Travel Log - Day 2

One of the 'tricks' that works for me when travelling is always to make sure I have a big breakfast. This not only gives me the energy for the majority of the day, it reduces the amount of money I have to spend on food (as breakfast is usually included in the accommodation costs) and allows me to fit more into each day. So after breakfast at Hotel Angleterre, I headed off up Friedrichstraße towards Unter de Linden and the Branenberg Gate. My aim for this first day was to mainly ride around in one of the hop on hop off tourist buses to get a good overview of the city.

Being that my hotel was very close to Checkpoint Charlie I couldn't help but take a few snaps.


A piece of the Berlin Wall


Checkpoint Charlie

Checkpoint Charlie

I wasn't planning on spending much time here initially because it was so close to my hotel. My thinking was that I could easily swing past here on the return to my hotel one evening. My preference is usually to visit the sites that are the furtherest away from my hotel and work my way back. This is because the sites that are the furthest away take the longest travel and if I determine how long it takes to get to these I can generally allocate my time better.

As you may be able to see from the photos, even at this time early in the morning the place was crawling with tourists. As I was to learn later from a tour guide Checkpoint Charlie is tourist central in Berlin. There is plenty of murals to read in the vicinity but I kept to my plan and continued to head north along Friedrichstraße.

Friedrichstraße

Friedrichstraße is full of pretty swanky shops and towards the intersection with Unter de Linden I saw something that would really love to take home as a souvenir.

Bugatti Veyron

Bugatti Veyron

Unfortunately, I don't think I could fit the Bugatti Veyron in my carry on and if the exchange was favourable the shipping costs would kill me. Still it was nice to see one up close.

Looking east towards the Berlin Tower

I soon reached Unter de Linden and turned left (west) toward the Branenberg Gate.


Brandenberg Gate

Brandenberg Gate

Brandenberg Gate
As with most historical structures, I thought it would be bigger, however you can certainly feel a history about the structure.


Underneath the Brandenberg Gate


As you pass through the gate, to the right is the pick up point for many of the tour buses. They are pretty aggressive (which is understandable) about having you join their tour. In the end I chosen Berlin City Tour since I received a discount via my Berlin Welcome card.


Reichstag Building

Just off to my right was the Reichstag building, the home of the Germany government, a location high on my agenda to visit.

My strategy with most of these 'hop-off/hop-on' tours is actually not to 'hop-off' at all but, at least initially, traverse the complete routes getting to know the sites and the layout of the city. In that way you can work out where you want to spend time and 'hop-off' there second time around. So I settled in for my circuit of the city.


Berlin Tower


After completing a full circuit and returning to the Branenberg Gate I decided to 'hop-off and stretch my legs with a walk around. 


Reichtag

My first stop was at the Reichstag and as you cam see it is very popular.

Reichtag

You can see the line off to the left of these photos is the line to gain access to the roof of the building and glass dome which you can just see on top of the roof.

Reichtag

I certainly could have joined the line but here's another little 'smart tourist' tip I'll give you. I find it best to wait until late afternoon to visits locations with views over a city. That way you can get to see the city in the day time and at night time. That was going to be my plan here to return later in afternoon and be on the roof as night fell.

Reichtag

One of the surprising things about Berlin are the number of waterway that wind through the city. I discovered that just behind the Reichstag is a river.



I continued back around the Reichstag and south towards the Branenberg Gate again.

Reichtag
Just to the south of the 
Branenberg Gate is the Holocaust Denkmal.


Holocaust Denkmal

It is basically an undulating field of massive concrete slabs which you can walk through.

Holocaust Denkmal

It is a memorial for all the Jews killed by the Nazis between 1933 and 1945. The site was designed a US architect, Peter Eisenmann.

Holocaust Denkmal

In the south eastern corner there is a set of stairs to an underground museum. This leads down to a further memorial containing addition exhibits. Unfortunately, I did not get an opportunity to visit this below ground memorial but have certainly placed it on my 'to do' list when I return.

The other thing that I knew was in the area was Hitler's (or Fuhrer) bunker. It took me a little while to actually because I thought that it would be pretty well signed posted, but it ain't. So here is a map to its location so you don't waste time wandering around like I did.




Fuhrer bunker location

Now, if you are expecting some sort of large memorial then you'll be disappointed. In fact you shouldn't expect to see any memorial. The only things is small notice next to a car park.


The reason for this is apparently that officials do not want to see something that can be honoured by those looking to preserve the memory of the Nazis. The bunker actually has a very interesting history, including the multiple attempts to destroy it. If you are interested in the its history I'd commend the following 50 minute video which you can watch on the web - Inside Hilters Bunker.

After reading the notice I decided to head back towards the Branenberg Gate as there is really nothing else to see here at all.


There is apparently still a significant amount of tunnel system under Berlin created by the Nazis. You can see some of the material used in the above photo. 


I once again passed the Holocaust Denkmal on my way towards the Branenberg Gate.


I walk through and headed east along Strasse Des 17, Juni towards the Tiergarden.


A few hundred metres up on the right is the Sowjetisches Ehrenmal (Monument to Soviet soldiers).One tends to overlook the fact the great burden of liberating Berlin in 1945 fell on the shoulders of Soviet soldiers.




The monument commemorates over 300,000 Soviet soldiers who perished in the battle for Berlin. The column under the statue is made from marble taken from the headquarters of the Chancellor of the Third Reich.



