Hallo und willkommen zurück! 😊
Today I’m going to resume telling you all about my trip to Berlin which I did with my family over my Easter Holidays, at the start of this month. You can find part 1 (Teil 1) to this here. Enjoy!
Dienstag (Tuesday – Day 2): continued
So, for the second half (pretty much) of Dienstag we got onto a train at Berlin’s Hauptbahnhof and went over to Potsdam, which takes about 20-30 minutes on the S-Bahn train from Berlin (not to be confused with Straßenbahn, which means tram – I only realised the difference during this trip! 😬).
For a start, I absolutely LOVED the journey from Berlin to Potsdam – I loved seeing all of the Plattenbauwohnungen which I mentioned in my last post, but this time from a ground-level perspective. Another thing which really struck me about Berlin was the amount of graffiti there was along railway lines (and this is coming from a Londoner!). However, the difference between graffiti in Berlin and even Potsdam, and graffiti in London was that in Berlin it looked a lot less spontaneous, and more creative and planned out – overall, more aesthetically-pleasing, I’d say.
When we got to Potsdam, I was absolutely stunned by the beautiful housing and other architecture that Potsdam had to offer. The first thing which I planned for us to do in Potsdam was to visit Sanssouci Park, but even walking there from the station I could really see the mind-blowing aesthetics that Potsdam buildings possessed. It would be amazing if we could have more colourful houses like this in the UK!
None of the photos which I’ve inserted above 👆really do either the graffiti or architecture in Potsdam justice, but I thought I’d give you a little taste of it anyway. It’s the kind of thing which you really have to see for yourself in order to truly appreciate it! 😌
Anyways, we reached the parks, including that of Sanssouci after a casual 10 minute walk and it truly felt as though we were in the middle of nowhere, just doing a country walk – there were so few people about! In fact, when the people there (presumably all locals) heard us speak English, they gave us a slightly strange look, as if they couldn’t believe that we were tourists!! I found this very surprising, as Potsdam is the capital of Brandenburg, and this park which we visited is home to so many palaces which were seats of the former Prussian Emperors and other prominent positions in German society before Germany’s unification in 1871, therefore is definitely worth a visit for anyone!
Whilst we were in this massive green space, we saw all the sights which I planned to see, including the park’s Roman Baths; Charlottenhof Palais (which was unfortunately under construction work at the time); part of the University of Potsdam; Neues Palais (or the New Palace); Freundschaftstempel (Friendship Temple); Chinesisches Haus (the Chinese summer house); the buildings at Ökonomieweg; Sanssouci Palais and Villa Illaire. It was quite hard to identify all of these amazing buildings at the time, but fortunately I managed to afterwards, thanks to good old GPS! 👍
Following that, we had our evening meal at this amazing Italian restaurant opposite the Brandenburg Gate (the original one in Potsdam) before making our way back to the railway station. In doing to, we went via this original Brandenburger Tor (which is very underrated in my opinion, and much overshadowed by the more famous one in Berlin); Potsdam’s iconic Holländisches Viertel; the Nauener Tor; Basilplatz (which contained the St. Peter und Paul Kirche); Nikolaikirche (which is beautiful both inside and out – I must go back to look at this more!); Obelisk am Alten Markt and Altes Rathaus.
We then crossed part of the Havel River and reached the railway station, from which we caught our train back to Friedrichstraße, and then back to our hotel. I found this journey particularly exciting, as this was my first ever time travelling on a double-decker train, so it was quite a novelty!! It was such a fun experience – one of the many quirks of Continental Europe which you don’t get in the UK! 😔 Can’t wait to travel on them more often, though if I ever live in Continental Europe!
