Snapshots of Berlin

Berlin is large, cosmopolitan, busy, and spread out, with a broad diversity of offerings for a visitor. Getting lost in a new locale is always high on my agenda, as is finding somewhere to eat, and trying out local public transport. After that, it’s time to visit some major sights and enjoy a few cultural pursuits.

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The Reichstag (Parliament) played an important role in Adolf Hitler’s rise to power in 1933.

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Between the Reichstag and the Brandenburg Gate lies a memorial to the Sinti and Roma (Gypsies) who were murdered by the Nazis, estimated at between 220,000 and 1.5 million. Separate memorials nearby commemorate 6 million murdered Jews, and the many gay people who were also Nazi victims.

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The Brandenburg Gate has a long and varied history. Sometimes it has featured as a celebration of military power and victories, having been used by Napoleon and his victorious army as a triumphal arch in 1806, and adopted as an important party symbol by the Nazis. More recently, the gate has become a symbol of peace, freedom and unification, when its function as part of the Berlin Wall that divided East and West Berlin between 1961 and 1989 ended.

Berlin’s many buskers entertain.

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The organ grinder salutes a donor outside the Brandenburg Gate.

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Musical harmonies echo at the Samariterst U-bahn station (underground/metro) in Friedrichschain, East Berlin: a gritty, vibrant, young and politically aware kiez (Berlin lingo for immediate neighbourhood). It’s my favourite kiez, about which I’ve written more here.

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This sign in Friedrichschain roughly translates to: ‘No cops or Nazis in our neighbourhood.’

A wish to see some art in Berlin involves a difficult choice given the vast number of alternatives. The East Side Gallery focused on the Berlin Wall era had already proved fascinating.  The Gemäldegalerie (Picture Gallery) goes almost unheralded in much tourist information, yet has an extraordinary collection of European art from the 13th to 18th Centuries; rooms full of mediaeval sacred paintings, and numerous examples of major artists such as Durer, Van Eyck, Rembrandt, Holbein, Cranach, Rubens, Caneletto, Tiepolo, Corregi, Caravaggio…and here, a Boticelli selected from so many of his paintings displayed at the Gemäldegalerie.

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Finally, Berlin fusion food: Currywurst (sliced sausage in a curry sauce).

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A Walk in East Berlin

On Sundays in Freidrichshain, East Berlin, the flea market at Boxhagenerplatz is a crowded, entertaining and eclectic experience. In addition to the widely diverse items for sale, buskers entertain, and nearby restaurants, cafes and bars beckon.

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Everywhere, outside dining, strolling, bike riding.

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Politics remains an issue. (But, why in English?)

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Buildings become a canvas.

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What remains of the Berlin wall that divided the city into east and west until 1989 is another canvas.

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An escapee from East Berlin crossing the wall. Many in the crowd wave goodbye.

Détente.

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Should a visitor go west of the wall?