Interestingly, after the erection of the Berlin wall this area was in the western zone under British administration.


Deciding that it was once again time to jump on the Berlin City Tour bus I return to the Branenberg Gate and boarded the next tour.


The Berlin City Tours are conducted in a number of different languages from double decker buses. I found that they had a pretty good route that took in all the major attractions and made it easy to base yourself in one location for a period of time and then jump back on the bus to another location.

Berlin Tower

I alighted on the most eastern side of the Berlin City Tour in the desire to walk back from here to the Reichstag. One of the other sites that I didn't get a chance to visit was the Fernsehturm or Telespargel (TV Tower). It is the city's tallest structures as well as being one of the tallest structures in Europe. It was built in 1969 and has a viewing platform 203 metres above ground.

Rotes Rathaus

Also on this side of Berlin is the Rotes Rathaus (Red Town Hall) which is Berlin's main town hall. It was badly damaged during World War II and following its reconstruction became the seat for the East Berlin authorities. Since unification it now houses the offices of the mayor, magistrates' offices and state rooms.

Neptunbrunnen

Also not far away is the Neptunebrunnen (Neptune fountain).

Fernsehturm

I headed further west and crossed on Museum Island. Here you'll find a huge collection of museums that unfortunately I also didn't have time to visit.

Berliner Dom
You'll also find the Berliner Dom. It was built between 1747 and 1750, damaged during the War but now restored.


Berliner Dom

I didn't stop to explore because my aim was to reach the Reichstag at dusk. I would however come back in next few days to visit the Berliner Dom in more depth.

I continued my trek west and encounter another aspect of a large city was a number of gypsies hanging around the park near the Berliner Dom. They are very good at sniffing out vulnerable tourists and have plenty of tricks up their shelves to relieve you of your possessions and money. The best advice is to totally ignore their requests but ensure that you keep an eye on them as they operate in packs. If you can, make sure you are not too isolated when walking in their vicinity or you'll stand out. Don't dwell in their vicinity doing touristy things. like taking photos, as it becomes very obvious to them that your are a foreigner.

I was now on Unter de Linden heading west.

Neue Wache

My next stop was at Neue Wache now serving as a memorial to victims of war and dictatorship. The building was constructed in 1818 and was originally used as a royal guard house but between 1930-31 it was turned into a monument to soldiers killed in World War 1. After restoration in the 1960's it became a memorial to victims of fascism and militarism. Now it houses an eternal flame and a granite slab over the ashes of an unknown soldier, a resistance fighter and a concentration camp prisoner. Under a circular opening in the roof is a copy of the sculpture Mother with Dead Son. It is a very sombre place.

Reiterdenkmal Friedrichs des Grossen

A little further along you will find Reiterdenkmal Friedrichs des Grossen (Equestrian statue of Fredrick the Great). The statue stand about 5.6 metres tall and was designed by Christian Daniel Rauch around 1851.

I continued west, down Unter de Linden, through the Branenberg Gate and towards the Reichstag.

Reichstag

I was amazed that even at this late hour in the day the line to visit the Reichstag was still quite long. So I joined the end and shuffled my way towards the entrance along with everyone else.

Reichstag roof

After a trip in a large lift to the roof of the Reichstag you are provided with a free audio tour guide to take you through the most important features.

Reichtag roof

In the centre of the roof is a glass dome which contains a spiral walkway up and down.

Going up the walkway on the Reichtag roof

Reflective panel

In the centre of the dome you will find a reflective cone that shines light from the outside down into the government chamber below.

Reichtag roof

From up here you get a pretty good view of the city and as I indicated earlier coming at dusk is a good idea so you can experience the city by day and by night.

Reichtag roof

Sony Center in Potsdam Platz

Brandenburg Gate

Berlin tower and Berliner Dome

Hauptbahnhof

When you reach the top of the dome you find that it is open.

Dome on the Reichtag

There is also a place to sit and view the city.


From here you can look down the reflective cone into the government chambers below.

Dome on Reichtag

Roof to Reichstag looking west

Roof of Reichtag looking toward Potsdam Platz

Roof of Reichtag

Dome on Reichtag

Brandenburg Gate

Berlin Tower and Berliner Dome

Sun setting over Reichtag




As the sun set over Berlin I handed my audio tour back and squeezed into the elevator to take me back to the ground floor and the exit. It was a little chilly be not bad enough for me to not stroll back to my hotel.

Section of Berlin Wall

One of the things that you really don't see much of these days is the Berlin Wall.

Section of Berlin Wall

You'll find a row of bricks set into the road where the Wall used to run but there are not many places where it still stands.

Section of the Berlin Wall

As you can see by the above photographs I was luck enough to find a section not to far from my hotel.

Section of the Berlin Wall

At this time of night it was very eerie. It is hard to imagine what the city was like when the wall was still in operation and divided between east and west. In the centre, near my hotel at least, the whole place looks totally integrated. I would find some examples where this wasn;t the case in my travels tomorrow.

Balloon ride

Sign at Checkpoint Charlie

I  continued to wander back to my hotel, once again past Checkpoint Charlie, which was still full or tourists, even at this late hour. I grabbed a bite to each and headed back to my room for some sell earned sleep and to prepare for my day tomorrow, which was going to kick off with a walking tour through the city.

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