For the love of Berlin

Up early with a big mission ahead, there’s so much Berlin has to offer and we want to see it all. We plan to get through our list of landmarks, as this place is so rich in history. Mitte, the suburb we are staying is central but just on the fringe of the business district so we have the privilege of seeing the outskirts of the main city as we make our way in.

We find an organic supermarket that we stock up on supplies and head for the city. We stop off for a tourist map at one of the hotels and then a Microsoft Digital Eatery, the first of its kind I’ve seen and it could be said this is competition for Apple, the difference is Microsoft allows for a dining space and sells food and beverages.

I get excited when I see a fresh juice sign, so in need of a detox and some antioxidants, my excitement heightens when I see fresh RHUBARB!! I steam rhubarb when it’s in season and add it to my breakfast oats, it would probably be my favourite fruit and I’d never thought to add it to a juice, have you?

The juicer man convinces me that I should do a sweet and sour mix to get the full flavours of the rhubarb, we agree to add pear, dash of ginger and squeeze of lime and WAHLAA ~ it’s my new favourite juice, seriously delicious!! Recharged now. We utilise the computers to mark all the sites on the map and then make tracks.

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The University Square

Our first stop is the Bebelplatz- it’s at the University, this area is where the Nazi’s burnt all the literature they viewed as undermining of the German national interest. There were a number of walking tours taking place here so we tact myself at the edge of a group with an English speaking guide to get a better understanding of the history behind the book burning.

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The underground site the book burning took place

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Inside the book burning site

We started chatting to a couple of Aussies in this group so Anton and I decided we should tag along with them. The guide had no idea we had joined on and we wondered when would be a good time to let him know without interrupting the whole tour. If we really wanted to be dishonest we could pull a shifty here.

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The tour continued on via the Russian Embassy and the metro stop that was a ghost train station during the Cold War.

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There were several ghost train stations during the Cold War, these stations did not allow trains travelling from West Berlin to stop at any of the East Berlin stations and were manned by soldiers with machine guns.

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Next stop was the Brandenburg Gate; this gate was the face of the Cold War and where East literally met West.

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Also in this square, known as Pariser Platz is Hotel Aldon a five star hotel that is usually the home of any royalty or celebrities that stay in Berlin. It was also the hotel that Michael Jackson hung his child over the balcony of the third floor. I was all excited that MJ had been here, not so excited about what he did. We were able to chat with our tour guide Mike at this stop and pay our share for joining the tour.

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Hotel Aldon

As we went under the Brandenburg Gate, we headed West through no mans land, straight ahead we view the Victory Column (the most important landmark in Berlin) at the end of StraBe des 17. Juni, a lovely tree lined street that looks similar to Champs Elysees just without the row of designer shops but boasting much more history.

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To our right is the German Parliament, The Reichstag Parliament and at our feet the double brick print that marked where the Berlin Wall once stood.

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Our next stop was the memorial to the murdered Jews of Europe, all six million of them. Bless. It was an interesting design and not the memorial you would expect, there is difficulty in making a memorial for that amount of people.

It was a large space with rectangular concrete slabs placed in rows that varied in height. The concrete slabs gradually increase in size and become more imposing the deeper you enter.

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The monument is designed to create an uneasy, confusing, heartless atmosphere that replicates the Nazi treatment of the Jews in the lead up and during the Holocaust.

Ironically, directly opposite is the Fuhrerbunker (Hitler’s bunker), this bunker formed part of the Reich Chancellery. The site is now a car park, as it doesn’t deserve the recognition to be anything more and rightly so!

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It was intentionally built over so as it would not become a memorial for Nazi sympathises. Hitler, his wife Ava and his inner circle hid out in this bunker before Hilter and his wife eventually committed suicide together. Hitler ordered his men burn his and his wife remains after the suicide so as enemies couldn’t torture their bodies.

With heavy hearts, the tour headed to Check Point Charlie which became a symbol of the Cold War and where American and Soviet tanks faced off in 1961 during the Berlin Crisis, which brought the world to the brink of nuclear war.

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Charlie’s Check Point

Close by at the former headquarters and now museum of the SS and Gustapo also known as the Topography of Terror. The SS and Gustapo were the primary instruments of oppression for the Nazi.

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Museum of the SS and Gustapo

These buildings were at the heart of the evil and brutal Nazi regime. The cells at the bottom of this museum, which have been preserved, would have absorbed unimaginable pain.

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Berlin Wall remains

There is the longest intact stretch of the Berlin Wall still erected here, although vandalised and partly ruined it is still intact. Our walking tour ended at the grand theatre of Berlin.

It was such a great tour and a perfect way to see Berlin in four hours; Mike only charged us 10Euros each. I wish I knew the tour name, as it would be great to share this with any future Berlin travelers. It’s a morning walking tour if that helps..

We left our fellow Aussies and headed back to Fassbender & Rausch Chocolatiers Am Gendarmenmarkt ~ Schokoladen ~ Café. Mike had pointed this store/ cafe out on our walk confirming it is the largest chocolatier in the world.

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It is unbelievable; many of the famous Berlin landmarks have been made of chocolate and are hanging from the roof or scattered around the store. A paradise of fine truffles, confections and chocolate creations and is a meeting place for everyone who knows chocolate makes you happy. All delicious meals are always rounded off with fine chocolate.

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We started with coriander and bean dip with choc chips on top and then Anton had chicken roasted in white chocolate and I had sea bass cooked in milk chocolate. As odd as this sounds it was yum!!

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Our own tour continued as we ventured back to parliament house contemporarily known as Bundestag and historically known as the Reichstag. We sat on the lawns at the foot of this building that we took some time to relax on with many other tourists.

Tickets to get into Parliament are free but hard to come by last minute, generally pretty onto pre booking but the second part of the trip we were a bit lax with organising in advance. It’s an hour and a half wait in line for our tickets to enter but well worth the wait, the glass dome at the top is impressive with great views over Berlin from a bright and open space.

It really is a great free treat and would be unfortunate to miss. The late afternoon is spent exploring Tiergarten, a large urban park to the West of the city centre.

It’s a slow walk back to our accommodation where we shower and head down to the local bars of Mitte for a drink, any bar you stop at here is the complete package. We land at the Watergate Club and join the queue to get.

It’s a toss up between a small and a large night, it’s no secret that Berlin boasts one of the best music scenes in the world and the party life is extremely vibrant at the clubs. As it happens when you’re having fun, the night just slips away… Fun times Berlin!

Anna Owens is the founder of ownsit! A mama working in Community Development and Partnerships Education. Anna is a colour crazy, creativity enthusiast who loves to design, collect shoes, eat & travel.. x

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