Days 4, 5, 6
We left Prague for Berlin with a detour on the way to Dresden. We started on the motorway but as we entered Germany it turned to B roads for a while. The fog was following us and the roads were curving and we witnessed a few overturned cars in roadside ditches. Not the best feeling I must say.
The fog cleared as we neared Dresden and from the U-bahn we could see the city below. Dresden had been heavily bombed by allied forces during the second world war, but looking at it as we drove in there was no evidence of this as the city has in time, been rebuilt.
We found a car park near the river side and went for a walk the river then across a bridge to see the Frauenkirke- completely demolished in the bombings and left in ruins for 50 years after, as a war memorial. Rebuilt in 1994 it now stands as proud as if its always been part of the landscape.
We wandered around the Dresden Cathedral and a little look around the city, before jumping back in the car after our whistle stop tour.
Continued our drive to Berlin, as we approached the start of the city the traffic clogged up and we ended up in slow moving traffic for around an hour. We had booked 3 nights at an apartment on the outskirts of the city centre again with AirBnB, we texted the owners to say we were on our way but they told us to call another lady, who in turn met us but for the wrong apartment, the owner turned out to live next door and he came with our keys. We couldn't understand why they got confused and why the owner sent someone else when he was clearly right there. Anyway, we were glad to be out of the traffic, and the studio apartment was clean and airy.
The apartment at £168 for the 3 nights was in a really good location with a tram and train stop on round the corner. We were staying at Greifswalderer Straße. The first night we were lagging so went to a near by Turkish restaurant and had amazing wraps, and it was so cheap. We'd recommend you to try it, it's called 'Gilgamesch'. http://restaurant-gilgamesch.de
Find it on a map here:
The next morning we caught the tram into the centre- Alexanderplatz. The tram is €2.70 for a single ticket which you get punched when you enter the tram or €7 for an all day ticket. (£1= €1.16 as of 12/16)
We had a look around, and shamefully even had a look in Primark, we tried our first authentic Bratwurst and Currywurst at the Christmas Markets before starting our long day of covering the city on foot. We had thought of the City Sightseeing bus but we felt it was do-able on foot. We walked through more Christmas Markets, past the Berlin Tower and Rothaus, and then found ourselves on Museum Island, I have to admit, I get bored with museums, I have just been to so many of them that everything becomes too similar, so we opted for no museums, and were tempted to climb the Berliner Dom- Berlin Cathedral- a tour around the dome, but decided against it, it was €7 each and we didn't feel a need to do it. We then continued walking down Unter den Linden, named after its Linden trees which line the boulevard.
Our next stop was Checkpoint Charlie. Which was a further 20 minutes walk. Checkpoint Charlie was the name given by the Western Allies to the best-known Berlin Wall crossing point between East Berlin and West Berlin during the Cold War (1947–1991).
There were multiple information boards around the area and we spent a long time reading all about the history, there is also Checkpoint Charlie museum, with a gift shop attached selling authentic parts of the Berlin Wall, to of which we of course purchased!
Next stop was the Jewish museum, another 20 minute walk away, we kept our Google Maps on to find the fastest way to get to each place. The museum was €8 each and was full of Jewish history dating back thousands of years right up to the second world war. It was very interesting and in such a huge building, you couldn't possibly see it all in one visit.
Then as night approached we made our way to the Brandenburg Gate. Night time is possibly the best time to visit as it is not only quieter but the lighting is very effective.
We purchased a day ticket on train which is also €7, You purchase tickets at the train station and punch them in a machine before getting on. We were headed to the East Side Gallery, a large section of over 1km of the Berlin Wall which has been covered in graffiti. It was very interesting to see. The train stop for the East Side Gallery is Ostbahnhof (East Train Station).
Took the train to Haufbahnhof (Central Station) and went to see Brandenburg in daylight and also reflected on the near by hotel of Hotel Adlon- where Michael Jackson controversially held his child Blanket over the edge of the balcony.
Near by, close to Potsdamer Platz, after Shannon had researched it, we found what was once the Führerbunker , an air raid shelter, which was part of a subterranean bunker complex. It was the last of the Führer Headquarters used by Adolf Hitler during World War II. Hitler took up residence in the Führerbunker on 16 January 1945 and it became the centre of the Nazi regime until the last week of World War II in Europe. Hitler married Eva Braun here during the last week of April 1945, shortly before they committed suicide. Now it is a car park, with only a small information sign stating what once laid on this site.
In a juxtaposition, across the road, we found a lovely Lindt Chocolate café and treated ourselves to some hot chocolate and a mocha. Our view was staring at the empty space, where Hitler once occupied.
Next up was the Topography of Terror, a history museum, built on the former site of the headquarters for the SS and Gestapo during the Nazi regime from 1933 to 1945 which were largely destroyed by Allied bombings during early 1945.
The museum was free entry with a donation being encouraged, it was one of the most interesting museums I have seen, stacked full of interesting information. It is a must see!
The boundary between the American and Soviet zones of occupation in Berlin ran along the Prinz-Albrecht-Strasse, so the street soon became a fortified boundary, and the Berlin Wall ran along the south side of the street, renamed Niederkirchnerstrasse, from 1961 to 1989. The wall here was never demolished. Indeed, the section adjacent to the Topography of Terror site is the longest extant segment of the outer wall.
We had a stop off at Potsdamer Platz on the way to our next museum trip...
The Memorial to the Murdered Jews of Europe, is a free and very moving museum. The museum is set underground and on street level there is an art instalment of concrete grey slabs which represents those killed in world war 2.
As we had been averaging 20,000 steps a day, and we had a day ticket we opted for the U bahn from Hauptbahnhof to Alexanderplatz. You can go to the top of the Park Inn Hotel for €4 to see views of the city, we however arrived too late (check for opening times, as they vary each season). So we headed to Vapiano's an Italian restaurant, we have been to one before in Brisbane, Australia and loved it very much so just had to visit another. Their beer was rather strong, which wasn't a bad thing. We then caught the tram from Alexanderplatz to Greifswalderstraße.
We had looked at visiting Germany's Parliament, the Bundestag or Reichstag building as its known. We knew you had to pre-book for the free tour, but when we got round to doing it a few days before hand, we realised the dates we wanted had sold out. (Book one week in advance) The other option being, you can turn up at the info centre next to the Reichstag and find spare slots on each day. You need to take ID with you when booking, and in actual fact, Germany as a country requires everyone to carry ID on them at all times.
You get a printout and again need ID, the security was thorough and busy, once through we took the lift up to the dom and were given a headset. Again, the fog was following us and we didn't get much of a view of the landscape but we were very impressed with the building itself, you walk up the glass dome listening to the headset, then out of the roof, then walk back down, taking in 2km of length as you go. Once back down on ground we could see parliament in progress.
And that rounded off our trip to Berlin, we had a great time sightseeing and exploring, and were pleasantly surprised how many attractions were free entry. We feel we covered it all, but would love to go back again in the future.