Mittwoch (Wednesday – Day 3)
This was the one day which we spent entirely in Berlin! The first thing we did was visit the Jewish Museum (Jüdisches Museum). Again, this was another sign that the Germans certainly do not try to hide their much flawed history, and openly confront it by acknowledging it and showing it to everyone. The Jewish Museum is certainly a prime example of this in Berlin. The museum was so cool, and such an experience in itself. It contained so many personal stories and documentations of Jews who lived in Germany during the times in which they were so oppressed, and the layout of their (Liebeskind) building is so unusual, and for many signifies either a bolt of lightning, or even the broken Star of David. Either way, it again reflects and conveys well the far-from-perfect history of Germany and how Jews fit into this. I thoroughly recommend visiting, as it contains special exhibitions too on society in general, as well as a memorial garden and even a Holocaust Tower, which, as you can probably imagine, is a real eye-opener to the experiences which so many Jews must have had, even though this is only touching upon the very surface. If you’re interested in visiting this museum (you won’t regret it if you do, I promise), check out their website here – it’s in both German and English.
Afterwards we caught the U-Bahn, then the S-Bahn to East Side Gallery. I loved walking alongside this and seeing all of the wonderful creations which it had to offer, but it was quite strange to me that so much elaborate art here is celebrated, despite the fact that this was once such a stark division between two societies: East Berlin and West Berlin. For those of you who don’t know, the Berlin Wall was put up a few years after Germany was partitioned following WWII. Three sectors became West Germany (and little bits of West Berlin, too) which were the British Sector, the French Sector and the American sector. However, the remaining northeastern sector went to the USSR, or Soviet Union, which was strictly communist, and so became East Germany (the GDR), including East Berlin, communist also. The Berlin Wall was built to to therefore stop the two halves of Berlin from mixing: both to prevent the East Berliners from escaping oppression and reaching the West (and who could blame them, really?!), but more importantly to stop the western influence in the East. Something which I did find rather fitting, however, was the fact that so many of the Bilder und Gemälde (pictures and paintings) were politically relevant, including some graffiti by a Brit who had voted to remain in last June’s EU Referendum in Britain (I’m with you, there!).
After that, continuing our exploration of the Berlin Wall, we visited the Berlin Wall Memorial (or Gedenkstätte Berliner Mauer). Here we could listen to and read first-hand recollections of people who lived during the time and fall of the Berlin Wall, on both sides of it. It’s a memorial, as it was made in memory of those who died attempting to cross the Wall, in search of a better and less-oppressed life in the West, for which so many Easterners were willing to risk their lives. It really does paint a picture of what it feels like to be so near, yet so far from, a completely different world, as much of the Wall there still remains intact, even today. Again, I’d say it’s most definitely worth a visit if you’re going to Berlin!
We then got the S-Bahn to Alexanderplatz where we had an afternoon snack at Galeria Kaufhof (an AMAZING chain of department stores in Germany – the British equivalent is probably John Lewis), before walking to the DDR (=GDR) Museum. On the way, we walked past the iconic TV Tower (or Fernsehturm), Marienkirche, the Rotes Rathaus (Red Town Hall), the Marx and Engels Statue and the Berliner Dom (Cathedral).
I thoroughly enjoyed visiting the DDR Museum (again, a must-see – website here), as not only did it have authentic objects and real-life documentations from that time, but it also had a recreated Wohnung, which was very typical of what most East Germans would have lived in under the strict communist regime. It further reinforced my knowledge of this period, which I’m currently learning about in German for my A2 exams in May and June. After doing this, I can definitely say that I have more Mitgefühl (with-feeling = sympathy) with those unfortunate enough to live in East Germany at the time. The time of the GDR before Germany’s reunification in 1989 definitely should not be forgotten, and will not be any time soon, as long as museums like this stay open!
Donnerstag (Thursday – Day 4)
We didn’t really do much on this day – we just woke up really early, got a bus to Tegel Airport, and then flew back to Birmingham. 😞 Nevertheless, the views from the plane were still pretty epic, as it was quite a clear day! 😃
Im Großen und Ganzen (all in all), I thoroughly enjoyed every minute of this trip, and we managed to do so much due to the months of planning I did prior to it! 😅 I took loads and loads of photos whilst I was there (almost 1000), to the casualty of my phone storage (!) and if you’d like to see the best photos which I took, then take a look at my recent Instagram posts. I am so grateful to my parents, not only for taking the time out of their busy lives to go with me, but also for bringing themselves to travel in an aeroplane, something that they hadn’t done for 21 years, since before I was born!
See you on Friday (Freitag) hopefully, unless I get swamped with schoolwork!