A Travellerspoint blog

Sachsenhausen

It was cold at the Sacshenhausen concentration camp, which was unfortunate for we spent the larger part of the day there. We were taken on a guided by Mariska, who did a good job of conveying the stories of some of the concentration camp's more interesting inmates. Standing on the former roll call area in front of Watchtower 'A' in the freezing old was a fitting way to reflect on the fates of those interred here by the Nazi's, many having frozen to death on the long nights assembled for roll call. The camp had a number of small museums strewn throughout, situated in the surviving buildings. It was here that the famous Jewish forgery workshop was setup, the camp producing tens of millions of pounds sterling with which to buy foreign supplies for the war effort and to attempt to inflate the British currency. In amongst the terrible were artefacts of hope, watercolour paintings and brightly coloured miniatures made from bread. To round off our day of heavy themes we visited the "Topography of Terror" museum, located in the former nerve centre of the Nazi capital, it highlighted the rise of the Gestapo and SS, and their role in maintaing the Nazi's stranglehold on power. Doner im brot again tonight from our favourite Berlin Turkish takeaway.

Posted by Oleus 11:43 Comments (0)

Walking Tour

Berlin

Today, we paid ten Euros each for the privilege of having a man named Jim lead us around the heart of Berlin for three and a half hours. The tour was a general one on the history of Berlin and took us from the railway station at Hackescher Markt down to Museum Island, past the Humboldt University, in front of the Brandenburg Gate, past the location of Hitler's bunker (now a carpark), along the line of the Berlin Wall to Checkpoint Charlie, and ending finally in a square between two Churches near Friedrichstrasse. Jim pointed out to us many interesting locations and their histories along the way, including a very unique monument to the burning of thousands of books during a Nazi rally and the story of Hitlers final hours in his bunker during the battle of Berlin. After the tour we rushed back to the Neues Museum on Museum Island to hopefully catch a glimpse of a mummy! Alas, no mummies were found but the collection of ancient Egyptian artefacts was very good, including the bust of Neferititi, perhaps the most famous of the Egyptian queens. Happening to be in the same part of Berlin, we returned to "Andy's" for an American Burger, then left for home with our tummies full.

Posted by Oleus 11:31 Comments (0)

Charlottenburg

Charlottenburg palace occupied the first half of our day today. The palace, commissioned by the wife of the first King of Prussia and completed in 1699 was no Schonbrunn, but did have a number of magnificent and awe-inspiring rooms. We toured both the old and new wings of the palace which still had many of the original wall panels, door frames and floors, as well as original decor and furnishings, although the new wing of the palace had bee reduced mostly to rubble in World War II and subsequently restored. The room decorated entirely with precious china vases and plates was probably the most interesting along with the crown jewels and silverware of the Hohenzollern dynasty. Frankly, the free audio tour was information overload, especially for the new wing of the palace where the commentary was focused mostly on the aesthetic and architectural value of the rooms and less on the larger narrative of their function and the associated characters and their stories. Historically and culturally punch drunk we grabbed a snack in Alexanderplatz and visited the DDR museum, an interactive exhibition about life in the German Democratic Republic (Communist Germany). It provided a good contrast to the Prussian history lesson learned earlier, and was decidedly more hands on. Having scoped out the local Turkish takeaway place previously, we ate there again today, along with our 400g of erdbereen (strawberries) and half a kilo of cherries. Yum!

Posted by Oleus 11:25 Comments (0)

Berlin

Day 2

Bleak weather and a hazy plan for the day meant we only managed to see the East Side gallery (a remaining section of the Berlin wall on which artists were invited to paint murals) and the Berlin Dome (a 20th century cathedral with an impressive dome roof which offered a splendid view of the center of Berlin), with some incidental but unsuccessful shopping in between. We did, however, get good value out of our metro cards and gained a much better understanding of the city's configuration and the location of Berlin's key attractions.

Posted by Oleus 11:21 Comments (0)

Berlin

Five hours on a bus got us from Prague to Berlin. The hotel's tourist information was useless so we took the one map they had and marched our way to the Berlin Gate, the closest tourist center to our hotel. Uninspired by the gate itself (in fairness, they were in the midst of taking down Christmas market stuff so it was a bit of a construction site) we grabbed our tourist brochures and, with the realisation that our last meal was 9 hours ago took refuge in a Pizza restaurant. After much consideration and resignation we followed street signs to the Deutches Historiches Museum where there was apparently a good collection of German historical artefacts. Following the natural topography of the museum we accidentally ended up in an exhibition dedicated to the German people's supposed cultural-psychological connection with the forest. Snorting disinterestedly we left the forest exhibition for a photography exhibition detailing Berlin's history over the last 100 years. Two images were especially interesting. The first from 1923 was of police defending the newspaper district of Berlin with rifles behind impromptu barricades made of newspaper reams. The second, was a photo of Dresden from 1945 which showed, quite simply, the complete devastation that city suffered as a result of Allied bombing.

A chance discovery on the way to the toilets confirmed Tom's suspicion that there was in fact more to the Deutches Historiches Museum than trees and photos, and with time running out we found the permanent exhibition after having to fight the incredibly rude cloakroom ladies for our bag. The collection of artefacts was impressive. 15th century two-handed bastard sword with sawfish-tooth blade? Check. Hand-axe with embedded flintlock pistol? Check. Gilded suits of armour, Celtic swords, Reformation literature, Hohenzollern furniture? Oh yes. Unfortunately, the DHM closed on us when we were somewhere around 1750 AD (and we had to rush to get that far). Back at our hotel via the local Halal supermarket and a Turkish takeaway joint and our day was done.

Posted by Oleus 11:04 Comments (0)

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