlie and the haunting silence of the Holocaust Memorial, Berlin is a city that has a lot to offer. And then there is the nightlife, a subject that deserves an article in itself and two weeks to properly see and enjoy. Berlin was by the far the most modern and classy of the cities I visited.
I luckily managed to get a hostel just around the corner from Checkpoint Charlie which is where we began our tour of the city. The checkpoint is quite small and under played, though there are scores of tourists around. There are stalls selling Communist memorabilia if you want a souvenir. There is a good information point explaining the history of both the Checkpoint and the Wall, as well as a piece of the Wall itself. From there we followed the course of the Wall through the main areas of the city.
The next stop was the site of the former Gestapo HQ which has since been demolished. There is a large information centre with the history of the building and of Nazi terror in general.
We followed that by seeing the Holocaust Memorial. Now, I’m normally not impressed by art, but this had a big impact on me. The memorial is a collection of almost 3,000 stone pillars of varying heights in a large open square. When you first begin to enter it, the pillars are only a couple of inches high, but they keep rising (the ground sinking) until they are several feet above your head. The sheer number of them makes you feel like you are lost in the middle of a vast maze and the size of the pillars makes you feel over whelmed. It is a very effective memorial symbolising the sheer overwhelming vastness of the Holocaust. It powerfully shows how the number of people who died is absolutely enormous, far too big to ever properly contemplate. As I visited it during the evening, there was an eerie silence, which made you feel as though you were entering a cemetery and the Holocaust’s victims were watching you.
Up the road from this is the Brandenburg Gate, a massive and very impressive arch. There is a wide and long boulevard leading up to it as well as a very nice park. Also opposite is the equally large and impressive Reichstag building. Unfortunately you must book several days in advance to go inside, but it still amazing to view from the outside. Along the boulevard is Victory Square, containing a large monument to the Soviet soldiers killed in the battle for Berlin at the end of the Second World War. I noticed how it was only the Soviet soldiers who were commemorated, with not even the civilians killed getting a mention. It was built by the Soviets themselves in 1945. I found it interesting that the first thing they did after capturing the city was to rub it in the locals face just who won the war.
Berlin has an amazing nightlife of which I only saw a small part. I heard many stories about the nightclubs in Berlin, which are supposed to be fantastic. Apparently the big thing is to locate the club in all sorts of unused buildings. I heard about clubs on the 13th floor of an apartment block, in abandoned factories and a disused train station. We ended up going to a club in a former power station, which was bizarre to say the least (I think it was called something like Tressau). It didn’t have a closing time and I heard a lot of places open on Friday and close on Monday (we left early, at only 6:30am). Suffice to say, it was the craziest rave I’ve ever been to (the vibrations from the speakers would split you in half).
Berlin is an absolutely massive city and I only got to see a small part of it. It’s a very dispersed city which meant it wasn’t possible to walk it, though there is a very good public transport system. I could tell that Berliners valued their cars; almost everyone was a luxury car like a Mercedes or BMW.
Berlin is a very modern city, lacking a historic old town that most other cities have. I felt it would be a great place to live and work as opposed to somewhere just to visit. Then again I wasn’t there near long enough to properly judge it.