Berlin was a lot bigger than everywhere else we had been and arriving on the ring road by bus in the rain probably wasn’t ever going to be the most wonderful way of seeing the city for the first time! First appearances, big, grey and just like any other Western European major city. Still we had high hopes and weren’t disheartened as we set out to find some dinner and discovered that we were in Vietnamese town!!! It felt like we were back in Australia!!?
Since our arrival in the Baltic states and then Poland we have been going to museums and discovering facts mostly connected to Hitler and the Second World War. We weren’t here to pass judgement or look down our noses it was just that we felt Berlin to be a fitting point to almost end our Eastern European trip in and we were keen to discover what was being said about it all here.
I certainly don’t expect a nation to continue to receive punishment or have to repent daily for something the government did 70 years ago but I was intrigued as to what was going to be on offer. The first impressions were that out of the top attractions many were connected to WW2 (as is common in most of Europe) but there were also many memorials connected to the Holocaust.
First stop we thought would be the History of Berlin Museum. It started, rather bizarrely, with a guided tour through a never used nuclear fallout shelter. The bunker was built as a nuclear fallout shelter in the 70s by the Soviets. It was a terrible tour of essentially something that was ever used, the only interesting fact was that there were a dozen or so of these built which would save only 26,000 people!
Inside the museum proper things got better and although it was mostly just reading we got up to date on the history of Berlin mostly focusing on Hitler’s rise to power. It’s amazing the combination of events which resulted in him being elected. Especially as at the time I am writing this Brexit and Trump have happened so I can have a little understanding how people end up voting for change and maybe what may look like unusual or unlikely options.
We had visited the museum to understand more about the aftermath of WW2 and the wall but it didn’t really cover those episodes, which was strange and disappointing. Still I am sure we will find out more as we go.
Braving the rain and the cold we crossed town and visited the DDR museum which was much better and gave an indication of life in East Germany. It was a really interesting museum and was really intriguing to see the East German’s way of life which wasn’t necessarily poor. They had money they just couldn’t buy anything and time eventually caught up for while other countries advanced they didn’t.
We got to watch some great propaganda videos there one particular line I thought was fantastic was “When all your needs are catered for, that’s socialism”. Unfortunately while the ideal sounds great the practice didn’t work out so well and ultimately there were loads of stories of people frustrated with not being able to buy things and the lack of progress.
By the end of this we felt like we had been back in school for the day so decided to wander back to the underground. On the way we got to pass the Brandenburg Gate and the Reichstag both impressive buildings but we were going to come back later for more of a look.
I have to mention that the underground/metro system in Berlin is extensive and you can get everywhere. However they do lack maps directly at the entrance which makes the whole process a lot harder. We have struggled getting around more here than anywhere else, really just a few maps at the entrance to stops would really change the whole experience!! T
The Brandenburg Gate